Archive for July, 2013

Dealing with the Heat

I am so thankful for air conditioning. My air conditioning recently broke and I had to go a few days without it. I am so grateful to sit in its cool air again. This article from August 1980 reminds me again what a pleasure it is to have.

 

August 1980

 

During wheat harvest the Andale Co-op employees endured long, hot hours working at the scales and elevators. Even with the furnace- like heat and the blowing grain dust, they were pleasant and helpful. As a woefully inadequate truck driver I appreciate their Herculean effort to get the trucks back to the wheat field on time. Thanks a million for an efficient operation carried out under adverse weather conditions.

This terrible hot spell emphasizes the dependence most of us have on air conditioning as we rush from one refrigerated spot to the next one in an effort to escape the devastating heat. I am reminded of how we coped with the sweltering summers of the thirties when there was no air conditioning, and only the very rich owned electric fans. Of course, many farm homes had no electricity to run a fan if they had the money to buy one.

The bodies of both children and adults broke out with a miserable affliction called “heat.” This caused torment in sweaty areas where there were creases or folds in the skin such as the neck or waist. The skin erupted in tiny blisters that oozed, crusted over, and became red and inflamed. There was no cure for it except a drop in the temperature to bring cooler days and nights.

Out in the small towns and on the farms whole families slept outside to escape from the oven- like bedrooms. To me, as a kid it was great fun – lying on a rickety army cot listening to the whispering cottonwood trees with Mom and Dad close by to scare away the boogey men lurking in the scary shadows under the cedars.

I remember one sultry August night when no breath of air stirred in the backyard; so Dad led us, each carrying a pillow and comforter, to the top of a sandhill in the pasture where we bedded down on the ground. The brilliant stars were a sea of delight in the dark sky, and we were so alone in the universe and yet so warmly cared for and protected. A faint wind stirred out of the south cooling us off and we slept soundly on the sear buffalo grass. The first early morning light awakened the pesky bugs and biting flies who attacked and sent us scurrying homeward.

Then there was the summer of ’36. I was working at Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia and lived in the nurse’s home – a 3-story brick structure about fifty feet from the hospital. All the windows faced east or west and the prevailing south winds could not get in to cool it off at night.

About 40 of us tried to sleep there after a hard day’s work on the hospital floor. No one owned a fan. To cope, we got ready for bed, stepped into a cold shower with our pajamas on, ran dripping to our beds and tried to get to sleep before we got hot again.

After a week of this an enterprising girl found a trap door leading to the flat sanded roof of the building. Since it was high from the ground a gentle breeze blew here nightly. At first we just spent the evenings on the roof cooling off, but the temptation to stay all night was too much. Soon student nurses and employees were sleeping nightly on every square foot of that roof. It was so refreshing to sleep well that the entire crew went to work. In the mornings, ready to endure the suffocating heat of the hospitals’ halls and rooms for another ten- hour shift and to give first- class patient care.

This practical solution to the heat was too good to last. Shortly, a patient or two on the 4th floor of the hospital noticed the nightly parade of sleepers. Soon the hospital superintendent was alerted to his employee’s rooftop rendezvous with rest. A decree was issued: “No more sleeping on the roof. It is morally corrupting for patients to see employees in night garments.”

To prevent any violations of this edict the trap door was nailed shut. What a blow to both our spirits and our health. It was practically unbearable to return to those stagnant bedrooms to sleep when blessed breezes blew a rooftop away. We should have rebelled, but in those days jobs were scarce and we were young and trained to obey the voice of authority.

I am glad that the world of today has a more realistic attitude about the relationship between modesty and comfort, even though modesty sometimes seems to be losing the battle.

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Eat Fresh

This article from July 1982 discusses the dangers of eating processed food. Eat fresh whenever possible.

July 1982

“Eat, drink and be wary” summarized the nutritionist on the last segment of Channel 10’s series on food additives that was aired last month. “I wouldn’t panic if my child ate a weiner now and then, but I wouldn’t give him wieners everyday,” was another piece of her advice.

