Volume IV, No. 2, Winter 1976
by Diana Foreman
After a hearty breakfast, a typical country family in the Ozarks would resume the chores and other work they had begun before breakfast. The men would go to the fields to work with the crops, fix fence or do other farm work, while the women would do the house and garden work and start dinner. Several hard working hours would pass before time for dinner, the noon meal.
Since dinner was the largest meal of the day, needed to renew energy for the afternoon work, the women would take several hours to prepare it. A basic dinner menu consisted of meat, potatoes and gravy, dried beans, cornbread, vegetables, canned fruit and frequently pie, cobbler or cake.
The item which took the longest to prepare was the dried beans. Pinto or white beans were the most common. In order for them to be cooked by noon, the women would soak them overnight, cutting the cooking time from about seven to about one and a half hours. To give the beans a good flavor they often boiled a piece of fat pork with the beans.
For meat most people preferred pork or chicken. Often both would be served at the same meal. Pork was cured and would keep without refrigeration, and chickens were dressed as needed. Since beef was very hard to keep from spoiling because of the lack of refrigeration, it was served only after butchering time.
Chicken was always a favorite, whether a young fryer or an old hen. If the choice was a hen, the housewife would dress it soon after breakfast and immediately boil it. A special treat was to use the broth to make either noodles or dumplings.
Beat together 3 eggs, 3 Tbs. milk, 1 tsp. salt. Add about 2 cups of flour to the other ingredients, enough to make a thick dough. Roll thin and sprinkle the top with flour. Let stand thirty minutes. Then starting at one edge, roll
up the dough like a jelly roll. Beginning at one end, slice or shave off strips 1/8 inch thick. Let stand two
hours. Drop into boiling broth and cook ten minutes.
Sift together 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder. Add 1/2 cup milk and 2 Tbs. fat. Mix together. Drop with a spoon into boiling broth. Cover tightly and steam 10 to 15 minutes without lifting the lid.
Instead of noodles or dumplings many cooks made gravy. (For directions for making gravy see Vol. IV, No. 1, p.18.)
Potatoes were a must at every meal, as they were easily grown in the garden and stored in the cellar. They are also very filling. The potatoes were usually fried in meat grease, boiled and mashed, or some liked potatoes served soupy. They were cooked whole, halved or sliced. When done, instead of throwing out the cooking water, cream, milk, butter and seasonings were added. This was not thickened.
The vegetables were either fresh from the garden or home canned, such as peas, tomatoes, greens, green beans and corn. Corn in summer was served on the cob, or cut off. It was not unusual to have dried beans and fresh or canned green beans at the same meal. Sweet potatoes, squash and turnips added variety in late summer and fall.
Almost everyone ate cornbread nearly every day, either with gravy or beans or with butter and jelly. Light bread (yeast bread) was for special occasions in most homes, but in some the family might prefer light bread. Often both were served.
The table was never complete without some type of fruit. It was eaten as often as bread and meat and was usually on the table. Fresh fruit was peeled and sugared or stewed. When there was no fresh fruit, a trip to the cellar produced canned fruit such as peaches, apples or strawberries. The fruit dish was not necessarily considered the dessert, but many times a fruit pie, cobbler or short cake would be fixed, also.
Depending on personal preference, the beverage was coffee, milk, tea or water.
They ate dinner leisurely--all the family together. The noon hour provided a rest period for men and women. No one was in a hurry to go back to work, sitting around the table visiting. After the rest period the family resumed working until night when they gathered again for supper.
Watch for country supper next issue.
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