My photo
, Wyoming
Thanks for visiting Sauce du Jour. Feel free to share a great recipe, leave a comment, or make me dinner. I'll bring hors d' oeuvres and the wine! To visit my website go to Thanks for visiting the Sauce ~Tammi

Dec 15, 2010

The Dumplin Eater's Spoon

I see my great grandmother’s hands.  She wears a gold band on her ring finger.  It’s loose and worn thin, having been on that finger for almost 70 years, even though her husband has been dead for nearly 60 of them.  Her skin is paper thin, with blue veins bulging at the surface.  Brittle nails with white ridges running vertically, are filed to a point.  There is no dirt underneath.  She stands over a pan—a knee is bent to compensate for the pain in a previously broken hip.  Her hand is wrapped around the handle of a long wooden spoon and she stirs, non stop, for hours.  The aroma of apple and cinnamon, and maybe cloves, fill the small kitchen, as piles of apple peels and cores fill newspapers that cover a kitchen table.  She is making apple butter.
     I see my grandmother’s hands.  Plump fingers, with sheer pink colored nails and no jewelry, save for a wedding ring that looks to be two sizes to small and seems to be permanently embedded into her ring finger.  Her husband has been dead longer than I’ve been alive.  She stands over a stove, her ankles are thick and her legs sturdy.  This woman can walk five miles in one afternoon, carrying two brown paper bags loaded with groceries, and never tire.  What she can’t do is put more than three ingredients together.  She drags an old wooden spoon through a pan of macaroni.  No cheese, just ketchup is stirred in.
Chicken & Dumplins
My mom's recipe
     I see my mother’s hands.  Inherited, strong and busy hands—hands with short fingers and even shorter finger nails—hands that wear too many chunky turquoise rings and not enough sunscreen.  They are hardworking, but soft and soothing, all at the same time.  One hand wraps around an old wooden spoon, as it stirs Koolaid and berries into a something that will become jelly.  Then later in the day it mixes flour and water, just to please a granddaughter with an insatiable appetite for chicken and dumplins.
     I see my own hands.  Diamond rings mark anniversaries, making me look privileged; chipped nails, dry cuticles and cuts from dull knives tell the truth.  An old wooden spoon goes around a pan of polenta, couscous or that the women who held this same spoon before me, have never heard of, much less stirred.  Food that the chicken and dumplin eater won’t touch.
     This old wooden spoon once belonged to my great grandmother and I can't picture one without the other.  They are both family.  It’s worn down to a nub from more than 5 decades of stirring.  After my mom died I thought that my dad had the spoon, in fact I was certain that I had used it many times while cooking for him, when I was at his house.  The day after he died I cleaned out his kitchen, never once giving the spoon a thought.  Most of his utensils where yellowed plastic or old metal, with a little bit of rust thrown in.  I boxed them all up to give away.
     Weeks later I thought about the spoon and cussed myself for not remembering to keep it.  Was it in the box with the jumble of whisks, spatulas and wooden spoons, that had been given to Goodwill by my sister?  I asked her about it but she had no recollection of any specific item, just to say that there were a lot of wooden spoons and other utensils in the box.  This one was different I told her, and I described it to her; long round handle, spoon part worn down, lopsided. She had no idea.
     A few months passed and my sister came for a visit so that we could sort through a bunch of our parent’s belongings, which I had been storing.  As we sorted through the tubs I again mentioned the spoon, saying that I had wanted that spoon and that I couldn't believe that I had tossed it out while cleaning Dad's kitchen.  I told her my memories of our grandmothers’ and our mother, cooking with it.  While rambling on I stuck my hand in a tub of miscellaneous junk and wrapped my fingers around whatever they touched and pulled out that very spoon!  It should be noted here, that my mom has been gone since 2001 and I have sorted through those tubs at least 3 or 4 times over the past 9 years.  Also in those 9 years I have cooked countless dinners for my dad and I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that the spoon was at his house, and that I had used it many times.  As I held it up, my sister and I stood there, our mouths hanging open, wide enough to catch flies and starring at each other in disbelief, as if the good Lord himself had just handed the spoon to me.
     The spoon was going around a pan of risotto the other day, when I held it up and showed it to my daughter, The Dumplin Eater, and told her the story.  I promised to give it to her and she promised to pass it on to her daughter one day, along with the story, thus making six generations of us who have stirred a pot  with this very special old wooden spoon.

I posted my mom's Chicken and Dumplin Recipe back in June, with the Hello Baby ~ Good-bye Money, post.  You can find it there.  
     This is my great grandmother's apple butter recipe. Ironically, I never knew that I had it, until just a few days ago. While looking for a receipe, I came across it, written out in my mother's handwriting, with the top line of the card simply stating, Grandma's Apple Butter.  While I've never personally made it, I do recall my granmothers hand placed over the top of mine, as we stirred up a batch together. Growing up it was always on our table, that is until 1984 when my great grandmother died at the ripe old age 90.  Go to the "Misc. Recipes" tab at the top of this page to view it.


  1. That brought tears to my eyes..... nothing like the thought of my Grandma's hands to make my heart feal heavy. Good but heavy :) Miss her daily.
    Thanks for always sharing from your heart. Love it!!!
    Vanessa Vasa

  2. Hey Tammi!
    COOL Story!!
    I got goosebumps when you found the spoon--I'd say you're still being looked after by those who went before!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I should have had "blondie" sign me up for this long ago!
    Merry Christmas to you and the "Big Guy"!!!!

  3. Thanx Vanessa & Rod...yep, it's nice to know that those Grandma's are watching over us! Merry Christmas guys and thanx for reading SdJ!
    ♥ Tammi

  4. Chicken n dumplings!!!! mmmm.. we should make some when i come out today! :-) ~The dumplin eater

  5. Back at you my dear friend. Your spoon story brought tears to my eyes.
    Mom and Todd just left - had such a wonderful time. Makes one realize what really matters. Love your blog - everytime I read it I laugh or cry -
    Love you - give that Hubby big love from me.
    Happy New Year!