paindecampagne

thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the tag “Shippensburg”

30×30: Lesson 23: Just go back to France

 

Paris, 2014

Paris, 2014

It was 2008. I was a college graduate with a degree in creative writing who had just gotten back from my second extended period of time living in France — this time, spent teaching English to high school students. For the hundredth time I had taken back up the apron at Kathy’s Deli in Shippensburg, PA, where I was charged in particular with delivering food and staffing events at the local Volvo Construction Equipment plant.

This afternoon in particular, I was manning a daylong series of meetings that involved me keeping assorted cookies and canned sodas stocked from a tiny in-house kitchenette. I had brought a French novel to read in the moments when I wasn’t fanning out stacks of navy blue cocktail napkins. And I was sitting on top of an overturned milk crate, knees to my chin, whenever my friend Conrad Jackson appeared.

I don’t remember what we talked about. He most likely asked me, as a fair amount of people did, why I was back here, meaning in Shippensburg, working three minutes from where I grew up. (It was a question I hated; I was in Shippensburg because I wanted to be.) I would have answered with some bitterness — half because of his question, half because I didn’t have an idea about where I wanted my life to go — that I didn’t have anywhere else to be yet. I believe he then questioned whether or not I wanted to go back to France, and I sighed with deep, romantic sighs, and told him that it was impossible because I had obligations and life and family and college loans and a cat who would miss me.

And Conrad looked at me with a very funny gaze and said, “Just go back to France. Stop standing here and telling me all the reasons why you can’t.”

I opened my mouth and shut it. I firmly believed (and still do) in the validity of my family and college loans and cat. But I heard him more deeply than I knew at the time: sometimes the only thing standing between you and your life is you.

*

Sometimes choices don’t exist. Sometimes decisions are made for us — sometimes made long before us — and we have no option but to follow them. Sometimes we lack power and possibility for multiple reasons — money, situation, time. However, I am pretty sure that many of us have more power than we think.

I have never been one to say “I can’t,” but I have certainly believed myself to be incapable. I may want something deeply, but I am not always able to see a pathway. For the best of us, a solid life is hedged up by an enormous amount of structures — family expectations, financial constraints, solid logic, personal obligations, logic, conflicting dreams, the desire to not hurt feelings, and fear of speaking up — but most of these structures can bend if we are willing to lean into them.

The phrase “why not?” does not just convey careless indifference; it is a legitimate question that I sometimes have a good answer to and often don’t, a question that Jon Hoey asks me often. Why not spend extra on a good meal for the two of us? Why not take an extra day explaining that concept to my French 2 students, even though the syllabus doesn’t say so? Why not be honest when I actually don’t have time to do what people have asked me to do?

What really is standing between me and the rest of my life — even if it’s only my attitude — that is causing me to believe that the possible is impossible?

Find an introduction on this series here.  Dig into other life lessons here.

30×30: Lesson 21: The face behind the apron

2008

Kathy’s Deli, 2008

On-and-off for seven years, I was one of the faces behind the aprons of Kathy’s Deli in Shippensburg. When I first began working at Kathy’s in 2002, I was the quiet one who made your hoagies on a wheat roll with just a tad too little mayonnaise; during college breaks I mixed your cole slaw and sliced your house-roasted turkey and learned to smile a little more. After college, you may have seen me busing tables at any number of local weddings. Perhaps you passed me delivering hot lunches in Carlisle. Morning danishes and coffee in Chambersburg.

Kathy’s Deli framed my life before and after college as well as before and after two trips to France. In doing so, it taught me not only my present-day knife work, the secrets behind efficiently prepping a large meal, and the laughter that can come when working in a kitchen so crowded that you only have a few square inches for your cutting board and cabbage.

For a few summers, I worked almost exclusively with women double my age, who told me that I might as well wear a bikini with confidence while my body still looked okay, offered boy advice while stirring kettles of simmering soup, and remarked on the fact that even in 2005 a strong man is considered confident whereas a strong woman is considered bossy. We nibbled on broken cookies that were unfit to sell, took breaks that were too short in relationship to the length of the days, ran to the grocery store for missing ingredients, organized crates of dairy deliveries, took phone orders, assembled paninis, ran more than stood, finished slicing where someone else had stopped, garnished platters, told stories about our families, went home exhausted, and returned the next day.

