Who’s Cooking In The Kitchen?

How do you feel about cooking and baking? I love it. I love working in the kitchen and producing wonderful treats and goodies to eat. I enjoy the work that goes into providing nourishment for my family. And I especially like the feeling I get when my daughter joins me in the kitchen and works with me.

Tonight, we made a cake. Or rather, I tried to make a cake. My daughter and my Godson made a mess. By the time it was all said and done, the kitchen was a mess and each of us was pretty well covered in icing and flour- because along the way, someone thought it would be a splendid idea to make cookies from scratch in addition to our cake.

This got me thinking about the ancestors… I wondered about Mary. Was she a house girl? Someone’s maid servant, who dressed and cared for the Mrs. of the home or someone’s mammie, whose sole purpose was to feed and care for the children? Might she have been relegated to the kitchens of a large house (here, my imagination begins to run rampant and I am picturing sprawling lawns, with rolling hills and a huge Gone With The Wind type mansion of a home) or was she a field girl, destined to spend her days under the harsh sun, driving rains and icy winters?

If Mary was anything but a cook, how and when did she learn to cook for herself? I know that slaves had their own way of doing things and that food preparation usually was done by one person (generally another slave, whose duties allowed them to return to the slave quarters earlier than the others). I also know and can imagine the work of a slave was hard and laborious, making extra chit chat and fun almost nonexistent. So, who taught Mary how to cook? And what did she cook? Was it trial and error? I remember the first time I ever cooked anything- I was trying to help my mom out and I made spaghetti. I used absolutely NO kind of seasons whatsoever. It was the most bland thing I have ever tasted (yes, even to this day). But my mom ate it. Another time, I tried my hand at bake chicken… the outside looked absolutely delicious, while the inside (the parts near the bone) were red and cold. I think my husband made a McDonald’s run or something to save us from the horrors of that chicken dinner. Is that how it was for Mary and her family? Is it possible that some other slave or free person took her under their wing and teach her?

Growing up, I remember my grandmother dawning an apron and pinning one on me and telling me each step as she prepared whatever dish or meal- even though I was only knee high to a broomstick. Obviously, Mary did not starve as she birthed several children that eventually led to my Nana and clearly, each of those generations starved not, so someone was cooking. I just wish I knew what. Were there special dishes that were passed down that were ‘crowd favorites’ or were these ancestors of mine concerned less about tradition and more about nutrition that they just made do with whatever food sources available?

Ahhhhh the unknowing is killing me! I see some research on popular foods of the early 1800’s in my future. I wonder if once I find these ‘lost’ recipes, if I will be brave enough to try them or if my family will be brave enough to eat them.

Anyway, you all should tell me your favorite family recipes and how they have been passed down through the lines of your generations? When it comes to food, have you started your own food traditions within your own families? I would love to hear about them in the comments! And don’t forget to like and share!

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“Wake Me Up Before You Go Go…

… Cause I’m not planning on going solo”. Yep. That’s what those pesky dead people were talking about. Not the WHAM UK song, but the ‘urge’, ‘relief’, ‘potty’, you know the ‘go go’. I guess someone had to talk about it, might as well be my dead people, huh?

While giving the baby a bath last night, my daughter asked me how people took baths “back in the day”? I asked her what she meant and she looked at me like I was stupid, with this complete look of incredulousness, as she replied, “you know the family people that aren’t living anymore.” Oh my. My genealogy antennae (which are always close by, anyway) immediately popped up. My child was asking a genealogy question!!! Okay, so it was really a history question, but that’s just a little detail… Anyway, I got all excited and I hurriedly finished bathing the baby (I might have even left some soap under the chin, who knows..) and my daughter and I did some research. I love research, well research into the past and how it could possibly affect my dead people, at least. She looked at the family tree for five (agonizing) minutes, deciding  which person we would research along with our foray into bathing. Finally, she settled upon Lewis D Massie (1794-1866) and Mary (1790-?). Lewis was a white man and Mary is presumed to be his slave girl/woman with whom he fathered my grandmother’s maternal line.

I told my daughter that people bathed in tubs, usually made of copper and that people, generally slaves or other types of help, would fill the tub  with water that had been heated over the stove. I also told her that in poorer families, the whole family would bathe in the same tub of water- starting with the father, then  the mother and then the children from oldest to youngest. Being a former Early Childhood Education Specialist, I ran outside, grabbed a handful of grass and dirt and threw it into the toilet. “This,” I told her, “is what the water would have looked like by the time the baby would have his bath and the water would have been super cold.”

But, as we delved more into bathing, we learned that in the mid to late 1800’s more and more people of wealth, people like Lewis, would have had primitive indoor plumbing. (go here to view a primitive shower and toilet during the 1850’s… https://www.google.com/search?q=bathrooms+in+1850&biw=1047&bih=487&tbm=isch&im) Imagine that. There were showers and toilets and believe it or not, they were inside!  And, the toilets flushed. So, I was surprised. After discovering that Lewis, could have had indoor plumbing and possibly even hot water to go with it, it was time to move on to Mary…

Since it is presumed that Mary was a slave of Lewis, we assumed that Mary would not have had a tub, copper or otherwise. Our first question was what would Mary have used to bathe or would she have even bathed at all? The best that we could determine was that slaves bathed in the river, when the chance to ‘slip away’  happened and if a river was relatively close by or they used the same pot they cooked in to bathe in. Both were not done on a regular  basis and were considered a genuine luxury. The hard part was explaining how using the bathroom went… How do you tell a 10 year old that her ancestors, or people in general, were made to drop trow and go- all the while continuing to work or holding the go go until the work was done- whenever that was. She was understandably, appalled. She couldn’t imagine having to go to the bathroom in front of people or having to do it while she was working. And she especially could not fathom life without TP… The awful truth is neither can I. I have huge issues with the ‘go’ anywhere outside of the privacy of my own comfy home. Time and time again, I am surprised at the strength my ancestors must have possessed to deal with the things they did…

