My Grandmother's Back to School Adventures

From Bucks County, Pennsylvania
By Carrie J. Gamble

Since my grandmother's passing I have a new and different perspective of her life and stories of days gone by. On occasion I tend to compare myself to her ~ something I had never done before. This happened again a few weeks ago when people started talking about the end of summer and “going back to school.” Hearing about it and thinking about it made me feel very sad in the same way it has my entire life. Watching summer slip away breaks my heart like watching someone you love walk away never to return again. I love the warm sun, wearing tank tops and short skirts and the carefree feeling of the season. Going back to school was NEVER something I looked forward to. On the other hand my grandmother, Elizabeth, . . . loved school! I will always remember her enthusiasm whenever she'd talk about her experiences there.

School opened up a whole new world for Elizabeth! It was an eminent contrast to life on the family farm where she'd diligently work to help her parents by cooking and caring for her younger siblings. For Elizabeth, going to her little one room schoolhouse was like going to an enchanted cottage. The time period was 1917 when she was eight years old. Elizabeth loved everything about it – meeting new friends, wearing a pretty dress (she had one dress with two pinafores), admiring her teacher, but most of all she had a passion for learning. She spoke only in German when first attending school, so imagine what a quick learner she was to pick up English at the same time she learned about world history!

Elizabeth was eager to learn everything she could, not only from her teacher, but from her classmates as well. “I would come home and tell my mother of all the wonderful things my girlfriends brought in their lunches!” She and her mother would experiment with all of these new recipes. They were so proud of themselves after making their very first pie and layer cake. Back in the old country there was no such thing as pies, so they were especially fascinated by this new idea. They improvised by using a bread pan to make the layer cake. Elizabeth planned on taking it in for the last day of school. “Mother had no layer tins so she made it in a big bread pan. She sliced it in half to make two layers. Then she iced it. I was so proud of her! I think I stopped every ten minutes on my way to school to admire it!”

Below you will find one of Elizabeth's old fashioned soup recipes to warm you on a cool fall evening and a special apple pie recipe just perfect for this time of year! Both recipes are simple and delicious! Enjoy!

Tomato Soup with Egg Drop

  1. Put a good tablespoon of butter into a pan. When melted, add a heaping tablespoon of flour. Blend well and brown slightly. Take 1 quart fresh or canned tomatoes and strain. To the butter and flour mixture add the strained tomato juice and a cup of water. Bring to a boil. Add a bay leaf, salt, pepper and a little sugar to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  2. For the Egg Drop: Take 1/2 cup of flour, pinch of salt, one egg and enough water so it will pour from a cup. Then, while the soup is boiling, drizzle it back and forth into the soup. Stir once or twice with a fork while drizzling. Cook 2 minutes. Before serving slowly add a cup of milk. This gives it a creamy texture and flavor. Add a pinch of baking soda to make it less tart and the milk will not curdle.

Apple Pie with Cheese Crumbs

  1. Make the pie crust recipe below and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes so it is pale brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. For the crumbs: 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup grated sharp cheese. Mix together with your hands until crumbly.
  3. Peel and core 6 apples. Slice them about 1/4” thick. Put in a saucepan with 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon tapioca, a dash cinnamon and mace, a sprinkle of lemon juice and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour into the pie shell. Sprinkle with crumbs and bake about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
  4. Pie Crust: Take 1/4 cup butter, 2 tablespoons boiling water and a pinch of salt and beat with a wire whisk until it is the consistency of heavy cream. Add 1 cup flour. Mix with a fork until crumbly. If too soft add more flour. Form a ball and roll out making a round crust to fit into pie plate. Trim edges to make them even and flute by pressing between your fingers.


Carrie J. Gamble is co-author, editor and publisher of Grandmother's Cookbook, a collection of recipes, treasured memories, wildflower watercolors and feelings from the heart.