Volume IV, No. 3, Spring 1977
by Diana Foreman
The long hard day of the Ozark farmers, which began before dawn with a hearty breakfast and continued with hard work until the large dinner, was again resumed in the afternoon. When the sun began to sink in the west the family would come in, do their chores and gather once more for the final meal of the day. Their supper, the lightest meal of the day, was based on the leftovers from dinner.
The women would clear the plates, glasses and silverware from the table after every meal and wash them. They arranged the food that was left over neatly on the table and spread a clean table cloth over everything. After they had washed and dried the dishes, they stacked them under the cloth also or stored them in the safe. Not every family owned a safe, which was a wooden cabinet with glass or metal doors. There was usually a place to stand plates on end in the back of the shelves and space in front to store the bowls and glasses. One shelf was usually used to store the food that was already prepared, like pies and cakes.
The silverware was usually put in several different places. The spoons were often placed in spoon holders on the table, one for serving spoons and one for teaspoons. The spoon holders were sometimes purchased as a set with the sugar bowl and cream pitcher. The knives and forks were stored in a drawer of the safe. However, some women would keep all the table settings needed for the family under the table cloth because there wasn't enough storage space and it was easier to set the table for the next meal.
At noon most women would cook enough meat, potatoes, bread, dried beans and dessert for dinner and supper. In the winter all they had to do was warm up the leftovers. In the summer they usually served the food at room temperature to avoid building a fire and making the house hotter.
If there was not enough food left over from dinner, they sometimes fried some meat or prepared a small roast in addition to the leftovers. Other times when the family was hungry and tired the women would prepare very simple but nourishing meals. Two easy dishes using corn meal frequently fixed were mush and hush puppies.
Mush was usually made in large enough quantities to have some left to fry for breakfast the next day. (to make corn meal mush see Vol. II, No. 3, p. 19)
Mush is good served with just butter when very hot, or with butter, sugar, molasses or honey and milk. This is very much like Cream of Wheat or Malt-O-Meal.
Hush puppies are made by simply dicing an onion in cornbread batter (for recipe see Vol. II, No. 3, p. 19), dropping by spoonfuls into deep fat or meat grease, and cooking until golden brown. The meat grease gave it a good flavor. Another common supper dish was left over cornbread crumbled into milk. With some added sweetening it was like cereal today.
Fresh garden vegetables added variety. In season whole meals could be made of wilted lettuce (a mixture of hot grease and mild vinegar poured over cut up leaf lettuce and green onions), cucumbers sliced into vinegar or pickle juice, buttered turnips or fresh corn.
There was always plenty of milk, eggs and butter to supplement the meals, and jellies, jams, pickles and relishes to satisfy every taste.
The whole family would sit down to eat together as they did at other meals. In summer the family often would not eat supper until eight or nine o'clock because of the long work days, but in winter they usually finished their chores and were ready to eat by six or seven o'clock.
After the family ate supper everyone's chores and work for the day was finished--except for the women who still had plenty to do. In the summer the children went to bed shortly after supper but in the winter there was time for everyone to sit around the fireplace or stove and entertain themselves by playing games, singing, or just munching apples and talking.
The women cleared the table of everything, but the staples that were always on the table, for instance, salt, pepper, sugar, butter, peanut butter, jelly, vinegar, toothpicks and different spices and seasonings. They fed the remaining food to the farm animals.
The dogs got all the cornbread, potatoes, and meat left over from the meal. Since most had never heard of purchased dog food years ago, some women would make twice as much cornbread as the family would eat, especially to feed to the dogs.
The chickens got the vegetables and egg shells and sometimes the peelings.
Everything else during the day had gone into the slop bucket--milk, dishwater, peelings and any other food or waste water. The women carried this out and either poured it into the hog troughs or mixed it with shorts to feed to the hogs.
After washing the dishes the women then would stack them in their place, straighten up the kitchen, sweep the floors, fill the water buckets and the stove reservoir, and carry in enough wood for cooking the next day. Finally they would be finished for the day.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.