The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Grandma's Kitchen

By Peg Brinck © 1985

Issue: September, 1985

Down home on the farm, Grandma's kitchen was the hub of activity for the farm and the center around which the family functioned. It was not a kitchen per se, such as one might find in the city. In fact it was almost as large as the average city apartment and held most of the accouterments essential to every day living.

Throughout life, when the going gets tough, I have gotten a measure of comfort and solace just from remembering my lovable grandparents and their unforgettable kitchen.

Just inside the doorway that led onto the back porch, someone had built a crude but sturdy shelf that held a pail of water with a tin dipper, a dish of homemade lye soap and a tin basin. A towel, possibly made from a salt sack or some other coarse material, hung over this shelf, acting as a reminder to anyone, entering that they were expected to wash before coming in, particularly if they had any intention of eating some of Grandma's sumptuous food.

To the right of this stand, and setting 'katy-cornered' across the corner was the huge, wood-burning 'Home Comfort' range. It devoured wood like a hungry tiger but repaid us for the toil of carrying in sticks to appease its hunger by keeping us warm and baking the best pies, cakes and biscuits ever to come out of an oven. Of course the cook, namely Grandma, had a bit to do with the preparing of these gourmet items but this she accepted as a matter of fact and only asked that everyone at her table eat heartily after having asked the blessing of the Lord for His bountiful favors.

Back of this monstrosity there was a space three or four feet wide that served as a nursery for premature animals or as a bed for a tired little girl. Hold on a minute before some health nut gets his dander up about hygiene, let me explain that to Grandma cleanliness was next to Godliness and thus those little creatures were sent to the barn to live just as soon as they were able to sustain life.

No one knows better than I how much water Grandma used to keep the house and family clean. I remember because it fell my lot to carry many a bucket from the spring that was located at the foot of the hill some distance from the house. This of course was all before one of the four uncles used his first pay check from the bank to have a well dug and a septic tank put in. My, oh my, did we have fun trying to get those lovely people to use all those new fangled ideas like indoor plumbing and a washing machine that didn't need a scrub board.

Getting back to the kitchen, the next item of interest was also a wood eating contraption, known as a fireplace. It occupied practically one entire side of the room and as mentioned, devoured wood by the ton, or is it cord?...except it used larger sticks and thus eliminated us from having to do the toting. The fire was never out in that monster from early fall at first frost until last frost usually some time in May. Before retiring at night, Grandma would bank the fire simply by heaping ashes on the coals. Next morning, somewhere between midnight and the crack of dawn, Grandad slipped quietly into the kitchen and began the ritual known as kindling a fire.

Having uncovered the red hot coals, he added a few splinters of rich pine and then either blew with all his might or fanned with a turkey wing until the kindling was blazing.

Although the heat generated by the fireplace kept the kitchen area warm it did little to heat the cold, cold upstairs bedrooms. Thus we would undress in the kitchen and bound up the rickety stairs and into a bed that consisted of a featherbed mattress and numerous down-filled quilts.

Getting back to Grandma's kitchen, on the end opposite the fireplace, there was a long table which would seat a dozen people comfortably flanked by cane-bottom chairs on one side and a bench on the other. This table was used as the conventional place to serve meals but also as a desk around which farm business was conducted or home work was done by the visiting school-aged children.

The rest of the so-called furnishings of the kitchen consisted of broken bridles or harnesses, worn out shoes and other farm equipment that had been brought in with the idea when there was time, they would be mended. Most of them remained until Grandma went on her annual spring house cleaning binge and they were tossed into the 'gully', a ravine that held all trash, with some thought that eventually it would become a land fill.

Since this was a family farming operation, Grandpa tried to raise all the food they needed except for sugar, spices and a few such items that had to be purchased at the supermarket. There were orchards that produced luscious red and golden apples that were stored for year round use. Red and black cherries grew in abundance around the corn crib with plums, berries and grapes to be found in season.

Each year Grandpa planted and harvested a couple of rows of popcorn for the 'younguns' to have on cold winter days. It was good just to pop it in the old popper which was held over the flames or better when Grandma let us make it into 'crumble'.


2 qts. popcorn kernels
1 cup pecan or walnut meats
1 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup corn syrup or molasses
1 tsp. allspice

Make a brittle syrup and pour over corn. Pour into shallow dish and let set until firm. Cut into squares.

This recipe is from HORS D'OUEVRES AND CANAPES by Peg Brinck & is available for $7.00 from the author, PO Box 241, Hazelwood, NC 28738 and has 300 other recipes.