I have lived in the Adirondack Park long enough to now take some of what I consider to be normal practices for granted. When walking my dogs in my yard at nighttime, I always love looking up at the stars, which are beautifully clear and stunning on cloudless nights. I can count on my neighbors to offer help when I need it, to say hi when we encounter each other at the post office or hiking trails, and to wave when they recognize my rather distinctive-looking vehicle. Hanging around an outdoor fire pit is a tried-and-true tradition, and one of the very best ways to spend an early fall evening. And there are few better experiences in life than eating what you have grown or harvested from the land (whether flora or fauna) with family and friends.
I am reminded that rural life isn’t “normal” for everyone when people visit. Much of what I have taken for granted – clear skies, amazing neighbors, and the love of life lived outdoors – sometimes is a bit of a shock to visitors. Visitors from outside of the Adirondack Park aren’t used to people smiling and waving at you (and do not understand the insult of not being waved to!). Many have never seen as many stars in the sky as are visible from much of the Adirondack Park, and have never eaten venison. And many do not understand the pride and relief that coincides with a freezer and pantry full of food that was grown, harvested, or prepared from the bounty of the woods, lakes, streams, and backyard gardens.
If you were to visit my house and look in my pantry, you would see what you likely would be expecting to see in a rural Adirondack pantry – jars of preserves, pickles, and vegetables, extra containers of staples like flour, sugar, lentils, beans, pasta, and more. One reason for the presence of those additional items in my house is that I try to purchase pantry staples when they are on sale, rather than having to replenish those staples when they aren’t on sale. Another reason is that, like many other Adirondack Park residents, I live in a rural town that does not have a grocery store. And, although there are a few grocery stores within a half-hour drive or so from my house (in non-winter driving conditions), because those stores are also located in rural regions, anything purchased from those stores is more expensive than comparable items in bigger grocery stores. So, I try to plan ahead to ensure that I have what I need – not just for myself and my family, but my neighbors as well if there is a need (another factor of Adirondack Park life that I hope I never take for granted).
Another normal practice for me that apparently isn’t so normal is to create some mixes from scratch, rather than relying on commercially prepared alternatives that are also expensive and laden with additives. I make several spice blends and store them in covered pint-sized mason jars. I also make soup mixes (my current favorite is a savory tomato vegetable soup mix, which contains spices, veggie broth powder, and tomato powder), and several baking mixes, as I am addicted to hot soup during cold months (and let’s face it, in the Adirondack Park, most of the year includes cold months) and my family is addicted to bread-type items year-round.
One tried-and-true mix recipe is a Master Mix recipe, from Cornell Cooperative Extension. I do not know when the original recipe was produced, but I did find a copy of this recipe from the 1960’s.
Although a modern update can be helpful at times, there is also nothing at all wrong with sticking with the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach. After all, that type of “normal” approach is one of the characteristics that makes living in the Adirondack Park so magical. And it is one that I hope I never take for granted.
Master Mix (Biscuit Mix)
(makes about 13 cups)
- 9 cups flour
- 1⁄4 cup sugar
- 2 2/3 cups powdered milk
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1⁄3 cup baking powder
- 1 2/3 cups shortening
- In a large pan, stir the dry milk, baking powder, sugar and salt into the flour; mix thoroughly.
- Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients.
- Place the mix in a covered glass or plastic container and keep in a cool, dry place, and use within a month (I store mine in the freezer or refrigerator for extra freshness).
From Cornell Cooperative Extension