I never played organized sports, but Kathy’s Deli was my strongest team.

*

But beyond the deli, I was just a delivery girl with a slightly-frizzled ponytail who smelt vaguely of cooked ham. The job required that I carry platters of assorted wraps, Kay & Lays Chips, and gallon jugs of raspberry lemonade up flights of stairs into your office, that I silently smooth a plastic tablecloth outside the conference room, that I speak in hushed tones to your lunch coordinator, smile, and hand her the bill, folded in thirds. I didn’t mind this part of the job, but I always wondered if you noticed me — you who were making the more impactful decisions than the amount of mayonnaise in the chicken salad, you whose white sleeves could always stay air conditioned and clean. Did my apron lesson me to you? What about the ache in my arms?

As my life moved away from Shippensburg, I also left the deli. But I still sense Kathy’s in the way I thank the workmen in the Cathedral of Learning, the way I talk to the guy who empties the trash on the 13th floor, and the way I greet Liz who makes my tea at Hillman Library almost daily. Everybody matters.

This is a perspective that I cannot dare to lose.

Find an introduction on this series here.  Dig into other life lessons here.

Pride, belonging, and gratitude: All about…. Dairy Farming {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is written by Emily Fogelsanger, a writing major at Messiah College and a native of Shippensburg, PA. She grew up tending tomatoes, milking cows, and riding four-wheelers through sunlit fields, and she considers herself to be a better person because of it. Her favorite activities are climbing trees, eating ice cream, and hanging out with her sisters.

*

The small, rural town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, is not exactly a foreign location for many readers of this blog. But dairy farming — a lifestyle that acts as the backbone of Shippensburg, as well as the world — is not always thought of as what it is. It is a means of feeding nations and supporting families for generations.  However, to many people, a dairy farm is viewed as home to large, smelly animals and unruly kids just as degraded.  And let’s not forget the assumption that anyone who is raised on a farm is a “hick.”  Being raised on a family dairy farm myself, I’ve grown up hearing these misconceptions along with a few others, and I hope that this article clears some of them up.

The heifer (female) calves in the barn in the process of drinking their milk from their buckets (2013)

The heifer (female) calves in the barn in the process of drinking their milk from their buckets (2013)

1.  Anyone raised on a farm is a hick.

This is perhaps the largest and most common stereotype that I have noticed.  According to the Encarta Dictionary, a hick is someone who is lacking in education and sophistication. Perhaps this stereotype comes from the fact that many people raised on a farm have a different dialect or wear torn jeans and faded shirts.  I personally grew up saying ain’t instead of isn’t, crick instead of creek, aten instead of eaten, and minnie instead of minnow.  My high school classmates were always teasing me about the way that I talked, and it wasn’t until eleventh grade that I actually stopped being embarrassed about my dialect.  Even though I have now forced myself to speak “correctly,” occasionally a word or two slips past my radar and makes its way into a conversation.  But, understandably, when your family and community speak a certain way, it’s only natural that you do, too.

And of course the clothes we wear on the farm are faded or old; that is logical. Most farm work involves dirt, sweat, and cow manure, meaning that whatever you’re wearing is most likely going to end up with a couple stains or small tears.  When milking, I myself wear a T-shirt and a pair of jeans that have definitely seen better days.  But my milking clothes aren’t the only styles in my closet; like every other farmer’s child, I actually do have a sense of fashion.

And the bit about farmers’ lacking in education? The business side of a farm takes a highly skilled person to make important decisions.  Choices involving when to harvest the corn, whether or not an injured animal should be sold or should be subjected to expensive medication, and which type of feed is best for the cows all require a good deal of patience and often a large amount of research.  Working on a farm requires a TON of knowledge, and a lot of this knowledge is acquired hands-on, meaning that there is only so much that you can learn about a farm from books.

My favorite cow, number 181. 2011.

My favorite cow, number 181 (2011)

2.  Dairy farmers are cruel to their animals.

I’m not sure how this myth came about; perhaps it is a line that vegetarians use to try to keep people from eating animal products. But cows provide a farmer with his living. If a farmer didn’t take proper care of his cows, they would not give good-quality milk in return.  Dairy cows require plenty of fresh feed, water, and a supplement of grass for their diet.  In addition, their hooves need to be trimmed regularly so that they are comfortable and able to produce rich milk.  If a cow is not getting the amount of food or care that she needs, both the quantity and the quality of her milk decreases.

