It always drove me crazy that my mother and grandmother said "biscuit" instead of "biscuits". "What did you have good for supper?" Grammie Boone would ask my mother. "Well, John caught a mess of trout, so we had those, potatoes, peas from the garden, and I made biscuit." Aaaaarrrgh! It was like fingernails on a chalkboard! (Too bad I can't find someone who'll pay me for being petty...)
At any rate, the recipe we use in our household is from an old National Grange Cookbook. This is often Sunday night fare for us--especially if there is any honey or, better yet, molasses on hand. Ironically to my mother and grandmother who swore by Bakewell Cream, this baking powder recipe is somewhat of an anomaly. We love it.
2 cups all-purpose flour 1 Tablespoon sugar 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup shortening 1 egg, beaten 2/3 cup milk
Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and milk. Knead. Roll until 3/4-inch thick, cut with biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 450-degree oven for 10 to 14 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
We had some friends of ours over for a barbecue the other night. We wanted to have them over before Janel's mother goes back to Texas after visiting here for the past two months.
It's always fun having them over, our children are friends, but it was really a special treat to have Grandma here, too. I'm really impressed that she was able and willing to make the long trip to this island because in the last year she has had two heart attacks and has also had to endure cancer treatments, but she did it. Rik and Janel's youngest kids had never met their grandmother before, so of course that was very important to them as well.
Grandma was so comfortable and nice. She was full of stories and words of wisdom and experience and I honestly couldn't remember a time that I enjoyed visiting with an elderly person so much. I figure that it's either that I just plain miss having a grandmother around or I'm getting so much closer to that myself that I'm feeling like a contemporary! I told her that we don't get to have grandma's out here for a visit very often, so it's really great when we do.
Our friends out here become our surrogate families and we often talk about our parents, ask how so and so (a family member we've never met) is doing, etc. to the point that we feel like we know some of each other's biological families. When we get to actually meet one of the bio-family members we already feel a connection.
Anyway, it was great having Grandma for a visit in Saipan.
Today is Grampie Alexa's birthday. He's 110...or he would be if he were still here. My boys are sitting behind me exclaiming at the things I'm writing ("Grampie can't be 110!")--as if they didn't even know that I had a Grampie Alexa of my own!
My grandfather was Lithuanian--he came to the U.S. when he was 18 or so. My grandmother was 4 years older than him and she taught him English--in fact, I think that's how they met. He learned to speak the language all right, but even 60 years later a lot of my friends had a hard time understanding him because of his accent.
When I was little I loved to be with Grampie Alexa. I especially liked to go over to eat with him and Grammie. He would go out in the woods after a rain and pick mushrooms in the summer, but they weren't uniform like the ones you buy in the store. They were all different varieties, sizes, colors, and shapes. He said that the way he knew which ones were alright to eat was by seeing where deer and other animals had nibbled at them. I don't think I'd ever be brave enough to pick them myself, but I ate them with him then. I really liked sitting on the porch and watching Grampie clean those mushrooms with his knife. He would cut off the ends and slice them, then take them inside and fry them with salt pork in a big cast iron skillet on the flat top of their black wood cookstove. After I would eat them my mother wouldn't let me in the house because of the smell of them on my breath! In truth, when they were fried like that they turned kind of dark and slimy, but Gramp made them and that was enough to convince me I liked them!
There are just way too many stories about Gramp to put them all in one blog--like riding in his 1931 Model-A Ford which he bought used in 1935 and drove until 1975 or so when he gave up driving. I think he sold it at a profit....
Anyway--I'll write more Grampie Alexa stories now and then.
Our family loves cookies. We like to make them almost as much as we like to eat them! In fact, today Kaitlyn was making some cookies and some friends came to take her and Ezra to the beach before she could get them mixed up, so she asked me to finish. They were peanut butter cookies and I thought they looked a little dry, so I threw in some ripe bananas. After we baked a couple pans of those (they were yummy), I remembered that I had some chopped up peanuts in the refridgerator, so I tossed those in too.
The cookies that Kaitlyn was making were from one of our family-favorite recipes--Grammie Haskin's Peanutbutter Cookies--we love them! I never even cared for peanutbutter cookies until I had hers melt in my mouth. But the all-time winner in our household would have to be Grammie Boone's Blethen House Molasses Cookies--they taste like home.
Grammie Haskin's Peanutbutter Cookies
1 cup shortening (1/2 butter tastes good) 1 cup peanutbutter 1 cup sugar 1 cup brown sugar 2 eggs 2 1/2 cups flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients well. Shape into balls, press criss-cross with a fork. Bake at 350 until not quite done (8-10 minutes). After removing from oven, leave on baking sheet for a couple of minutes before putting on cooling rack.
GRAMMIE BOONE'S BLETHEN HOUSE MOLASSES COOKIES My Grammie Boone always said that she was an "old-fashioned cook". She was the baker of choice for people all over Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, my hometown. She baked for Collette's Restaurant and for the (lone) hotel, the Blethen House. She loved to bake and her family and friends loved to have her do it! We nearly always double this recipe...
1 cup sugar 1/2 cup molasses 3/4 cup shortening 1 egg 2 1/4 cups flour 3 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1/2 teaspoon cassia (cinnamon) 1/4 teaspoon cloves pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients well. Roll into balls and dip the tops in granulated sugar. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until tops are cracked.
But then as we were told before we came here, every day is summer in Saipan!
