Frogs for breakfast and ground meat were on the menu for a long country romance
Mychal Wilmes' mother took care of her family, including 12 children, as she found ways to feed them and ways to make her stubborn husband happy.
Frogs — fried in a lard filled skillet and not amphibians — were among Mother’s best breakfast creations. In appearance a frog looked somewhat looked like a fat pancake. I thought it would be great to find the necessary ingredients in her small, neatly written recipe book.
“You won’t find any recipe for it,’’ said older brother Stanley. “It was something she made to feed a bunch of hungry kids when she didn’t have any money."
The same was true for potatoes, eggs, and flour creation topped with raspberry or splashed with homemade syrup. Both creations had a stick-to-the ribs quality.
Mother kept several cookbooks in kitchen’s small white cabinet, which she ignored except for those times when something extra special was needed for potlucks, funerals, and holidays when the house would be crowded with relatives. Many other cookbooks contained favorite recipes from church ladies published for fundraising.
Dad’s appetite was much different — bread laden with butter dipped in coffee. Deep into winter, when the smokehouse yielded a bounty of bacon, ham, blood sausages and other seasoned treats was a time of great plenty. Hogs dipped in boiling water in the machine shed and a steer hung from the barn’s open hayloft doors filled the freezer.
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Dad could not enjoy the feasts in what no one would consider a normal manner. He had lost his teeth to gum disease when he was in middle age. The false teeth that he tried were uncomfortable, and his children teased that wearing them made him look like a comic book monster.
Mother accommodated him by grinding roasts and steaks in the meat grinder, which left his children to wonder how it was possible for him to enjoy the food. Mother blamed natural stubbornness for his refusal to seek replacement teeth.
Dad’s siblings included a sister and brother. George and Dad married sisters, and his family lived in a nearby farmhouse. When the two got together, arguments over matters both big and small ensued. George’s wife Agnes and my mother Verna were not amused by their antics.
Mother was determined to stop the arguing and put her foot down as they drove over to George’s farm. To emphasize the point, Mother pounded the windshield with her fist, and cracked it.
The brotherly arguing did not end until George died young, leaving Agnes with the incredible challenge to raise their six children alone. With the help of her sons, she continued to farm and earned money by doing clothing alterations. She also was well known for her bread, coffee cakes, cookies, and jams. She canned fruits and vegetables throughout her life and continued to sew until she died in her 97th year.
Much the same could be said about my mother. Sisters Verna and Agnes were much alike in temperament and remained close through letters and rare telephone calls after we moved away. Agnes came the day after Dad’s sudden death and comforted Mother in ways that only sisters could.
Mother, when asked about why sisters married brothers, said it was not that unusual in a bygone time when German heritage people tended to run together to dances, some held in empty haylofts and others at more formal dance halls.
Barn dances were a favorite for many. In many cases the finder of a multi-colored corn ear earned the finder the right to dance with a partner of his or her choosing. In those pre-Depression days and for a time after, it was unusual and sometimes forbidden for young people to date someone not of the same religious faith.
Dad acted aggressively when he saw Mother at a dance with a rival, going so far as threatening to fight to her date. It certainly left a lasting impression on her.
In any case, it worked out as it should have.
There would not have been 12 children and frogs for breakfast had it not.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.