The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Lard Bucket Flour

By Sylvia Sampson © 1992

Issue: July-August-September, 1992

A trip home for the holidays brought back so many memories of all the times our large family gathered around make-shift tables. For hours we would talk, eat, and just spend time with each other. I looked over the new additions to our family, and remembered the ones no longer with us. Times have changed but I always expected my family to remain the same. My visit home proved me wrong.

As Momma's six daughters and three daughters-in-law crowded into her small kitchen, we couldn't talk to each other over the roar of the many electric appliances at work on our dinner. I took all of this for granted, for my own kitchen has the same essential appliances. Not until Momma measured out the flour for rolls into a shiny new mixer did I realize the old times were gone for good.

My mind rolled back through the years to the small bedroom I shared with a younger sister. It was close to the kitchen, so Momma kept her flour stored there in a huge bucket once used for lard. On cold wintry mornings Momma would dip down into the bucket, and soon we would have hot buttered biscuits. Flour sifted from that lard bucket would be added to bacon grease to make gravy to go along with the thin strips of fat back that had been fried until crisp. This was our breakfast each morning before school.

For Sunday dinner Momma would let me fill a large bowl with flour; then I would watch as she added yeast, sugar, salt, and lard. She worked it by hand till it felt just right, then she would cover it with a hot, wet dish towel to help it rise. Those fresh hot rolls on Sunday were better than anything I've been able to make. When times were good, we would have chicken fried golden brown or my Dad's favorite meatloaf.

Momma would let each of us fill her big mixing bowl with flour on our birthdays. We would anxiously wait while all the ingredients were added for our favorite cake: then we would get to scrape the bowl. My favorite flavor was lemon, and I can remember the yellow mix clinging to the sides of the bowl. The tangy sweet taste of lemon scraped from the bowl was better than eating it later.

So many memories include that lard bucket. It wasn't anything special, just an old silver can scrubbed do many times over the years that most of the red lettering was gone. Only the word LARD remained to remind us of its original use. When the family gathered around the table it was used many times as a chair for the smallest child. It was the place I dropped my books each afternoon, and often substituted for a ladder when I needed something from the top of my closet.

I remember one afternoon pulling the lard can to the closet. I didn't know Momma had opened the can and was using the sifter. The lid wasn't pressed down tightly until the sifter was returned to the can, so the lid didn't hold my weight when I stepped on it. Both feet went down into the can half filled with flour. Momma found me trying to free myself, and I knew she would really punished me for standing in her flour bucket, but she only laughed and said, "I knew you were going to do that someday." My punishment was cleaning out the can and putting in fresh flour.

Our meal today was as special as all those before it. I hope we made some memories for the children running among us in the kitchen, but none could be as special as Momma's old lard bucket filled with flour.