I didn’t intend to poison Donny.
I didn’t intend to poison Donny.
Using freshly laid eggs from my father’s hen house to make mud pies was, to my way of thinking, justifiable. After all, Donny would let me sit on the back of his bike and pedal like mad - while he piloted us down the gravel road between his family’s dairy farm and our house on the corner of Sixth and Celery. And as I felt I had to show my appreciation, why not go for fresh eggs?
Dad tore down the big old chicken house he built in the early forties and put up a smaller one. A veteran of WWI with deeply patriotic sentiments, he supported our troops with a huge victory garden and flocks of chickens and ducks. By the end of the forties, rationing was no longer an issue, so Dad tore down the huge hen house built on the other half of the front part of the property facing the gravel road, and built a cottage on the exact foundation of the old hen house. And then put it up for sale complete with a small garden space.
My father, Chet, would wear old military pants and usually had a Chesterfield hanging out the corner of his mouth when working on the house. I would hang around the building site and help out, which was my foot in the door to get my hands on Dad’s tools, and especially, the stack of lumber piled up behind our built-on bathroom.
Those freshly cut pine planks piled up in the warm spring sun with pitch oozing out in amber globs was just too tempting for a kid that devoured licorice, big tough plugs the size of an adult thumb, bitter and salty, tangy. Horehound drops, that took the skin off the roof of your mouth if you ate too many, equally tangy with a definite bitter medicinal flavor, my other favorite. At first, the taste of the pitch wasn’t too bad, but the experience well downhill pretty fast. The increasingly astringent taste was soon overtaken by the fact that my jaws were stuck together, and I was in danger of losing my baby teeth prematurely.
I wanted my own kitchen. I wanted one really badly. I was tired of make believe kitchens with no guests other than my dolls. So, after scrounging around the building site for nails, I borrowed several wooden orange crates from the barn, and with a load of plank ends, my soon to be kitchen parts were piled on the ground under the kitchen window where Dad held sway.
Our house in Washington didn’t have a basement or a cement foundation; it was built with a generous crawl space trimmed with white lattice because the ground was so moist. Dad had a great view from his big kitchen window so he could keep an eye on our comings and goings on Celery, our paved road. I thought that if I built my kitchen snug against the house directly under the window maybe he would overlook me when he glanced out the window to see what shenanigans we were up to on the street. I had barely started school, so my building technique was pretty primitive, but by upending the orange crates and slapping the leftover planks on top, I soon had a neat little kitchen. A leftover enamel basin, a few bits and pieces of old crockery and a green tinged “silver” spoon; my prized possessions, were soon installed. Now I was ready to entertain.
My first guest was to be Donny. Donny and I were a hot item; sitting on the back of his bike, even though there wasn’t a luggage rack between my bottom and the fender, was big time. He accepted my invitation and I immediately suffered typical hostess jitters: what to serve. I couldn’t put just anything ordinary in front of him; I had a family reputation to uphold. My father was an accomplished cook, and I was sure he would understand that nothing else but fresh eggs would do for my mud pie ‘a la mode, garnished with fresh herbs. My ambition got the better of me, so I snuck into the newly built hen house and carried away two still warm eggs. Behind the built-on bathroom, the earth was especially dark and moist, easy for me to dig up an empty coffee can full. Greens grew there in lush profusion as well, which I carried away in triumph to my new kitchen to start preparations. The mixture I stirred up in the enamel basin looked delicious (it looked almost identical to dad’s brownie batter) and looked even better when plated with a generous sprinkling of “herbs”.
The moment of truth and my first guest arrived; Donny sat down at my orange crate table, “silver” spoon in hand, as I proudly served him. He scooped up a heaping spoonful and shoveled it in his mouth just as dad rushed out the back door and across the back porch to lean out and yell. “You kids get in the kitchen right now!”.
Ushered into the kitchen, dad sat us both down at the kitchen table. Donny got a plate of cookies and a glass of cold milk from his parents dairy. I got a scolding.
Dad wasn’t so much upset about my stealing eggs as he was that Donny ate that gunk. I was sure this wasn’t going to end well. Dad had a hard hand and was quick to pull out his wide leather belt and administer punishment and I just knew that I wasn’t getting off this time when dad offered me a compromise: I could enter the most holy of holies, his kitchen, and experiment if I ate everything I cooked myself, and didn’t use the neighbors as guinea pigs. It was a deal I could live with. I soon learned the difference between sugar and salt, and didn’t bake any cakes bigger than a saucer in dad’s huge wood fired range. And never duped anyone into eating a raw egg again. Though I did feed a live slug to a mutt once, but that’s another story.
Donny’s stomach must have been made of cast iron, cause he didn’t get sick from my mud pie. I soon was making glorious messes, and eating them, even if they did taste nasty at the beginning. And yes, I did have some issues with baking powder when making a saucer cake, and was very thankful for the size limits dad set for me, even if it took two big glasses of milk to help me choke it down.
Best of all, I spent all summer on the back of Donny’s bike, pedaling us both up and down Sixth and Celery.
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