I loved the article on pawpaws ["Finds of the fall" by Hal B. Klein, Food & Flavor, Oct. 10]! Some of my most cherished memories of growing up in West Virginia were of my mom, dad, sisters and I walking through the woods, crunching leaves, heading to our favorite pawpaw patch. They grew along a stream that made a circle around this soggy island of skinny, tall pawpaw trees. I remember jumping over the stream, sometimes making it over without wet feet, and shaking the trees. We would wait for the thump and then look for the fruit. I remember feeling like we were so lucky to have something that most people never even heard of! We always wait until after the first frost to go looking for them. I am happy to continue the tradition and looking forward to going this year!
In response to "Secrets of Dutch oven cooking" by Gretchen McKay [Food & Flavor, Sept. 26] came this poem:
Grandma's Black Pot
At fourteen, I cooked dinner for five in the kitchen
Mother and I shared since I was old enough to stir pudding and stuff the Thanksgiving turkey.
Mother died suddenly at forty-two.
My younger sister and brother feared well-meaning relatives might pull us apart.
Like a stern, yet caring teacher, Dad devised a program of chores and duties for us four kids.
My best friend's mother, a nurse, counseled kitchen therapy: "Food is medicine."
In the dingy fruit cellar, I uncovered a cast-iron pot inherited from a Grandma I barely knew, a relief to my older brother who accused me of dirtying every pot in the house.
I pounded, chopped, braised bargain cuts to the beat of the "Top Forty" from the kitchen radio:
Sunday chuck roast, Monday's stew, pork chops, Swiss steak simmered tender in the Dutch oven.
Fridays I skinned and fried fresh Lake Erie perch, dipped in egg and bread crumbs, the corn oil, hot and slippery, in the well-seasoned black pot.
At sixteen, I cooked dinner for our first guest.
Without telling me, Dad brought home a fellow engineer, a tall Texan in cowboy hat and pointy-toed boots for fish, stewed tomatoes and baked macaroni. Dad's friend cheered us, "I eat fried catfish back home. Happy to be with y'all. Lonely away from home on Friday night."
I phoned Dad's sister and husband for Sunday dinner.
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Food at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Find the stories referred to above at post-gazette.com/food. First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM