If you have never buried your face in a pillowcase or pulled sheets over your head at night that have been drying in the morning sunshine, you have missed one of life’s greatest gifts. And to sit under a clothesline while drinking that first cup of morning coffee…well, coffee has never tasted soo good.
Some of my life’s greatest memories were born in Watsonville, on Green Valley Road in the ‘50s, far from town; we were the country folk who raised chickens, goats and cows along with a vegetable garden in our backyards, and our kids all belonged to 4-H while raising a calf or a lamb to be shown at the County Fair.
We used our back yards to feed our families, we had a water storage tank filled from the well beneath. We worked on a truck or car if necessary, and we had a cleared area for a game of ‘Horseshoes’ if we were lucky enough to have the extra space. Oh, life was so simple then…where did it all go?
But best of all for me were the two old wooden rocking chairs and Grandma’s Clothesline.
Monday mornings were washdays and with a small family of four which included two small boys, I had baskets full of wet laundry that I would load onto my boy’s Red Ryder wagon and pull along the path to Grandma’s clothesline next door.
While I pinned little jeans and shirts and underwear and socks to that line with water dripping from my elbows, Grandma Anna would be inside her house making us fresh coffee that we would drink under that clothesline, and always Anna would have a pot of soup of some kind, simmering on the back of her old wood stove.
I was fortunate to have an automatic washer, while Anna continued throughout her lifetime, with the wringer washer, which kept her husband and four boys in clean clothes.
Drinking our coffee and watching my boys running under the drying sheets playing hide and seek, Anna would tell me stories about her life growing up not far from Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, and how their families struggled to live in their rocky mountain villages. America was in their dreams, the land of plenty, and the place where all the older children were going to travel to, to escape their hard life.
Anna would talk about her life when she came to Watsonville in the early 1920s while living on their little apple ranch during the great depression. Thankfully they could grow most of their food along with chickens, a cow and a pig or two, they were even able to feed their friends who would “drop in” on a weekend knowing well there was always food on the table for the “city folk” who were having money problems. Anna would shake her head sadly as she talked about her friends losing their refrigerator or a car due to nonpayment on credit the store had offered. Grandpa always paid cash. Nothing was purchased until there was enough cash in the envelope.
Anna told me of eating her first banana on board the ship she traveled on for seven days while coming to America. Disgusting it was when she bit into it, not realizing it needed to first be peeled, and then of the bread she hid in her sleeves, not realizing she would be fed twice a day while on board. Imagine…not speaking English and leaving everyone behind, while traveling to a foreign land to marry a young man she had only met once?
This morning while making a pot of “some of this and some of that soup” as Anna called it, I thought of the many tears that were shed between Anna and me while we rocked and drank that coffee under the clothesline. Precious time spent while watching the clothes flapping in the wind.
Some of this and some of that Soup was actually vegetables, a little pasta and chicken thighs and a breast and maybe a beef bone thrown into the pot to add an extra layer of flavor. I even remember Anna adding a link or two of Kielbasa sausage. Whatever bits and pieces were in her icebox went into that soup.
I have kept that pot of soup simmering on the back of my stove for many years, just as Anna did, and I’ve been known to shed a tear or two for grandma Anna.
Anna’s Soup Today
In a soup pot add:
Two Chicken Thighs and two Breasts cut into halves.
8 cups of water
2 Tbsp. Better than Bullion paste
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
Bring to a boil and turn down to a med. Simmer. Cook for 45 min.
In a frying pan add:
1 cup ea. diced onions, celery and carrots.
2 cloves diced garlic.
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Sauté together until onions are translucent.
Add to chicken in pot.
Simmer on low for 1 hour.
Remove chicken from pot and remove skin.
Chicken should be falling off bone by then.
Add ½ cup rice or any small pasta to pot and simmer until tender.
Add chicken back to pot and heat.
Salt to taste.
Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].