It became a tradition for my mom, dad, brother Ken and my sister Kathy to go to our grandparent’s house for a meal on New Year’s Day.
It wasn’t the traditional New Year’s Eve foods of pork and sauerkraut; it was something a lot less traditional. My Dad would buy a couple of cans of oysters and a gallon of vanilla ice cream. He always bought the little wafer-like oyster crackers. We would take it all with us when we visited.
Granddad Miner had a small farm and had fresh butter, cream, and milk. He had lard from the pigs that he had butchered and Grandma had apples that she had canned. Grandma would bake two apple pies. (Her crusts were nice and light from the lard that she used and the apples were seasoned just right for the filling.)
As soon as we walked inside, my glasses would steam up. I would enter their house and be assaulted by the cinnamon-spicy aroma of the pies and the warmth of the coal cook stove in her kitchen. There would be the scent of percolated coffee adding richness to the festivities. When we appeared, the ice cream would go into the freezer and the oysters would go into a large pot with the creamy milk, butter and salt and pepper. Nothing else was needed to make a rich light soup. All we had to do was to wait and waiting was hard for us kids. The pleasantly warm smells made our stomachs growl. (At least mine growled.)
Grandma would get up occasionally to stir the pot. We would all watch in anticipation for her to nod that the meal was ready and were disappointed when she returned and sat back down. When it would seem I could wait no longer, Grandma would say, “Let’s eat.” There was no need for a second call when the oyster broth was cooked and ready to be served.
Grandma would use a large ladle and lift out steaming broth and a few of the meaty oysters into bowls; smaller ones for us kids, and larger ones for the adults. When the savory soup was placed in front of me I would take a deep sniff, wanting to just have a taste of it, but I knew that all had to be served and after grace was said, the crackers would be passed around to pour onto the broth.
I always wanted to lift the bowl and drink it right down, but I would take one spoonful at a time to make it last as long as I could. (Besides the soup was so steaming hot, I would have scalded and blistered my throat.) Grandma would ladle out a bit more to everyone until the pot was empty.
The adults would sip coffee and talk. We would squirm in our chairs wishing the apple pie and ice cream was already in front of us, but as children, we couldn’t ask and had to wait to be served.
Eventually Grandma would rise and fetch the pies. My mom would get the ice cream. Our eyes sparkled in anticipation. (Apple pie and ice cream was not a common occurrence.) Grandma sliced the pies. A large wedge was placed on a saucer and Mom would scoop a heaping mound of the frozen treat on the pie. Spoons were traded for forks and the forks hovered over the mélange.
We drooled until everybody was served and then dove in with gusto. Barely a crumb was left on the plate when we were through. Tummies full and appetite sated we moved away from the table to play dominoes or Parcheesi.
It was then some sadness would creep in. We would have to wait another full year for the oyster stew and apple pie with ice cream.