Perhaps it is time to re- evaluate what is in the food we serve our families. Since 1972 we have been buying more processed foods than fresh foods. We spend more than 60 billion dollars annually for convenience foods including TV dinners, snack foods and pop.

With these foods Americans consume on the average 4 pounds of chemicals, preservatives, stabilizers, colorings, flavorings, and other additives each year. Their use has doubled in the last 15 years. Today, more than 3,000 chemicals are deliberately added to our food.

How much do we know about the hazards to human health from these chemicals? They may be affecting our health but, even more scary, they may affect the health of future generations. Presently, more than a thousand of these chemicals have never been tested for chance of causing cancer, genetic damage, or birth defects.

The FDA is in charge of the purity of our food. In 1960 the “Generally Regarded as Safe” or GRAs list of substances was formulated. There were 674 substances on this list. They had been in use for some time and were generally regarded as safe. They were exempted from the Delaney Amendment passed in 1958 which said, “no additive shall be deemed safe if it is found to produce cancer when ingested into man or animal or if it is found, after tests which are appropriate for the evaluation of the safety of food additives, to induce cancer in man or animal.”

At the present time no tests are required for the mutagenic testing of food additives.

Because of testing, several of the substances on the original GRAs list have had to be removed. It is difficult to know what to do about the problem of food additives.

What is a mother to do to insure food as safe as possible is on her family table? Remember, you are in charge in your own home. You are the expert. Do not allow TV commercials to determine what your children eat. It is up to you to teach your children what to eat.

They are growing and need to eat more often than adults. They should be given nutritious snacks such as vegetables, fruits, popcorn, or bread and butter.

For the main meals serve simple, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Grow your own vegetables and fruits. Save some wheat and grind your own cereal. Make your own bread using whole wheat flour. Cook your own soup and make your own granola. Grow your own beef and pork and have them butchered, cut and wrapped the way you want them. Make your own jams and jellies, pickles and relishes.

When shopping for groceries at the store, select unprocessed items such as beef, pork, fish, lamb, chicken, turkey, simple cheeses, milk, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, dry milk powder, plain breads, soda crackers, oatmeal, shredded wheat, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, fresh fruit and vegetables, and frozen juices.

As much as you possibly can, avoid buying foods such as: fish sticks, wieners, lunch meat, potted meat, pot pies, frozen dinners, and other entree type food, chocolate milk, breakfast supplements, ready made topping, canned puddings, nondairy creamer, snack crackers, colored or sweet cereals, toaster tarts, sweet rolls, pizzas, cakes, cookies, 20% fruit chunks, Tang, Kool- Aid, jams and jellies, prepared salads, maraschino cherries, potato chips, snack crackers, pickles, sauced frozen foods, most salad dressings, sandwich spread, canned or frozen fried soups, seasoned salts, curing salts, jello, pop, MSG, pies, and candy.

If, as mothers we could have one wish for our children we would probably choose a good life. Teaching them what to eat can help them have a full, active, healthy life.

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Whole Wheat Flour and Making it Yourself

On July 5th I posted an article from July 1979 about making your own flour, here is an article from a year later with further information on making your own flour, if you are willing to invest a little money. Please note that this article, as well as the previous one, was published in the Co-op News, whose audience was primarily farmers.

 

July 1980

 

For some time I’ve felt ripped off selling wheat for around six cents a pound and buying it back at the grocery store at these prices for one pound,

.13 white flour

.17 whole wheat flour

.45 white bread

.69 whole wheat bread

.80 white soda crackers

1.60 whole wheat crackers

2.20 snack crackers

So in protest I bought a flour mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. It cost less than one hundred dollars (now about $130) and has been a genuine money saver while at the same time increasing our use of wheat. Four bushels of wheat kept us in flour and breakfast cereal for a year. The wheat was stored in tight metal containers and ground fresh each week. Newton wheat made the best flour for me.

One cup of whole wheat flour has 400 calories and contains 18 grams of protein, and two grams of fat. It is an excellent source of thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin, a good source of iron, and a fair source of calcium. The bran in wheat supplies bulk for the digestive process.

