The sun has tried valiantly all morning to break through the cloud covering but has succeeded very few times. There are patches of blue interspersed between the clouds, bringing hope for a nice spring day ahead. Warm weather has been a little remiss in coming to Clay County, although golden dandelions cover the lawn and modest purple violets peep from the greening grass.
Each portent of spring is eagerly looked for, and the buds on the lilac bush are beginning to open. In Charleston, the Bradford pear trees are in full bloom; clouds of white blossoms lining the streets. Pink and white apple blossoms and pink peach blooms appear, along with yellow forsythia that brightens the landscape with their pastel colors.
Daughter Patty wages a relentless war with the dandelions, grubbing out the little plants as they appear. I love the cheerful yellow blossoms, popping up all over the yard like harbingers of spring. They are a tasty wild food also, now that they are at their tender stage and not tough and bitter. In honor of my late Aunt Addie, I picked a mess of these greens and cooked them.
She loved dandelion greens, and warm weather found her gathering them. I was afraid they might be too tangy, so I parboiled them first. They would have been more flavorful if I hadn't. I ate them with balsamic vinegar, and they were lovely. Mom always picked a variety of wild mixed greens, but there are several that are good cooked alone. Don't be put off by the stinging hairs on nettle greens, but use gloves when you pick them. Those tiny hairs will wash off, but use tongs while rinsing them.
If you have never eaten them, you will be surprised at how delicious they are. Here is a good recipe to prepare them:
Render two slices of bacon in an iron skillet and remove from pan. Drop washed greens into hot grease and stir until just coated. Add a bit of water, turn down heat, and simmer, covered, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and a splash of vinegar. Best when eaten with a crusty pone of corn bread baked in an iron skillet.
Lambs quarter makes good greens, and taste a lot like spinach. They are so easy to cook—wash and cook in a covered skillet with the water that clings to them. They are tender in just a few minutes and retain their bright green color.
There are so many wild foods that are available this time of year, although I confess that poke greens are one of my favorites. I am eagerly waiting for them to pop through the ground, young and tender.
Probably the most popular wild food this time of year is the scrumptious morel mushrooms. Call them merkles, Molly moochers, or by any other name; they are the gourmet mushrooms of the woods (my opinion anyway!) I love them merely sautéed in a little oil or butter, with salt and pepper. I think this simple method allows the full flavor of the mushroom to develop.
Criss likes them rolled in flour and pan fried; however, a simple batter can be made by combining two tablespoons of milk with one egg. Slice the morels in half and dip in this batter, and then roll in seasoned flour. Fry in hot oil or butter until golden brown.
There are so many good wild foods in this state, especially in the spring. We have already enjoyed one delicious ramp supper—ramps cooked with eggs, fried potatoes and hot cornbread. I am longing for our spring time camping trip so I can eat them to my heart's content! There's nothing like fresh trout fried over an open fire, ramps and fried potatoes.
Easter was a holiday that we children eagerly anticipated. When the March lion stopped roaring and spring breezes began to caress our land, we knew that it was coming soon. Putting away our heavy winter coats and boots, and donning lighter clothing, we were more than ready for the Easter season.
Mom had to start early. With dresses to make for all four girls, the old Singer treadle sewing machine ran almost constantly. Our dresses were a work of art. Made of sheer organdy or dotted Swiss material, they flaunted ruffles, tiers and lace. Mom never used a pattern but they always fit perfectly. With new white anklets, black patent leather Mary Jane shoes and ribbons in our hair, we were proud as peacocks.
Daddy insisted that the boys wear new cowboy shirts and hats—to him they were the epitome of style. I remember that Daddy had a turquoise cowboy shirt trimmed with white piping, but he didn't wear a cowboy hat. If anyone sniggered behind his back, he was blissfully unaware of it. Mom sewed her own dresses also, and altogether we were ready for the Easter parade.
And the food preparation! Mom spent Friday and Saturday baking and cooking. The old gas Servel refrigerator hummed right along, filled with fancy fruit salad, potato salad loaded with eggs, homemade cranberry sauce and all kinds of pies. She always made her famous orange-coconut cake with fresh oranges and loaded with coconut. We children watched the preparations and wiggled with excitement. With all the labor she had to do, she still found time to boil eggs and let us color them.
Daddy would get up at the crack of dawn to hurry outside and hide the eggs. Then he would get us up, sleepy-eyed and yawning, to go outside in our pajamas to hunt them. I know it was a sacrifice for Daddy to get up out of a warm bed and do this for us, but now I realize that he enjoyed the ritual as much as we did.
If the weather was rainy, he hid the eggs in the house, but that wasn't nearly as much fun.
After breakfast, it was time to get ready for church. Our shoes and socks would be lined up against the wall and our dresses hung nearby. On Easter Sunday we lost no time in getting dressed and on our way to church. Of course we knew the Resurrection story; of how Jesus was crucified and rose again, but I'm afraid at that time we were more excited about our new clothes.
It is a source of wonder how a person can be raised in church, have devout Christian parents, know all the Bible stories and yet know nothing about salvation. It is merely words until the realization dawns that my soul is longing for something more.
I was about twelve years old when this happened to me. My soul was overwhelmed with sorrow, and was reaching out to God in repentance and faith. The love of God flooded my soul and I felt such joy that I had never experienced before. In time though, I strayed and got away from God's love. If I had continued with Him, I could have saved myself much misery and heartache. When you are young and foolish, it seems that the world is waiting for you to experience and explore. We seem to forget the scripture, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Gal. 6-7) The reaping can be extremely bitter.
It is a wonderful experience when the Resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes real to you. The knowledge that our Savior, who was without sin, would give His life that we might be redeemed is overwhelming. When I think of all the ugly, vile sins that I committed, it still brings a sorrow to my soul, although I have been forgiven.
The most wonderful part of the Easter season, is that He lives! And because He lives, we shall live also! We who share in His great salvation have a hope beyond this life, eternal in the heavens. I feel sorry for the unbelievers who have no hope. This life on earth is so very short—I'm glad that there is more to come. I Corinthians 15-19 says, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
Thank God, we have a hope that reaches farther than this life.
Is Easter all about cute bunnies, baskets of eggs and new outfits? To the little ones, it is. It should be much more to those who have reached the age of accountability, and realize that the Resurrection of Christ has a personal meaning for them—and for everyone.
AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS
At the foot of the cross, I lay it all down
Everything in my life, that's hidden deep inside
I give it away, for my Savior to heal
These fears that I have, that I've buried for years
At the feet of my Jesus, my heart pours out tears
As I kneel and pray, my thoughts become clear
And I finally see what's so very dear.
At the foot of the cross, I cry out in pain
Anguishing thoughts pour out like rain
But, amidst these tears, I find a peace so calm
As Jesus scurries in, the darkness fades away
My heart is freed, my mind once again sane
And the past torments I've had are forever washed away
My life burns brighter, like the dawning of a new day.
At the foot of the cross, I'm loved and not lost
Where the Holy drops of blood, have paid off sin's costs
And the Savior was taken, now risen once more
Through the grace of God, the veil was torn
And the world was cast a new rope of hope
Dangling freely from Heaven, climeable by faith alone
To an eternal place, where sin and death are dead.
At the foot of the cross, life can be found
On your knees draped in blood, on Calvary's sacred ground.