Sunday, March 2, 2014

By the Hearth--A Letter to Share

The Treasure Island Fireplace

The following note is about an old fireplace utensil that we sent to Samuel in Georgia.  It so evokes the feeling of our turn of the century cottage that I obtained Samuel's permission to share it with you.  Our hearth is made of field stones gathered from nearby farms, but it certainly isn't as big as the ones in Samuels life!

Many thanks for your note. Living on an island sounds great!  As regards the old skimmer, I shall very likely use it after a little cleaning. I am quite old enough to remember many people who cooked on the fireplace! Indeed, my old grandmother did not have a cook stove until 1907, when she was almost 40 years old. I was quite interested by 18th and 19th century cooking; hence, she taught me to cook all things southern on the fireplace--bread, too. The one I learned to cook on could accept about an 8-foot log and I could walk inside it about 4 feet!Grandmother's place was the old Butler Plantation. The house was yet standing and in good condition when I was 25 years old. Now I have only photographs of the old place.

Here in the Georgia hill, about 50 years ago, I had dinner with an old lady and her daughter in their mountain home on Upper Hightower Road in Towns County. They began by shelling and grinding corn for the cornbread. They never had a stove and cooked greens and beans and the bread on the fire place. The bread was made with home-made lard and buttermilk and cook to perfection in a Dutch oven. There was never a speck of paint on the inside or outside of the house, nor was there a hint of any kind of decoration. One could drink buttermilk, sweet milk, or water. The ladies did not use coffee or tea, and no tobacco was used on the place.

The ladies were old-time holiness. When the food was placed on the table, the daughter and I
stood behind our chairs while the old lady got down on the floor and blessed the food. I could never forget this sweet, simple event, and the food was the very best I ever enjoyed in my long life. These simple mountain folks were mighty sweet to know. Alas, I have seen none like
them in many years. As I cook the same old southern food on the fireplace, I remember, one by one, my dear friends and loved ones gone on before.