Recalling the Bounty of Country Life

July 23, 2010

Written by LaVonna (Vonnie) Bergthold

Having been raised on a farm, we always had fresh raw milk. Dad would bring it home in a gallon jar. There’s nothing better than an ice-cold glass of milk. I would help Grandma Hart (Melita) gather the eggs from the chicken coop. We’d have fresh fruit from the trees. My mom would can apricots, peaches, tomatoes, plums, and applesauce. Grandpa Hart (Elwood) grew watermelons. I remember being with him when he cut a small triangular-shape plug out of a watermelon to see how tasty it was.

My grandparents also grew tomatoes to take to the cannery in Thornton, California. My cousins and I would play in the irrigation ditches in the summer. We’d pick a few ripe tomatoes and floated them down the ditch about fifty feet. By the time they got to us (we’d run ahead) they were icy cold. Yum!

In May, my cousins and I would climb the cherry tree by the school bus stop and have a breakfast of Bing cherries. I remember one fall, trying to make pomegranate jelly. What a mess—juice everywhere. I did that only once.

The men (my grandpa, dad, and, and unless) would have a heifer butchered every so often, so we’d have home-raised beef and chickens too. Country life is the best! Copyright © 2010 Vonnie Bergthold

Below is a favorite family recipe from those days. A quick and easy way to use garden-fresh produce from your own backyard.


Mom’s Tamale Pie

Serves 4 – 6

1 lb. ground beef

1 onion, chopped

A few garlic cloves to taste, chopped

1 – 15 oz canned corn, undrained

1 – 15 oz canned black olives, drained and sliced

1 – 29 oz canned whole stewed tomatoes, drained

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

Cheese, grated

Brown ground beef in large skillet until done, drain, and put back into skillet.

Add remaining ingredients. Mix together and cook on medium-low until heated. Stir as needed so food does not burn or stick to bottom of skillet.

When almost cooked and bubbling, spread cheese on top and serve.


One comment

  1. My mom used to make this and I do now once in awhile. Only we used about a 1/4 cup of cornmeal. Great recipe and corn bread always goes good with it.
    Thanks for the reminder.


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