The last living memory I have of my mom was the day before my 18th birthday. For more than half of my young life, she had struggled with serious complications from diabetes and passed away at the age of 52. As a result, for the last 39 years, I have found myself meandering through life trying to recollect the vast wisdom she demonstrated each and every day around running a household, raising children, gardening, canning, and cooking from scratch. In spite of her blindness, she was well-known in our neighborhood as an excellent cook and it was only on a rare occasion when people refused an invitation to enjoy her culinary talents.
My mom grew up in the Depression as the youngest child of a widowed mother who fed six additional mouths on a meager income from laundering and ironing for others. My mom's struggles were many throughout her life and her moods were more often blue than happy during my childhood. However, I always knew that she was feeling upbeat when I came home after school and was greeted with the wonderful aromas of custard pies, mayonnaise cakes, saucer sized sugar cookies, or homemade yeast bread. As an adult trying to recreate some of those tasty treats for my own family, I often smile when those happy memories creep into the present.
One of my favorite memories is of my mom on Friday afternoons, standing at the kitchen counter that my uncle John built for her. The counter was just high enough for this little girl to watch in amazement as all of her creations were rolled out in front of my very eyes. Thinking that I would be sneaky about it, I often hid under the counter and reached my hand up over the edge to steal raw dough to eat.
Yeah, yeah, I know, raw dough is bad for a person but remember, this was the 1960s and us kids did a whole lot of things back then that now are considered dangerous! Anyway, my mom obviously was on to my tricks and I always found little mounds of goodness sitting on the edge, almost waiting for me. Well, on these Friday afternoons, my mom would bake up a storm — cookies, bread, pies, and her most delectable creation — noodles!
Then, on Saturday mornings, she would load up my little red wagon and let me walk down our street for a few blocks peddling her wares for my weekly allowance. Now mind you, all of my neighbor ladies were stay-at-home moms who were great cooks themselves. However, the minute they saw me dragging that wagon down the street, they rushed out their doors and asked what I had on that particular Saturday.
By the time I got to the end of our street, I would have sold everything and then be holding a bag filled with about $2.00 in change. This fortune then funded my week's worth of candy and a few toys from our shopping trip later that day to Woolworths, Kresge's or Scotts. The memory still makes me smile...
Photo by Sarah Wilkus Showalter
When my mom died, I was hardly at an age where I had any interest in cooking noodles, or anything for that matter. Instead, I was hanging out with friends at soda shops, hamburger joints and checking out cute boys from other local high schools. When I first became a mom, though, I had to rely on mother figures and books to guide me in the practice of being a homemaker and overall — eventually — a pretty darn good cook. One of the first things I bought after my mom died was my Betty Crocker cookbook, which for a few years, was stored in my hope chest along with a set of Corelle, silverware and towels. I simply picked out this particular cookbook because it shared a name with my mom, Bette.
Even though it was a few years after its initial storage when I finally cracked it open to try my first recipe other than boiling water for eggs, that cookbook became my trusted noodle making guide for over half of my life. In fact, I believe that page has remnants of sticky flour fingers from years of holiday noodles, from both me and my daughters, who evolved from stealing noodle dough from the edge of the counter to good cooks in their own right. So, in case there are any little red wagons that need filling, here is that recipe from the 1979 Betty Crocker Cookbook with a minor improvisation...
Photo by Lori DeYoung
• 2 cups of all-purpose flour
• 3 egg yolks
• 1 whole egg
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1) Mix well, roll out on well floured counter, cut thin strips and let dry. Ensure that a few noodles are close to the edge of counter for small, inquisitive fingers.
2) Drop small portions of dried noodles into boiling water or broth to keep from sticking.
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