Dairy farmers need to be constantly alert for signs of mastitis, an inflammation in a cow’s udder that results from a bacterial infection; and pinkish sore spots located above a cow’s hoof knows as “strawberries” that can cause a cow to limp.  The life of the entire farm depends on the cows, and a true dairy farmer cares deeply about his animals.

A cow greets a newborn heifer calf that I had just delivered

A cow greets a newborn heifer calf that I had just delivered

3.  Raw milk is hazardous to your health.

I, along with my cousins, grew up drinking raw milk, and none of us suffer from mysterious illnesses.  Raw milk is the milk that comes straight from the cow, free from any added ingredients and still containing milk’s natural nutrients.  Pasteurized milk, the milk that is sold in stores, is milk that is processed by removing natural vitamins and adding artificial nutrients.

After talking to one of my friends who is afraid of drinking raw milk, I think that the biggest reason for this fallacy is that since cows are considered (by some!) to be dirty, unprocessed milk must be equally as dirty. However, the cow’s udder and milking equipment are both completely sanitized before milking begins.  Raw milk is so healthful that many people who are lactose intolerant are able to consume it, and it also is known to help cure diabetes and certain heart conditions.  Pasteurized milk may be what is sold in grocery stores, but in my family raw milk will always be a staple.

4.  Anyone who growing up on a farm has no social life.

Operating a farm requires work from morning to night, and some days we don’t get the opportunity to leave.  For us, milking begins at 5:00, twice daily, and it is usually finished around 9:00.  Additionally, if a cow goes into labor and needs assistance, or if another animal is injured and needs special attention, all less important plans are usually put on hold.  When a field needs to be planted or harvested before bad weather comes, the day can sometimes stretch as late as 11 P.M.

However, most farms nowadays have employees who can take some of the workload. This leaves time to take small vacations or to just take the evening off.  Farmers may have a lot to do, but with everyone working efficiently, there are plenty of opportunities that free up our lives.  Besides, working together every day allows strong friendships and trust to form, so during the days when no free time is available, a farmer’s relationship with his family and his workers provides the best kind of social life.

The large combine prepared to harvest a field of wheat

The large combine prepared to harvest a field of wheat

5.  There is no future in dairy farming.

This is a debatable topic, but I personally believe that there will always be a generation willing to be dairy farmers.  Some children raised on farms are interested in pursuing other lives, simply because dairy farming is extremely difficult and the monetary payback is often very slight.  Additionally, much of your livelihood depends on factors that are out of your control, such as the weather, crop and milk prices, and the health of the cows.

But in each family there is often at least one child who imagines no other way of making a living.  My one younger sister is one of these people who lives to farm, and I fully support her dreams.  In our nation, there will always be a demand for dairy and beef products; therefore, there will always be farms to supply them. Farming is not always easy, but in my opinion, there is no better way to grow up.

My sister Amy and her heifer calf, Spearmint (2013)

My sister Amy and her heifer calf, Spearmint (2013)

*

Dairy farming isn’t a job; it’s a way of life.  I’ve seen my father and uncle stressed and exhausted day after day, but they always seemed contented.  I grew up running around half the year in my bare feet, and even now, at the age of eighteen, I still do.  I will always have a craving for ice cream, and I will never be able to fully function in the morning without a glass of milk.  Growing up on a farm has accustomed me to things that always stay the same; yet, at the same time, it has helped introduce me to being open to change. In dairy farming, the sense of pride, belonging, and gratitude will always remain.

On countrysides and coming home

You’re a young adult (whatever age that means), and you’ve been told to “get out there.” See the world. Experience new things, and become a better person because of it.

I absolutely agree with this philosophy, for it was definitely applicable to me. Before going to college, I had only met a handful of people who had been born outside the U.S. I had never seen a bagel or eaten granola, and I laughed awkwardly at jokes that contained pop culture references I’d never heard of. Before studying in France, a glass of wine in my hand was evil, not a sign of sharing; before visiting my family in the Netherlands, I laughed at adults who rode their bike to work instead of driving a car. (Bike rides were for kids. Real adults owned four wheels.) In the decade since I’ve left my hometown, I have learned to ask questions about other people’s beliefs instead of recoiling in disgust when our opinions don’t match. I learned that humanity is more beautiful than I had thought. I learned that I have a place when I create one, and yes, that I am capable of drinking espresso, using chopsticks, and driving aggressively in heavy traffic, as I had once thought growing up should entail.

