Thoughts on a snowy evening in NC
It is snowing in North Carolina this evening and though it is beautiful to see, it is highly unlikely that it will hang around for more than a day or two. Such is the nature of our weather patterns in a state that has a coast, plains and mountains all in one state.
The old joke of there not being bread, eggs and milk on the shelves in the local grocery store are very true. We natives of the state do what our parents and grandparents did, grab the things that make for quick and easy meals.
You may ask why we do not grab canned foods. Would that not be a quick, easy and non-perishable food? The reason that we do not go for that type of food in grocery stores is that most NC natives already have canned food in the cupboard, so it is not necessary to buy it.
This would be a good time to explain the southern term for “canned food”. Most southern woman pass down a tradition known as “canning”. Canning is a method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container. Canning provides a shelf life typically ranging from one to five years, although under specific circumstances it can be much longer. There is a misconception that home canned food last forever, but it can turn bad just like processed canned food. It is good idea to label your jars with a date so that you can rotate your stock to ensure that oldest food is always eaten first.
My mother cans everything from basic vegetables like green beans, to fruit preserves, and even something called chowchow. For those unfamiliar with the term, chowchow is a slightly tangy Southern vegetable relish. People eat it with everything from hot dogs to corn bread and is a perfect way to preserve summer produce like bell peppers and green tomatoes. I’ve included a link to a recipe that you may be interested in. Like any other relish or salsa, it can be made a 1000 different ways and is only limited by your imagination.
My mother talks about growing up in rural NC as being a hard but rewarding experience. They had no running water or electricity until she was in her teens. They lived and worked on a farm that provided the food they ate and also sold for basic supplies and what little money they could get. She mentions that my grandfather would buy flour in 100 lbs sacks and once the flour was gone, the empty sack would be turned into clothes for the children.
My grandfather worked as a carpenter, when not working the farm. My grandmother fixed the meals, kept the house in order and looked after the children until they were old enough to work.
My mother was the youngest of eight children and said that she remembers being put to work on the farm when she started first grade, which was around six years old.
Chores included milking cows, picking cotton, and carrying in wood, which was used for the both the cooking stove and fireplace for heating the home. She reminded me that the cooking stove was used from early morning to late in the evening all year long. Big families require a lot of food and hard work makes for big appetites.
Growing up in that environment may have been hard, but it developed a work ethic in her that is still obvious today. I often wonder if my childhood had included some of those chores and responsibilities, what kind of person would I be today? I would guess that a strong work ethic would be obvious, but what about self-discipline, mental toughness, and a body conditioned for hard work? All traits that would make for a more successful person in today’s world.
These are my thoughts on a snowy North Carolina evening. What are some of yours? Please leave your comments below.