Barefoot in the Cherokee Nation: Let’s Eat

by on March 7th, 2015
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No plumbing or electricity made for a simple kitchen in Granny’s cabin. A wood cookstove and wood box claimed the north side of the kitchen where it shared a chimney with the wood-heating stove in the living room. Adjacent to it on the east side sat a green and white Montgomery Ward “ice box” which held dishes, pots, pans and two water buckets complete with a drinking dipper. The hand-made oak table consumed the rest of the floor space surrounded by benches except for one chair which Grandpa only used. Grandpa sat at the head of the table and we never ate until Grandpa was seated. Meals at Granny’s house were like clock work. It was a ritual passed down through generations that everyone knew the meal times and were expected to be there. Granny said “let’s eat” one time and that meant now. Granny never sat at the table during a meal, instead she kept the food hot and bowls and cups filled, wiped food off the hands and mouths of the grandchildren and scolded rowdy ones on the benches. Often times the grandchildren on the back benches would tip the bench over or push the end ones off and Granny would take them to the living room to wait out the meal and eat later. When everyone was finished and had left the table, Granny would clean up the table and sit down to eat. Here she would enjoy a few minutes of solitude with her coffee. A cast iron kettle was kept on the cookstove and it would whistle to signal hot water was ready for the dishes. Dishes were washed and rinsed in two metal “dish pans” and put in a rack to dry. When the dishes were done, Granny would begin preparing for the next meal. Pinto bean soup, bread and potatoes were a staple eaten twice daily. In the winter it was dark at breakfast and supper, so we ate with a kerosene (called “coal oil”) lamp in the middle of the table for light. Any light after dark was a kerosene lamp. Many times at night Granny and Grandpa would sit at the kitchen table with the lamp turned down low and talk. Looking back now I think of the many great burdens they must have discussed and the problems they solved by the light of “coal oil”.

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