Moving past the sentimental stuff- after all, I was rapidly loosing the awe and interest coming from my offspring- I quickly recounted a story from my own childhood… When I was around 7, I remember visiting with my great Uncle, one of my grandmother’s brothers and I had to use the bathroom. I was presented with two options… I could use the outhouse (which required someone accompanying me) or I could use the ‘piss pot’. I cried. (Read the aforementioned, issues with the go) I mean, huge, giant crocodile tears. No way was I going to the outhouse. AND the thought of sitting on a pot in the middle of my Uncle’s bedroom repulsed me. (Well, at least I imagine I was repulsed.) I remember eventually making my way to the dreaded ‘pot’ and trying to perch/sit or whatever it is you do on the ‘piss pot’ and then I couldn’t go. The go just disappeared. I remember being happy that I wouldn’t have to use the ‘piss pot’ or dump its contents in the out (whatever that was). The visit dragged on and on and on. I ended up falling asleep on my Aunt and Uncle’s bed and (you guessed it) I peed ALL OVER THE BED. By this time, my daughter’s interest had lapsed and she left my room awash in giggles. Much like I am sure you are right now.

If you can find the time in between your bouts of laughter, I would love to hear your input on the history of the ‘go’. Have you ever had to use an outhouse? What was that like? What kinds of things have you discovered about your own ancestors and the ‘go’? Did they have indoor bathrooms or privies or outhouses? I can’t wait to hear your stories! And don’t forget to like and share! Thanks!

Knowing When to Shut Up…

I truly believe that a person needs to know when to shut up. Its a valuable lesson to learn, if you think about it… If you shut your mouth to soon, then you never get all of the information out that you need to, likewise, if you keep talking long after you have made your point, you have the ability to drag on about, while those around you begin to lose focus and tune you out. Right now, I think this is the most important lesson you can take with you to the grave… Yes. Take this lesson to the grave, because those currently and passed dead do not understand this. Or maybe, they just don’t care… Either way, someone needs to pass this valuable lesson on to them.

Clearly, my panties are all up in a knot. I can’t help it. I am tired and I am cranky. Why am I so irritable, you ask? Well, if you really want to know… It’s because those darn dead relatives talked to me way into the wee early hours of morning. And what irritates me even further, is that they didn’t even give straight answers! Ugh!!!

Okay, let me back up and give you some background information… Yesterday, in one of the Genealogy Facebook groups I belong to, someone posted this little tidbit of information, “Check out my latest blog post “School Records, Even If your Ancestor Didn’t Attend School”. Researching school records, in my opinion, is a must for any genealogist. If your ancestor didn’t attend school as a child you might be surprised that they are named in school records as an adult for various reasons.” Anyway, a discussion ensued and I have to admit this is something I was excited to delve into… but at a later time and certainly not at 0 dark hundred on the clock…

Oh, but those crazy dead people didn’t think I needed a pesky little thing like sleep. Because all night various ancestors- from my dad and granddaddy to people who were gone long before my mother was even a twinkle in her mother’s eyes- peppered me with all kinds of questions that I should ask when I contact these various institutions about the involvement (if any) my ancestors may have had with area schools or possibly (but highly unlikely) their own schooling. And the crazy thing is, is that they didn’t even have the decency to give me a glimpse of what they might have  looked like! Nope. They just kept chattering away… ALL NIGHT LONG. And now that I think about it, why didn’t they just give me the answers instead of screaming a bazillion different questions at me? Wouldn’t that have been more efficient and effective? Ahhh, if only.

Anyway, I had plans (I really did, I swear) of going to my local LDS Library and taking a lookeeloo around and finding out what they had available or what help they might be able to offer me in my plight to tell the stories of my ancestors, see if they had any volunteer (read JOB openings) and possibly taking a detour through the Virginia Historical Society and then coming home and sharing with you all the great new finds of the day. Instead, here I sit, venting and enumerating the frustrations of the day… I am so sorry that you came here and had to here all of this. It is really unbecoming of a lady to rant and rave and carry on so- my Nana would be appalled, I know it.

But, let’s try to clean this mess up, shall we? As I sit here typing away, I am also watching an episode of Finding Your Roots, and in the beginning one of the guests is presented with his life book and right there in the opening pages of his book are pictures of this person in school and their report card… An excited flutter has started in my chest. Maybe I don’t have as much pull as Henry Louis Gates, Jr, but  there’s gotta be some hope, right? I am now trying to remember all the questions that forced me awake last night and I am kicking myself because, like a dummy, I didn’t write a single one  of them down.

Story of my life, I swear. Well, maybe you can help me. If you had the chance to connect with your ancestors through school (whether through employment or schooling) what are some of the things you would want to know?

I would want to know if they played any sports, did they take advantage of their position as an employee to get ‘some learning’, being black, I would want to know if they were afraid of getting an education (though I am not sure how I would  definitively be able  to answer that) and how did they acquire their job with the school (was it appointed, were they in the right or wrong place at the right time, etc.

For more information on Finding Your Roots, please visit https://www.pbs.org/weta/finding-your-roots and for more information on the aforementioned Blog, please visit http://agenealogistinthearchives.blogspot.com/2016/01/school-records-even-if-your-ancestor.html (shout out to Melissa LeMaster Barker- someone I am fast coming to admire and  look up to in the genie world)

PS- I truly hope I have given credit in the appropriate way. But, if I haven’t, please reach out to me. But don’t just tell me I did it wrong, please tell me how to do it right also. Thanks for stopping by and see you next time!