The most humble people on earth die with their biographies never written. True stories are always a good read. I listen intently to oral history; gleaning the precious “fruit” of life stories.
Today, “meet” Lydia and her daughter Lilly Etta…
Dry-land farming is dependent on natural precipitation falling at the right times during the seasons. South Dakota, U.S.A. welcomed eager homesteaders from their mother countries who brought their talents and hard work ethics with them. Lydia’s family emigrated from Russia. A trace of oral history left to the next generation paints a picture of informal co-ops between land owners working together to harvest fields of wheat with Thrashing crews. Hungry working men were fed in the field. Lydia catered these harvest events. Her siblings were all boys, so these chores fell to her by proxy. Powerful steam machinery and labor from local farmers effectively produced prized wheat. This commodity filled the grain silo landmarks of small towns across the plains.
Lydia was an industrious woman who mastered her ingenious homemaking duties while providing housing to local teachers and visitors. Her husband Andrew was the proprietor of an International Harvester dealership in Herreid, S.D. Room and board at their house would have been rated five star at that time. Guests like the school teacher “Olsony”, “Edwin” a truck driver, “Jake” a store clerk and others were welcomed and fed delicious homemade meals with dinner served midday. Supper was always the evening meal. No known written recipes exist. Lydia’s culinary gifts were memorized. She baked and cooked from the heart while tirelessly using her hands to prepare meals with ingredients she raised in her home garden. Her chickens (Breed: Dominiques) were given free range inside her garden area; garden pests had a short life. Her larder was always complete with fresh local dairy products and locally raised beef and pork. Fruits were seasonal. A Christmas Orange was given to every child from her church; equivalent to a gold coin.
Photo of Lydia (Mother) Lilly Etta (Daughter) with little dog Spotty (behind) & Andrew (Father)
Lydia served the community in deed and words bringing glory to God at Herreid’s 1st Baptist Church. Is it not said, “let the left hand not know what the right hand is doing?” She knew the needs of her neighbors and provided accordingly. This strong, kind Mother earned the flour for her homemade white bread having participated in the full circle of seed planting to the harvest. Her hands measured the flour and leavening agent by heart; kneading the dough in rising phases that ended in obedient loaves pushed together in pans. Once raised they were baked and brushed with butter awaiting their “marching” orders. That is where the youngest child enters “stage left” of this story.
Lilly Etta was named by her brother Wilbert after she was delivered at home. The childhood story, Lilly Etta and The Red Umbrella may have been a short story in a child’s reader and long forgotten, yet this Lilly Etta probably bore no resemblance to the story book character. She had a strong will preferring not most household chores but would “always” do what her Mother asked of her. She went to work at her father’s International Harvester business working behind the parts desk (secretly wishing her parents owned a candy store instead), becoming proficient in bookkeeping and customer service. In her twenty some years of life she went to business school, taught fifth grade elementary school and finished her degree at the University of Washington. Her life speaks volumes about her parents who were the children of immigrants. Lydia and Andrew always wanted their children to accomplish far greater than themselves while serving the Lord with gladness. The Great Depression did not defeat the hard working dry land farmers of that day. They knew a mighty God who parted the Red Sea heard their prayers. The term “God fearing” has always been mis-understood. When trouble comes one has no control over, people of faith never give up! Remember this: people who risk their lives to cross land and sea for a better life have great purpose and hope for themselves and their children. Persecution has many forms and starvation from famine is still present in the world.
You might say, “Where is the low calorie bread recipe?” Lilly Etta took care of that with her friend Shirley. Lydia broke the fresh loaves of white bread apart wrapping one in a dish towel for “Grandma” Renz. The girls who delighted in youthful activities like ice skating on frozen creeks, sack races and riding bicycles around Herreid went about this task on foot. The overwhelming scent of fresh bread was a temptation that was not overcome. The bread was delivered in perfect form while the girls skipped away; but when Ms. Renz opened the towel to cut the bread she discovered a hollow loaf. The tender fresh inside had been pinched out and eaten by the little girls who are no longer perceived as Little Red Riding Hood. Mothers have a way with dealing with children’s mis-deeds. Undoubtedly this story has lived on for over Seventy-five years and served as a moral compass in Lilly Etta’s life. She was married short of sixty years raising two mischievous girls who were given full pardon for the mistakes they made in life. She baked healthy Whole Wheat bread for her family; sometimes mixing Sunflower seeds in the dough. The family prayer said at the table always ended in the words, “His Mercy Endureth Forever. Amen!”
Thank you for reading,
Karen Jo Waterford
P.S. Lilly Etta will be ________(omitted) this year. She exercises regularly, does well in Yoga workouts, enjoys walking on the beach and loves to laugh. Her favorite Television programs are The Lawrence Welk Show, The Andy Griffith Show, The Middle and Keeping up Appearances. She doesn’t enjoy cooking any more and likes going out. She loves Chocolate Cream Pie with Whipped Cream, Chocolate Covered Caramels and eats healthy salads and an Apple a day.
Recipe Post note: The low calorie White Bread recipe is simple. Cut the top off a loaf of crusty white bread and save for the lid. Pinch out the soft center of the loaf (eat it if you like) and fill with a creamy Tomato Bisque soup or hearty Clam Chowder. Save the tender inside for stuffing or toast for croutons. Share Lilly Etta’s story with your children and remind them you love them even when they fall into a temptation that is too great, you will always be there for them.
Editors note: True stories are always a good read. I listen intently to oral history; gleaning the precious “fruit” of life stories. The human endeavors shared on foodiefad.com come with an invitation to our readers. Do you have a true story to tell about someone or yourself? Fill out the contact form on the home page. Recipes featuring culinary culture should be preserved for generations. KJW