Learning How To Cook: Starting Out on the Family Farm

An Alabama woman relates funny stories about learning how to cook, pick cotton, and other misadventures while learning to farm
CAPPER's Staff
Good Old Days


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I was raised in Houston, Texas. I finished my last year of high school in Louisiana and met my husband in Shreveport. He was from a small farming area about 40 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama, and lived on a farm. When we married he took me to our family farm. After 49 years farming is in my blood. We have a huge garden to share with our three married children and their families, as well as our neighbors.

We have a lot of laughs now about our early farming days. We bought 53 acres and grew corn and cotton. One year Ed said if we could pick the cotton ourselves we'd have more money to pay on our land. Boy! Was he surprised! I really had to work hard to pick 100 pounds of cotton in one day. He never had to pick cotton at home so it was all he could do to pick 100 pounds himself. When we got our first bale he said he'd better find someone to help us because if it started raining we could lose our crop. My cotton was very clean because I picked the burrs and leaves out of it before putting any in my sack. Everyone tried to tell me the ginning would clean it. I still picked through it.

Ed taught me how to cook all those wonderful vegetables. I'm lucky to still have him. A neighbor gave me some hot peppers and I tried to cook some soup. Ed told me I could put a little in the soup, so I cut up four or five big, long pods in my pot. It looked so good. Ed took a bite for supper and grabbed his glass of milk. I asked what was wrong and he said the soup was hot. I thought he meant from boiling, but it was so peppery we couldn't eat it. I was determined to fix it, so I added vegetables to it every day for four or five days, but it never was edible. The more I cooked it the hotter it got.

When my father was coming out for a visit Ed brought a 12-quart basket of eggs. I had never seen so many eggs in my life. I scrambled 12 eggs for breakfast for the three of us. Needless to say most of them were thrown out.

When Ed's father was going to eat with us one day, Ed asked me to cook some turnips and greens. I really scrubbed those turnips. Ed passed them to Mr. Blackwood and he dipped out a spoonful.

The turnip roots were hanging off the side of the spoon. I tried to explain how I really tried to scrub them with a brush. They didn't eat them. The next day I tried to fry squash. Well I was going to do them right so I peeled them. I thought if you peeled the turnips you must also peel the squash, but I was wrong; they just mashed up when I tried to fry them.

I learned to milk our cow, and at one time we were milking a black cow. A friend's son came down from Gasden and spent a week with us. He came out to the barn while I was milking the black cow and told me, "Now I know where chocolate milk comes from."

Ed's mother told me one time I'd never know how she tried to find something to cook that I would eat. I liked sandwiches, and if Ed had not taken me to the cafe every afternoon I don't guess I would have survived. That cafe made the best chicken salad sandwiches. I did learn to eat vegetables since I had to cook them for Ed.

I really had to learn a lot about farming but I wouldn't take anything for those experiences in our early years. Farming is hard work but I wouldn't trade living on the farm for any city life.

Peggy Blackwood
Cleveland, Alabama


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community. 


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