Food for Thought

Cowley Settlers

Dear Will:

You don’t have to wander very far back through my family history before you trip over a pioneer. As children, my grandparents were sent with their families and several others to make something out of the nothing that was then (and now) the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming. Their parents and grandparents before them came at various times and by various means from Europe across the American plains to scratch out an existence in the Rocky Mountain West. Their journeys were long, their provisions few, and little more than a desolate landscape awaited them once they arrived. Needless to say, it was a hard existence.

It takes little imagination to trace a connection from the relative ease and comfort of my modern life in Southern California to an undeveloped patch of dirt that would one day become Cowley, Wyoming, where my mother was born. Lest we forget our heritage, my mom passed on a handful of pioneer recipes that she shared with me and my siblings when we were younger. Hard Pudding was nothing more than flour, milk, and salt, kneaded into a heavy dough and boiled with a ham bone. (As good as it sounds.) And then of course there was Lumpy Dick, which my mother suggested was a make-do way of feeding an entire family with just one egg and a little bit of flour. In case you weren’t served this breakfast delicacy as a kid, I should tell you that Lumpy Dick has the monochromatic splendor of cooked oatmeal (perhaps a bit more ashen), with the palate-pleasing consistency of paste. Think about a time in elementary school when you were making “art” with papier-mâché. Now imagine mashing your still-wet creation into a bowl, sprinkling it with cream and sugar, and gobbling it down. More or less, that’s Lumpy Dick. Since we’re friends I’ll share with you the formula for this wondrous family concoction, transcribed and annotated here by my sister Wynne:

IMG_5487

Meanwhile, back in the present: Yesterday I enjoyed a typical, modern-day Thanksgiving feast at my son’s house. After grazing mindlessly on an array of cheeses, nuts, grapes and such—laid out to keep us from expiring while we waited to be fed—we then scooped our way through a buffet of eight side-dishes before arriving at the turkey and cranberry sauce. Dessert featured two pies and a cheesecake.

There were seven of us.

Food for thought, right? Yesterday’s feast was (appropriately) a celebration of our good fortune and God’s generosity toward us. For sure. But it was also—rightly—a celebration of the fruits we have harvested from seeds planted by our forbearers through extraordinary sacrifice. We should indeed be grateful for all we have, and grateful also for those whose consecrated labors have made our present-day burdens so much lighter.

Thank God for them. Now and forever.

PW

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