Back to school, the prequel

Sunday, September 14, 2014
Last Sunday, I shared back-to-school photos of my daughters. This week I thought I'd show you one of my mom's school pictures. It was taken in the school year 1945-46, in her one-room schoolhouse. My mom, Joyce Bustin (now Joyce Baker) is wearing a white bow in her hair, and sitting three from the back ahead of the teacher. Her sister, my aunt Barbara, is directly ahead of her, and their best friend Frances is at the back of the row.

I'm not the only one in my family who loves to write. My mom has written a history of her life for my daughters and their cousin Lexy. Here are a few memories of school and friendship:

"At Croton school we played Ante-I-Over (throwing the ball over the woodshed roof and then running around to the other side before the ball could be caught and we could be tagged out). We played baseball at noon and recess. A school window was often broken and we all had to chip in to pay for a new one. There were woods beside the school. In the fall, we'd rake many leaves to a corner of the fenced-in yard. The girls would build a leaf hut in one corner and the boys would build one in another corner against the fence."

"The first morning [at their new school, after they moved]: Our clocks at the house were slow and we had arrived late. We sort of slunk into the classroom with everyone staring at us. We had about a two-mile walk to Croton School."

"Barbara and I often played with Frances Morgan from next door. The Anne of Green Gables books were a big hit with us. Morgans didn't have electricity. We were intrigued by the idea that Anne and Diana signalled messages to each other's homes. Barbara and I would go upstairs to one of the bedrooms that faced Morgans'. We would pull the cord on the ceiling light to turn it on and off. Frances signalled by walking into or out of her bedroom carrying a lamp. Our signalling was rather limited for meanings and this procedure didn't last long."

"Our school, like others, grew a Victory Garden. We planted, hoed and watered these vegetables and they went to the war effort. Mother would give us each 25 cents a week to buy a stamp to go into a war savings certificate which was kept at school. This was a piece of paper with squares where we licked the stamps and stuck them on. When 20 stamps had been affixed, another $5.00 had been saved to help with war expenses."

In the Second World War, Victory Gardens were common all over North America. Transporting food was expensive, and commercial canned goods were being set aside for the troops. Rationing often meant there wasn't enough food to go around. Victory Gardens solved those problems in several ways. They were a source of both food for local communities and money for the troops. They also helped civilians, especially schoolchildren, feel like they were contributing to the war effort.

I'm sure some of the carrots grown in these gardens were tossed into soups, since that would have been an economical way to feed a family. This soup recipe might be a bit fancier than those served in wartime and post-wartime households, but it was delicious - and filling enough to power a game or two of Ante-I-Over.

Carrot Soup with Crisped Chickpeas and Pita Wedges
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)


2 Tbsp olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled and diced or thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 regular or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper flakes, and sauté until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes.

Once vegetables have begun to brown, add broth, using it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cover with lid and simmer until carrots are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with crisped chickpeas and serve with pita wedges.

Crisped chickpeas

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and patted dry on paper towels
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss chickpeas with olive oil, salt and cumin until they’re all coated. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast until they’re browned and crisp, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Toss them occasionally to make sure they’re toasting evenly.

Pita wedges

A few large pitas, cut into 8 wedges each
Olive oil, to brush pitas
Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice-herb blend) or sesame seeds and sea salt, to sprinkle

Spread pita wedges on a second baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with za’atar or a combination or sea salt and sesame seeds. Toast in the oven with chickpeas until brown at edges, about 5 minutes. 

Serve soup with chickpeas on top, and pita wedges on the side.


Marcela said...

wow! your soup looks stunning! i love it!

Martha@SeasideSimplicity said...

What a treasure!This is so wonderful! I sure wish my mom would have been one to write. I have many old family photos with no idea who the people are, and same with all the thousands of things she saved, I wish there were at least little notes telling about the items.

Valerie Gamine said...

It's easy to see where your writing love + talent came from. (You should publish these notes, they're brilliant!)

The one good thing about cold(er) weather is the inhalation of soup. This looks scrumptious!

grace said...

i love roasted chickpeas! i eat them as a snack but using them as a soup garnish is a great idea. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Loved hearing abut your mother's life. So interesting. And thanks for the recipe.

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

Oh, the family history is a treasure...loved hearing some of your mom's stories. And the carrot soup looks wonderful...I'll take extra chick peas on mine :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds yummy! We've made salt & vinegar chick peas too - just boil in vinegar for a minute or so before you roast them :)

We Are Not Martha said...

What a great photo and post! And that carrot soup looks so good!


Barbara said...

Good idea to write down your life story (before you forget!); we tried to get my dad to do it, he had such an interesting life, but it was like pulling teeth.
I am old enough to remember WWII. The victory gardens and I remember going to a store in town after school each day to make bandages.

Beth said...

I hope you're writing down your own memories, Barbara! Sounds like you've got some great ones.

Angie's Recipes said...

That's a precious photo, Beth. The soup looks warming and delicious.

Juliana said...

Oh Beth, this photo is sure very stories are sure great...
The carrot soup looks delicious especially with some crispy chickpeas!
Enjoy your week :D

Anonymous said...

Beth, I just loved this post. My parents tell me stories about these days but to see it in black and white film is precious. These are the days when they had to walk to school for 10 miles up hill, both ways....or so their story goes... Love you soup recipe perfect for greeting fall.

amy (fearless homemaker) said...

Wow, what a wonderful post! I absolutely love reading your mother's writing - I see where you get your talent. =) And what a lovely soup - totally my type of wonderful fall meal.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the old stories and photo. The soup looks delicious.

vanillasugarblog said...

this crunchy chickpeas, I made a Moroccan version years ago, and the smells, the aromas that filled my house for days were just heavenly.
It reminded me of the days when I would take weekends and go to the east side of NYC just to see & eat at all the falafel joints, the curry stands--oh I miss that.
That old photo reminds me I need to join as I've found out I have a great, great, great grandfather that was in the civil war. Interesting right?

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

Pita, chickpeas, soup? It sounds like the ideal dish for me - light and delicious :D

Choc Chip Uru

Joanne said...

Loving seeing this flashback to your family's history! And I have been dying to make this Smitten Kitchen soup. I think this weekend it's gonna happen.

Cheri Savory Spoon said...

What a wonderful story, so interesting that everyone including children contributed towards the war. Love this soup!

Monica said...

This soup is wonderful but the photo, the stories, and the memories are even better! The words from your mom are such a wonderful gift. I read aloud to my 9-year old son and for various reasons, books centered around the 40's have been a favorite for us. It's great to hear your mom's words here about her life near that time.

Gloria Baker said...

This is a really lovely pic of your mom and her sister, they look cute:)
And I love your carrot soup!

Bonnie said...

Beth, I loved looking at the photo of your mother's classroom and reading a bit of her story. Thanks for sharing! Hugs!

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Beth, such wonderful memories to share - I love that idea for a blogpost and we also are great fans of Cream of Carrots Soup - I have never served mine with crisped chickpeas, sounds like a delicious idea.
Have a nice weekend,

Inger @ Art of Natural Living said...

What nice memories from your mother! I remember wanting to tie tin cans on a string and run it to the girls in the house next door. That never went very far either ;-)

Anonymous said...

I love the picture of your mom! Gotta love the bow in her hair, too. Thanks for sharing some of her memories. That's so special!

Also, thanks for the recipe! I'm printing it out to try soon!

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