I never did join an ancestry search organization, but I have done my own ancestry search. I’ve always been interested, because when I was a child, I visited often with my great great aunt, Alice Wolfe. She told me a lot about her family, the Wolfe family, who was involved in the Revolutionary War. She traced the line up to her sister, my grandmother, and herself, and then on to me. I was fascinated to learn about the Wolfes, the Wetzels, and the Zanes, all pioneer frontier families related to me in one way or another. In their days, the frontier was Ohio. Some lived far from a fort, and had to fight off any groups who were not friendly. Think “Last of the Mohicans,” for that was the kind of life they lived.
The other thing my great aunt shared with me was her pioneer recipes. Pie recipes start out with “Make a coffin,” which was a term for a piecrust. These recipes have vague measurements, calling for a pinch of this and a handful of that, a spoonful of sugar and a sifter full of flour. I think it is amazing that they were able to cook so well. I tried using the recipes, and some are pretty good. As long as you don’t care how it turns out (you aren’t expecting anyone for diner), they are fun to experiment with.
My great grandmother, whose son married a Wolfe, came west in a wagon train. She kept a journal of the trip, and recorded many of the events that I used when writing “The Handsomest Man in the Country,” my first book of the Trahern series, which I keep permanently free. Her recipes included lye soap, which I remember watching my Grandmother (Wolfe) and my mother making, after the pigs were butchered.
My favorite pioneer recipe is for Sourdough pancakes. I got it while living in Alaska. I included it in the book, “The Stubbornest Girl in the Valley.” She knows how to cook pies and dumplings and pancakes, and uses her skills to buy time at the Trahern ranch until Barnabas Trahern will take notice of her. As Barnabas says, “It sounded awfully good to me, for I’d been cooking for myself for some time now, and couldn’t make a pie, or dumplings, or biscuits. I’d need to hire a man to come out and cook for us. One who didn’t have violet eyes that challenged me. And lips as red as the sunsets.”
My grandfather had a truck/tractor like I described in this story. It was an original “off-road” vehicle. He taught me how to drive, as a child, in a more “modern” truck with no doors, and a throttle, starter, gas pedal, clutch and brakes. I bring these experiences into this story.
What old time favorite recipes do you still make?
Nancy Radke grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in SE Washinton State. She attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade. She learned to ride bareback at age 3 (Really! It was a common practice.) and when she got off or fell off, she would pull her horse’s nose to the ground, get on behind its ears, and the horse would lift its head so she could scoot down onto its back. She spent most of her childhood exploring the Blue Mountain trails that bordered the ranchlands. She and a friend once took a trail that turned out to be a two day trip. They always rode with matches and pocket knives, so made camp and returned the next day. These long rides worried her parents, but provided plenty of time to make up stories. Her first novel was set in the Blues, and is entitled APPALOOSA BLUES. TURNAGAIN LOVE was the first one published. It rated a four star review from Affaire de Coeur. Scribes World said “Turnagain Love has some fascinating twists and turns, unexpected complications, and charming scenes.” It is light and humorous.