Country Woman

Cupboards Full of Memories

Canisters and casseroles recall the things that matter.



Ilove my kitchen. Not because I’m a great cook—nachos and grilled cheese are staples at our house—and not because I’m a great baker. I love my kitchen because of the memories that pop out when I open cabinets and drawers. They warm my heart and wrap me in love.

Opening my flour canister will always make me think of Russell, a high school buddy, who died too young. In Mrs. Stumbaugh’s home economics classroom, students invited moms and grandmothe­rs—it was the early ’80s, after all—to cook their family favorites in front of our class. Russell’s mom, Mary Alice, came to class and made potato soup. My own baked-potato soup recipe calls for flour as one of the first ingredient­s.

So every time I lift the canister lid to make that soup, I say a little prayer and smile a little smile for

Russell, Mary Alice and the wife and boys Russell left behind when he passed.

The flour sifter I have had since my first real job and apartment belonged to my Grandma Ma. I later also inherited her rolling pin, and I have her recipe for dinner rolls, written in her own hand.

Although faded, you can still read the “4 cups” Ma wrote next to the flour after I sent the recipe back to her and asked her to be a little more specific. As a new college graduate, I still needed exact amounts, not “you’ll know by how the dough feels.” I think of her skills and knowledge every time I pull out her tools.

A set of CorningWar­e baking dishes also brings me memories of Ma, as she gave me my first pieces. Now when my mom’s sweet potato casserole goes into one of those dishes at Thanksgivi­ng, a lot of love and memories, spanning generation­s, waft out in the aroma.

Other items also resonate: There’s a picture of my parents’ old red barn. My husband made a birdhouse that looks like that barn. It’s in my kitchen, too. So is a metal matchbox from his grandparen­ts. And there’s a red platter with matching coffee cups, a long ago purchase when my childhood friend, Sandy, and I had a habit of buying things for our hope chests.

As I wash dishes from my husband’s birthday lunch, I trace my finger over the chip of

1. In a large bowl, beat the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, salt and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over potato mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 325° until a thermomete­r reads 160°, 45-50 minutes.

417 cal., 16g fat (7g sat. fat), 94mg chol., 435mg sod., 65g carb. (47g sugars, 4g fiber), 6g pro.

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