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gfron1

Learning about the Ozarks of my childhood: Cabins, slavery, pawpaw & wineries

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I spent this past week at my family's cabin in the Mark Twain National Forest of the Ozarks. I haven't spent more than a night there in over 30 years, and I don't know that I've ever spent a night there without a swarm of family around entertaining each other. As some of you may know I've been in the very slow process of opening a new restaurant in St. Louis, and the delays have given me more free time than I would like. The vacation, however, also falls smack dab in the heart of my most intense foraging season which I can't relax during or I won't have supplies for the upcoming winter.

 

I wasn't expecting much of the week other than hanging out in the woods, but it turned out to be one of those beautiful moments where you get to see your childhood through the lens of a mature adult, and view the world very differently. As a kid we would go to the cabin most of the summer, spending time with our cousins from Cincinnati. My mom's family is from Ste. Genevieve, a small town of about 2,000 an hour south from St. Louis along the Mississippi River. While being just a rural Missouri town, it is actually quite important in that it was the first European settlement west of the Mississippi (although I lived in New Mexico long enough to dispute that marketing line...ahem...Santa Fe). I'll share more on Ste. Gen (as we call it) later, but we have to drive off onto the country roads first to get to the cabin. Getting off at I-55 Exit 150, we head south on Hwy B through a number of corn and soybean fields, driving through River Aux Vases (a town of less people than I have fingers), past Hwy P (where the first winery is found), over Saline Creek to Hwy WW at Coffman (our family tradition is to cough the entire way through town...takes almost a minute) and finally turning off at Bidwell Creek Rd to enter the Coldwater Game Preserve

 

Coldwater was founded in 1925 as a getaway hunting lodge for Ste Gen folks. Often times people have an image of cabins as a fancy photoshoot locale for Outside magazine...this is not that. Hand hewn log cabins with plaster insulation. It was quite the drama when the first cabin brought in a golf cart...and you can imagine the uproar with the first satellite for tv. These are just not things that we do at Coldwater. We like the simple life of our damned up creek, our square dancing venue - lodge and shooting range. There are maybe 30 cabins there but you never see that many people except on the 4th of July. This also happens to be where I viewed the eclipse because it was smack dab in the heart of totality.

 

My family bought their space and  built their cabin in 1945. There's been a couple of additions over the years but all very traditional. We built a shed for our new golf cart last year and among the family we did not have consensus on whether we should. As I said, a very sparse cabin still heated with a wood burning stove.

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I never thought about it as a kid but I suppose we are decorated with traditional Ozark folk art.

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My grandfather, who I never knew, built the cabin. He was the owner of a hardware store in Ste Gen (his father too). There's a brewer and a baker somewhere in my past as well which I love. I didn't realize how long my family had that hardware store but it was already 75 years when this certificate was given to my grandfather, which was in 1965.

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Before leaving Ste Gen to get on the country roads we stopped in the Audubon's Grill and Bar for a catfish sandwich. Apparently, Audubon lived in Ste Gen for a while...who knew?1 That would explain so many things named after him in the area.

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This is great.  I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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I totally love this. More please, and more pix. I need a shot of the cabin curbside, as we say. I can't believe you stayed away so long.

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33 minutes ago, gfweb said:

 

I spent this past week at my family's cabin

 

 Yes! That is a cabin. Not as so many of them seem to be these days, a transplanted McMansion.  We had a similar place, built not much later than this one. In Ontario, of course. 

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2 hours ago, gfron1 said:

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These plates have triggered a LONG lost memory for me but I can't put my finger on it.  I've seen them before--but different names.  

 

Loving this :) .  LOVE the cabin.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Shelby said:

These plates have triggered a LONG lost memory for me but I can't put my finger on it.  I've seen them before--but different names.  

 

Loving this :) .  LOVE the cabin.

 

 

Interesting. I bet it was something like a common Better Homes project, but my mom specifically remembers her mom painting them.

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39 minutes ago, gfron1 said:

Interesting. I bet it was something like a common Better Homes project, but my mom specifically remembers her mom painting them.

Really!  Very interesting!

 

I sent the picture to my mom and she says that when she was growing up (and me as well) my Grammy (her mom) had similar ones only they were yellow.  She's offered to take a picture (she sees them in a cupboard when she goes over to the house) so when she does I'll post it.  Maybe they are not even remotely the same, but my memory thinks they are similar and so does my mom.  

