Yesterday's Magazette

13 – Saturday Aromas From Childhood

Saturday Aromas From Childhood

By Dorothy Conlon

My mother was a very organized household manager. Monday was always laundry day; Friday was always house cleaning day, etc. But Saturday was the best day of all, I always thought. The house was filled with tempting aromas from her cooking and baking routine every week.

Dried pea beans would have been set to soak the night before, soft enough by morning to be mixed with molasses, ginger, mustard, and bits of salt pork. Then they were slow-baked for many hours in a brown glazed pot to produce traditional Boston baked beans. After that came the bread making. Yeast, sugar, oil and flour—white, of course—were mixed and set to rise for an hour or so under a clean towel. As the dough puffed up, it became a big white mound, which had to be punched down and turned two separate times before it was ready to be kneaded lovingly into three symmetrical loaves. Another rising in the bread tins, carefully covered to prevent drying out, and the loaves were finally ready to slide into the oven.

I forgot to mention the first cooking project of the morning. My father loved doughnuts. You might almost say he was addicted to his breakfast doughnut every morning. Of course hot out-of-the-oil doughnuts were the best of all, so first thing every Saturday my mother prepared the batter, rolled it out and cut it into traditional cake-style doughnuts. (I never knew there was any other kind—raised doughnuts—till I was a teenager.)

The rings of dough were popped into hot oil, often melted bacon fat, three or four at a time, turned to brown evenly, and quickly removed with a slotted spoon to drain on layers of newspaper. Oh, heaven! A scrumptious hot crispy-outside, fluffy-inside delight for Saturday morning breakfast. I particularly liked the doughnut holes. On other mornings my father had to be content with doughnuts left over from the Saturday batch. This was before the days of freezers.

Now, back to the busy oven and its contents. As the afternoon wore on, not only the kitchen, but the whole house, became permeated with the seductive fragrance of the baking beans, after the hot bread had reached its rounded golden perfection and been set out on racks to cool. We were never allowed to eat the bread while it was still hot; that was a sure-fire prescription for a stomach ache, supposedly. By the time supper was served, the beans were swimming in a thick sweet glaze while the bread was still warm. Usually there were homemade bread-and-butter pickles as well, to spice up the meal. What a feast! Who even needed apple pie afterward, although Mother sometimes produced that as well on her busy baking day.

Recalling that routine and those aromas makes my taste buds quiver, even while it exhausts me to think of Mother’s hard-working Saturday.

*Dorothy Conlon is an octogenarian globe-trotter who usually writes travel articles. But sometimes she indulges in tidbits of nostalgia. She is the author of “At Home in the World: Memoirs of a Traveling Woman.” Learn more at

Vol. 38 No. 3 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Fall- 2011


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