Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Growing up in the kitchen

The years that I spent with my mother in the kitchen listening to Gus Saunders and the Yankee Kitchen had an immense impact on my life. These were the formative years.  My values were shaped during this time. From my mother, I learned that we should treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves.  I learned that the there was only one God, but that he was worshipped in different ways by different people.  This was the time when I felt a complete sense of security in my life.  There were things that I could always count on.  My mother was always at home in the kitchen, 2:05 in the afternoon meant that Gus was just coming on the air, and from the dining room of the Copley Plaza Hotel, where Gus would broadcast his show, the sounds of wait staff removing dishes at the end of the lunch service could be heard.  Day after day I listened to the show with my mother and wrote down recipes.  We listened to the callers and got to know them.  “I love Molly.  She has such a sweet voice,” my mother would say.  The days lingered, with one day rolling into the next, especially during the hot summer months.  In the days of my youth, listening to Gus during the late 1960’s and throughout the 70’s, it seemed that we had all the time in the world. 

I learned patience and kindness from both Gus and my mother: Gus in the tactful way he treated each caller, and my mother in the way she guided me in learning the fundamentals of cooking and baking: how to measure and sift dry ingredients, separate an egg, fold in egg whites, make a flaky pastry, hold a knife, dice an onion, make a roux.

I developed an appreciation for the bounties of the New England seasons.  In the summer, my mother and I picked raspberries and blackberries in our yard with suitable armor to protect us from the briars – a long-sleeved shirt and pants and a hat to protect from the sun.  We picked strawberries and blueberries from nearby farms.  In the fall, we picked apples and peaches from orchards.  With all of our recipes from the Yankee Kitchen, there was no shortage of ideas for incorporating the fruits of our labor.  The dining room table was always full of Yankee Kitchen delights since my mother was, as she would put it, “forever” baking.  Gus often talked about how fruits in season were gifts.  And since they were available to us for only a short time that made them even sweeter.  My mother’s delicious creations that she made from Yankee Kitchen recipes - Double Good Blueberry Pie, Strawberry Shortcake and Apple Spice Cake - certainly convinced me to “get while the getting is good”.


9" baked shell
3/4 c. sugar
3 TB cornstarch
1/8 ts. salt
1/4 c. water
4 c. blueberries
1 TB butter
1 TB lemon juice

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in pan.  Add water and 2 cups blueberries.  Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil and becomes thick and clear.  Take off heat, stir in butter and lemon juice.  Let cool. Spread 2 cups berries in shell.  Pour cooked mixture over and chill.


The Yankee Kitchen also gave me my first taste of diversity.  The audience of listeners ran the gamut from young to old, new mothers, grandmothers, fathers, sight-impaired, housebound, and listeners of various cultural backgrounds.  Food was our common bond.  Middle Eastern, Irish, and Italian callers brought us into their worlds of family food traditions and we were able to share their enthusiasms through their favorite recipes.  Gus recognized the vital role that food traditions played in families and emphasized the importance of recording family recipes and passing them along to future generations.

The individual callers with their unique personalities and recognizable voices made up our Yankee Kitchen family.  Gus was the head of the family - a true “gentleman and a scholar” with high standards and rules for running the show, and always a consummate professional right up to his final broadcast.  I respected him and felt that whatever he said was the honest truth, and that his dedicated advertisers, with products like King Arthur Flour and Carando Spiral Sliced Hams, had to be the best!

When I had a place of my own, I continued in my mother’s footsteps, listening to the Yankee Kitchen, cooking, and baking up a storm, too.  I made a recipe, added my notations, and made it again.  I entertained often, and still do.  I’ve tried to pass along my love for cooking and pleasing others to my children who have experimented a bit in the kitchen themselves.  I’m grateful for the years I spent in the kitchen with my mother and for Gus Saunders and the contributors to the Yankee Kitchen.

1 comment:

Anita said...

Mary - a kindred Yankee Kitchen spirit - shares her tender memories of Gus. Thank you so much, Mary. I know how you feel!

i miss Gus to this day! i remember so many callers, my mother and grandmother listened. jeff from springfield in particular because he was blind. on his last day i offered to collect everyone's addresses so i could send them out so people wouldn't lose touch, didn't seem to be the way he wanted to go, but thanked me on the air. my mother and i were on the phone with each other for his last broadcast, crying! i always wish there was something online to continue his memory, so i appreciate what you've done:)