Looking Back: The Big People’s Table
by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Portions of this article are taken from an article in “The Voice,” an on-line monthly newsletter I write for the Grain Valley Historical Society. So, if you think you’ve already read it, maybe you have! While it may not be “the history of Grain Valley,” hopefully it will cause you to “look back” on your own growing up days.
November 27th was the first day of Advent. Since I was a young girl growing up in the Grain Valley Methodist Church, we have celebrated Advent on the four Sundays before Christmas. Each Sunday we light a candle to remind us of the four advent themes —The Candle of Hope, The Candle of Peace, The Candle of Love and The Candle of Joy.
On Christmas the fifth and final candle, called the Christ candle, is lit to remind Christians of the light Jesus brings to the world.
On the secular side (activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis) the Sunday after Thanksgiving is usually set aside by me to begin my annual Christmas baking! Since I love to cook and bake, I do not consider this to be working on the Sabbath, thus my Sunday afternoon baking has begun.
In a sermon last year, Pastor Mike reminded me of the kids table and the grownup table at holiday gathering. Did your family have separate tables? My family never had two tables as there were only 17 of us —2 aunts, 2 uncles, 3 cousins, and three sets of grandparents, which included the Napiers, Rumbos and Fristoes. A big table leaf and two people at each end of the table and we were good!
We did, however, have food for the kids and food for the grownups. After all, what child among us liked rutabagas, plum pudding, pecan pie, and fruitcake? Certainly not fruitcake!
While the kids feasted on mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (the old-fashioned kind with real cheese that was baked in the oven with crushed crackers on top) and corn, the “old folks” ate turnips, stuffing flavored with sage, and squash!
So why do I now enjoy shortbread instead of chocolate-chip cookies, chocolate fudge instead of peppermint sticks, rutabagas instead of green beans, stuffing instead of potatoes, and cranberries? I guess I’ve officially moved to the big people’s table (food). I now prepare the rutabagas and I sometimes bake the pecan pie. And you cannot have turkey without cranberries!
If you are part of the “big people’s table,” perhaps you would enjoy Grandmother Napier’s shortbread or Aunt Opal’s Ice Box Cookies.
Grandma Napier’s Shortbread Recipe
1 lb. unsalted butter 1 cup sugar
1 cup cornstarch 4 cups flour
Pinch of salt
Soften butter. Add sugar, cornstarch and salt. Mix well with electric mixer. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time and mix thoroughly after each addition. Divide dough into 3 parts. Knead separately and roll into logs (1 1/2-inch circumference) Refrigerate until ready to bake, up to 1 week.
Cut into 1/4 to 3/8-inch slices and place on baking sheet. Bake at 250-degrees for 2 hours.
Aunt Opal’s Ice Box Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups melted shortening 3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each-cloves and nutmeg
1 cup nuts
Mix and shape into a log about 1 1/2 by 2 1/2 - inches. Place in ice box overnight. Slice in thin slices and bake in hot oven. (It’s an old recipe, so maybe you will want to “refrigerate” overnight. I cook at 375-degrees for about 8-10 minutes)
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