Us two older girls, Deb and myself, enjoyed first Girl Scouts, then 4-H.
Cooking and Sewing Adventures at the Oklahoma State Fair
I entered my Angel Food Cake, Chocolate Fudge, canned peaches from our peach tree, and Pecan Pie into the Women’s Division at the State Fair (I was only 14 at the time) and won blue ribbons (1st place!) for my Angel Food Cake, Chocolate Fudge, Pecan Pie, and a brown ribbon (8th place) for canned peaches. (I think the canned peaches caught the judges’ eyes because I took the time to arrange them in a pretty design in the jar.) I was so proud of my ribbons so I stood next to the display case and pointed out to anyone looking at the food entries my winning deserts. I was extra proud because I had entered in the Women’s division instead of the children’s division, so I was competing against experienced bakers and canners.
My sister Deb entered her cookies. Each entry had half a dozen cookies on a plate. She didn’t win a ribbon, although the judges obviously like her cookies the best. How did we know this? Because each plate of cookies entered had a couple of cookies with little bites taken out of them, and 4 whole cookies displayed on the plate. But Deb’s plate had NO cookies left, just a few crumbs, so obviously the judges liked them so much they ate them all up!
Below are a few of our recipes. We cooked with farm fresh eggs and fresh pecans. The Pecan Pie recipe was successful because of my secret ingredient.
We also sewed and entered our dresses in the 4-H contests and the State Fair. A couple of years I entered the “Make It Yourself With Wool” contest: the first year with a jacket and skirt I made; and the second year a navy blue coat with a red and white striped silk lining. As I was modeling the coat, the announcer said “And here is Donna Gateley with her navy coat with red and white STRIPPED lining” – and the audience broke up laughing. I was humiliated, thinking they were laughing at me. (Remember, I was only 14 at the time.)
Our parents taught us to enjoy eating a variety of food. Mom enjoyed trying out new recipes on our family.
Even though Dad worked long hours 6 days a week, whenever he ate dinner he always would thank the cook and say how good the food tasted. His father, my grandfather Pa Guy, also said that after every meal. One time Dad didn’t like the food, so he said “Thank you for that good meal! Let’s not have it again” which was his very polite way of saying he didn’t like it. But he ate it!
Dad didn’t cook, but he sometimes made popcorn. One time when Dad and I were alone for the evening, he made popcorn for us. Only problem was a cockroach had somehow gotten into the pan, so we had pieces of roach scattered throughout the popcorn. He told me it was okay, just pick out the roach pieces!
Learning to cook, not just desserts but also meals for the family, led to a habit of mine to cook too much food. I was used to cooking for our large family. So even now I tend to cook more than enough. It’s a good thing I like to eat left-overs!
Lesson Learned: The 4-H ribbons, or State Fair ribbons won might seem like I was successful. But the real success was learning skills that would last a lifetime.
Lesson Learned: Even when you aren’t totally happy with the results, you should always express appreciation for the sincere efforts of others.
Lesson Learned: Food tastes better when it’s made with the freshest ingredients.
Lesson Learned: Try not to be quick to take offense at the comments of others. It may turn out they weren’t even talking about you.
Deb’s Cookie “Pecan Balls” Recipe: I could not find the exact recipe, but I did find this recipe which is very very close. I found it at https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/walnut_snowball_cookies/ She used fresh pecans for the nuts, and coarsely chopped them.
My Fudge and Angel Food Cake Recipes, from Mom’s huge cookbook that is now 70 years old. The front and back covers and pages have long been worn off and lost, so I don’t know the name of it. As you can see by the smudges, these recipes were used a lot in our kitchen. I used milk in the Fudge recipe, and also added a cup of pecan pieces.
My Pecan Pie Recipe: I lost the recipe. It was in a little book of recipes from famous restaurants. BUT — I remember the secret ingredient. So now I use just about any Pecan Pie recipe and stir in the secret ingredient to the rest of the mixture before I pour it into the pie shell. And the secret ingredient is … 2 teaspoons of frozen concentrated orange juice.
And here is a family favorite:
Mom’s Popovers Recipe
1 ½ cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
First put cast iron muffin pan in over at 450′ to heat up. Then sift flour and salt. Beat eggs and add milk and stir gradually into flour to make a smooth batter. Beat thoroughly by hand. Remove hot pan from oven and grease with a cold stick or butter letting the butter melt in each muffin. Then fill-up with the popover batter. Bake for 15 minutes at 450′ then reduce temperature to 350′ for 20 minutes. Makes 12.
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