Mother’s Chicken Pie
A couple of months ago I told you about a former employee of ours who decided to join the Army to train as a combat medic. Justin is now at Basic training, but he has been sidelined by a severe injury to his shoulder. As you can imagine, it is a struggle for him to keep his spirits up while waiting for his injuries to heal. If you would like to write him a note, that would really help him out.
SPC Latham, Justin Bravo Battery 1st BN, 31st FA 3rd Platoon BLDG 5955 Rothwell Street Fort Sill, OK 73503 As with my last column, this is my imagining of a day in the life of my ancestors, in this case my grandma Laura, from whom comes the family recipe for chicken pie.
Laura Cross looked up from her writing desk and smiled when her husband Willard stepped into their little sitting room. “We received a letter from Janet today,” she said, holding up an envelope postmarked from the Marine base at Quantico.
Willard’s face brightened as he set his worn leather briefcase beside a chair and eased himself onto its cushion, carefully hitching his suit trousers to keep them from wrinkling. “Oh? And what does our newlywed girl have to say? Any news on where Carl is to be stationed?”
Laura’s brow creased as she reached for the sheets of paper filled with neat handwriting. “Yes! He’s to be sent to flight school somewhere in Iowa. She says it is a relief that he is not being sent to the Pacific theater. Many of the men Carl trained with are there now. She writes that there is news every day of men he knew being killed or hurt, that even those who come back seem changed men.”
Willard nodded and gazed out the window to watch the hollyhocks sway in the garden. “Nothing much changes, then. Same as when I was in the Army.” He looked back to his wife with a wry smile creasing his weary features. “In the war to end all wars.” He shook his head and pushed himself to his feet, bending to kiss the top of Laura’s head as he passed. “Do give her my love. I think I will have a drink, if you care to join me. Time to wash away the school day!”
Laura’s eyes followed him with fondness. “I will be with you shortly, dear, as soon as I finish responding to Janet.”
She turned back to the blotter and scanned what she had already written. She frowned, wondering if she sounded unsympathetic when reminding her daughter that everybody encountered trials in life and one shouldn’t complain, but persevere in doing what was right. The chair creaked beneath her as she leaned back and let her gaze wander out into the garden.
Another letter rested at the corner of her desk, the template for all her writings to her daughters. The pages were in her father’s fading hand, the folds so creased that they threatened to tear along the seams. Her sister Isobel had her own copy, written to them when they were little girls after the death of their mother, a physician who had contracted tuberculosis from a patient she was treating. “Dear Little Girls” it read in part, “I don’t know as I can hope to make clear to you the deep longing that Mama had for you to do well and be good children…I want to feel that this Mama’s love and care can still through this expression have a silent, continuous influence, leading you to do what is right, true and noble.”
A bluebird flitted into view, resting a moment on a peony bush gilded by the late evening sun slanting through the town of Faribault. Laura smiled and picked up the heavy fountain pen, glancing through Janet’s letter again. Well, she thought, not everything in here was a question of life and death, though producing a disaster when preparing one of her first dinners as a new bride probably seemed like it. That, if nothing else, could be fixed.
Laura Cross paused a moment, considering her words. She bent over the paper and ink flowed smoothly from her pen to the page. “About the chicken pie, you must remember to have the gravy bubbling hot before placing the biscuits on top. If you do so, all will be well.”
Chicken pie sounds difficult, but it is really quite simple. Place in a greased 9x13 pan a quart of cooked chopped chicken, a quart of cooked vegetables and two quarts of gravy. Put the pan in a 450° oven and heat until bubbling, stirring occasionally. Top with a recipe of baking powder biscuits and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.
Sally Rasmussen lives in rural Taylor County with her husband, Tom.