Even if you buy whole wheat flour at the grocery store it is a wonderful nutritive bargain. This past year a wheat flour especially designed for home bread making has appeared in local stores. Its cost is higher than all- purpose white flour, but it does give superior results.

Since getting my flour mill I’ve been determined to experiment until I produce a 100% whole wheat loaf with a soft crumb. So far I’ve never been able to go much over 80% whole wheat flour and get the softness and texture my family wanted. Here is the recipe I’ve liked best so far. If any of you have a better one I’d like to hear from you.

 

Whole Wheat Bread

 

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup bread type white flour

1 cup oatmeal

1 package dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

1 cup warm potato water

1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

2 tablespoons shortening

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour approximately

 

Combine the first six ingredients in a large mixer bowl. Add molasses, potato water, milk and shortening. Beat on medium speed five minutes. Remove beaters. Add the last whole wheat flour gradually, stirring with a spoon. Turn out on floured board and knead until smooth. Be careful not to work in to much flour. The dough should be a little tacky to handle.

Set to rest in a bowl rinsed out with warm water. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours at about 80° F. Punch down. Divide into two balls. Cover and let rest five minutes.

Shape into loaves and place in greased bread pans. Let rise for an hour or until indentation made with a finger remains and doesn’t spring back.

Bake at 400° F for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on racks.

 

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Pie Crusts Part 3

Here is the final part of the 3 part series on pie crust. The first part can be found here, and the second here.

June 1983

For a fitting climax to this 3- part series on pies, I went to the queen supreme of pie bakers, Eleanor Manning, for advice. Her pies have melt- in- your- mouth goodness and the crusts are tender layers of flaky goodness. Behind her stretches a lifetime of pies, and she’s still going strong. Apple, cherry, rhubarb, custard, lemon meringue – name the pie and Eleanor has made it.

“Surely she has a carefully guarded secret for perfect pies,” I thought.

When I asked her, “How do you make such perfect crusts?” Eleanor quickly went to the kitchen and returned carrying her old high school home ec book, Basic Principles of Domestic Science, by Lilla Frich. The cover was worn and bespattered. The pages perilously loose, but the recipes were all still there – having served a lifetime dating from Eleanor’s marriage in 1917 when she was only eighteen years old.

While Glenn ran a dairy farm Eleanor cooked for hired men and her three children, Norman, Martha and Elizabeth, plus friends and relatives they collected from far and wide.

In the community she was active in Eastern Star and went through all the offices. She was a devoted member of the Christian Church and the Ladies Aid Society and helped by tying comforts and quilting.

Eleanor and Glenn loved to travel and went to every state of the union, Canada three times, to Nassau, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Europe, Nova Scotia, and Mexico many times. They often drove in a camper.

When they weren’t working or traveling they were square dancing or having fun. Eleanor has a rare gift of friendship and their home overflowed with guests, both family and friends.

They spent many summers in Colorado – often with some of their 10 grandchildren and their young friends. They all knew grandma would welcome them with open arms and feed the whole gang. In the winter for the past ten years they went to Texas where in 1982 they celebrated their 65th anniversary of marriage.

After Glenn’s death last year Eleanor has lived at their home in Sedgwick where she leads an active life and entertains often. Even though she tragically lost two grandchildren in the prime of their life she perseveres and is an inspiration to those who know her.

When asked her secret for such a rich, full life Eleanor replies, “We worked hard and drank lots of orange and grapefruit juice. We were always ready to take up anything we wanted to do.”

PIE CRUST

1 ½ cup flour ½ cup lard or Crisco

3 tablespoons water, cold ½ teaspoon salt

Sift flour before measuring. Mix flour and salt. Cut fat in with pastry blender or rub shortening in with hands (I prefer my hands). Add cold water. Combine lightly to form a ball of pastry. This makes one 2-crust pie or two 1-crust shells.

Bake at temperature called for in pie recipe.

