Santa Paula Times

Garden holds holiday bounty

November 19, 1999
By the Old Hat Gardener Gardens are supposed to be able to automatically know what they should produce for each holiday.Many of us will have scads of cherry tomatoes which will last through Christmas time. Oranges, lemons and grapefruit will go into the making of the traditional fruit cocktail that must start dinners. For spreading on homemade biscuits and crusty types of bread, I canned figs in the fall while my sister Marguerita loved to make jams and jellies. Each year I supply her with a wealth of boysenberries, peaches and apricots for her delicious sweets.We never bothered with salads except for dishes of celery stalks smothered with cream cheese, radishes cut into strange shapes, and plenty of very tiny peeled carrots. We loved having creamy white potatoes that always needed lots and lots of dark brown gravy. Mashed yams or sweet potatoes were covered with butter, sitting side by side with favorite turkey stuffing. Everyone has their own special recipe for this important food, and I like to be sure I have plenty of home grown parsley, onions, celery and sage to mix with those tasty gizzards. Of course we have the usual peas and carrots (my unfavorites), and I’ll settle every time for tender mounds of asparagus spears.Our turkey, for some reason, was always a special one that had two or more legs, depending on how many children sat at the table either in my mother’s home or our house. At one grandparent’s house we children had our own table in a wonderful big glassed-in porch. The long table held all 15 of us at one time. This was a good arrangement, as we were always served before the grown-ups and, when finished, could go outside to play.As I became a teenager, I could hardly wait to qualify for the adult table. At the first time, I was ready to go back to the porch table until I discovered I was seated between my Uncle Fred and Uncle Joe, the rancher. It was then I was introduced into a magic world. I learned about crop rotation and, from Uncle Fred, the mysteries behind proper pruning. I learned the need for many things, and these ideas fed my soul with new ideas as I at last had a share of “adult” conversation.
Of course, as with most families, we end the meal with PIES. One of my grandmothers lived on a small farm in southern Los Angeles, and in those days kept two cows that gave literally tons of heavy cream for whipped toppings. My other grandmother was one who liked to make her own mincemeat for that type of pie. This special ingredient contained her secret recipe for what she called “Hard Sauce.” No way was it true hard sauce, as it was thick and juicy with a bit of a tangy taste that flowed across each flaky crust and melted down into the very high pile of mincemeat filling. I kept the secret recipe for many years, before finally sharing it with my daughters.Remembering so many family-shared holidays, I was glad to receive good news in last week’s mail. Many of the churches and shelters that provide meals for the less fortunate will try something new this year. They ask that anyone who wants to join them and have a truly friendship meal come and sit down with those who will be fed during the coming holiday. What a marvelous idea, and that’s what holidays should be all about. No matter what our station is in life, we are all the same underneath. A good friendly meal shared with a new friend can work wonders for both of us.Now I have to ask myself a serious question. Why is it that lately every meeting I go to winds up with a food discussion? I think that this time change puts all these holiday food thoughts into my mind and conversation. Somewhere I know I have an old Native Daughters cookbook that is filled with wonderful dessert recipes for any day of the week. Where is it? I hope I didn’t put it in the swap meet box, as I need some new ideas for my family holiday dinners.