But there is another side to this story. On May 2, NPR interviewed comedian Jim Gaffigan about raising five kids in Manhattan. Of city-dwellers, he said, “They’re well-adjusted. They’re not freaked out by two men holding hands. They’re not freaked out by socio- or economic or cultural differences, and that’s, I think, an important gift to give children.” Gaffigan’s point jives with me, whose process of “growing up” and “getting out there” entailed directing my footsteps toward cities of various sizes. Cities expose you to others’ differences, whether you find them at the laundromat or sitting next to a stranger on a bus; cities present you with an array of experiences from the Peruvian restaurant down the street to the political rally of a cause you’ve never heard of. For me, cities around the world have succeeded in giving me the chance to broaden myself, to expect change, and to be unafraid of other people. Like Gaffigan, I’ve viewed living in cities to be a gift.

However, what Gaffigan is missing is an acknowledgement of the countryside and the importance of coming home.

Cities are not the only place in this world that have something to offer. Having come from a family farm in Shippensburg, PA, I assert that there’s something to be said about being “well-adjusted” to the depth of a truly black night sky. It’s extremely important to me to not be “freaked out” by spiders, of the smell of sweat, and the satisfaction of heavy labor. Exposure to others’ differences is a gift, but so is the ability to wave at your neighbors (I do this in Harrisburg, whether I know them or not), to run through cornfields, and to be embraced by the absolute sense of knowing where you’ve come from. For me, the countryside is an anchor to where I’m going, and this gift is not at all less than teaching children to not be startled by the sight of the homeless or of a hijab worn in a grocery store. The countryside, like the gift of a city, is a tool that must be used wisely.

Many of my friends, like me, have grown up in small towns, and have found ourselves at any given moment traveling or living across the state, across the country, or across the globe. Many twentysomethings have responded to the call of “getting out there,” whether to a city or not, and we’ve looked at our fresh perspectives and new stories with a certain sense of satisfaction. However, after these weeks, or months, or years away, there’s a point in time where many of us, with some awkwardness, find that we are back in the same town or state in which we started, and find this return viewed (by ourselves, if not others) as a backslide, a giving-in, a choice we are supposed to defend.

If I could change the call to our young people, I would first explain that it is important to get out of one’s comfort zone and to see other places. For those of us born among mountains and rolling fields, it may be important to spend some time in bigger places, but for many others, leaving comfort zones can mean camping for a weekend without showers, or learning to respect that truck-driving neighbor who never finished high school.

But after this experience, I’d explain to our young people that it’s okay to return home — with new perspectives, new distance, and new understanding. Returning home, if only temporarily — to re-find the place where your heart was, to where familiarity upholds, to where your new point of views can really make an impact — is just as much of a gift as being able to leave it.

Picking walnuts, 2008

Picking walnuts, 2008

Friday Photo: A farm girl’s guide to end-of-the-season sweet corn

Great Aunt Esther, Summer 2008

Great Aunt Esther, Summer 2008

Each year, my family “puts away” corn, meaning that we husk dozens of sweet corn (at one point, it was around 100) picked from our field, boil it, cool it, cut it off the cob and pack it into freezer containers. When I was younger, this meant taking one full Saturday away from playing badminton and devoting myself to husking, silking, and stacking corn cobs into newspaper-lined crates with my cousins. The older brothers and fathers would boil and cool the corn; the women would cut it off the cob, and we’d all come together to eat an enormous barbeque.

I wasn’t often asked to help pick the sweet corn that is sold beneath the shade trees of Gro-Lan Farms in Shippensburg, but because I never ate out-of-season corn (like what’s sold at Kentucky Fried Chicken) until high school, I still have strong opinions of what kind of corn I’m looking for. For me, it’s not the size or the color (white, yellow, or mixed) of the kernel that counts; it’s how easily the kernel comes off the cob. Corn grown for shipping has a tougher kernel that’s genetically modified to better ensure the jostling of freight or boat, but locally-grown corn has a smaller, softer kernel that bursts pleasantly in the mouth and runs more richly with juice. Whether drowned in Land O Lakes butter and salt — my family’s preference — or grilled with goat cheese, mayonnaise, and fresh lime juice (as served at the Snack Bar of Troegs Brewery in Hershey), locally-grown sweet corn is what I prefer to sink my teeth into.

