When I was a kid in grade school, our class in 3rd or 4th grade decided to have a tasting party. The idea was to bring a home-cooked recipe from the family home to share with the class. When my mom suggested that I bring her cornbread, I knew that was what I wanted to bring. When my teacher found out that I was bringing cornbread, she was a little bit apprehensive. She just didn’t think the other students would like it, and she thought I would be disappointed. Nevertheless, cornbread was what I was bringing, whether she liked it or not.
All the students were excited for the day of the tasting party to arrive. We were all planning what we would bring and trying to figure out what the others were bringing. Some people told, but most of us kept it a secret. Finally the big day arrived and all the food was brought in and placed on a table. At the appointed time, the party began. Our teacher said that we had to try a little bit of everything and then could go back for seconds of the things we liked. I have to wonder if she was worried that no one would try some of the things, if she set no requirement. Kids are picky eaters.
The party went well. She cut my cornbread into small pieces…I’m sure she was thinking it would be rejected if the pieces were bigger. She needn’t have bothered. After their first helping, every student asked for more cornbread until there was none left. She was stunned, and asked me what my mother’s secret was. Well, it was simple. If you have ever eaten cornbread, you know that it is often dry and tasteless. My mom was always one to add a little sweet to things…even before all the manufacturers started doing it to things that normally wouldn’t have sugar in them. So Mom’s secret was a little sugar. Her cornbread wasn’t super sweet, like cake, but it had a hint of sweetness, and that brought out the corn flavor too. Then, when you add butter to it…oh my gosh!! It had a melt in your mouth flavor that was unsurpassed. I think my teacher learned a lesson that day too. Never assume that something won’t taste good, until you have tried it. You may be very surprised.
I have never forgotten that special day, when my food for the tasting party became the hit of the day. Everyone kept telling me how good that cornbread was. I have to agree with them. Nobody makes cornbread like my mom. To this day, when cornbread is served, I always have some, but I am always disappointed at the taste. It never…ever stands up to the standard my mom set for it so many years ago. I suppose that is why I never have seconds either. My teacher knew that cornbread wasn’t her favorite thing…probably for the same reason most people don’t eat a lot of it, but then she had more than one helping of mine too, that day. It’s really hard to resist that melt in your mouth flavor, and it has spoiled me concerning cornbread that doesn’t have it. I’m just not very interested.
After reading a story I wrote about our grandmother, my cousin Shirley, told me something about her mother, my Aunt Ruth, that shows that while my aunt was a beautiful, petite woman, she was also a strong woman, like her mother before her. My Aunt Ruth has always loved horses. I have a number of pictures of her, and quite often she is with horses. Some people are just amazing with horses…seem to know what they are thinking even. I believe that my aunt was one of those people. In fact, I’m pretty sure she loved most animals. She is also pictured with dogs quite often, and they seemed to be best friends. Not everyone has the gift of being so good with animals, but she certainly did.
Aunt Ruth thrived on the outdoor life. She loved life on a farm, and growing much of their own food. They had a place outside of Casper, Wyoming when I was little, and she had a garden that took up about 3/4 of an acre. Like her mother before her, she taught her children to help care for that garden, and help with the 100 or so chickens she raised every year for butchering. They hunted and froze wild game as well. Not only did my aunt and uncle teach their children how to live off the land and love the outdoors, but to have fun doing it.
As I said earlier in my story, my Aunt Ruth loved horses, but I also think there might have been a bit of an inventor in her. When the work was done, my aunt came up with a great new invention I’ll call The Butter Churn. What?? You don’t think my aunt invented the butter churn? Well…I think you just might be wrong. Let’s just see. My cousin, Shirley tells it like this, “When there was time she would let us take the horse out to ride and she would give us each a quart jar of cream and while we were riding we would turn that cream into butter. She said that was the easiest way to do it but I can tell you it wasn’t that easy on our arms. That was a lot of shaking. But the best part was no additives and no preservatives, and boy was it good butter.”
I know, you might say that there is no proof that she was the one to invent that, and you would be right, but there is also no proof, that I know of, that she didn’t, so I’ll just stick by my story that my Aunt Ruth invented a new and, in my opinion, very interesting, although maybe not easy way to churn butter. And since I really like the taste of real fresh butter, I can totally imagine just how good it was. I just wish I could remember it, because I’m quite sure I must have had some.