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Michael Rustad's Memories

Culinary Memories and Everyday Life on theFarm

The Humboldt that I grew up in was very 19th century inethos. People did not generally carry guns but virtually everyone knewhow to use and handle a gun. I remember taking a gun safety course thatwas taught at the Humboldt Elevator for some reason. When my grandparentslived on the farm, they had a wood stove which was a principal means ofcooking and warmth. I remember also that they had kerosene lamps in everyroom in the event that the electricity failed. I remember before age 7that I would frequently stay with my grandparents on the farm. One of mychores was to take the ashes from the stove. I also helped my grandfatherwith the wood pile. We heated water on the wood stove in the summer andspring and could shower in one of the outside buildings. The chief bathroomwas a two hole outhouse. The adults had a large hole and there was a smallerhole for the children. My memory was that the expired Sears & Roebuckcatalogue served as toilet paper. However, I believe that regular toiletpaper was also used for guests.

My grandparents had a very efficient farming operation. Grocery bills were kept at minimum. My grandparents had a ritual of makingbread and rolls together. One day they made 35 loaves and more than 100rolls. Grandpa and Grandma Rustad grew the high protein durum wheat ontheir own land. They ground the wheat into whole-wheat flour and bakedenough bread for a small army! They had a very large garden with delicioustomatoes, corns, cukes, beans, peas, beets, onions and other vegetables. They were in the habit of canning meat which was a necessity in the daysbefore refrigeration. Carrots and other vegetables were kept in the cellar. Carrots were kept in sand which kept them from spoiling throughout thewinter.

We had unlimited quantities of milk and cream. We hada habit of using the clotted cream on oatmeal or cereal. The farm familieshad a high fat diet which did not create heart disease because of the hardwork that was being done in the fields. The best ice cream was made bymy Uncle Burton Turner. We had a hand-turned ice cream churn. The bestpart of the ice cream was always the center part. For some reason whichI cannot explain, the ice cream that stuck to the paddle was always thebest.

When I lived in Europe, I was surprised to see the Frenchvalue asparagus. To me asparagus was someting I could never associate withluxury. We had unlimited quantitities of asparagus all year round. Theasparagus served in the finest resturants would have been thrown away onthe farm as too tough. We were very picky about our asparagus and wouldonly eat the tenderest shoots.

Rhubarb was another product we had in great quantities. As with asparagus, we could afford to be very picky about the rhubarbthat we ate. I liked the strawberry rhubarb with its rich red color thebest. I thought that my mother's rhubarb pie was the finest pie that I'veever eaten.

I read Heidi as a child and could identify with her preferencefor soft, white bread. I thought it was quite a luxury to eat white Eddy'sor Holsum bread which was never served at home. I did go back to the wholewheat bread soon after high school. We did not buy cookies or other snacksvery often as a child. I do not ever remember my mother buying a packageof cookies.

The only packaged cookies that I remember eating were onesserved at my Grandmother Carrigan's house. My Grandmother Rustad and myMother were legendary bakers. My Mother's specialty was carmel rolls. I should have obtained a franchise to sell her carmel rolls! My GrandmotherMargaret Rustad made the best sugar cookies in the County. They were delicious,soft cookies. My Grandmother was Danish in background and frequently madeDanish specialties. During the Christmas season, she made what she roughlytranslated as "beggar nuts." We would play a number of gameswith these delictable goodies. The culmination of the game was to eat yourentire collection.

The portions of food that were served during harvest orsheep shearing season were prodigious. I can still remember Alfred Loer,Herman Loer, Roger Loer, my Grandfather, and Dad consuming a large mealduring sheep shearing. We always sheared our sheep with the Loers. Alfredand Clara Loer were the prototypical example of good neighbors.

All of the neighbors were kind of a mutual aid society. When our farm house burned in the 1930s, a neighbor helped my Grandfathercarry a burning stove out of the homestead. It was about the only itemof value saved from this disaster. Neighbors helped my grandfather rebuild. If there was a death in the family, neighbors banded together to do chores,cook or help out in other ways. I remember Dotty Boatz and other neighborshelping out at the Verne Hunt farm when Sarah had her car accident. Comparethe suburban neighborhood where neighbors do not know each other's namelet alone share their triumphs and their pain. The Germans have a wordgemeinschaft which describes the sense of community. I believe that thetransition from gemeinschaft to gesellschaft (rural to urban) has resultedin looser social ties.

The Humboldt I knew growing up in the 1950s and 1960s had a sense of community.

umboldt I knew growing up in the 1950s and 1960s had a sense of community.