Our family of six girls and one boy grew up in a small town in North Texas, in an old Victorian two-story house dating back to the 1880’s, trimmed in gingerbread with screened in porches that wrapped around the outside of the house. The 3 acre yard held abundant oak and pecan trees, many of which had been there since the house was built. The gathering place in the house was always the kitchen, where we could watch our Mom cook. The kitchen had a restaurant style Wolf stove and a chopping block island in the middle made with native hardwood trees of North Texas including pecan, hickory, oak, bois ‘d arc, ash, and walnut. The chopping block was the centerpiece of the big kitchen with stools around it for us kids to sit in while helping Mom cook. Cabinets surrounded the whole kitchen and two copper pot racks were hung brimming with hanging pots and pans large enough to feed our big family of nine. The ceiling was 12 foot tall and was made of copper. There was also a beautiful stained glass window that caught the early morning light.
As kids we would pretend our kitchen was a restaurant and we would take the orders and cook lunch for our siblings. We named it, “Mother’s Cupboard”. That name was also the name of my parent’s restaurant that served home cooking in the small neighboring town. It is because of this, we named our blog, “Our Mother’s Cupboard“, as we want to preserve the memories for our children, to record recipes, and share a bit of our childhood.
The kitchen was a place of comfort and so many of our memories are held within this room. Our house did not have central heating or air so in the winter, we would gather in the kitchen in the morning to keep warm as Mama would have the burners and oven on to try to heat the room. After school homework was often done while sitting at the butcher block table while watching Mama cook our dinner in the background. Dinners were spent seated around the dining room table and usually included a homemade dessert to finish off the meal. At cleanup time, the dishes snaked around the countertops and the six girls would take turns washing and drying the dishes, while dancing around the kitchen.
Growing up with parents who loved to cook instilled in us a love of cooking and an appreciation for all things homemade. Our old cast iron skillets were used daily and the big heirloom cast iron dutch ovens were treasured and used often. Mama would can vegetables that we would gather from our garden and one year canned 350 quart jars of green beans that were safely tucked into our underground storm cellar. I wonder if they are still there today…. Mama would churn our butter using an old butter churner and would make homemade buttermilk. She would cook cornbread on top of the stove in her cast iron skillet after grinding the corn fresh using the old red Atlas hand turn grist mill that was in the screened in backed porch. Mama makes the best fried chicken, chicken fried steak, after Sunday church pot roast, and chicken and dumplings. She would make homemade pickled vegetables from our garden. Breakfasts were huge with pancakes and thick cut peppered bacon or our favorite, biscuits and gravy with sausage served with Mama’s homemade wild plum jelly. Desserts were chocolate cake with pecans, fried apricot pies, sweet potato pies, and her huge coconut cake, to name a few! But my Mom wasn’t the only cook in the house. You would often find my Dad in the kitchen making a huge pot of spaghetti or a pot of chili. As soon as Mom added spices to a dish, Daddy would come in behind her, taste it, and tweak it more. It is no wonder we grew up with a great taste for southern cooking!
We grew up in a time where neighborhoods weren’t fenced in like they are today so we had plenty of room to roam as the whole city block became our backyard to explore. We had a huge garden with corn, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, to name a few. We had chickens for fresh eggs, goats to milk, horses to ride, hunting dogs, cats, a pet raccoon, ducks, geese, and rheas. Our 70+ year old neighbors were our friends and we would sit on their back porch and listen to their stories of our old house and its previous occupants. We would invite them all to gather in our backyard for huge fish fries where Daddy would fry catfish he caught himself. He would hand cut potatoes into fries while Mom made hush puppies. We treasured the recipes from our neighbors – Mrs. Burrows was known for her chow chow, homemade angel food cakes, and chocolate pies and as kids we would time our visits when we knew she had company as we knew we could count on her to give us a piece of pie or a piece of her homemade angel food cake! Each Christmas, you could count on Mrs. Audrey to bring over a tin of her Chex Mix.
Holidays were definitely our favorite time of year. At Christmas, our sister Maralee would decorate the outside of our gingerbread house with red velvet ribbon bows and then proceed to do the same to our neighbor’s houses. Family would come from afar and Mama would stay up all night cooking to ensure we all had our favorites. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the turkey, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, rutabagas, yams, peas, cranberry jello mold, pecan pies, and sweet potato pies. Christmas was always a pork roast with all of the trimmings or prime rib and Mama’s Coconut Cake. You can count on having all of these dishes if we return home for the holidays still today.
Mother’s love for cooking has been passed down to all seven kids, and now we are passing the love of cooking to our own children. Family get togethers today are still the same with the kitchen as our gathering place and our nieces have inherited our love for southern cooking.
It is my hope that through this blog we can share some of our history and our love of food with you!
Thanks for joining us!