I wrote this chapter fourteen years ago in January, 1991.
Our Christmas and New Year's season was just about over for another year. Carolyn and I enjoy the holiday quite a lot. We haven't taken the lights and decorations down yet. We generally try to decorate our house the first weekend of December and we wait as long as we can before putting it all back into boxes for another year. I think we just don't want to let go of the Season any sooner than we have to.
Zach was an infant and living in Korea. Among the gifts we sent him on his first Christmas was a Teddy Bear ... a special gift of love from Granddad and Carolyn.
We had our traditional food on New Year's Day. Carolyn's family felt it was good luck to start each new year with sauerkraut, pork, and mashed potatoes. In my family, the traditional "good luck" food item was black-eyed peas. Carolyn and I put all those items together each January 1st (along with a full measure of football). I don't know whether it's lucky or not ... but it sure is tasty.
The sauerkraut triggered several memories about food from the time I was little. My Dad made the most wonderful sauerkraut that you'll ever taste. He had all his stuff for making this feast in the basement of our house; a very large crockery pot, a round wooden lid just big enough to fit inside the pot, and a concrete block. Into the pot went grated cabbage and salted water. When it was nearly full, he would put that wooden lid on top and weight it down with the concrete block. In a week or two, under pressure, the cabbage turned into sauerkraut. The water was drained off the top and the rest was pure delight.
Dad used that same earthen crock to make root beer. I'm not sure of all the ingredients ... sugar, water, root beer extract, and yeast, I think. The yeast caused the mixture to ferment and when it was just right, Dad would put the root beer into bottles and cap them. At the very beginning, the mixture had to be thoroughly stirred with a longhandled wooden spoon. That was my job. Every so often, I would put my finger in and taste a drop or two (just to make sure it was sweet enough and had the right root beer flavor, you understand.)
My mother's specialty, by the way, was pie crust and pies. She made everything from scratch and the crusts were true works of art. Lemon meringue was my very favorite but raisin, mincemeat, and apple were runners-up in that order. Some things never change. Those are still my favorites. Some things do change. No one seems to make a crust quite as light and flaky.
One other food item that comes to mind: Buckwheat pancakes! Each year, Mom and Dad would buy a large amount of buckwheat flour (many, many pounds) from a place in Ohio. This flour was the raw material for buckwheat pancakes for a year of Sunday mornings. The batter consisted of milk, flour, an egg, and a small amount of the batter left over from the preceding Sunday. That leftover batter was called the "starter batter". It was crucial because it contained fermented yeast that caused the new batter to rise. Sunday morning pancakes was a tradition all the years I was growing up.
Carolyn and I used to have pancakes ... but they are fattening so we don't have them very often anymore. Just now and then. Whenever we do, I still remember how good Dad's buckwheat cakes tasted on those Sunday mornings a long time ago when I was a kid.