(The following was written by Marilyn Gibboney, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
This story is about the food the early settlers in our area grew; how it was grown, harvested, and preserved; the tools and equipment they worked with, and some examples of what they cooked.
There were no supermarkets in the early days and, since most of the people were farmers, almost everything they ate was grown on the farm. The only items bought at the grocery store were crackers, lentils, rice, salt, sugar, coffee (in the bean), prunes, raisins, and corn syrup, called molasses, in gallon buckets.
The housewife was expected to put three large meals on the table every day. Because most people did physical work before breakfast, they were ready for a hearty meal. It consisted of some of the following, or a combination of some, again depending on the season. There would be fresh frying sausage or liver pudding, along with homemade bread, coffee cake and coffee.
The noon meal was a large meal that centered around meat and potatoes. The men in the rural areas ate their noon meal at home so it was a large one. The meats and varieties of vegetables were varied according to the seasons.
In this area there was a large concentration of Pennsylvania Dutch and German settlers, so much of the food had a German flavor. When the early settlers arrived they found a fertile soil, an adequate growing season, and ample rainfall that would produce the food needed to sustain the family the entire year. The garden was an absolute necessity. With hard work the entire family participated in planting, tending and harvesting the many crops that were planted. Papa, Mama and children worked side by side on all the garden projects.
The German gardens were a thing of beauty. There would be a grassy path dividing the garden. The edges would be lined with flowers. Some had grape arbors down the middle. Around the edges grew the gooseberry bushes, currants, asparagus plants, rhubarb, and horseradish. One area contained the herbs. The vegetables and plants or sewn in neat rows and cultivated regularly. There was a ”truck patch” where the extra large quantities of potatoes, corn, tomatoes were planted.
As soon as the ground could be worked in the early spring the onions, lettuce, and peas were planted. The early potatoes were planted on Good Friday. Next came the beets, carrots, squash, and pumpkins. Cabbage, kohlrabi, and tomatoes were started in cold frames and transplanted when it was the right time. Because fresh vegetables were not available out of season, the first taste of spring vegetables was eagerly awaited.
(The continuation of this story in the next blog entry.)