Are we having a summer or are we having a summer? I can't decide if the reason it seems so much hotter than when I was small is because I am older (and can read the thermometer) or if I was in better shape then and could take it. We don't have central air and those poor window units are trying their hardest to keep the house livable. Of course, when the house was built, air conditioning had not been even thought about and the windows would be open for any stray breeze that might come along. We have had some summers like that in recent years, too, but this year is trying to top the records for heat. One good thing, it should be easy for anyone to lose weight - it is just too hot to eat.
Summers have changed a lot in the past 70 years. We were not concerned about sunscreen - never had heard of it. We just went outside and got as tan as could be by fall. Shoes were seldom worn except on Sunday or when we went to town. The yard was safe from nails and anything else that could hurt those bare feet. Of course, at least once a summer, we would step on a nail over around the barn or workshop. No doctor treated us though. A strip of bacon tied around the wound after it was cleaned did the trick and it always healed fast and well. Do we have more germs around now? I have to wonder. I remember going barefoot in the hay field, too. In the spring, it took a couple of days walking on the gravel in the road to toughen up one's feet for the summer.
We didn't have electricity then, but the water in the well was cold. Grandma had a tall squared container that we put down in the well for cooling. In the morning, the drinks for the men working in the fields were put in it and it was lowered into the cold well water. Those drinks were usually the home brew that was common in that German household. Mom had never made home brew before she married Dad, but she learned and was considered the best brew master in the household. The cellar was always cool, too, and that was where the canned food was kept. Also, the crocks of milk and other foods that needed to be chilled were put on hanging shelves. No one ever got sick from that method of cooling.
I don't remember having mayonnaise in the summer at all, or any other time for that matter. Dressings were vinegar, bacon and the drippings, sugar, salt and pepper. Potato salad was German style. Lettuce was usually wilted with a hot dressing. We always had lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and what wasn't in season was found canned in the cellar. Relatives used to show up for dinner and comment to Grandma that they never worried about coming unannounced because she could always get a good meal from the cellar. She comment after they left that she hadn't seen any of them helping her put up that food.
Meat would be canned from the butchering in the fall and winter, or fresh from the hen house. In addition, there were the hams and bacon cured and smoked at butchering time.
I knew how to butcher a chicken, but I always had a hard time chopping their heads off. Both grandmothers were experts at that, but I could never get the head off in one stroke and couldn't chop the same place twice. To prevent the misery of the chicken, someone else always did that job for me. Those chickens had a good taste, and were so much better than the fast-grown fowl we get today. Usually, the chosen hen for the meal would be an older one, so would hit the boiling pot before it was fried. I never realized a chicken could be fried without boiling first until I was married and moved to North Carolina. That Southern fried young chicken became my choice meal and I mastered the trick of the doing it Southern style.
Back to childhood. The stove was fired by wood, so the kitchen was always hot. Baking never slowed up in the summer. All bread, rolls, coffeecakes, pies - all baked goods - were baked in that stove. It was a learning experience when the electric lines were strung and an electric stove came into the kitchen. That old stove was the "heart" of the house, but that is another story.
Another early morning job was to put water in the washtub if anyone was to take a bath after a hot and sweaty day. The sun heated it. The well had a rope, windlass and bucket to get the water up for us. Life was a lot simpler then, but it was full of happiness (and a lot of work.). My grandchildren can't believe the stories I tell of my childhood.
I hope you have lots of memories of years gone by, and do write them down for your family. Try to stay cool and do find something good about these hot days.
One-half cup sugar
One-cup packed brown sugar
One-half cup butter or margarine, softened
Two-and-one-half cups all-purpose flour
One-and-one-half cups shredded zucchini
One-half cup chopped nuts
One teaspoon grated lemon peel
One tablespoon lemon juice
Two teaspoons baking powder
One teaspoon ground nutmeg
One-fourth teaspoon salt
Mix sugars, butter, and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about two inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven until almost no indentation remains when touched, 8-10 minutes. Cool, then frost with Lemon Frosting.
HINT: Put cookies into refrigerator for about 30 minutes before baking, just like Martha Stewart does.
Three cups powdered sugar, sifted
One-fourth cup butter or margarine, softened
One teaspoon grated lemon peel
One tablespoon lemon juice
One tablespoon water
Mix sugar, butter and lemon peel. Beat in lemon juice and water. If necessary, add more water, one teaspoon at a time, until of spreading consistency.
Four cups chopped zucchini
Two cups chopped onion
One cup chopped green bell pepper
One cup chopped red bell pepper
One-fourth cup pickling salt
Three-and-one-half cups sugar
Two cups cider vinegar
Four teaspoons celery seed
Two teaspoons mustard seed
Combine zucchini and peppers. Sprinkle with the salt and cover with cold water. Let stand for two hours. Drain and press out liquid from vegetables. Combine remaining ingredients in a granite or stainless steel kettle and bring to a boil. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes. Pour hot into hot sterilized jars and seal. Leave one-fourth-inch headroom.
One-and-one-half cups all-purpose flour
One-and-one-half tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
One-half teaspoon baking soda
One-fourth teaspoon baking powder
One-half teaspoon cinnamon
One-fourth cup vegetable shortening
One-fourth cup vegetable oil
Three-fourths cup sugar
One-fourth cup sour cream
One-half teaspoon vanilla
One cup zucchini, grated
Three-fourths cup mini chocolate chips
One-third cup finely chopped walnuts
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another large bowl, beat shortening, oil, sugar and egg on a low speed until smooth. Beat in sour cream and vanilla, then flour mixture. Beat for two minutes. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Spread in a greased and floured 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sprinkle nuts on top. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan. Cut into bars.
ZUCCHINI SPICE CAKE
Two cups all-purpose flour
Two cups finely chopped zucchini
One-and-one-fourth cups sugar
One cup chopped nuts
One-half cup vegetable oil
One-third cup water
One-and-one-fourth teaspoons baking soda
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon cinnamon
One teaspoon ground cloves
One teaspoon nutmeg
One teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients and beat at low speed in mixer, scraping bowl constantly, until blended, about one minute. Beat at medium speed two minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into greased and floured 13x9x2-inch pan and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool, then frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
One (eight-oz.) package cream cheese
One tablespoon milk
One teaspoon vanilla
Four cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Beat cream cheese, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating until smooth and of spreading consistency. Refrigerate cake after frosting.
NOTE: Lemon flavoring is good in this also, especially with a spice cake.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.