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South Texas Living

Cooking on the farm

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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
October 24, 2012 | 1,894 views | Post a comment

Cooking was very simple on the farm. We had cornbread and milk at night for supper. Daddy took our corn to get it ground into cornmeal. Mother also used the cornmeal to make mush for breakfast in hard times. I really didn’t like it that much, but when you are hungry it tastes very good!

During the summers, we had lots of fresh vegetables. We had fresh green beans, with bits of bacon, boiled until tender. We kids had to snap the beans first. We always had lots of white summer squash. Mother made fried okra, dredged in cornmeal. She made okra gumbo, using fresh tomatoes and onions. But when she would boil the okra, which is the way Daddy liked it, we kids would have to choke it down. We hated that stuff. We ate spinach, carrots, fresh sweet peas, black-eyed peas, and pinto beans. They made us eat turnips and turnip greens, collard greens, and something called Swisschard. I hated to eat that stuff. When I grew up I loved it. Mother canned all those vegetables so that in the winter we would have vegetables. She canned tomatoes, and even made homemade catsup. We grew our own potatoes too, and after harvesting them, we kept them in a cool, dark place.

One of the favorite things we had to eat was macaroni and tomato sauce. That was it, plain and simple -- boiled in water until tender, with only salt and pepper, adding tomatoes or tomato sauce ... usually homemade. I still like it, and so do some of my kids and grandchildren. When I want some kind of comfort food, that’s what I fix.

Homemade noodles were one of my favorites. And I really mean homemade egg noodles! Mother didn’t make them often, as it took awhile, but when she did, I was in heaven.

But then there was corn, which all the kids liked, either corn on the cob, or scraped from the cob, and cooked with butter and a little cream or milk. I think all kids like corn.

Mother made the best tomato preserves, and we would go through quart jars of that wonderful stuff, spreading it on fresh hot biscuits and fresh churned butter. I still love tomato preserves and Margaret and I try to make some every summer. My son Trent learned to make them also. He once won a blue ribbon at a county fair with his tomato preserves. Did you know tomato preserves is a delicacy? Try to find some at the grocery store. She made great peach preserves from the peaches off our tree. Another delicacy was Agarita berry jelly. Those were picked wild from the pasture.

For breakfast, besides the cornmeal mush, we ate oatmeal. Mother bought the largest box for us, and she would cook a large pan of oatmeal and we devoured it with fresh milk and sugar. Winter was the best time, because sometimes we would have bacon and biscuits to go with it.

When Daddy joined the Meat Club in the ’40s, we started eating more meat. Every Saturday one of the farmers in the community would butcher a calf and take it to the central location up at Dewees. We would have beef until it ran out by the end of the week. Every week you got different cuts of meat.

But, then there was the bread. We had to bake bread every other day. We had to make several loaves of bread and two large pans of rolls. We girls had to make the bread. Margaret and I took turns. But what we really liked was “store-bought white bread” or “light bread.” But we had to eat that home-baked bread! The only time we got to eat “light bread” was when we bought it during peanut-harvesting time, to make “lunch” for the peanut-thrashing crew!

Even during the Depression of the 1930s and when there was no money, there was always food on the farm. Sometimes Daddy would go hunting and shoot rabbits and we never went hungry. I think those who lived in a town or city had it worse. Especially if they could not have a garden or chickens. Feeding a family of 10 was hard for my parents, but we never went hungry, even if we didn’t have pretty clothes or had to live without shoes or a nice house. For that I am so grateful.

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at

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