Summer is a great time to start new projects (or finish up ones from last year), find new hobbies, or reconnect with friends and family. With the kids out of school, families are traveling and taking time out to have a good time together. Except for business owners in the HVAC industry. Air conditioners never stop breaking down, and people never stop calling. (Like 8 p.m. on a Sunday night type of never stop calling). It keeps you busy and on the go all the time. I know this since I work with my dad part time as a technician. Sometimes though, it is necessary to make time for yourself.
My dad wanted to take a weekend trip to Southern Indiana to visit some family from his mother’s side (who passed when I was a baby). Taking time to see family and visualize where your heritage lies is important. In fact, after this weekend getaway, I feel connected to my past that runs a lot deeper. My roots start in a small town in The Hoosier National Forest known as Valeene. “God’s Country”, they call it. The way of life is different here. My dad told me stories of playing in the Patoka creek in the summer, and getting a pickle from a wooden barrel at the small grocery store. You can go for miles, from town to town, and only pass a couple gas stations. Although it might seem desolate on the open roads, zooming though the rolling hills, it is nothing short of welcoming inside these southern homes. I was so inspired by my family’s heritage (I will talk more about after the recipe), I did a little archiving.
Look at this from the Indianapolis Star in 1971:
Valeene is not a place to be reckoned with.
When we arrived, Doris, my great aunt in-law, greeted my father and I with smiles and hugs. I greeted her with a Persimmon Pudding I had made with leftover pulp from last fall. Persimmon Pudding is one of those Southern things that is treated like a delicacy. My dad always keeps his eye peeled for persimmon trees around town (rare here in the North), and will bring my these bitter little fruits after a the falls first frost. He used to do this as a kid for his mom when he was a little boy he told me. He had an old Valeene cookbook with a couple really great Persimmon Pudding recipes in it. After making a dozen puddings myself, I have tweaked and formed my preferred Persimmon Pudding. I was a little nervous taking this to Southern Indiana though. Here is where the Persimmon Pudding began, the place where the best is to be had.
Doris cooked up a hardy meal of chicken and noodles, with her mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh garden tomatoes, homemade coleslaw, and her vinegarized cucumber slices. It was all a treat to me since I gave up my hardy southern cooking style about a year ago. Doris surprised us with homemade ice cream and fruit cocktail cake. I knew I had a sugar free detox diet to stick to, but this was less about indulgence in flavor, and more about indulgence in sharing meaningful food with family. I quickly grabbed a piece of my persimmon pudding to at least taste test it. I was delighted as I usually am. Then everyone else started taking bites, and everyone was very pleased. The texture was denoted as wonderfully smooth, and dense with a hardy persimmon flavor. I am sure my Southern family is no stranger when it comes to this delicious dessert, and I was so glad they were delighted with it. I was gasping over the fruit cocktail cake Doris had made. It was quite the remarkable dessert itself.
After our bellies were full, and the plates were cleared from the table, we sat around sharing recipes, gabbing over old times past, and the change of times. Doris gave me another Valeene cookbook to take back home. I’ve already read every recipe. It was so nice to share this experience with my family. I will always correlate persimmon pudding now with that warm feeling of being surrounded by good people. This might not be a sugar free recipe, (although you could make it so), this is the recipe I shared with my great aunt Doris and the others in the little far-away town of Valeene, Indiana.
Left to Right: Second Cousin Cathy, great aunt in-law Doris, myself, father Rich Simpson
(As you can see I use my Valeene cook book quite often, as my grandmother and great grandmother had done so before myself (Notice my great grandmothers name “Grace Stroud” elegantly wrote))
My recipe varies slightly from the one found in the Valeene cookbook.
Makes 12 servings (9×13 pan)
- 2 ¼ c. persimmon pulp
- 2 c. sugar
- ¼ c. butter melted + an extra Tbs. or two for love 😉
- 3 eggs, yolk and whites separated
- 2 c. goat milk (you can use regular, but this is all I had on hand and it tastes great!)
- 2 c. flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
I like to go ahead a beat the egg whites till they’re decently stiff, 2 min on high.
Mix together the dry ingredients, don’t worry about sifting, but go ahead if you must. I didn’t.
Mix in another LARGE bowl persimmon pulp, melted butter, egg yolks, and milk.
Mix the dry into the wet a little at a time, then fold in egg whites last. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13 baking dish. Bake at 360° for 45 minutes, or until a pick comes out with tacky crumbs on it. It is a pudding after all.
This pudding will look pretty in the oven, but it WILL DEFLATE. Don’t panic, that’s just how southerners like it. It’s not a crumby dessert like brownies or cake, it’s dense like fudge, but light like pudding.
A Closer Look Into the Story of My Awe-Inspiring Grandmother – Goldie (Stroud) Simpson
City life can be hectic, busy, and feel a bit congested sometimes. Many times, ideal vacations entail getting away from the hustle and bustle. Being in Southern Indiana made me feel like I had escaped my crazy life back in Anderson. Valeene was even more disconnected in the 1940’s when my grandmother Goldie (Stroud) Simpson was growing up there. It made me wonder though, why did she leave her family down south and start a new city life up north? I always figured my grandmother gave up her life in South to come work in the booming GM factories up North. This weekend trip shed some light on the subject, as I learned what a strong-willed woman my grandmother must have been.
I had only met my great aunt and second cousins when I was just a little girl, so my memory of them was faint at best. I remember “mooing” at the cows on the farm and crossing a little bridge on their driveway. The farm was originally home to my father’s grandmother and grandfather (where his mom grew up). Later, one of the boys took over the farm and lived there with his wife (my dad’s aunt in-law, Doris), making her my great aunt in-law. Doris (Free) Stroud still lives there today. The other faint memory I have is attending her husband’s funeral. This would have been my great uncle Wayne Stroud. I remember being so sad, because at the time of the funeral I was aware and remembered the time I had visited him as a very little girl, and riding in his truck in back country. Those memories have since passed my brain.
My dad would always remanence about how much he enjoyed weekend trips to southern Indiana as a kid with his mom and dad to visit his grandma, uncle Wayne, and aunt Doris. It appeared to me country life the way they had it was so much better. I learned though, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, it may not have been so great for women. My dad told me that his mom’s father was a mean old man. Goldie was the only daughter of 4 children. She spent her days working with her mother on the family farm doing house chores. You can imagine the loads of laundry a bunch of farm boys would make. Once she reached high school age (16), she was told to drop out of school and help at home full-time. While she would work long and hard days, the boys would get away with goofing around and taking day trips to the city of Paoli. The little house in the country on 140 acres of farm land that I thought was simply quaint, was a place of desolation for my grandmother. The house had a little well at the bottom of the hill where they got their water, and an outhouse for the bathroom. Who could blame her for making a run for it?
She took a chance and moved to Anderson, Indiana to work in the GM factories. Her father disapproved of her leaving, and he let her know it for the rest of her life. He never gave her a welcome when she’d come to visit, and even acted bitter towards her children, his own grandchildren. When he died, he left her nothing. Her mother was always kind and empathetic. She’d always do what she could to make right her husband’s wrong doings. Goldie met my grandfather, Paul Simpson who passed before I was born, and had four boys. In Goldie’s father’s eyes, Paul was a no-good city boy, but Paul treated her with love and respect.
She was regarded as a home maker, but she is more than that to me. In a time when women weren’t encouraged to think for themselves, she did, and I praise her for her courage. She beat two types of cancer when the doctors said she wouldn’t. She also raised my father, who is a mighty great father because of her. I know now where my resilience and drive stems from. I hope to live a life she’d be proud of. I am a survivor, just as she was. Just as her story is in my heart. ♥