Idaho Falls

My Mother and How She Baked

Nathan Hawkes Nathan Hawkes Mar 21, 2024

This is Stillwater on the Saint Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin, where we lived before we moved to Idaho.


My mother was a bread maker in a country kitchen, in an old country house with fields about. The kitchen was big and square and green with a big south facing window through which streamed sunshine in winter months. 

In front of that window, was the family table. We ate meals at that table. We did homework at that table. And if we had problems, that's where they were discussed. 

The  kitchen was the headquarters of that house. She raised six children in that kitchen, largely successful children.

She baked bread. White, puffy sandwich loaves were her staple. With six children, she made huge batches each week.

Country Farm White Bread is a mirror of my mother's bread. Both are fluffy and white, homemade.

What did she do with that bread?  We ate big, thick slices before it cooled, mostly just with the melted butter but sometimes with homemade jam from the pantry off the porch. We had a patch of raspberries in the garden that went forever.


How to Make Fry Bread

Sometimes, some of the time, some of the dough wouldn't reach the oven. If the kids were around, some of the dough was fried, not baked. She knew how much her kids loved fried bread--though we called them scones at the time, not knowing that the rest of the world made scones with baking powder, not yeast.

After the dough rose, she cut off slabs and fried them in butter on the griddle until they were golden brown and crusty but still soft and steamy on the inside.  

We ate her scones almost as fast as she could cook them. Fresh off the griddle, we would slap butter on them, to melt almost immediately, and then drench them in Mom's warm homemade syrup.


See how to make hot fry bread in your kitchen. Then make good country homemade syrup to go with it.

Those are the memories of my childhood.

What else did my mother make? Great Sandwiches!

My mother was a great baker, but not a fancy baker. Her fare was simple and straightforward. She didn't waste money, or bread.

Her sandwiches were straightforward too. In the summer, it was mostly bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, BLT's, with tomatoes from the garden. I preferred the bread, homemade bread, toasted.   

After the fall frost, it was tuna sandwiches and grilled cheese sandwiches. See  how to make better tuna sandwiches (they didn't have albacore tuna back then) and really good grilled cheese sandwiches.

This is a tuna sandwich on Texas toasted bread.  The bread is toasted in butter in a frying pan and then the sandwich is assembled.


My dad liked Monte Cristo sandwiches so some of that bread ended up as Dad's sandwiches. Like a rite of passage, we learned to love Dad's sandwiches as we got older.

This monte cristo sandwich is made with ham, cheese, mustard, and raspberry jam. There are many variations but typically they are both sweet and savory--often mustard and raspberry jam.

How to Make French Toast 

On special occasions, mother made French toast. It wasn't the stuffed French toast we love today. It was her white, Country Farm White-type bread soaked in an egg wash and fried on the griddle.  Again, it was doused in Mom's homemade syrup.

How to Make Bread Pudding

Almost never did her bread last long enough to stale. But if it did, she wouldn't throw it out. She knew that stale bread was the making for bread pudding. We loved it but rarely had it. It was a special treat.

See the recipe for this bread pudding.


My mother was a gentle, generous soul. She loved everyone. If someone was sick, they were likely to get a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies on their doorstep, even if she didn't know them well.

I'm a lucky man to be raised by parents like that.

As for the baking: My mother gave me a cookbook for my eighth birthday and started me making bread. I still try to bake like her. I try to live like her too, but she did it much better than I.


  The Big Lost River Valley in Idaho. Image by Merri Ann Weaver

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