In south-central Pennsylvania, most sweet corn is typically in season from July to August, although this year’s warmer temperatures and earlier planting caused the season, as reported by The Shippensburg News-Chronicle, to begin about two weeks early. This means that even though it’s early August, some farmers are approaching the end of their sweet corn season while others, like my father, have already finished

To still secure the best corn you can, find a local vendor, such as Oak Grove Farms (846 Fisher Road, Mechanicsburg, (717) 766-2216) or Basehore Farm Market (6080 Creekview Road, Mechanicsburg, 717-691-9349) who pick the corn, can tell you its origin, and will sell it to you fresh.  If you do not have the time, look for “locally-grown” sweet corn in the produce section of the grocery store.

When selecting sweet corn that is not my father’s, I personally look for leafy, not dried, husks that cover up firm, evenly-spaced kernels. Overly-firm or puckered, discolored kernels indicate to me that the corn is old, and, as corn begins losing its sugar content the longer it’s off the stalk, it’s best to secure corn the day it’s picked. To boil corn, husk it and plunge it immediately into salted, boiling water for no more than three minutes. My 91-year-old grandmother will fly into a rage if you cook our corn longer than that.

Keep warm by draping the corn with a dishtowel until serving.

Friday Photo: Morning farm chores

loading a wagon, 2010

Morning feeding, October 2010

Our dairy farm in Shippensburg is operated from roughly 2:30 AM to 6 PM, depending on the day and the season. When I worked on the farm, my chores included “chasing in” the cows on Thursdays (translation: I herded the cows into be milked, and my siblings and cousins were responsible for the same job on the other days of the week), milking, cleaning, unloading hay and straw, feeding calves, scraping the barnyard, and helping to pick and sell sweet corn. This list of chores is small compared the work that running a farm actually requires.

Continuing my thoughts on my dad for Father’s Day, this photo depicts my father filling a wagon with silage, preparing to feed the cows their morning meal. I love this picture for the shadow and morning sunshine and the waterfall of silage that curtains my dad’s view.

Strongly anchored yet rolling forward: A Father’s Day tribute

Shippensburg 2012

Shippensburg 2012

It’s 9:30 PM on a warm evening in June, and my father is yawning in the bright circle of light surrounding my parents’ kitchen table. I’m wearing an ill-fitted T-shirt the color of the spring fields beyond our house, and I’m staring out the darkened windows and seeing nothing but our reflection: me seated with no make-up, chin cupped in my palm with one elbow on the green tablecloth; my father, leaning back across from me, silver-haired and tired.

“Did you milk this morning?” I asked, meaning: “How many hours have you been awake?”

This is a normal question. I’ve long since lost count of which morning is his to wake up at 2 AM or which morning is my uncle Jeff’s, but the question still is always on my mind, charting the status of the man who, at age 59, still works harder than me.

Dairy farming runs in the blood, he says. Our farm is on the western edge of Shippensburg and was purchased by my stern great-grandfather Edward sometime around World War I.  After that, the farm was bought and run by Edward’s third youngest boy Walter and his wife Anna, who gave birth to three daughters and two sons that could run the farm solo by the time Daddy was 16.  Today, the farm is still run by my dad and my uncle Jeff and is home to 230 milk cows, one of the first carousel-style milking parlors to be installed in Franklin County, and 425 acres of wheat, barley, alfalfa, and corn. I used to sit to Daddy’s left at mealtimes and hold his hand for the prayer, tracing the 425 acres in his calluses.

“Could I take you out to breakfast tomorrow for Father’s Day?” I ask, and Daddy barely manages a smile.

“Breakfast? Sure, that would be nice.”

*

The next morning, I drive us into the Shippensburg Select Diner that sits overlooking the square.  “Let’s sit near the window. I like to see the world moving,” says Daddy, looking slightly rested.

“So do I,” I say.  I lead him to the booth in the front corner, but he remains standing, watching a tractor and disk-bine being driven up King Street. He laughs. “That’s Tom Elliot,” he says.  “See, I know people already.”

