Remembrances of Thanksgivings Past

cranberriesAs I think I’ve mentioned before, on occasion I’ll use this blog to reminisce about the past. With Thanksgiving (for folks in the U.S.) just a few days away, I’ve started pulling out recipes for dishes that are traditional in my family. One of these recipes, Cranberry Salad, has been around so long, I have no idea how it came into the family originally, but I clearly recall my mother making it when I was a child.

Back then, it was quite a chore. First of all, the recipe calls for black walnuts. If you had black walnuts back then, you’d probably cracked them yourself, so they needed to be looked carefully to be sure no hulls lurked among the meat of the nuts. (Invariably, it seemed, at least one hull escaped detection and ended up in someone’s mouth.) Today black walnuts can be purchased in many supermarkets, but it’s still a good idea to look them before adding them to a recipe.

grinderNext was the chore of preparing the cranberries. Since this was well before the days of food processors (or even blenders), Mom used a food grinder. She attached it to the end of the kitchen table and then placed a chair beneath the grinder so she could position a bowl in the chair to catch the juice of the cranberries. I happen to have Mom’s food grinder and thus can share pictures for those who’ve never seen one in person. As you can see, the grinding involved manually turning a long handle. The whole fruit was placed in the large spout at the top grinder-feedand the grinding motion fed it through the end grinder-endwhere it was forced through small holes. Juice ran down the back of the grinder and was collected in the bowl Mom had placed below. One nice thing about this method was that the processed fruit was usually uniform in size, which is not always the case with modern methods.

And speaking of modernizing, I’m sharing the original recipe below, with modern-day changes given in parentheses as needed.


  • 1 pound cranberries (Cranberries are now packaged in 12-ounce bags, so one and a half bags are necessary to achieve the one pound called for in the recipe. I usually wash and look them a couple of times. I then use my food processor to grind them.)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 #2-1/2 size can of crushed pineapple, undrained (I use a 20-oz can or as close to that as I can find.)
  • 1 orange (grind both pulp and rind) (I also grind this in my food  processor. I cut the orange into small pieces, but even so, the food processor doesn’t do a good job with the rind and I usually end up throwing some of the larger pieces away.)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup black walnuts
  • 2 packages cherry jello (I’ve also used cranberry jello, but either is fine. You can also use sugar-free jello if you wish.)

Grind cranberries and soak in sugar. Add pineapple, orange, celery and nuts. Dissolve jello in 2 cups of boiling water and pour over cranberries. Pour mixture into bowl and chill until ready to eat. Enjoy!


90-year-old Valentine cards: A look back


A few years ago, my mother gave me some Valentine cards she had received when she was a girl in school. Most were not dated but one was: February 14, 1926. I’m sure all were from around the same time period. It’s interesting to look back at the styles and to read the verses. One read,

I want to send a Valentine

A friendly one to you

But it takes a bit of courage

Such a bold bold thing to do.

Another verse read,

I like to hear the birdies sing

Because it is the sign of spring;

I like to hold your hand in mine

Because you are my Valentine.

Valentines2Another feature of these old Valentine cards that I found interesting: Apparently some students reused cards from previous years. It was easy enough to see where one person’s name had been erased and a different person’s name added. In our throw-away world today, that may seem strange, but I suspect it was not uncommon almost ninety years ago when people often had to make do with whatever they already had rather than going out and buying new.

In any case, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Memories of Spanish moss

As the title of my blog implies, I sometimes reminisce about events that happened in my past. I never know when something in today’s world will remind me of yesterday. This happened recently when my husband and I visited Hilton Head Island.

limbsOne of the most endearing qualities of the island for me were the numerous beautiful live oaks. Those trees are delights in and of themselves with their whimsical limbs that grow in a seemingly haphazard fashion.

live oaksCreating even more visual interest, however, is the Spanish moss hanging from them. I’ve seen Spanish moss in various Southern states, but to the best of my recollection, I’ve never seen the quantity of Spanish moss as there is in Hilton Head. I absolute love the atmosphere it creates.

thick moss copyI think I can trace my fondness for Spanish moss to my teenage years. I first saw this epiphytic plant during my junior year in high school when I went to Florida on a school trip. I remember thinking then that Spanish moss was a parasite. As a matter of fact, I had to research the plant for this blog to know what to call it. I learned that it is not a parasite and does not harm the tree, which is fortunate considering how thick it sometimes becomes. When walking on Hilton Head, I saw blobs of the moss where it had fallen off the trees, and I was reminded of the small piece I brought home with me from Florida when I was seventeen. I hung it on a nail in my bedroom and kept it there for years. It didn’t change, just hung there. I guess I eventually threw it away. Or perhaps my mother did. I don’t remember now. I just recall how enthralled I was by Spanish moss. I still am, obviously. 🙂

Have a Happy Fourth!

Here’s wishing everyone in the U.S. an old-fashioned, happy 4th of July. 🙂


Speaking of old-fashioned July 4ths, when I think back to the days when I was growing up in a small Tennessee town, one of my recollections is the annual Chicken Festival. If memory serves me correctly, the Chicken Festival (which started there in 1957) was held close to the July 4 weekend every year. (Although the Festival still goes on today, the event has moved to May.)

What, you may ask, does one do at a Chicken Festival? First, let me explain that the festival came into being because the poultry industry had recently brought much-needed jobs to the area. A chicken-processing plant had come to town, which provided work for many people, and many other folks started raising chickens to be processed for the food industry. An advertisement in the county newspaper calling for support for the first festival featured the wording “Poultry—Yardstick of Our Prosperity.” In other words the “broiler industry,” as it was called, was a godsend for the area.

When I was a college student studying journalism, the editor of the county paper hired me to work during the summers when I was home on break. Once I was assigned to write a series of articles about the chicken industry in the county, and one of the growers I interviewed gave me three baby chicks, along with food for them. My long-suffering mother made no complaints when I installed those fluffy yellow chicks in a box in my bedroom, but as everyone knows, chicks don’t stay little and cute all that long. Very soon I was donating them to a cousin who already had chickens and an appropriate place to keep them.

But back to the Chicken Festival. Members of the sponsoring civic club would set up at the county fairgrounds where they would barbecue hundreds of chicken halves and sell them to the appreciative festival attendees. The fragrance of barbecue sauce would permeate the air. Entertainment was also supplied and often featured singers from around the area. One year the entertainment included the popular Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. I wish I had been there that year.

Whatever your plans are for the Fourth, I hope you have fun and stay safe!