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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Salt Cellars and Stuff

Chuck Hinman: Salt Cellars and Stuff. Chuck says, Mom had the pretties to set a beautiful table to show off her cooking skills.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Chuck Cryptographer

By Chuck Hinman

Salt Cellars and Stuff

My parents were NOT red-neck farmers -- in fact, far from it! My Dad was pursuing an engineering degree from the University of Nebraska when the opportunity to take over a top-notch farm presented itself. Mom was a school teacher. They were refined, school sweethearts when they began their farming career with high hopes.

Our farm home was new, large, and a dream home for a young Nebraska farm family. The dining room was spacious and elegant. In addition to shiny oak floors, the room was trimmed in beautiful oak including a ceiling cornice. An oak dish-rail surrounded the room and there were oak colonnades on either side of the floor register.

Setting a beautiful table

All of that to say that when company came for Sunday dinner, Mom had the pretties to set a beautiful table to show off her cooking skills. My sister Joy Ann didn't come along for several years so Mom taught me to set the table with all its finery. I loved doing it and she loved showing me how to do it right.

I learned the difference in my right and left hand when Mom taught me you place the knife and spoons on the right side of the plate and the forks on the left.

Staying dressed up for Sunday dinner

I learned to put the extra leaves in the table followed by the insulated mat which went on before the white table cloth with shiny things on it. There were matching napkins. I can hear you saying "what do dirt farmers need napkin for?" Sunday dinner in the Hinman family has traditionally been served after we had been to Sunday School and church at the Liberty Congregational church. It was a family affair. We stayed dressed up for dinner especially if we were having company. This is the Lord's Day and we are His kids and Mom and Dad brought us up that way.

After the dinner plates and service plates were in place, ii was time to put on the water glasses -- not jelly glasses! Mom's crystal glasses, Hinman family heirloom hand downs, had a simple cut-glass star on the side. Then came the silverware from its place in the buffet drawer with green felt lining. The silverware tarnished easily but was polished by time to set the table. Our good silver was Community Plate. I don't remember the pattern name but the knife and fork were unique because they had thick, heavy handles.

One of the dinner forks had something loose in its handle and we three kids used to argue over which of us got to use the fork with the 'ding-a-ling handle.' I believe son Paul has that silverware in his Tulsa home.

Showing off with salt cellars

Before putting the chairs in place, there was one more article of finery we set the table with, especially if we were having celery, radishes, or green onions. They were show-off pieces called 'salt cellars.'

They served as your individual salt dish to dip your celery stalks, radishes, or green onions in, rather than pouring salt on your salad plate. Some salt cellars came with fancy dancy miniature spoons. It was unashamedly 'putting on the dog' and quickly fell out of favor when it became public knowledge that overuse of salt was harmful to your health. No wonder people in those days died at an early age.

Downsizing and storing away dishes

When I downsized before moving to Tallgrass Estates in 2002, Mom's salt cellars went to my daughter Mary Ann. She died two years ago. Her daughter, was in college at the time and put things from her mother's home in storage until such time as she had a home of her own. That time has arrived.

On May 31, 2008 my granddaughter Kasi will marry Craig who will graduate next week from Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, California.

Using salt cellars as 'sugar' cellars to honor Chuck

Like her great grandparents who were Nebraska farmers with a bright future, Kasi and Craig will have their own dream home in Dallas, Texas. When Kasi unpacks those footed 'salt cellars' that have been in storage, I am reminding her that her old grandpa Chuck used to set the table with those when he was a little boy, his chin barely reaching the top of the table.

May I request that you, Kasi and Craig, honor me sometime when you are putting on a 'show-off' dinner in your glitzy dream home with all your 'pretties' by filling these footed salt cellars with sugar and dipping cold strawberries in them. No one in Dallas will have 'sugar cellars' and you will be honoring your proud Nebraska farm heritage.

Written by Chuck Hinman, 23 April 2008.

Editorial Note: Dinner refers to the noonday meal. Many of these remarks appear -- from a different point of view -- in another Chuck Hinman story, "Mom's Little Helper Boy." -- RHS

This story was posted on 2013-09-01 01:28:12
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