Breakfasts always make me think of him, whether I want to or not: dippy eggs with toast and mint tea, pancakes and crisped bacon.  Early mornings on the farm have a certain way of spiking hunger at a speed more violent than the sunrise, and so we both know my mother’s repertoire of breakfast foods by heart: French toast made from homemade bread, Cream of Wheat with brown sugar and raisins, scrambled eggs stretched with a dash of tap water.  I have been off the farm a decade, but I still cannot smell bacon in the morning without being conscious of whose early-morning labor I butter onto my bread.

The waitress brings us coffee, and we both order omelets, the one breakfast food my mom rarely makes.  Daddy begins to talk about the roofs that the farm just replaced due to the same storm in the spring of 2011 that downed a tree one block away from my Harrisburg apartment; he explains the adjustments made to the loafing barn to increase air circulation, and he takes a call from someone about a new truck the farm may want to buy.

He’s a solid businessman, keenly aware of circumstance and open to change. I realize I am not. I cling to the familiar as if it were the branches of my favorite maple tree; I revere tradition like the first picking of summer sweet corn. The farm taught me the solidness of the seasons, the regularity of milking rhythms that thump through the pumps in the milking parlor, but life by definition is different when it hinges on the measure of the rainfall or the storms that do or do not pass you by.

“It sounds like you’ve done a good job at teaching,” Daddy says, and I look at him.  “Peggy’s told me what your students said.”  I didn’t exactly intend for this conversation to be about me.  He’s chewing on toast slowly and without jelly because we both know it’s inferior to my mom’s homemade strawberry jam. “You’re going to love grad school.  It’s everything you’re interested in. You’re curious, you’re interested in new people, new things, new ideas. It’s going to be great for you.”

I notice suddenly that he’s wearing the same worn-blue sweatshirt that he worked in when I was in high school.  In my Harrisburg apartment, I still have an old pair of sneakers that I threw away then dug right out of the trash and a hoodie that I purchased in 1999 with the threadbare cuffs, and I save these things in case I have a pasture that I need to run through or a flowerbed I need to dig. But at this point in my life, I have no fields or flowerbeds. I don’t even have a yard. I am ashamed of myself, but my father is not.

“You have to keep trying because you never know what you might be,” Daddy continues. I realize that he’s also talking about himself — the man who left college to plant fields, who carried the burden of the family’s land, who joined the board of directors of Adams Electric Cooperative and is now serving as board president. I remembered when they asked him to lead — he was hesitant.  He is a man comforted by open fields and by silence, the same silence that was always between us when we milked together or went out for ice cream at Diffy’s or made butter-soaked air-popped popcorn to watch movies with. But he went forward.

During the early years as board president, I helped to edit his annual meeting speeches and applauded for him when he stood on stage, looking crisp and regal in a new suit. I now meet him sometimes in Harrisburg for dinner after his legislative meetings where neither of us smell like fresh air or open spaces, and we talk about his travels with Adams Electric to meetings in California, Costa Rica, Texas.  He listens as I speak about teaching high school and traveling to France, Trinidad, and Chile, and he asks questions that have nothing to do with milk prices and mastitis. He is my father of the cornfield, but he carries with him the sense that, in each moment, he is where he needs to be. Now he’s looking at me across the table with eyes as blue as cloudless skies, overlooking the fried potatoes that I cannot finish, and giving permission to do the same.

And I wonder if he knows all the things I’ve never told him: that when I wake up early to write I still think of him, or that when I got into the University of Pittsburgh he was the first person I called, or that my curiosity in the world is only possible because of the wide open pastures beyond our farmhouse, strongly anchored yet rolling forward toward the mountains.

Friday Photo: Strawberry pie returns to Kathy’s Deli, Shippensburg

Kathy's Deli, Spring 2009

Kathy’s Deli, Spring 2009

Luscious strawberries nestled in a buttery crust, swirled in a fruit glaze, and dabbed with real Cool Whip define this fresh strawberry pie, now back for the season at Kathy’s Deli, Shippensburg. As a former Kathy’s Deli employee, this was one of my favorite desserts to make—I loved to cut the strawberries carefully, crowd them into the crust, points up; and delicately edge the pie with cream. I still feel like there’s nothing better than a piece of this carefully-crafted fruit pie, enjoyed on a patio with a glass of lemonade.

Welcome back, spring.

