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Foodways Traditions

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Terri Hunter

I was so fortunate to have known and spent lots of time with my daddy’s mom, Maude Baldwin Bateman, my Mammaw. She was an absolutely wonderful person who made each grandchild feel as if he or she was not only the best kid ever but also her very favorite. She was such a hard worker, not only in her home but also in the garden and with the animals.

I’d tag along when she went to milk the cows. She’d get the pail, put some clean water in it, and off we’d go to the barn. Mammaw would go to the edge of the field and call for the cows.  “Sook, cow, sook!” And, believe it or not, the cows would lift their heads, give her a look, and head up the hill to the barn. If they ever ignored her and she had to go herd them to the barn, she was not happy.

Now, remember I was a town girl, so I was under the impression all of this was for my enjoyment and entertainment. If I get anything wrong, it’s because I don’t know what I am talking about. Besides that, I was about halfway afraid of those cows and stood on a ledge so I could watch without them getting near me.

Mammaw led the cow to a stall and poured sweet feed into the trough. She used the water she had in the pail to wash the cow’s udder before she began milking. She did not sit on a stool, but leaned over, braced herself against the cow, held the pail with one hand, and milked with the other. When one hand tired, she’d switch and use the other hand.

Once the pail was full, we’d head back to the house. I was allowed to “help carry,” which I’m sure caused more work than help. She strained the milk with a clean white cloth, before pouring it into gallon glass jars. The cream, a nice yellow color, rose to the top and had to be stirred back in before anyone could drink the fresh milk. 

Even though milk of all kinds and flavors sits in the grocery store waiting to be selected, the only gallons I think of as memorable came from Mammaw’s cows.