Friday, June 11, 2010

Town vs. Farm

When I grew up, a kid belonged to one of two very elite groups--town kids or farm kids. This was no small divide. The town kids thought they had the upper hand, but we farm kids knew that we did.

Doing chores was one of the big differences between the two. Kids who lived on a farm had assigned chores that were their responsibility, and back then there was no benefit to whine or complain. Experience taught us that parents didn't tolerate it, nor did they let it pass without assigning additional chores or a deprivation of some kind.

I was on the chicken coop crew. Once a day I had to pick the eggs. I hated it. It was a job from hell, and it was all mine. I figured that this was the punishment I got for being the baby of the family.

Chicken coops were awful, dingy places. Interesting how the words 'coop' and 'poop' rhyme, isn't it? So it was that this little girl trudged out to the coop with her pail, unlatched the door, and entered the world of the chicken. Rows of wooden nests were along one side, and the roosts for the chickens to perch on were on the other. It smelled in there.

To get the eggs from the nest into my pail, I had to stick my hand under the hen. Does any mother let you get that close and personal without retaliating? The old hens picked my soft little hands with their hard beaks, and it hurt alot. I'd yank my hand back, try again, reach, yank, reach, yank. Naturally, the old hen thought I was teasing her, but I wasn't. All I wanted was to get those stupid eggs and get out of there. I remember being so frustrated that I'd sit down in the coop poop and cry. That's how bad it was, but I also knew that sooner or later the eggs would have to get into the house in order for the second phase of my chores to kick into gear----yup, washing the eggs.

Each egg had to be washed before selling. I used Ajax (that abrasive, chalky cleaner), water and a rag to do that. Some of the shells were soft, so I had to be really careful not to break them. Of course, the really soft shells were kept separate and incorporated into our supper. Sometimes an egg was really really stained, so I'd look to see if anybody was looking before I'd accidentally drop it in the old porcelain kitchen sink. If my parents would've seen me do that, I probably wouldn't be blogging today. Mother sold those eggs for a few cents a dozen, and that money paid for the household groceries.

Eggs were a food group all their own on the farm. We ate 'em scrambled, sunny side up, easy over, and we thought we were mighty sophisticated when we'd take a glass, drill a hole in a slice of bread, crack an egg and deposit it inside that hole, and fry it on both sides.

Today eggs remain a mainstay in our refrigerator. If we're out of eggs, well, we'd better hustle to the supermarket! If shoppers today knew how cushy they have it when all they have to do is reach in a cooler and deposit a cardboard carton into a shopping cart. There have been times, tho, when there wasn't an egg in the house and I was in the middle of a batch of cookies. Thank heavens that there are substitutions for an egg if we're in a pinch, like......

**1/2 banana, mashed (medium size) +1/4 tsp. baking powder
**2 TBS applesauce
**3 TBS mayonnaise
**2 TBS lemon juice + 1 tsp baking soda.

Mom used to make a homemade custard pie out of eggs. Man, was that ever yummy! Wish I had a piece right now. It had a unique consistency that felt good in the mouth. Sometimes she'd sprinkle it with coconut, which made it taste even better. Isn't it something how our memories cling tightly to the tastes of the food our mother's made for us when we were kids?