Sunday, February 02, 2014

Stuff, and Great Grandma's Homemade Rolls

It is time for me to clean out my mother's house. I've had an "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" agreement with a family tenant: Live here for me while I catch my breath, will you? And now that I can breath again, I've been tending to the stuff.

The Stuff.

There is both very little left to tend to, at the same time an overwhelming amount of Stuff. The stuff-stuff: blankets, pillows, knick-knacks, spatulas, spoons, vases, screwdrivers, funnels, bandaids, lamps, step stools, thumbtacks, Dial soap, board games, dog collars...Oh, my God, the stuff.

I am armed with boxes and Hefty bags, and I am begifting, donating, selling, and tossing.

To be honest, I am such a poor waif when I am there. This is the loneliest, heart-achiest thing I have ever had to do. It is all mine. When I say "mine," I mean, my obligation. I hold the gavel: This goes here, this goes there, you get this, you get that. That is overwhelming in itself, but "this" and "that" really mean nothing to me. I already have, after all, spoons and spatulas.

What does me in and sends me home early most days is that I am the last one standing. 

I grew up here. In this house:
  • I played countless games of cribbage with my father.
  • I danced Henry Mancini's Baby Elephant Dance with my mother, both of us still in our bathrobes.
  • My sister and I played  "Extreme Concentration," in which we would spread the deck from one end of the house to another.
  • I also pulled her hair, and rolled around screaming and fighting with her like I am sure no 2 little boys ever did, and then afterward crawled into her bed during thunderstorms so (ahem) she wouldn't be scared.
To be tending to this stuff without any of those I grew up with is incredibly draining—at least my sister was supposed to be here, for heck sake! The two of us were supposed to be at each other's throats over all of this stuff! We were supposed to cry and have Jerry-Springer-esque arguments, and then make up over all of this crap—it was to be the natural order!

(Fuck cancer.)

Sigh. It is what it is, you know? While my heart breaks, some days, there are others in which I do nothing but laugh and laugh while I am there. I ran over there today in hopes of digging up something to put my own pencils in, and instead got sidetracked with an old recipe box. As I sort through this "stuff," I do have a mental list of what I hope to find, and today, I hit gold:

The Recipe for my Great Grandmother's Homemade Rolls.

When I was a 10-ish years old, I had the wherewithall—or as is probably more the truth, someone prompted me—to ask my Great Grandmother to show me how she made her homemade rolls. She just made them like I would make an omelet or something: Just get up, move around the kitchen, and make the rolls.

(And thus my typesetting career began...)

There it is, word-for-word, how she taught me. Please note:

1. Tater flakes. I'm sure that's exactly how she said it, "add some tater flakes," and

2.  I remember having to insist on measurements: 1/2 a cup is about how many tater flakes we determined, as did we 1-1/2 cups of warm water.

She drew the line at measuring flour—measuring flour was nonsense. Just enough until it is like...pancake dough (?) And then, after the first rise "Make a well in the flour." She had a giant porcelain pan of flour in the pantry:  The goo went in, you kneaded it around until you had what you wanted—be it bread or noodles—and then you lifted it out and the put the flour back into the pantry.

The remaining instructions were par for the course: "A handful" of salt, and a "lump" of walnutlard. Walnutlard? Walnut lard? Is Walnut a brand? Or is there such a thing walnut lard? And how much is a lump? Does it come in lumps, or does one scoop out a lump?!

In the end, we are to put the whole thing in a "greased bucket" til raised.

On the back of the card, it says "Bake until brown."

Seems I am in for a little experimenting. I don't know, for example, what comes between "greased bucket" and "Homemade rolls to die for."

What I do know is that I'm going to find out, and master, and write it all down, and that these are the treasures I will continue to uncover while I sift through the "stuff." As resistant as I am to muck through it all, gnashing my teeth and crying, I am just as often comforted and laughing with those on the other side, and know that they are with me while I work.

These are hard times. These are hard, and lovely, times.


  1. I can relate. Really, I can. I, too, was the one "left standing". The one left with the gavel and all of the decisions when it was time to clean out my Mom's house. Many years after she passed away and a few months after my sister abandoned it. (Yup, she just walked away and left it full of STUFF.)

    Anyway, my grandmother wrote recipes similar to the one you have shared with us. My guess is that the "walnut lard" means a "lump of lard the size of a walnut". Try that.

    My thoughts are with you as you go through the house and the memories. I know exactly how difficult that must be. I also know that it can be healing, as well.

  2. Anonymous9:51 AM

    This was great Lori. If you need any help on the weekend please call me. I will be your slave for whatever you want me to do. I'm not just saying this to be nice. Please call me. Love ya cuz. Michael Woodbeck

  3. The cooks in my family had similar recipes. "A splash" of something. "A handful" of something else. "Enough" of this. Mix or add or combine until "it looks right." Then "cook until done."

    I miss mine, too.


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