Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lore Keeper

I recently found this photo of my
dad--the lore keeper of his
family's history. It was taken--no doubt--
for a work-related purpose.
Back in 2002, before my second granddaughter was born, her father plied me with questions about my dad, a man--because of his early death--whom none of my children were privileged to meet. 

In response, I wrote a long memoir about him, entitled "Paper Dolls of My Father." In it, I wrote myriad vignettes in an attempt to capture the man my dad was. Just as a paper doll can become any character just by changing clothing, I hoped that each small memory could become an overlay to let my children and grandchildren glimpse a man they never met.

What follows is the vignette I called the  "Lore Keeper Outfit" for the paper doll. I share it here as a Thanksgiving (yes, late) reflection:

LORE KEEPER (written in 2002)

Once a year my dad cooked up a batch Minute Pudding and invited his wife and [two] daughters, to share it with him. Minute Pudding is made from flour, milk, baking powder, and salt—flavored with nutmeg. The gooey dough looks something like dumpling dough raw, and after it cooks it still looks like a big, doughy lump. To eat it, we would put sugar on it and pour milk over it. It was like doughy bread. I would grimace, but tried to like it because Dad seemed to.

“Can you imagine eating this as your entire meal?” Dad would ask. 
“This would taste pretty darn good on an empty stomach.” Then he would say something like, “M-m-m-m . . .  there’s nothing quite like minute pudding.” 

He was right; there is nothing like it in any recipe book I’ve ever seen.
Minute Pudding Recipe ( copied in my hand thirty years ago)
Bring 1 pint of milk to a boil
Add Salt and nutmeg to taste
Sift flour (start with one cup) with ¼ tsp. baking powder
Keep adding flour to the milk until thick. Turn into a bowl and bake 
                       for 20 minutes in a slow (300 degrees) oven.
And . . . in my handwriting I had added, “Eat with reverence.”

As we ate our Minute Pudding, we listened to Dad’s narrative about the times when our grandfather (who was born in 1860) went to bed hungry, and how he and his two sisters thought they might starve to death if someone didn’t shoot a turkey or some other wild animal for them to eat. My grandfather (who had died when I was three) was the son of an itinerant Methodist minister based in Iowa but traveling to Minnesota on horseback for much of his work. For that reason my great-grandfather was gone frequently from home for long work-related trips. He was also a drunkard (my father’s words, no doubt reflecting the words he'd heard from his father), so when the man was home, he was often unable to provide for his family. 

It took me a long time to realize that my father really did not love this concoction called Minute Pudding, but that he prepared and ate it as a personal ritual to remember how blessed he was, and to instill in his children a sense of good fortune, which—of course—we would not fully understand until we were grown.

1 comment:

Lucy Hart said...

I think your father was one of the finest human beings I ever met.