Welcome to Lucy Carter's little kitchen. Nothing fancy here. No fast food sitting around either unless you'll settle for a cold piece of last night's skillet cornbread . You can a-l-l-ways count on that, along with a bowl of sauerkraut.
I see you turning up that nose of yours. Say you aren't hungry? OK. So you got finicky ideas. Don’t worry. If you change your mind, that cornbread will still be here. And it's even better when crumbled into a nice, tall glass of warm buttermilk, which there's plenty of in all this heat.
"When Lucy gets nervous, she cooks up a storm," Grandpa Carter says. That being so, looks like we all arrived at a good time. ‘Cause, with the Carters getting ready for their trip in two days and not knowing if Cyrus is going to be around to join them, Lucy's never been more nervous in her whole life.
Too bad you weren’t here for supper last night. She made enough beef stew to feed an army. Fortunately, none of the real army showed up. Though between Mr. Mullins, Grandpa Carter, and Joshua—there wasn’t a bit left!
Chances are, this family will be makin’ lots of hardtack and beef jerky today. They'll need plenty of both for the journey ahead. The Mullins family butchered a cow last week, so they’ve already started the process and plan to share with the Carters, now that the meat has soaked sufficiently. Lucy took Joshua with her, so he can throw a sack of flour over his shoulder, too. She's getting the flour in exchange for cornmeal Olivia Mullins got here from Lucy last week along with eggs, on account of their hens not laying much in all this heat. Hard to say what a person would do without a good neighbor to count on in such troublesome times. Yet, these folks are luckier than some. If you’ve read Just Following Orders, you know full well that most people in western Missouri aren’t sure they can count on their neighbors for anything, with all the meanness going on.
It’s always been hard work gettin’ a meal on the table, but extra hard these days. Folks done given up on growin' vegetables. Oh, how the children are complaining, missing all the mustard greens, not to speak of the cabbage, green onions, okra, beets, turnips, and peppers to go with fresh corn, potatoes, and carrots! Until two years back, they could count on all of that. Then, it got downright discouraging trying to keep anything in the ground until harvest, thanks to the bushwhackers and Union soldiers running off with any little sprout they see!
Those guys got all the wild berries, too, and every peach from the little orchard out back—picked ‘em while they were still green as gourds. Just any kind of fruit would be lovely. Tom and Jenny are too young to remember the last watermelon feast when all the neighbors got together and had juice dripping off their elbows.
It's a dangerous proposition getting to the store, too. Once there, a person scarcely finds half that's needed to manage a household, thanks to the rebellion. Certainly can't count on goods from back east--things like molasses and cinnamon--what makes goodies extra tasty.
Oh, here come Joshua and Lucy right now!
"Why, we got company!" says she. “Just in time, too. We’re stirring up an extra batch of beaten biscuits to have some for the trip. I’ll pack ‘em nice and tight in an empty lard tin. Should last a few days that way. Say, Billy, I need you to go out and bring in firewood so we can get this old wood stove going. Hate to heat up the house, but a family’s got to eat.
“We’ll make two big pans of cry babies, too. And while we got the oven full, and the top of the stove sizzling hot, we might as well make pop corn balls . Also we're almost out of butter . So, Tom, you get the churn off the back porch. And this time.....please try not to overturn it with all the cream still inside, like last time.
“For supper, we’re having a feast. I’m cooking up beans, cowboy style.
“Now, if you care to spend the night, I can promise you johnnycakes for Sunday breakfast and plenty of gruel alongside. Don't expect to be sitting around much, though. Before you know it, I’ll have you chasing down the last of the chickens and going to the well for water. And tomorrow morning, you can help Joshua do the milking before breakfast.
“If it weren’t for all the jayhawkers, I’d feel safe sending you down to the river to catch a mess of fish for lunch. My, how good that would be, fried with a crispy corn meal batter! Nobody’s been fishing much for a long time ‘round here, though. Not good for folks to be seen out in the open, standing still; and it’s too hard to find a place to hide with all the characters roaming ‘round. As whatever happened to Cyrus clearly demonstrates………”
So.....since you're helpin', where do you want to start?
Or......I have an idea!!! What if you help Tom and Jenny make the butter?