Farm breakfasts were healthy, straight from the yard

— Photo by Irving Rusinow, National Archives and Records Administration

John R. Williams’s mother cooked on a stove similar to this one. “If I remember right, my mother had two cans of grease, one was just bacon, and the other had different kinds of grease and fat in it,” he said.

The Old Men of the Mountain are still hanging around the Schoharie Valley and on Tuesday, Sept. 14th, they met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. A couple of the OMOTM decided to save room in the parking lot and showed up on their motorcycles. The next thing you know, some of the OFs will be showing up on their horses.

One OF reported that, on the way to the restaurant on Route 145, a short way past Knox Cave Road, he had to slow down to let a black bear cross the road. The bear just took his time as he crossed and then disappeared into the woods headed in the direction of Middle Road.

This started a conversation about recent spotting of bears in the area. The chat included Altamont and Guilderland, Old Stage Road above Altamont, and more sightings over in the valley. There could be three bears or more or just one bear that likes to go for walks.

Again, the talk continued on big cats spotted in the same area, and of course, deer. One OF mentioned the weather has produced an abundance of food for all the critters that roam the fields and woods. It was expressed that all the animals did not have to search for water at least in the Northeast this year.

It might be the reverse. Actually, there was too much water and the creatures large and small have had enough — even the animals with opposing thumbs think there has been too much heavenly water so far this year.

One OF said currently the Gulf at the Mexico arch (also known as Land’s End at the extreme southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula) has seen enough rain. “If only we could catch it some way and send it to the West Coast, it would be great,” an OF mused.


Bacon grease

The scribe was doing his duty, reporting on the doings of the OMOTM basically to supply alibis. Over his morning coffee, he read in the food section of the Times Union on Sept. 16 a section on keeping bacon grease. At last week’s breakfast, there was quite a discussion on how our (the OFs’) mothers kept a can of bacon grease on the top shelf of the stove. This grease was basically bacon but sometimes there was other grease dumped into the can.

The discussion was on how the grease was used and how good that grease made a lot of food taste. One OF mentioned how the smell of eggs and bacon, as he opened the woodshed door to go through to get to the kitchen when he came in from milking, was great. The OF said he wished he could capture all that again. This keeping of (especially) the bacon grease must be making a comeback.

Another OF said that, on one of his trips to Maine, he found a restaurant that had a bacon-grease-and-lettuce sandwich. The OF was questioned if it was just bacon and lettuce, without the tomato, and the OF said, “No, it was just bacon grease and lettuce.”

Sounded weird, but worth a try, probably cheaper than bacon and lettuce, and just about the same thing — the flavor without the bacon.

One OF said, if you haven’t had pancakes cooked on a cast-iron skillet, coated with bacon grease, smeared with butter, and real maple syrup, two or three eggs and a cold glass of raw milk, you haven’t had pancakes, or even a whopping breakfast.

This scribe notices at the breakfast some of the OFs try to emulate these early farm breakfasts, by ordering pancakes with a couple of eggs on top, toast and coffee, and the OFs stow all this away each Tuesday morning.

All of the talk about eating brings to mind a small witticism. Bread is like the sun: It rises in the yeast and sets in the waist.

After eating like this on a regular basis, some of the OFs who are in their seventies and eighties were planning to take some people on a hike. Maybe it is because the OFs ate like this when they were young, worked hard outdoors, and the food had only the chemicals in them that came from basically natural sources that they had a good start.

None of this food was processed; a lot of it came from the backyard. The OFs threw in how they were out digging up dandelions for salads, and whatever grasses and weeds that were edible.

These were much different times, and there was space to hunt for wild greens suitable for eating. Today, with a couple million people living in a few square miles, this is a little hard to do.

Jumping back to Tuesday morning’s previous exchanges, the OFs started talking about hunting large animals — especially with bow and arrow. Those OFs who were talking about this made it sound like quite a challenge and apparently not one for those weary of heart, or muscle.

These OFs discussed eating the venison which is a good thing; after all, we started out as hunter-gathers.

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and not out scurrying about taking advantage of the early days of fall, and the late days of summer, were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rich LaGrange, Miner Stevens, Jake Lederman, Robie Osterman, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, John Dabrvalskes, and me.