The Family Table
This photograph probably comes from the very early 1950s. I am basing this guess upon how old my mother looks in the picture. Since this is the early fifties – this photograph was taken in Arkansas. If I had a clue about whose home this was…I would know if the image was made in McRae, Little Rock or Searcy, Arkansas. As it is…I will just list the places where the image could have been made.
Food has always been very important during gatherings of my family. I think this image shows that. When I zoomed in on the photograph – I saw baked beans. Those must have been made by my Aunt Rene. She made *awesome* baked beans. Everyone else in the family said that hers were the best so, during every family gathering, Aunt Rene provided generous portions of her baked beans. Towards the back of the table I see what looks like my Grandmother’s Walnut Maple Cake. A dense, moist cake studded with walnuts and richly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. She always topped it with a homemade maple frosting which she drizzled over the cake, warm. That cake is better than most cakes I have had in fine dining restaurants. It was glorious. Also on the table are what looks like Grannie’s pounded “within an inch of their lives” pork chops. She pounded them and then dredged them in eggs and milk before flipping them into a flour base to which she had added salt, pepper and other seasonings. She then “fried them up, proper” and would set them on the table. They never lasted very long. Rounding out the fare on the table is a salad, mashed potatoes and my Grandmother’s Jello Salad (sorry, Grandma. That was the only thing that you ever made that I could not stand. Thinking about it, all of these years later, still makes me cringe. It is just wrong to mix Jello, fruit, nuts, coconut, whipped and sour cream together and call it a dessert! ACK!) There are a few things on the table that I cannot figure out. My husband asked what the dark bottle was. When I looked at the image, again, I instantly remembered the little brown bottles in my Grandmother’s kitchen when I was a little girl. That is a sweetener. More than likely it was saccharin. Grandma took five of those little pellets in her coffee! Again I say it – ACK!
The sugar and creamer set is there. The coffee service is there. The salt and pepper shakers are there. This table looks very much like the food-laden tables of my youth. The times when we gathered (usually on Sunday nights) and had supper, together. These dinners weren’t to celebrate a special event…my family always cooked massive amounts of food. Leftovers would be saved in Pyrex (glass) dishes with lids and either consumed another night as made over leftovers – or they would be packaged off with my Grandfather (Pa) for his lunch. Food was never wasted. It was always plentiful…and nearly always fried. And then smothered with “Rich Man’s Gravy” (made with milk) or “Poor Man’s Gravy” (made with water). The vegetables were nearly always in either butter…or put into a casserole of some sort. Unless it was corn on the cob. That is the only vegetable I remember eating in the form it grew. Of course it was slathered in butter. And generously sprinkled with salt and pepper.
I am sure that you will not be surprised to learn that heart disease runs in my family after reading the description of the daily fare on offer…
I like this image because it shows my family in good spirits. With maybe the exception of my aunt and my great-great grandmother. I am sure that you might be able to hazard a guess as to who they are from that small clue. Aunt Rene and great-great grandmother N. really don’t look happy in this image – but everyone else does and I like that. I don’t know if my Grandmother was looking at the food, or my mother. She has a sort of crazed look about her which amuses me. I have a strange sense of humor, I know.
The people in the photograph (from left to right – starting in the back) are: my grandmother (Mary), my aunt (Ella-Mae, she went by Mae), My great-grandmother (Essie), my great-grandfather (Estes), my aunt (Lorene, we called her Aunt Rene) and my uncle (Nolan). Seated (in the middle) are: Mrs. Marks (my Aunt Mae’s Mother-in-Law) and my great-great grandmother (Grannie N. I have never been made aware of her first name. She was a mean, mean woman and did a lot of really mean things to cats. I think that is where my Grandmother’s dislike of cats came from). Seated in the front row: Aunt Rene and Uncle Nolan’s son (L-R), Aunt Mae and Uncle Leo’s son (L), Aunt Rene and Uncle Nolan’s son) (B-D), my mother’s half-brother (my uncle, C) and my mother.
I am betting the dining arrangement wasn’t always like this. The refrigerator (a Frigidaire) is directly behind my Grandmother without room to open the door due to the chairs…and it looks like the stove is directly behind my Uncle Nolan.
It was definitely a cozy kitchen!