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My Mother’s Kitchen – Sybil’s Mud Pie

by Judy McCutcheon, daughter of Sybil Taute Bengston

I can shut my eyes and imagine myself as a young girl tromping home from our country school on a damp, breezy April afternoon.  When I get to the end of our long land leading up to the house, I see Dad heading toward me, his red Farmall putting mightily.  Attached behind it was the two-bottom plow turning over neat furrows of black, pungent, moist earth.  Off come my shoes and socks and under the barbed wire fence I slide to tramp behind that farm machinery convoy, my hot, tired feet sucking up the delicious feel of one of God’s greatest gifts to children– MUD!!

I grew up in the days when pavement was pretty much non-existent and in the spring we experienced weeks and even months of continual battle (and delight) with mud.  Spring rains often lasted for days and days causing moisture to seep way, way down into the rich earth.  This “creation of humus” emitted a peculiar odor and mingled with the scent of apple blossoms and the budding of everything green, our noses beheld a smell that was divine.  The outdoors beckoned.  Dad headed for the fields.  We girls headed for our “playhouses.”

The shelter belts surrounding our home afforded us acres of possible home sites.  It took days to round up the necessary times for communal as well as singular playhouses out in those trees.  The exteriors were defined by lengths of old twine from Dad’s garage and wound around the trees to block out our “territory.”

Inside our mean estates were odds and ends of packing boxes, boards, tree branches, and rocks that were gleaned from the farm’s dump sites all forming the makeshift furniture that we needed to keep house and “cook.”

We salvaged all sorts of used tin cans for our “kitchen” shelves and pretended to shake and sift and stir all those imaginary ingredients.  However, the one never-ending staple to our cooking endeavors was MUD. Mud became cookies when mixed with tiny rock “chocolate chips.”  Mud became pie when wadded, rolled out, and stuffed with leaf “apple slices.”  Mud was “soup” when heavy doses of water collected in old, rusty coffee cans were added.  Really watery mud was tea or coffee.  Thick, thick, mud was meat patties or bread or whatever.  Grass was good “filler” and tiny sticks made great birthday candles in mud cakes.  Mud in all its forms allowed our imaginations to come up with menus exuding tantalizing cuisine.  We loved inviting each other to “tea parties.”

It would take days to prepare all our specialties and let them dry out sufficiently to present to our visitors on old broken “real” plates or pieces of roof shingles sufficing as serving dishes. Sometime we’d forget our muddy creations till they were too dry, returning to our playhouses to see all our masterpieces in bits.  Not to worry!   We just threw them all out a “window” and start all over again!

I don’t remember ever inviting our parents to meals.  Living on a farm kept them way too busy to spend daylight hours playing with us.  But all my mom’s real homemade meals must have inspired us fledgling cooks.  To this day I find myself loving to create meals out of the odds and ends that wind up in the back of the refrigerator.  I’m sure I owe much of my joy in creative cooking to all those meals of mud in my past!


Submitted by Cody Hult, great grandson of Sybil

1. dirt

2. water

3. more dirt

4. 1 cup of water

5. stear (stir)

Need to use:

1. spoon

2. bowl

No baking.  Just one minute in sun.

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