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Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: Old Cooks And Pie Safes

Cherry Pie
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I owe my overweight status to the fact that I had a mother and grandmother while I was growing up who had few peers when it came to cooking, and oh how I enjoyed getting this way. This Mid-Missouri Memory always makes my mouth water.

Old Cooks and Pie Safes

I believe the gourmet cooks of today with their exact measurements and formula recipes would be lost in our grandmother’s kitchens and would find it hard to match the way cooks of the pre-sixties era used an old pie safe and wood stove to produce some great dishes in those BPM (before packaged meals) days. I can still taste the pies, cookies, dumplings, baked breads and other tasty foods my mother and grandmother cooked in kitchens that would be a museum exhibit today.

I loved watching them cook, with the pinch of this, dash of that style that looked like guess work but always wound up tasting a perfect sameness. The strange thing is that although both my mother and her mother cooked in that same dash and pinch style and supposed same ingredients, somehow the food never tasted quite the same. There was a difference that set each or their food apart and made it uniquely their own. I always suspected they each kept a secret ingredient hidden away for just that purpose, and can remember hearing them ask each other “What’s different in this?” To which the answer was always “Oh, It’s just the same old recipe.” They always respected each others’ efforts too, and it would have been out of character for one of them to claim to be the better cook, but I can remember my mother giving my late grandmother that honor many times throughout the years.

I have many tasty memories of my grandmother and mother’s kitchens, and so it would be impossible for me to choose a best between them. I wouldn’t even try. I miss both of them, and not just for their cooking. They also had a wit and wisdom that made it a real joy to be around them. My most cherished memories of my grandmother are of her standing in front of that old pie safe in her kitchen with flour on her nose and the tip of her tongue visible at the corner of her mouth as she stirred up something I knew would taste just wonderful. I feel sorry for anyone who has never known anything but the pre-measured, pre-cooked foods that come to them direct from freezer to microwave, and I wish I could share the warmth and love with every child that I felt in my grandmother’s kitchen as we licked the mixing bowl together and waited for something wonderful to come out her old wood burning oven.

P.S. My wife, who is a mother and grandmother herself, informs me that love can be just as warm in front of microwave, gas, or electric ovens, since the main ingredient is the mother’s, or grandmother’s love. I agree.

Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’

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