String of lights, pretty ornaments bring out best in Charlie Brown tree

December 09, 2011 08:03 pm

My mental gears feel rusty from lack of use, dear Diary. They creak and groan for need of liberating oil.

The words come out in bits and pieces like passing through a food chopper.

I have one, a food chopper, that is, but I haven’t used it in a long time.

It used to come into play a lot when we had family at home, especially in the fall for salad apples or small amounts of deer or elk meat for hamburger after a successful hunting season.

It is just a small grinder, made of heavy metal with a detachable inner works on a handle. Inside, the food is ground down to chunks, but at the end where the food comes out is a choice of attachable cutting discs for making the bits even finer.

Sometimes the juice of the particles eases out and makes a puddle on the countertop or floor beneath. Catching the juice in a bowl was the trick against later clean-up.

We had to always attach the grinder to the same place in the kitchen where the depth of a counter was just the right size for the adjustable toothless clip at the bottom.

Once the tool was screwed down firmly onto the table or counter, you fed the ingredients into the opening at the top of the grinder, all the while turning the handle round and round and catching the pieces in a bowl as they came out the front end.

My description is very poor as I think of our food grinder, now probably out of use by most modern families with electrical units that do the work for you.

Although I no longer cook for a hungry family or prepare canning foods, I like to keep my metal, detachable, choice-of-size-disc food and meat chopper in the drawer where I can see it now and then. It’s there along with the cone-shaped sieve for making puree foods like applesauce pressed through the wire netting by way of rolling the wooden mallet against the wire in a circular motion. I haven’t used it in a long time, either, because I prefer the more chunkie apple bites.

Then there is the other strainer basket with a handle to drain the liquid from items such as macaroni, noodles or yams, and another even smaller strainer held over a cup for pouring boiling water over tea leaves.

Oh, there is the bottomless cup to insert in the canning jar mouth to avoid spills while you insert peach or pear halves. And, there are the three sizes of long-necked cone-shaped funnels with a hole at the end with which to drain liquids into bottles or jars.

I spy the grater that cuts cabbage, potatoes or cheese into slivers for cole slaw, hash-browns or toppings. You stand it up in a bowl or on a flat surface and rub the chosen food up and down the sides with the cutting blades, being careful not to trim off the surface of your knuckles in the process.

What fun to look through this drawer of out-dated cooking tools, so I pull open other drawers and find the bread and cake pans, pie tins, cookie sheets and rolling pin. In fact, there are three rolling pins for making cookies, biscuits and cinnamon rolls. One is my own since marriage, one is my

mother’s, and the other has little cut-outs on it to make imprints on cookies. I don’t know where it came from and I’ve never used it, but it is fun to look at and imagine the finished project.

There are a number of bread pans from one long adjustable two-piece belonging to George’s mother, several medium-sized pans for a single loaf and a stack of mini pans for baking zucchini bread. Using a bread baker does away with the need for any of these pans and yet I don’t get rid of them because they speak of a time gone by. And, besides, maybe one day I’ll decide to use one or more of them again. I never give up hope for a future of the old times even though I know that the possibility is next to nil.

That is what keeps me going, I guess.

I really should get in and begin baking Stollen loaf dressed in powdered sugar frosting and candied fruit, oversized gingerbread cookies and Colonial Inn cake slathered between layers with vanilla pudding and whipped cream. But, I’m afraid I won’t. I’ll just think about the days when our home was filled with such joy.

It is Sunday afternoon and I have managed to put up what I call my Charlie Brown tree, add a string of lights and hang all the pretty bobbles (ornaments) on its branches.

Two years ago when I took the top out of our tall artificial fir tree and stuck it in a tree stand, it really looked terrible, but it was a tree.

This year I took a little more time with it, and while it is still a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, I’m beginning to find a little warmth for it. It is my tree and it is Christmas.

I put the nativity set on the hutch where it has been placed almost every year of our marriage, this year without too many tears. The stained glass church George made is on the top shelf and serves as a night-light as a special treat. The three kings are out on a desk and Terry’s Irish Santa on the three-legged milking stool. I managed to put scenes on the fireplace mantels of a forest with animals and a Mr. and Mrs. decorating their own Christmas tree in their own little home.

I hadn’t planned to do this much decorating, but each day something else seems to find a place to add cheer just as at one time they added so much to the family activity in the kitchen and warmth to the feeling of our home.

Like the outdated kitchen tools and Christmas decor, the sight of the food chopper may help my mental gear to grind out words on a weekly basis once again.

Am I beginning to feel a tumble rather than a grinding?

That would be nice.

Old remembrances are good to use while new ones are being made.

Veteran newspaperwoman Dorothy Swart Fleshman is a La Grande native.