Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stories Mom Told Me: Part 1, Pepper is a Whetstones thing

Mom has written up some memories and we've put them together in a book form, with a lot of photos, to make sharing easy. She wrote them years ago in those stenographer's notebooks that she took to libraries and court houses when she went to do genealogy research in years past. She was a good note taker and we've been able to piece together sources for almost every bit of information we looked at in her files. You see, she only did her genealogy for herself and never intended to share it, so sources were recorded on the fly just to help her find her way back to where she first saw a thing. But I digress.

When Mom had a memory of her life and was in a writing mood she'd grab one of those steno books and write it down on blank pages in the back. I noticed the steno books last spring on a visit to see Mom and she read me a couple of stories. I knew then that they should be shared. Over the last ten days I've posted them to this blog.

That done, I think I'll share some more stories Mom told me. You see I call Mom almost every morning and we do go on about family history! I keep notes on what she tells me in spiral notebooks. Now I have three fat ones brimming over with what Mom knows. Sometimes it's just a detail about our ancestors, a small event, or a note about what happened to whom and when. It's the kind of stuff that can easily get lost if a person doesn't write it down then and there.

So here goes, and in no particular order. I'll just work my way back through my "Conversations with Mom" notebooks in a first attempt to get it down in writing, or rather typing. Might be said that it's going to be just a wild basket of kittens!

Stories Mom Told Me: Part 1, Pepper loving Whetstones

I was standing in the kitchen here in our home in San Diego, California, on a cold and rainy winter day a while back. It was a soup or stew day, for sure. We love how a good soup makes the house smell like a home, don't you? When I first got married Mom gave me some tips about cooking and marriage. Men like meat. When you start any cooking that's not a cake, begin with sautéing onions and garlic because it makes the house smell wonderful. Over the years and through all of the vagaries of life, there has been one constant: every savory meal is likely to start with onions and garlic!

As my soup (or stew, I forget) got going and was into the seasoning stage about 45 minutes before it landed on the table, I grabbed for the pepper. Lots of pepper. Love it. I put pepper on everything. So does Mom. We love pepper. I've been criticized for adding too much of it to salads, roasts, and soups. Every beef dish turns into Steak au poivre! It just seems right.

Just as I made this observation, I reached out and grabbed for the phone: let's call Mom and find out about why we love pepper! She said immediately, "That's a Whetstone thing. My grandfather Whetstone put pepper on everything, and lots of it too. So did my Mama. We all love pepper."

What about the Kellys? Do they like pepper like that, I inquired about Dad's side of the family. I wanted to know this because my Grandma Kelly was a wonderful cook and an exceptional baker of sweets. Her wilted spring greens would have made a New York City chef weep! Sauté up some bacon to crispy, remove from the iron skillet (you know the ones, all black) add some vinegar and a dash of sugar swirl in the hot pan and let come to a small boil, then add the greens. The greens wilt immediately, but cover the skillet and take off the heat. The objective is to wilt not cook them, and that's a delicate matter. If overcooked those fresh spring greens can turn bitter and that's no good at all.

Nope, said Mom, pepper is a Whetstone thing. Even a cousin of mine through the Whetstone line says she loves pepper! I wonder how many Whetstone descendants are out there today grabbing for the pepper instead of the salt?

I wondered if there were health benefits associated with black pepper and sure enough, there are. You can see one write-up here and another one here. From the looks of it, pepper, and that's common black pepper that we usually have on the table or in a pepper grinder, is full of antioxidants, and promotes digestion and absorption. Piperine is a substance in it that is known to be a little powerhouse of an item that often works synergistically (especially with turmeric, which I'm willing to bet the Whetstones din not use) to enhance anti-inflammatory properties of other good nutritious foods.

Now I'm wondering if this use of pepper isn't adaptive and old Joseph E Whetstone (1816-1897) and even his father, Jacob Whetstone Junior (1776 - 1889) used pepper to protect from strange intestinal troubles out on the frontier of Western Maryland?  And as an added bonus, it kept arthritis and other inflammatory type ailments at bay? Pretty smart, those Whetstones!

Me on right with cousins, sons of Mom's sister: all pepper lovers.

Mom: possibly the biggest pepper lover of us all!

Mom's mother, Emma Susan (Whetstone) Williams (1897 - 1956) with her brothers, pepper lovers, all!
Pepper lover:
Mom's grandfather Whetstone and her mother's father, Joseph H. Whetstone (1858 - 1939), on the right in his Frostburg Fire Department uniform. Recent news from the FFD historian indicates that his hat says "Assistant Chief."

Joseph H's father, Joseph E Whetstone (1816-1897.)
Another pepper lover? I'm willing to bet.

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