The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
I've been thinking about the early 1930s when I was a little boy. Thinking about things like parching and grinding coffee. Back then you bought your coffee beans and green coffee. The beans looked kind of like shelled peanuts.
My mother and my Grandma Steele would spread those beans out in a flat pan and put them in the oven to parch. They would take the beans out every once in a while, shake them around in the pan, and put them back in the oven. It was quite an art to parching coffee beans. They didn't want to parch them too much.
Roasting coffee beans in the oven
After the beans were parched, they would take them out and put them over in a little hand grinder. I woke up many a morning first smelling the coffee beans parching and then hearing that grinder going.
That was back in the days when the bakeries first started having bread that was already sliced. I remember when we got bread from the bakery and it was just a loaf. We used bread knives to cut the loaves.
I remember when we had homemade mayonnaise. I have watched my aunt make homemade mayonnaise many times. I don't remember all of the ingredients but I do remember eggs, Wesson oil and lemon juice. Hellman's mayonnaise is the closest to the old homemade kind.
|Grandma Steele's butter churn|
Back in the early 1930s everybody made their own butter. They would put sour milk in a churn that had a basher with a handle on it like a broom handle. The churn or crock would hold about two gallons of milk. Once the milk was poured into the crock, they would churn up and down with that handle.
At the top, where the handle went down in the crock, flakes of butter would begin to form. Finally, the butter would be made and they would have to take the butter out and drain the milk off of it.The butter would be mashed and squeezed and rolled to get all of the milk out then round pads of butter would be made. Now that was delicious! Homemade butter.
|Lucille Steele Ogden|
There were some wonderful cooks on the Island back in those days. Cakes were made from scratch. Chocolate cakes, caramel cakes and pineapple cakes. My aunt, Lucille Ogden, would make a strawberry cake from scratch. It had two or three layers of cake with strawberries in between each layer and a whipped cream on top. Lord, that was good!
Mrs. Gladys [Kendrick] Saltzman was famous for her caramel cake. Mrs. Vivian [Martin] Enright, Mrs. Laura [Ballard] Chisum and Mrs. Katie [Harris] Coney were great cooks.
I used to watch Grandma Steele make sausage from the hogs that had been killed. She had a meat grinder. I'd watch her put the meat in the grinder and add the seasonings. She could really make good pan sausage.
|Grandma Mollie Steele|
I remember there was a smokehouse out in this yard where I live. I never went inside but I heard them tell how they would hang the meat up and build a fire on the dirt floor. The smoke from the fire cured the meat.The smokehouse was closed up until the meat was cured. I don't know how many days or hours they smoked the meat.
Makes me wonder how many people alive today would know how to smoke meat. There was a time, back fifty or sixty years ago, that every man knew how to smoke meat.
A Tater Punk is something you don't see anymore. It was a little hut where people would lay out their sweet potatoes on dry grass or hay. They would go to the Tater Punk to get their sweet potatoes to cook.
Everybody made their own jellies and preserves. Uncle Tom Enright's wife, Lilla, could make the best jellies and preserves.
|Fig Tree blooming in Spring|
Most people made preserved pears and some peaches. Peaches never did grow good in this area. Up north of us, around Delhi, the peaches did a lot better. Diseases, insects and the climate in this part of the country kept the peaches from growing. Most everyone had preserved pears.
People gathered dew berries and black berries and grew plum trees. A lot of figs were preserved also. Figs, muscadines and pears grew good around here.
|One of Grandpa Steele's pecan trees|
We've always had lots of pecans. My Grandpa Steele planted many a pecan tree.This whole yard was full of pecan trees. There are pecan trees in my yard now that are 100 years old. They produce sweet pecans.
The trees in the swamps surrounding the Island produced bitter pecans. The hulls on those pecans looked like the hull of a sweet pecan but the nut was a blackish color.
When I was growing up, we had lots of French mockingbirds on the Island. They had black marks on the sides of their heads that went down to their beaks. They didn't look like the mockingbirds we see today and they didn't sing. We called them French Mockers. I haven't seen one of those birds on the Island in years.
|Mockingbird in the process of building a nest on the Island, 2010|
Note: Parts 1-22 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of this blog.