Saturday, February 9, 2013

Aprons and Raw Cow's Milk

This is an apron Grandma gave me when I first married.  I'm not sure whether she actually wore it or made it especially for me. 

While I hate to admit I rarely wore it, all of my grandchildren have wrapped it around themselves when we baked cookies - even my grandson.

I remember watching from a rusty metal gate overgrown with orange trumpet vines as Grandma carried two heavy buckets of frothy warm milk toward the shingle sided house. Escaping the tightly braided knot at the nape of her neck, one long wispy tendril of Cherokee Indian black hair trailed around the thin earpiece of her wire rimmed glasses.

An ever present bib style apron covered her plain cotton shirtwaist dress. The apron was as white as the milk in the buckets and had been laundered so often she could have easily used it to strain both buckets full of milk.

As she stepped inside the too warm kitchen, she kicked off the black rubber boots she wore to the milking shed and slipped into her soft leather work shoes.

Placing the galvanized pails on the Formica covered yellow table, she removed the soiled apron to replace it with a clean, crisply starched, and equally white one.

Her everyday aprons had a front panel of pockets she had sewn on to hold the odds and ends she collected as she tackled her daily chores. She tied the sash with a big bow that hung limply at her waist. A row of various sized safety pins adorned the bodice.

After washing her hands at the wash stand by the door and drying them with the hem of her apron, she reached into the drawer beside the oven for the scraps of cheesecloth she needed to strain the milk. The lukewarm liquid spilled over the lip of the pail through the cloth sieve and splashed into the white porcelain milk jug.

 She mopped a few splatters from the table and quickly mixed yellow cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a wheat patterned Pyrex mixing bowl.  A cup full of the cream rich milk and two eggs were briskly beaten into the batter before she used the tail of her apron as a pot holder to pull the hot grease seasoned iron skillet from the oven. The cornbread batter sizzled as it hit the pan and she used her apron once more to slide the skillet back into the oven.

My Fire King and Pyrex collection
Taking a green-handled ladle, Grandma scooped generous portions of the all day simmered pinto beans into thick Fire King bowls and carefully placed a plateful in front of me. She took the hot cornbread from the oven and quickly flipped it onto a plate, exposing the brown crusted underside.

After Grandpa asked the blessing, Grandma poured the fresh milk into large glasses and asked if I wanted a glass. Although I thought the raw milk smelled like the brown faced Guernsey it had just come from, I tried a small sip.

It didn't taste like the cold, glass bottled, and pasteurized milk I was accustomed to drinking. That one sip was all I was able to get down.

I drank water with my beans and cornbread that night.


  1. This sure brought back memories! I have had raw milk in the past. Too rich for my blood now. I thought it was cute you didn't like the smell! :-) My Grandmother had wonderful old bowls and things and made delicious homemade foods, and I remember such aprons, though more so from my Aunt Annie, her older sister. Good good memories!

  2. Amazing what memories an apron can provoke. You have remebered well and retold it beautifully. An enjoyable read and interesting to hear of the meal which I have never experienced.

  3. Good to have you back! I kept checking on you! Interesting that you wrote about aprons because I've decided to post about an apron each month this year.

    I know all about the milking and straining and I never cared for milk (still don't drink it alone)except buttermilk.

    We're making it o.k. on the farm, but the drought has made more work feeding, etc.

  4. sweet memory. my mother wore an apron only occasionally - and when i was pretty young.

    nice to see you blogging again. :)

  5. My mom always wore an apron, but she didn't wear the bib kind. I could not stand warm milk...specially that I had just milked..or someone else had milked. In fact, we didn't always have a cow that was fresh...usually a few month of the year we had to buy milk. When we would go back to fresh milk, it even took a little bit of time to get used to it cold from the fridge.