1973: A quiet year

For 1973, Mom had just four menu entries listed – all holidays. No supper club, no backyard entertaining, no other celebrations. I’m guessing it had a lot to do with her mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s. It’s very hard to do anything extra when you are caring for a parent in that situation.


New Year’s Day: Jane & Wally and Mary Wunrow – ham, double-baked potatoes, green bean casserole, peas & carrots & cornflakes, rolls & relishes, cookies and fruitcake. Mother here.

The Wunrows were a parish family. Interesting that they were invited over for New Year’s dinner. In any event, sounds like a nice meal with some classic menu items. “Mother here.” That means that Grandma was still living with us, though that wouldn’t continue through the year.

Easter – Mother here, Leo & Marie. Butt end ham, raisin sauce, fresh baked sweet potatoes, peas & corn, rolls, fruit salad, Shredded Wheat cheesecake, wine.

Well, well, well. A few things. “Butt end ham.” Is this still a thing? Do people still buy “butt end hams” under that name? Hmmm. Raisin sauce: Dad loved that, pretty sure. And … Shredded Wheat cheesecake? But… why??

Here’s a recipe. Basically you just substitute shredded wheat for graham cracker crumbs. So – you use flavorless, dry as dust shredded wheat in place of tasty honey graham crackers. Beats me.

Did you know that Never Eat Shredded Wheat is a way to remember the orientations of North, East, South, and West, going clockwise? Did you know there’s a Pinterest Board about Shredded Wheat?

Did you know that frosted mini-wheats are delicious? Well, they are.

Thanksgiving at Bob’s. Took pies.

And that’s all she wrote about Thanksgiving that year.

Christmas – Grandma M. here Christmas Eve – usual breakfast, but Karbach’s sausages. M.E. played organ. Dinner – Cor brought Aunt Felice up, then got Mother from Villa Clement about 5 pm – wine, turkey, Catherine Clark dressing, mashed & sweet potatoes, gravy (Aunt Felice), lettuce & radish salad, peas & carrots, browned butter, fresh cranberry sauce, rolls, olives, pickled crabapples, mince pie & cookies.

Sometime between Easter and Christmas, my Grandma moved into a nursing home. I remember visiting her there; it was so hard toward the end, of course, because she didn’t recognize any of us, and eventually was lost in the deep forgetting and silence of Alzheimer’s. I’m sure it was very painful for my mother and her siblings as well.

Mom’s note about me playing the organ is only half true: I played the organ at Christmas Mass with my good friend, Mary. She played the chords and I played the melody line, as I recall – a novel solution to the lack of an organist at the parish.

Notice something new here? “Lettuce & radish salad”. What? A green salad? Pretty sure this is the first time that’s been mentioned. I really don’t recall Mom ever making salad for dinner, whether for company or just family. Dad used to make a plain lettuce salad every so often for himself. He might have actually been the one angling for this particular menu item. “Lettuce & radish” – could it be more basic? I’m sure some French dressing went on top and that was it.

Finally, Aunt Felice making the gravy is a classic story from my childhood. Mom somehow had never mastered the art of gravy-making, so at any holiday meal when Auntie Felice was present, she made the gravy. I remember her standing at the oven, patiently stirring the gravy until it was just the right thickness, then a taste for seasoning, a shake of salt or pepper, and it was done. Delicious.

Good-bye, 1973.

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