 

I love mysteries like this :) 

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Glad to see y'all are interested in this. One of the things I was most looking forward to was good nights' sleep. The cabin is very dark because there's no outside lights (street lights and such), and always a bit chilly at night, and the hypnotic sound of cicada, crickets and bullfrogs always lull me to sleep.  Well, I say always, but not this past week. The Sunday that we left I taught a foraging class through Dabble because I wanted to see how effective that medium was for getting attendees. Since I wasn't doing my normal deep woods foraging I only sprayed my ankles with Deep Woods Off. That was a mistake. A big one. That night, and for the next four nights, my body was covered with no less than 50 chigger bites, which were so bad that I couldn't sleep. I finally took Benedryl one night to try and get through, but one night out of seven of sleep...not good. I was pretty grumpy all week.

 

Many of you have seen my baby girl, Lexi. She's been with me since she was 5 days old, and now at 13+ she doesn't move quite as fast. Before moving to St Louis I had never foraged/hiked without her in over a decade. She's such an amazing forager that I did an essay about her in my cookbook Acorns & Cattails, and was particularly good at finding the best juniper berries, acorns and morels. Now she's retired. She just likes to sleep. Where she used to easily do 10 mile hikes with me, now I'm lucky to get her across the park next to my apartment. But being at the cabin really rejuvenated her. She didn't walk much further but there was a lot of spring in her step.

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I spent a lot of hours out gathering this week, mostly focusing on pawpaw, acorns and any mushrooms I happened to stumble over in the dryness that we've had. I think I have my year's supply of the former two and am already pretty well stocked with the latter. In New Mexico I gathered Grey, Arizona and Emory oaks. Here in Missouri I am more interested in Whites and Reds. Where I used to be able to eat straight off the ground with no processing, here the acorns are very tannic and need some work. IMG_20170913_144447.thumb.jpg.24e88a964c326a6d0d3e2b1864cd2b7b.jpgIMG_20170913_150043.thumb.jpg.0b12ab385f621658447ae1b2807abf79.jpg

One lucky day I stumbled onto these very young and fresh oysters

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But as cool as those are, the highlight of the week is this

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Any ideas what's in the pot? What if I show you this?

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Salt! Back in New Mexico I used 4-wing salt bush, which was really challenging, but here I have found a source for as much salt as I need. The only reason I found it is because of the cabin. You may remember in the driving directions in my initial post that you cross Saline Creek. As a kid I never thought about why it was named that, but it didn't take long for a few farmers to explain that Saline Creek is fed by salinated springs - all of which are on private property. One kind farmer made the connections for me and voila - 2 gallons of spring fed water. I put it in a pot and boiled it down and ended up with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of very dirty salt. Before I use it in the restaurant I need to figure out how to clean up the water some. If I brita filter it won't that remove the salt? Maybe the algae/moss/plantgunk is safe to eat because of the purification from the salt. I need to do more research obviously.

 

By the way, I was well covered in Deep Woods Off for every forage this week. 

 

The second morning Tyler and I were already getting antsy - we're not the sit-around-and-do-nothing types so we decided to take the ferry to Illinois which I had never take before. On the way to the ferry, just outside of Ste Gen proper is this sign showing the numerous floods that the town has endured over the years.

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One of the interesting things we kept hearing as we toured was how the Mississippi has changed course over the years. In fact, it has changed enough in modern times that we have photos of the before and after. Past that sign, through the locks and we were on the smallest, ricketiest ferry I've ever seen. I don't scare easily but I was pretty unnerved by this 5 minute trip across the Mississippi.

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But we made it and spent the day exploring Illinois. Btw, those oyster mushrooms...they became this omelet using farmer eggs found on the drive down.

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Edited by Smithy Adjusted link to be Amazon-friendly (log)
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4 minutes ago, Shelby said:

Really!  Very interesting!

 

I sent the picture to my mom and she says that when she was growing up (and me as well) my Grammy (her mom) had similar ones only they were yellow.  She's offered to take a picture (she sees them in a cupboard when she goes over to the house) so when she does I'll post it.  Maybe they are not even remotely the same, but my memory thinks they are similar and so does my mom.  

 

I love mysteries like this :) 

And I'll ask my mom for the story now that I care enough to pay attention :) 

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44 minutes ago, gfron1 said:

And I'll ask my mom for the story now that I care enough to pay attention :) 

My mom ran over to the house and took a picture...they are the same , but different, but the same.