LEMON MERINGUE PIE

Filling: 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup boiling water Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

2 egg yolks

Meringue: 2 egg whites 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions for filling: Mix sugar and cornstarch. Add boiling water. Cook until clear and thick. Add beaten egg yolks, lemon juice, butter and rind. Cook for a minute or two. Pour into baked shell.

Directions for meringue: Beat whites until stiff. Add sugar gradually. Spread over filling to edges. Brown at 350° until delicately colored.

COCONUT CREAM PIE

Filling: 2 cups milk ½ cup sugar

2 or 3 eggs, depending on size 3 tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup coconut

Meringue: 2 eggs whites 2 tablespoons sugar

Extra coconut

Filling: Combine sugar and cornstarch. Add milk. Cook until thick. Add to beaten yolks (save whites). Add coconut. Cook another minute or two. Pour into baked shell.

Meringue: Beat whites until stiff. Add sugar gradually. Spread on pie. Sprinkle with coconut. Brown lightly in 350° oven.

CUSTARD PIE

2 eggs 1/3 cup sugar

2 cups milk Nutmeg

Beat eggs and sugar. Add milk. Pour into unbaked shell. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 350° to finish. Bake until jiggly in middle. No exact time. Be careful not to overbake.

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Make your own flour

If only I had the space to grow my own wheat…

July 1979

So much field work is being done by local farmers that the landscape along the road changes each time I go to town. What was a gold plated expanse of wheat in the morning is nothing but a short stubble by early afternoon and then transformed to a soft brown carpet of disced earth by nightfall. Resounding in the air is the throb of trucks, tractors and combines as working hours are extended almost indefinitely in order to take advantage of favorable weather conditions.

Now in the middle of all the other household and garden work pressing to be done is the time to take some covered containers to the field to fill with wheat fresh from the combine. If it is kept in a fairly cool place the wheat can be used for flour and cereal until next harvest. The flavor of products made from home grown wheat is excellent and the nutritive quality is unsurpassed.

It would be great to have a home flour mill, which is available on the market, but if you don’t, a good blender can make both wheat cereal and flour.

To do so, wash a quart or two of wheat. Remove the chaff that floats to the top and dry thoroughly. It usually requires several hours to dry.

If you want to make whole wheat flour, put ½ cup of dry wheat in a blender and turn to a high speed. You will get almost 1 cup of flour. Feel the texture with your fingers and continue until the flour feels quite smooth but with some crunchiness left in it. Continue making flour until blender gets hot, then stop and wait for it to cool down. Make only enough for immediate use, since this flour will be free of preservatives. Consequently, its shelf life is short. The finished product is not as fine textured as whole wheat flour in the stores but it makes bread with a wonderful satisfying flavor.

To prepare wheat to eat as a cereal proceed the same way as for flour but stop the blender when the grains have been cracked several times. Some will be fine and some coarse. Stir into boiling salted water and simmer for twenty minutes. Serve warm with light cream and brown sugar. This can also be enjoyed at dinner or supper as a paste or potato replacement.

Whole Wheat Bread Sticks
2 cups white flour 2 cups milk
1 cup oatmeal 2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons fat
2 teaspoons salt 2 tablespoons molasses
1 pkg. dry yeast 4 cups whole wheat flour
Mix first five ingredients in large mixing bowl. Scald milk. Cool to 115 to 120°. Add milk, eggs, fat, and molasses to dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed 10 minutes. Remove beaters. Add more wheat flour stirring it in with a spoon until too stiff to handle. Turn out on bread board and knead for 5 minutes. Set to rest in a bowl. Cover with damp towel and keep at about 80° for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Punch down. Divide in 3 or 4 parts. Cover with damp towel. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll each piece out on a lightly floured board to ½ inch thickness. Cut in strips 5 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Put on greased cookie sheets. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until brown. Remove from pan and cool on cake racks. Eat as is or return to 325° oven and bake until hard and crisp. Store in air tight containers or plastic bags.These are good served with cheese, fruit and milk. As a snack for children they are tops in nutrition. Kids will eat them instead of cookies which are too full of fat and sugar to be eaten as a regular part of the diet.

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