Sam and Jacob are at Boy Scout Camp this week. It's been kind of a nomadic adventure starting out on Tuesday with the scouts kayaking out to Managaha then back the next morning. At that point we transported them from Micro Beach to Susupe Lake where they did a little more kayaking and had a presentation from the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife on the brown tree snake and Jacob lost his glasses in the muck at the bottom of the lake. . . sigh. ANYWAYS, then they hiked up to Kannat Tabla where they spent that night. On Thursday we transported them to the Grotto where they had more merit badge work as well as playing in the water (anyone interested can probably find a picture of the Grotto on www.delbenson.com), and yes, it can be dangerous and I'm glad they're all away safe and sound. This morning I helped transport them from the Grotto to Laulau Bay where they will camp tonight and finish up tomorrow with a family pot luck complete with skits, etc. Sam only joined them this morning because he had cut his foot at our 4th of July barbecue and Casey felt that today it was healed up enough for him to go.
So, with Kaitlyn at day camp down at Hopwood, I only have Ezra and Eden here at home today. Of course it was too boring having just the two of them, so we went over and picked up Ashley and Solofi Welch (their dad is the Scoutmaster), and they jumped on the trampoline and played with the scooters until they worked themselves into a nice hot lather. Now they're all out swimming in the pool we bought last Christmas. The pool was second-hand, but we found it right here on the island and they have had a blast with it since the weather really heated up in May. Even Casey gets in with them at the end of the day sometimes (it's the kind with the inflatable ring--about 12' diameter), the kids really love that!
Casey has started playing basketball with the Over 45 league. He had his first game last Saturday and has another one today. It's funny to hear him talk about it. He says that he wasn't as bad as he expected to be, but that was probably because the rest of the team is so out of shape. One guy just sets up camp at one end of the court and waits for them to throw him the ball. Casey's legs were killing him for the first couple of days after the game--he said they felt like wet noodles.
I really admire Case for staying so fit over the years--he's really been conscientious about that. The other day I came across some shorts that had been put in a pile of clothes to give away and Casey tried them on and they fit perfectly...they have the same size waist that I bought for him when we were first married! I wish I'd come across the figure I had back then (gosh, I just can't think what I did with that!).
I ran across this story by Keith Olbermann on MSNCB.com today. It's a wonderful story for a day like ours when pop-culture pseudo-heroes have taken center stage.
"At the Metrodome in Minnesota Wednesday, an 86-year-old woman and two kids from Chisholm, Minnesota, threw out ceremonial first pitches before the Twins game against the Kansas City Royals. The team was saluting Doc Graham Day. The kids are the recipients of the two Doc Graham memorial scholarships.
"Does that name, Doc Graham, ring a bell? How about Moonlight Graham? Sure, it’s been 16 years since the movie came out, but it runs every month on TV. Think hard now. Surely you remember Moonlight Graham. “Field of Dreams?” There you go.
"It’s perhaps the iconic depiction of baseball on film, a magical combination of history, fantasy and innocence. It’s become that largely because of just one of its many characters, that fanciful creation that author W.P. Kinsella called Moonlight Graham.
"Graham supposedly played in just one Major League Baseball [game], then became the beloved town doctor of the tiny town of Chisholm, Minnesota.
"Well, it would have been a fanciful creation, and Moonlight Graham would have been one of fiction’s great characters, except for one detail: there really was a Moonlight Graham. He really did become the beloved town doctor of Chisholm, Minnesota. And he really did play in just one Major League Baseball game. That one game was exactly 100 years ago on Wednesday.
"In Chisholm, Minnesota, 70 miles from the Canadian border, they never called him Moonlight. Instead, they opted for Doc or Doctor Graham.
"W.P. Kinsella, author of Shoeless Joe, says he came across his name in a baseball encyclopedia given as a Christmas gift. 'He was listed as Moonlight Graham. And I thought, ‘What a wonderful name. This is better than anything I could invent,' says Kinsella.
"This movie story really is true. In 1904, Archibald “Moonlight” Graham was a .323 hitter with Manchester of the New England League. He was then purchased by the National League champion New York Giants and joined them on May 23, 1905. And for reasons lost to history, he didn’t play a game until June 29. That day, with the Giants leading 10-0 in the eighth inning, manager John McGraw finally put him in right field. Nobody hit the ball near him.
"With two out in the top of the ninth inning, Moonlight Graham was on deck. He would have been the next hitter, his first time up in the big leagues. But Claude Elliott flied out to end the inning. The Giants sold him to Scranton 16 days later.
"He never got his chance in baseball. But, he did get the chance to help people.
"According to Veda Ponikvar, founder of The Chisholm Free Press and Tribune, Graham jumped on a train to Minnesota after reading a small ad listing a doctor opening. And he never left. Dr. Graham lived in Chisholm right up until his death 54 years later in 1965.
"Ponikvar is also in Field of Dreams. The actress Ann Seymour reads the obituary of Doc Graham that Vida wrote: 'And there were times when children could not afford eyeglasses or milk or clothing. Yet no child was ever denied these essentials because in the background there was always Dr. Graham. Without any fanfare or publicity, the glasses or the milk or the ticket to the ballgame found their way into the child’s pocket.'
"Bob McDonald was one of the other children. He’s been Chisholm High School‘s basketball coach for half a century, only its third since 1921. Doc Graham’s baseball life, his love of sports was important, but it was nothing compared to how important his life was as the town doctor.
“'That’s the big item you see. In baseball, you kind of help yourself and you entertain,' says McDonald. 'Athletics are like that, you entertain people. But he comforted people.'
"Kinsella says it was an asset. 'I mean, what I was afraid of, was that this was going to be a guy who sat in the American Legion bar and bragged about playing in the major leagues for 40 years.'
"As the movie suggests, somewhat tragically, Graham came close but never reached his dream. But Graham, played by Burt Lancaster, famously says, 'If I‘d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.'"