Trying to investigate my personal past

This will most likely be a slow journey, but one that I'd like to update on as I go.  Since reading A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, back in July, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my own culinary heritage. 

I know nothing about cooking on my father's side of the family, but on my mother's I'm the descendant of Swiss, German, and Danish immigrants who were Western pioneers and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka Mormons.  My maternal grandmother grew up in the Mormon Colonies which were just on the other side of the border, in Mexico.

In reading about the history of what women do and have done, I realized that while I have fond memories of my grandmother's cooking, and of the drawer she kept of recipe clippings (the bottom was circa 1943), I don't know how her family ate.  Most of what she made was fairly standard mid-20th Century fare--pork chops, casseroles, the occasional veal as a special treat.  Very retro-50's Mexican food (the good kind).

What, though, did her mother cook?  They had a small farm and grew mostly corn and peaches.  But what did they eat?  Did they have a stove, or a fireplace?  Did they cook American-style food, from a local Mormon food culture, or did they eat food more similar to the native Mexicans and Indians? What about her grandparents and great-grandparents, the original immigrants?  Was there ever a time when German and Danish food was my families norm, or did they Americanize quickly?

My mom had a good starting point, when I emailed her:

From what Gramma said, they relied very heavily on their own vegetable garden and the fruits they bottled (the peaches). Gramma Skousen made 13 loaves of bread every other day. They had a big kitchen stove--wood stove, from what Mom said. And I know they grew potatoes because mom said they vied for the most they could get at meals. They had chickens. Mom's mom grew up in a German home, but I never heard her speak of cooking German dishes, though it would be logical if she had. Dad and I just discussed this: Neither he nor I EVER heard Gramma or Mom talk about, or make ANYGerman or Danish dishes. We think that they purposefully lost the German food just like they lost the German accents as soon as humanly possible due to 2 German blamed world wars. There weren't even any German holiday foods at all. Only a few mexican dishes came down through the family that they must have learned how to do from servants in the household. So those dishes were just an oddity for them; they survived on boiled potatoes and beans (cheap protein) and a lot of garden veggies and bread. So notice what became the dishes passed down in my family: the mexican ones that were oddities became the special ones for holidays. I keep hearing how Germans were persecuted in this country since Woodrow Wilson, and how he furthered and tolerated that idea. I'm sure there was much less of that going on in Mormondom, however. Noone in my family ever said anything, but it would have been a reason to lose the German-ness and not celebrate it. Oh. One time Dad got really irate at the accepted anti-german sentiment in a TV show called Hogan's heroes. I was really blind sided by it because I didn't consider myself German or have any identity in it. The fact that he said anything, and that he was actually steamed says volumes.
Did they trade for other local products? I don't know! That's a great question.

The next step will be to try to contact old family relatives.  Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away when I was 16, and so I can't ask her, but she still has several living brothers and sisters.

Fingers crossed that I can get in touch with them!


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