By Bobby Hickey
I will be 60 years old this year (probably by the time you read this). I have seen lots of things in those years but nothing like what we are experiencing with the COVID-19 virus. That is because things were so different when I was young. We had the Strawberry Man going down the street, calling “Strawberries!” You could flag him down and buy right off his wagon. We didn’t do fast food a lot but had meals at home. My Mom and Dad would make biscuits, cornbread, milk gravy and chocolate gravy from scratch along with other things. My Great Grandmother did all her baking from scratch, sifting her flour and never using a recipe.
My Dad grew up in Tennessee, so all his family had their own gardens. When we visited all the meals included vegetables straight from their garden. Sometimes we had to help shuck the corn, break the beans, etc. Then when we got ready to come home they would box up some of their home canned foods to bring with us. One of my favorites was the Chow Chow my Grandmother made. They sell it in the store but nothing like my Grandmothers.
My Uncle had a farm in Southern Indiana. We would visit them every Sunday. We would help them sometimes hoeing their garden and harvesting the vegetables, picking corn, tomatoes, digging potatoes, etc. We would go with my Aunt on occasion when she gathered eggs. They would have more milk than they could use and would send gallons home with us and eggs also. Nothing better. They also had apple and cherry trees right outside their front door. We would pick them right off the tree and eat them or pick up the apples that had fallen from the tree, wash and eat them unless they were bruised. Then, they would be used to make fried apples, apple pies or skillet fried pies. So being a City Boy I have been lucky enough to have the experience of fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and eggs.
My uncle also had beef cattle and pigs. Sometimes when one was ready for slaughter or even before we would split the cost of slaughter, dressing out the meat and the packing and my Uncle would share the meat with us. Or if there was more than one being slaughtered we could pay my uncle for one and then have the entire cow or pig to take home. I remember one occasion when my uncle only had the hog slaughtered and he brought the sides home and he, my mom and dad and aunt dressed it out on the kitchen table. I also remember watching my aunt prepare beef tongue for cooking in the pressure cooker. Turned me off ever trying it. Also, I remember my experience with brains and scrambled eggs. They weren’t bad. Other things they liked and had made was souse and head cheese. I couldn’t and still can’t stand either one. Fresh souse looks nothing like what you find in the stores. Fresh souse is a gray color, not appetizing looking at all.
Being a City Boy though we could have milk delivered to the house in glass returnable bottles. Living in the Portland Neighborhood of Louisville we had Haywoods Dairy down the street where we could buy milk and ice cream. We also went to the old Haymarket and bought bushels or half bushels of vegetables and my parents would go home and can and freeze them and we would be set for the winter. Now that I no longer have access to all these opportunities, I am very happy that New Roots exists to allow us to still experience fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs. Especially since these things are so expensive and my being on a fixed income.
Also, each summer we would go strawberry picking at Stumler Orchard. Not one of my favorite things since it was miserably hot out there in the fields with no shade from the sun, kneeling and bending over, dragging along the containers, getting dirty and being warned to be careful because snakes like to hide in the vines. I am so glad that thanks to the New Roots Strawberry Jamm Festival and the work of the Van Meter Farm that we can still have fresh from the field strawberries. Much better than the ones you can buy from local groceries. They are sweeter, juicier and just taste better. One other opportunity we had was being able to buy foods at home from two companies that would send salesman out, take your orders and bring them to you the next week. They were the Jewel Tea Company and Schwan’s. We were customers of both, especially Jewel Tea.
So even though we have food deserts now, too much fast food and junk food in our diets for whatever reason, my generation can look back to a time when they were more of an afterthought rather than the only thought.
Thank you for allowing me this trip down memory lane. I hope you were taken back to your own memories and experiences and enjoyed reading mine. Everyone eat healthy, take care, stay safe and support New Roots, so we can still keep reasonably priced fresh vegetables, fruits and eggs on our tables.
My Food Story
Shareholder, Old Louisville Fresh Stop Market