Once, after I was divorced and was 35, living in an old farmhouse in southern New Hampshire, he and my mother visited for Christmas. I decided to make Indian Pudding for dessert on Christmas Day, knowing my father would like it. (For those of you who don’t know, Indian Pudding is made with corn meal and molasses, baked and served warm with vanilla ice cream.) I was putting it all together in the kitchen when he walked in. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Making Indian Pudding,” I answered. “Why are you using that,” he said, pointing to the recipe card against the back of the counter. “Because I’ve never made it before.” “Okay, but don’t let me see you use one of those again.” “Yes, Daddy.”
Daddy’s sisters were also great cooks, Aunt Sis and Aunt Sara Newton. I’m not so sure about his brothers, but I can bet they could survive at the stove if they had needed to. They all came about it honestly. In addition to being farmers, their parents had run a small roadside restaurant on the only highway to run between Lexington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio. It was called the Taken-Inn. One of their specialties was country ham, cured using my grandfather’s own recipe.
I really don’t recall my father or my aunts and uncles talking about the inn much while I was growing up. Much later in my life, I became acquainted with one of my father’s cousins. He told me this story:
Many of the customers were truckers, often heading home after making a delivery. During the Great Depression, my grandmother would feed them, and then prepare country ham sandwiches, free, for them to take home to their wives and children.
To this day, I get a little teary-eyed when I think of how generous and unselfish that was, especially for that time in this world.