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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lessons My Mother Taught Me! - In a Round-About Way

My mother lived to be 88 and worked hard all of her life.  She earned a high school diploma when others in the family did not.  She sold seed corn when only men were allowed to do so (she used her husband’s name).  She wanted me to be prepared for life, too.  She said I would need to know how to “dress” a chicken and would have to know how to pick strawberries without stepping on the just emerging berries on other plants.  Both jobs were ones that I detested.

HarperCollins, 1963
Even though I could fry up a chicken dinner by the age of nine, I avoided learning how to dress a chicken.  I could scald a chicken and pluck its feathers off and deliver the bird to my mother’s cutting board – but she had to handle the knife.  I was having none of that part of preparing the chicken for the table.  By the time I had my own household, grocery stores were routinely selling dressed and cut-up chickens ready for the fryer or oven.  I neither had to pluck the feathers or cut up the chicken (more like undressing than dressing in any case).  The knowledge did serve me well though when my teaching colleagues seemed to share Amelia Bedelia’s (Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish, 1963) confusion about the meaning of the term “dress the chicken.”

Whenever Amelia Bedelia got into trouble – so to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Rogers she made a delicious pie or cake and softened the effect of her misdeeds.  She was well known for her Lemon Meringue Pie.  Now pies I could make without blinking an eye — when first married and beginning my own baking regiment however, I found out the recipe I had in my head was for 5-7 pies.  I soon figured out that I was not feeding threshers or hired men (or at that time a large family) so I quickly cut back on the quantities.  Check out a great Lemon Meringue Pie recipe and read someone Amelia Bedelia's book. 

Lesson #1:  Always let someone else "dress" your chicken, but bake your own pie.


Harcourt, 1999
And picking strawberries.  Strawberries are native to the United States and Native Americans used them often.  But since they grew wild strawberries were not cultivated in North America until the 1830s.  Now over 75% of the strawberries consumed in the United States are grown in California.  So that ended my directive.  I was happy to support the state of California – and even now they need all the support they can get.  What better way to support my fellow countrymen and women than to help them make a livelihood sending me strawberries.  Berries I neither grow or pick.  I’m happy to stem them and prepare them for strawberry shortcake.
Take a look at a literary sequel to the well-known “Little Red Hen” story, in Janet Stevens’ sequel Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!  In this tale Big Brown Rooster (the Little Red Hen’s great-grandson) meets up with Turtle, Iguana, and Potbellied Pig as they set out to make the most “wonderful, magnificent strawberry short cake in the whole wide world.” 
You can find strawberries in any major grocery store – most months of the year; fresh or frozen and not have to pick even one of them.  You might want to use Big Brown Rooster’s

Lesson #2:   Find a great produce department from which to purchase strawberries and help the growers in California support their families -- and enjoy a great strawberry shortcake often.

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