Slice: $2.39
Pie: $10.99

Kathy’s Deli
891 West King Street
Shippensburg, PA 17257
(717) 477-8300
www.kathysdelionline.com

Monday-Friday, 6am-7pm
Saturday, 7am-4pm

Friday Photo: Christmas iCaroling

It’s two days after Christmas, the day that my extended Grove family gets together to exchange gifts wrapped in glittery paper and eat homemade ice cream cake off my grandmother’s Lenox china.  We’ve just finished our traditional supper of potato roll sandwiches, seven-layer salad, Kay & Ray’s potato chips, and homemade Chex mix served buffet-style, right to left, across Grandma’s kitchen counter, and I have just commented to somebody that I can mark my growing up like a timeline by recalling my annual reaction to this 25-year-old menu: the elementary school year I first put mayonnaise on my potato roll sandwich, the high school year during which I abstained from mayonnaise, the college years when I ate everything like normal again.

My mom, the piano teacher, has just sat down at Grandma’s upright piano to play Christmas carols.  One my one, my family puts down their dinner plates and surrounds her to sing, my father with his rich bass, my aunt’s contralto, my two brothers’ bass and tenor, my 90-year-old grandma’s warbling-yet-on-pitch soprano, and the alto and soprano parts that my mother, sister, and I seamlessly trade back and forth like playground candy.  Our voices blend like Brethren-in-Christ memories, smoothing over rough textures and varnished pews.  My immediate family used to sing together in front of the church on Sunday mornings, a fact which I’d almost forgotten, but by my mom’s elbow with my siblings pressed in around a hymnal that predates all of us, I somehow feel that if we were all to rise out of our seats and through the ceiling, our singing could shield us in a world of no sadness like a cord of three strands not easily broken.

I glance over my shoulder to find my boyfriend Jon standing slightly away from the group, his iPhone out, intently studying the screen.  “Who are you texting, hon?” I say, feeling hurt.

Jon glances up at me, surprised.  “I’m following the words,” he says, and then he joins in to the fourth verse of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” an eager magnificent bass. I turn back around to face the open hymnal before me, a smile playing on my lips as we’re joined by my sister’s fiancé, and I flap my arms to get us all to laugh and sing the chorus a bit louder, lifting all of us into the night.

Friday Photo: Silver-Platter Sauce Chicken

Friday Photo: Childhood on a Platter, 2011

So what’s this colorless Central Pennsylvanian meal doing on my parents’ wedding china?  It’s the meal of my 27th birthday, of course, of brown buttered egg noodles, “sauce” chicken, and freezer corn.

I had requested this same meal for my birthday when I turned eight (or was it nine?), a fact that I only remember because that year I had taken to writing an entire account of my birthday week on a typewriter — epic.  Even though I currently can’t find this diary, I still am fairly certain — just because the very act of just writing it down solidified memories — that my birthday in 1992 (or was it 1993?) was on a Tuesday because on Monday my mom had made pork chops, which look just like “sauce” chicken in the oven.  This fact had distressed me greatly because I thought she had screwed up and was making my birthday meal a day early.

From the moment I heard it frying in the kitchen, “sauce” chicken was one of those dishes that made me exceedingly happy as a child, even happier than Pizza Hut Pizza or homemade hamburgers.  According to my mother, the recipe for “sauce” chicken came from my health-conscious Grandma Charles under the strange misnomer of “BBQ Chicken.”  It consists of chicken thighs rolled in wheat germ, fried, and doused in a homemade sauce of ketchup, mustard, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce.  The dish gained its current name because the crispy wheat germ and ketchup and mustard congeal into this wonderfully clumpy sauce, although now I admit that clearly someone should have given me lessons in writing recipe titles.  (To give you a perspective, “egg stuff” is another family favorite.)

If food displays the cook behind it, my birthday meal indicates humble roots: cornfields, butter browned in a cast-iron skillet, and my formerly-Mennonite grandmother.  But I love it nonetheless, especially when rimmed by fine dishware, a silver platter of a childhood.

“SAUCE” CHICKEN (original email from my mother, dated June 14, 2011)

6 chicken thighs (plus or minus) — skin off, wash and roll in wheat hearts or germ and fry a little in canola oil, both sides.  Place in baking pan and mix together sauce to pour over:

1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
a little Worcestershire sauce

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

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