By Judith Howland
I commend the Hartland Historical Society for compiling this cookbook. Taking pains to collate and publish the recipes of Hartland’s previous generations is a worthy project and benefits us all. History is not just names and dates; it is also the crafts, the tools, the seasonal tasks, and most of all – the food! And that means recipes and directions for making dishes “just the same way Grandma did.” I grew up in Hartland and have many memories of special foods such as:
Grandma’s chocolate birthday cakes. She made round chocolate layer cakes with chocolate frosting and white “beading” on top. It was such a treat, along with home made ice cream and a gathering of cousins to share in the birthday.
Sally Comstock’s spice cake, which she would make for the Grout School Community Club’s weekly winter whist parties. A whist party consisted of an evening of cards which ended with sandwiches, cupcakes and pieces of Sally’s spice cake for refreshments.
Home-made ice cream at Fairview farm, which was my Grandma’s childhood home. We had an annual family picnic with ice cream and my mother’s custard pies for dessert. We sat at picnic tables beneath the two trees planted in honor of Grandma (Kittie Gates Spear) and her sister (Nellie Gates).
Dora Shepard’s dried beef gravy (some would call this chipped gravy) on boiled potato. It tasted so good on cold winter nights.
Della Merritt’s lemon sponge pie. Mrs. Merritt would make her pies for community suppers, and they were always well received.
Popped corn with melted butter and cocoa for Sunday night supper. We used to grow our own popcorn and shell it by hand for popping in a wire popper on the stove.
Sugar on snow. Many families enjoyed sugar on snow in early spring, before all the snow had melted. This tradition is carried on annually at the Universalist Church by Clyde Jenne and Bruce Locke.
Strawberry shortcake. Once every summer we would enjoy a meal that consisted only of strawberries, biscuits, and whipped cream. Nothing else.
Then there were all the suppers! The Firemen’s Turkey Supper was in the fall, then the Fish and Game Club’s Wild Game Supper. Somewhere in there were the Grange suppers at Damon Hall. These were followed by the Brick Church’s Roast Beef Suppers in the winter and the Universalist Church’s Chicken Pie Suppers in the fall. The meat at these suppers has always been excellent. But a good word needs to be inserted here on behalf of the home made rolls, the mashed potatoes, the home made cole slaw and the winter squash.
The pies deserve their own paragraph! At every supper, someone has had the responsibility of “soliciting pies.” This means calling up every name on the list and asking for two pies, freshly baked, for each supper. Each pie baker would then turn out her best example of pie.
The kinds of foods that the cooks prepared might be for special occasions, such as holidays or birthdays, but some of the most memorable were for the everyday meals which were prepared with devotion for the family.