Anna's Cookbook

A Collection of Keyser Family Recipes

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Down on the Farm

Take a guy who loves the ground and is entwined in the earth's moon phases and growing cycles, introduce him to a beautiful woman who is just as passionate about cooking and caring for people, and a recipe is created for wonderful to happen: "The Keyser Tradition".

Dewey Anna

Tradition in which Anna Keyser and Dewey Keyser passed down their most important beliefs in Life! Farming seemed to be the natural Tradition for our father. He was ferociously passionate about our water supply. Our father's whole family perished to typhoid fever before he was 10 years of age. He knew how to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, crop rotation, bee keeping and all aspects of farming. Dad had a passion for his land upon which our sandstone house was built.

And then there is cooking. Always there's cooking. Mom started with the basics at hand. She added love. She gave it a warm space to grow and a little time to grow and then more attention. The result was something that nourished both the body and soul.

The farm was our paradise. It wasn't luxurious. Everything had a bit of dirt on it or was a little banged up. No one cared, though. My mother was a deeply satisfied person.

Everywhere you looked, something was growing. We ate according to the seasons and preserved vegetables, fruits and berries in the summer and fall, so we could eat them in the winter. Cooking and eating were easy, natural, and instinctive ways of expressing love in my mother's house. My father was the "head of the household", but my mother made sure our home was a place where we all felt good: revived, nurtured and loved. It was her absolute expression of love and fulfilling her life's destiny, which, as she saw it, was to take care of people.

Food was the one and only thing our parents were willing to splurge on. We never went on vacations, we always wore hand-me-downs, and often played with makeshift toys, but we had more than enough food to eat all the time. Everyone was always welcome to sit at our table and eat supper.

Knowing where food comes from and how to grow it is empowering to me! It originated with my mom and dad who valued the economic and health benefits of growing and preserving food. I now grow and preserve food because it is a way to feel connected to mom and dad, as well as knowing the origins of my food.

My father was an outdoor education teacher, so I was fortunate to learn about plants and animals, while mom was teaching me about cooking with herbs and spices, and how to make homemade jams and jellies. My mother had severe asthma and breathing problems. It was always more acute in the summer months. Long before I started to school, I would push the old wooden chair over to the stove and stand on that chair to cook. Mom would sit and instruct me from her chair. By the time I started to school, I could double a cake recipe and add fractions. I used that same chair to hang the wash on the outdoor clothesline. Great memories!

As for cooking, it's just a wonderful part of family life. I grew up in a house where we sat down for home cooked meals made by Mom. Mom cooked healthy meals to sustain those she loved! I love to see people enjoy food. It's instant gratification. You can throw something together and make people happy. It's wonderful to share time, good food, and conversation. I love the "process".

Young Anna

Where together we cut fields of alfalfa and baled, hauled, and stacked the hay, milked the cows, slopped the pigs, fed the chickens, and tilled over an acre of garden. The remaining fields were planted in corn, oats,and wheat.

And the memory of those cold months in late January and February, where we would rise in the cold, dark, still of the morning to gather maple sugar sap from all our sugar maple trees, milk the cow, and do chores running past the spring house up that long uphill lane to catch the school bus. When the bus returned us from our school day, we would run down that long lane and the "process" would start all over again with the collecting of sap, chores first, then homework, followed by a heartwarming home cooked supper shared by the whole family and all the extra faces that graced our table.

For spending money and school clothes, we would pick strawberries for 6 cents a quart, dig potatoes, and help our neighbors put up hay and crops. I will always value our lesson on earning money.

Every time I hear John Denver's song, "Back Home Again", my thoughts return to my childhood days Down on the Farm.

I miss those simple days, I miss the fun of waxing the toboggan runners with soap and zooming down the hills, and I miss my mom and dad. I miss their smiles; I miss the process of life and I miss all the laughter. What I miss most is our family get-togethers. My mother used any reason to rally the whole family together - especially Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was her day to shine! Mom and the founder of Thanksgiving, Abraham Lincoln, have so much in common. Lincoln saw the value in Thanksgiving and how it is at the very heart of what makes this country and each and every family great. History has now brought us full circle. November 25, 2021, marked America's 400th anniversary of the original Thanksgiving - an opportunity to celebrate - like only Mom could - what she got so very right!