Volume IV, No. 1, Fall 1976
by Diana Foreman
The meals served in the farm homes in the past were quite different from the supermarket meals most of us know today. The women raised and preserved nearly everything that the family ate, spending the entire summer gathering and growing things that could be preserved for the winter months. They made jams and jelly from wild berries, grapes and other fruits and gathered wild greens in the spring. Their cows gave them milk for making cheese and butter as well as for drinking, the chickens furnished eggs and meat and the yearly hog butchering supplied enough salted meat for all year.
The meal that shows the greatest difference from today is breakfast. It was a major meal and was usually very large compared to most breakfasts we eat today.
In order to get all their work done, the entire family had to get up very early. The typical Ozark family would rise around four in the summer. So the women would not have to get up any earlier than the men, the men would often do the morning chores while the women prepared breakfast. Since the chores took anywhere from one to two hours, they well deserved the large breakfast by the time it was ready.
A typical breakfast menu consisted of fried meat, flour gravy, biscuits, eggs and coffee or milk.
The variations in this menu came from frying a different meat. Pork was the most common. People ate tenderloin and sausage near butchering time and cured shoulder, ham and side meat the rest of the time. Lean bacon as we know it was seldom cooked for breakfast. Bacon was called side meat and it was quite fat. Some women would dress a chicken and fry it for breakfast.
While Trying the meat, either in its own fat or home rendered lard, the women would mix and bake the biscuits. (See Vol. II, No. 2, p. 28 for recipe.) They seldom made toast because light bread was used only for special occasions. A special treat was to make raised biscuits the evening before, allowing them to rise overnight.
1 cake yeast
3 Tbs. butter
1/2 pt. warm water
1 egg unbeaten
1/2 pt. milk
2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. sugar
7 cups flour
Soak yeast in water and sugar for 1/2 hour. Then add milk, melted butter, egg and salt. Stir in about 7 cups of flour for a soft dough. Let rise and knead down 3 times. Make biscuits the size of an egg by cutting with a glass. Place in a greased pan not crowding. Cover with a clean white cloth and let stand overnight. Bake in hot oven (400°) until golden brown. Makes 2 1/2 dozen.
When the meat was done, the woman would remove it from the pan and place it in the warming oven. She set aside part of the grease for the gravy before she fried the eggs in the same skillet as the meat. This gave them a special flavor. She put the eggs in the warming oven when they were cooked.
Gravy was the last thing to fix and it too was cooked in the same pan. No one used recipes for flour gravy, but this is about the proportions. Stirring constantly, add 1/2 cup of flour to about 4 Tbs. of the grease left in the skillet. When thoroughly mixed, slowly add about 4 cups of milk, continuing to stir to prevent lumping and scorching. Cook until desired thickness is reached. Season to taste.
In most homes since the jellies, butter, salt, pepper, sugar and everything else used every meal were left on the table covered with a colorful tablecloth all the time, it was a simple matter to remove the cloth, set the table and put all the hot food on the table when the men had finished their chores. Everyone ate plenty because they knew there would be a lot of hard working hours between then and the country dinner which will be featured in the next issue.
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