 

My Grammy has passed away...I would LOVE to ask her about these.  My Grandpa is still with us but I dunno if he will know....Mom will ask him.

 

Now I'm even more curious.

 

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Sorry if I'm derailing your thread.  We can take this to PM's if you want :) 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Shelby said:

My mom ran over to the house and took a picture...they are the same , but different, but the same.

 

My Grammy has passed away...I would LOVE to ask her about these.  My Grandpa is still with us but I dunno if he will know....Mom will ask him.

 

Now I'm even more curious.

 

20170918_164258.thumb.jpg.1e3a1e9c79717088e2d25bdb51d8176f.jpg

 

Sorry if I'm derailing your thread.  We can take this to PM's if you want :) 

 

 

 

No, we all want to know!

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Awwwww, Love love love Lexi girl.  

 

And, as usual, you have impressed me to no end.  Acorns...mushrooms and especially the salt.

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What do you with pawpaw?  I can eat about a tablespoon of its flesh.  It is also very perishable and attracts (possibly generates) clouds of fruit flies.

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1 hour ago, gfron1 said:

 

Salt! Back in New Mexico I used 4-wing salt bush, which was really challenging, but here I have found a source for as much salt as I need. The only reason I found it is because of the cabin. You may remember in the driving directions in my initial post that you cross Saline Creek. As a kid I never thought about why it was named that, but it didn't take long for a few farmers to explain that Saline Creek is fed by salinated springs - all of which are on private property. One kind farmer made the connections for me and voila - 2 gallons of spring fed water. I put it in a pot and boiled it down and ended up with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of very dirty salt. Before I use it in the restaurant I need to figure out how to clean up the water some. If I brita filter it won't that remove the salt? Maybe the algae/moss/plantgunk is safe to eat because of the purification from the salt. I need to do more research obviously.

 

 

I suspect if you dissolve it again in fresh water - run through the Brita - then evaporate again to get the clean salt it might just work.

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please keep it coming....love the history/sociology and of course the food....

thanks

p.s.  love the Lexi girls face


Edited by suzilightning (log)
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Awesome.  Foraging is one of my favourite things to do.  Just starting my education and sadly only know about 2 types of edible mushrooms around here - one of which is in season now (Elm Oyster).  Would love to see more 'shroomage and hear more about how you gained your mushroom hunting knowledge.

 

 

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There is a local farm here that makes salt but it's sea salt. You can let it sit for a few days so the suspended particles sink and then strain the clean water above through a fine sieve or cloth. That's all I've got. But I could put you in touch with the local salt-maker. I've never made it myself. 

 

I LOVE Lexi. More Lexi. What does Lexi eat?  

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1 hour ago, Kerry Beal said:

I suspect if you dissolve it again in fresh water - run through the Brita - then evaporate again to get the clean salt it might just work.

I'd take a filter paper approach. Wouldn't surprise me if much of the non salt stuff is particulate. 

 

So I'd re dissolve it and put it through a coffee filter once or twice ... and rinse with a little fresh water to maximize salt recovery. 

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Fascinating. Another eG insight to a world I know nothing about. Thank you.

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This is really interesting. Please continue the story.  

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3 hours ago, Shelby said:

My mom ran over to the house and took a picture...they are the same , but different, but the same.

 

My Grammy has passed away...I would LOVE to ask her about these.  My Grandpa is still with us but I dunno if he will know....Mom will ask him.

 

Now I'm even more curious.

 

20170918_164258.thumb.jpg.1e3a1e9c79717088e2d25bdb51d8176f.jpg

Sorry if I'm derailing your thread.  We can take this to PM's if you want :) 

No, I think its very interesting too. The borders are even the same.

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2 hours ago, chefmd said:

What do you with pawpaw?  I can eat about a tablespoon of its flesh.  It is also very perishable and attracts (possibly generates) clouds of fruit flies.

I agree with you. Everyone I know does pawpaw (aka banana) bread or pawpaw meringue pie. Blech! Too sweet. I use mine is curries, mole, or other savory applications. Much more enjoyable. And mine gets processed the same day, portioned and frozen.

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2 hours ago, Kerry Beal said:

I suspect if you dissolve it again in fresh water - run through the Brita - then evaporate again to get the clean salt it might just work.

you don't think it would filter out the salt? I guess I could try.

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