Thursday, July 1, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
Ice box full of rutabagas, parsnips, rhubarb and kale!
I was greatly relieved last week to see a truck unloading a new refrigerator at the home of a friend here in town. Actually, I have been greatly concerned of late, for two of my friends have had failures involving almost new refrigerators, and as I often eat out of those iceboxes, I have watched for the resolution of these issues with great interest.
Both my grandmothers had wonderful old Frigidaires that ran forever. I am sure that each of those machines ran faithfully for better than 30 years. That sort of dependability was obviously not the best for sustaining manufacturer’s profitability, so “planned obsolescence” became the order of the day. Apparently not all the break-downs of new refrigerators are “planned.”
Readers of this column know that I have either the blessing or curse of a long family memory. Someone explained to me that one’s “family memory” extends back to the recollections of the oldest relatives. In my case, being born to older parents, who were themselves born to older parents, gives a pretty long backward reach. My grandmother on Mother’s side recalled hearing the news of Edison’s light bulb, and she could recall the appearance of every advance and invention — electric lights, radio, the first automobile, the first airplane, refrigerators, black and white television, color TV, and so forth.
This idea of “family memory” is an important concept. In a sense, this idea of eyewitness experience was one of the things that qualified the apostles of Jesus. They were witnesses to the risen Lord. In more prosaic ways, being witnesses to the events of history and family life give the “context” for our own knowledge and experience of the world. As the poet says, “Our loved ones are the rest of us.” Their memory is an extension of our own.
So back to refrigerators and food. One of my favorite books is Joe Gray Taylor’s “Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South.” (It has been in print for many years, and I understand is now out in a new edition.) This is not a recipe book, but instead a book about what people used to eat and how they obtained and enjoyed their food. I highly recommend the book for anybody who loves to remember the food-ways of olden times.
I very much remember the old ways Taylor describes. I remember, for example, when local gardens yielded all different kinds of peas and beans — not just the dull English peas and green beans that one finds in the freezer section of the grocery store. There is a sameness about food options that did not used to be. Even though modern stores have much more shelf space and row upon row of frozen foods available, the variety of vegetables “in season” used to seem much larger, at least at our family table.
We had rutabagas, parsnips, rhubarb, and kale. I even learned to eat turnips because my father told me to eat whatever my grandmother put before me and say “Thank you.” It was at her table that I heard the tales about old-fashioned “ice boxes,” which were filled with blocks of clear, cold ice that the ice man brought in a wagon pulled by a horse. That was considered a wonderful thing in its time, still more the little Frigidaire with the freezing compartment that held two small ice trays, a canister of orange juice, and one or two packages of frozen food.
On these hot days, I yearn for Costco, to visit those huge walk-in coolers where shoppers can walk among the fresh fruits and vegetables. Lots of changes are good, even if the modern home refrigerator sometimes “conks out” too soon!
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