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Grandma’s Kitchen

Posted in : youngstown-cooks on by : MikeZ Tags: ,

Ramblings about Cooking from a true Youngstown Kid…

The earliest memories of my Grandmother’s Kitchen revolve around the old wood-burning stove, the massive table, and the sink. The family farm was just across the Ohio-PA line, out past Scienceville and the Sky High Drive-In on 422. 110 acres, most of which was arable, planted with Barley, Rye, Wheat, lots of Corn – knee-high by the Fourth of July – and pastures for the cows. There was a dairy barn with a dozen or so milkers and one lone (and very ornery) bull. There were chickens and a few pigs but I never recall any goats. It was a working farm.

Most of all, I remember the farmhouse. It was two story Salt-box with a root cellar. A front porch, a parlor with a pot-belly stove for heat in its center, a room that probably was a dining room that no one ever used, and the kitchen on the first floor. Ah, the kitchen… There was this huge cast-iron stove, a firebox on the left, and an oven on the right, with four or five spots on top that were where you put pots, pans, and the ever-present tea kettle. The stove would almost glow when my grandmother was cooking – probably from the heat of the fire but I suspect it was also from the warmth of her heart. She made dinner for all of us on Sunday afternoons. It kept us warm in the winter and reminded us of the coolness of a breeze across the front porch in the summer.

The kitchen was where I ate my first Venison Burger. My Uncle and his two sons who lived on the farm were avid hunters and deer meat was a real treat for them – not so much to my city-bred taste buds. And don’t get me started with what my mother had to say about eating Bambi. She truly hated the stuff. But put a pot of boiling water on that stove and cook up some just-picked sweet corn smothered in hand-churned butter and it’s all very clear why I was a bit on the chubby side at 5 years old.

Grandma's Hand Pump on the Kitchen Sink

The single best memory of summer on the farm was the taste of cold spring water from the hand pump on the kitchen sink – Cold, clear nectar of the gods.

You see there was no indoor plumbing in the house until after grandma passed in 1955. Water was pumped from the underground spring that ran through the Spring House (used to keep the fresh milk cold before it went to market). If you wanted hot water, you heated it on that old wood burner. Even water for washing & bathing had to be heated on the stovetop. Now that I think back, the house, especially the kitchen, always had a faint aroma of damp wood or ashes about it. Even though my memories go back to the early ’50s, indoor plumbing was a luxury, a needless extravagance in my grandmother’s eyes. It was a simpler time for hard-working folk whose days were regulated by the sunrise and the seasons. No alarm clocks were to be found.

It’s hard to imagine cooking or baking on a stove where the only way to regulate temperature was to open or close a damper, rake the embers, or put in some more wood but Grandma made it work. And she made it work to perfection.

As time goes by, I’ll be posting some of those memorable recipes on the website at YoungstownRecipes.com In the meantime, here are our latest postings…

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