I went to visit my Georgia this week to make her some pumpkin bread. (If you’re new around these parts and don’t know who Georgia is, you’re in for a treat. Read Driving Miss Georgia.) All the way from the time I lived in the slanted little house, I made pumpkin bread with Georgia around this time of year. Georgia would make these mini pumpkin loaves for the little church in town. They made up big gift baskets and gave them out to the elderly in the community. Georgia always had a hard time handling the work of 75 mini holiday pumpkin loaves because she was one of the elderly who should have been getting a basket–but she didn’t like that idea (and still doesn’t). She wanted to be one of the younguns fixing goodies for the baskets, not one of the “old people” getting one. Only she couldn’t quite do it cuz, well, she was elderly. So she’d call me up and tell me she’d “help” me make those mini pumpkin loaves if I’d come over to her house.
Georgia knows how to get things done.
Georgia would fuss around while she was “helping” me because she always wanted to be sure I did things right and usually I didn’t. One year, she had the recipe clipped on her fridge and the clip was right over the part where it said how much ground cloves to put in. It was supposed to be 1/2 teaspoon but I couldn’t see the first part of that and I thought it said 2 teaspoons. Georgia almost had a fainting spell when she found out I’d been putting in 2 teaspoons.
Until I made her taste one of the pumpkin breads I made with 2 teaspoons of cloves, and she liked it.
I don’t know who’s making those mini pumpkin loaves for the holiday baskets now, but Georgia had to give up the facade that she could do it and is no longer charged with the job. Georgia is in her mid-80s now, and increasingly frail. I feel, more than anything, incredibly grateful that in the last years of the fullness of her energy, I had her. It was Georgia who I went to when I wanted to move in to the slanted little house. It was Georgia who taught me how to can, how to be frugal, how to be generous, and how to hoe (in every sense). She was my constant companion at the slanted little house, and my teacher. Everything I have tried to do on this website to spread “the gospel” of home preservation is Georgia’s legacy. She was still canning when I moved in to the slanted little house, but even by the time I left there, she had stopped–unless I was helping her. I continued to help her can until she even gave that up. She taught me to can so that I would can on. Now, I just bring her a jar when I make something I know she’ll like. Georgia didn’t have a daughter, and in a way, that way, I was her daughter.
While I was at her house a few days ago, I asked her if she missed canning. Without blinking, she said a resounding, “NO!”
I had to laugh, remembering the hot days we spent in the old farmhouse peeling tomatoes for hours, so I understand her perspective. For the women of Georgia’s time, canning was a necessity, not framed as the choice we see it today. I don’t truly see canning as a choice myself anymore in so many ways, and yet still, in our world today, it isn’t held to the same standard in most views. Many people today don’t can and don’t even know how to can, whereas in Georgia’s day, it was a part of survival. There was no option to pick up a can of tomatoes at the store–you canned it, or you didn’t have it, and it was a huge amount of hot work. I reminded her that canning was not all tomatoes in August–and I also reminded her, as I have many times, that there are a lot of people canning today because of her. That makes her feel good, even if she’s okay with never peeling another tomato.
Georgia’s house is just a few miles away on back roads over the hill.
I brought Gwennie with me. She said hello to Georgia.
Then sacked out by the door.
I brought everything with me to make one small batch of pumpkin bread, and I reminded her of how we used to make 75 loaves! And I told her that I put in 2 teaspoons of cloves. (She didn’t mind.)
I spied this awesome collection of cookbooks and homemade cookbooks and clippings and hand-written recipes in her kitchen that I have never dared touch before.
I had pumpkin loaves coming out of the oven.
It suddenly felt like the right time, that she might be ready to “let go and let Suzanne,” and I said, “Georgia, let’s look at your recipes!”
Georgia’s apple dumplings!
Georgia shared many recipes with me when I lived at the farmhouse. We cooked and baked and canned together many times, almost daily. Other times, Georgia brought me things she’d made, and I was too stupid at the time to ask for the recipe. Here. HERE! I found them.
And found some I’d never heard about! (Georgia, rascal!)
Sugarplum ring. Does that not sound heavenly?
I said, “Georgia, I know you have made this recipe. It sounds too good for you NOT to have made it.”
She said, “I made it.”
And just as I asked her if she missed canning, I asked her if she missed cooking and baking.
She said a heartfelt, “YES!”
I reminded her that this was her pumpkin bread recipe, and I asked her if I could borrow her other recipes to make copies–and told her that every time I come, I will bake her something from her recipes, so she could taste her own cooking again. And she agreed that that sounded like a fine idea.
I set a plate of pumpkin bread on her lap.
And told her I’d be back!
P.S. You can find Georgia’s pumpkin bread recipe here.