Gratitude for Today and Yesterday

Two decades ago, when life tugged me away from the little Catskill Mountain town where I’d hoped to live out my days, many years passed before I realized how much of my heart remains there and how much of Bovina lives on in me to this day.

The Bovina farm women were so generous in sharing not only their skills and recipes, but their lifestyle as country women, with the newly-married, naive IMG_20171127_111524044city girl I was then. In 1974, a year after I married my dairy farmer, the Historical Society published Bovina’s Country Cupboard cookbook, a collection of recipes by then-and-former community residents. I slid it from my bookcase several days ago as I prepared my Thanksgiving shopping list, struck once again by how many Bovina recipes remain a part of our traditional menu.

This year I  signed up to make pumpkin and apple pies (with my sister, Bonnie), cranberry bread, golden onion bread, cranberry relish, corn pudding, and a pumpkin-roll cake for the feast. I leafed through the first few pages of the Country Cupboard cookbook, which contains several handwritten offerings of grace, and paused to read several. The Table of Contents followed with broad categories that directed me to the recipes I wanted: Ruth McGowan’s Cranberry Bread and Mildred Reinertsen’s Pumpkin Pie, my favorite for more than 40 years because it contains just the right amount of molasses. Jackie Gallant’s Blueberry Pancakes recipe caught my eye and I decided to make them one morning for my sister, also named Jackie, who adores blueberry pancakes.

IMG_20171128_120259054I pulled out Aunt Madeline’s antique wooden recipe box and found Gladys Doig’s (my mother-in-law) handwritten recipe for Cranberry Relish.  Bonnie and I modified it a little by increasing the cranberries, decreasing the sugar, and substituting some honey. IMG_20171128_115345331_HDRGladys had an old-fashioned, manual meat grinder that she clamped onto her counter top to grind the fruit/; Bonnie and I used my food processor, which worked wonderfully. The recipe turned out fabulously tasty.

Next, I dug into the file for Desserts and pulled out the Pumpkin-Nut Cake Roll recipe, clipped from a Farm Journal magazine decades ago. The recipes were stained and yellowed with age. Years ago I would have copied them over on clean cards and thrown these imperfect ones away, but after all these years the IMG_20171128_115432795originals become more precious each Thanksgiving, especially when I gaze at my sweet mother-in-law’s handwriting. She’s been gone for so long now. Or when I reminisce about the many  wonderful recipes like the Pumpkin-Nut Cake Roll clipped from our country magazines that still fill Aunt Madeline’s recipe box.

Making the cake roll last week was tricky, as always, for when, hot from the oven, you invert it onto a confectioner-sugar covered towel and roll it up to cool, you hope it doesn’t crack. Later I unwrapped it to fill with cream cheese frosting and re-wrapped it tightly, hoping it didn’t split as it did last year. It rolled up perfectly this year.

I think back to the gorgeous meal with many, but not all of our family members just last week and flash back to more than twenty Thanksgiving Days on the farm. I linger as I hold both places in my heart and treasure the ever-increasing gratitude I feel each year for both lives. Thanksgiving today and back then, both with the soft, precious common threads of giving thanks for all we have been graced with.

Before I close the cookbook, I return to the pages of grace and whisper the one I love the best: In gratitude we bow our heads to thank you for our daily bread. And may we use the strength it brings, for doing kind and helpful things. Amen.

 

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About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me to a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I found so many opportunities to grow: 10 year facilitator for an online writing circle of women writers across the country; thirteen year editor of the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal; a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site; program chair for two Stories from the Heart national conferences in Austin, T. Presently I'm teaching Women's Life-Writing and Older Women's Legacy workshops in my part of the world in Central Virginia and facilitating the ongoing Circle of Memories Writing Circle (formerly an OWL workshop that continued on) at the Crozet Public Library. I am blessed with three wonderful children, a son and two daughters; a small, huge-hearted family; dear friends; my beagle Addie and cat Button. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. All these years later, I'm scheduled to publish my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, in 2018.
Aside | This entry was posted in Bovina Stories, Family, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, In the Kitchen, Nurturance. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Gratitude for Today and Yesterday

  1. What a joy to read – especially the pumpkin-nut cake roll recipe! Summer of 2016 somewhere in Tennessee we found a pumpkin cake roll (cream cheese filled!) in an Amish shop … we went back for a second one after gobbling up the first. I had forgotten how savory it was … now there’s a recipe right in front of me, and I will try this! (If next time you see me I’ve tripled in size, you’ll know why …)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. marthagw says:

    Precious & delicious memories! Thanks for the mouth-watering share Mary Jo & happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beth Ash says:

    I have the same cookbook, along with the blue Bovina cookbook. Dad gave it to me a awhile back. It is lovely to see her handwriting again. I have memories of cooking and baking with her that are precious to me. Many names in the cookbook are familiar and bring a smile.

    Thanks for the memories, Mary Jo. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so lovely. Thank you, Mary Jo.

    Liked by 1 person

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