My all-time favorite pastime as a kid was making mud pies, those delectable treats fed to imaginary friends at tea parties in my sandbox. I liked the whole routine. First I had to scrounge through ash pits (see my previous post about alley raiding) for baking dishes of various sizes. I favored coffee tin lids, since they were the perfect depth and the rims prevented spillage.
Ingredients came next: sand and/or dirt, mixed with water from the backyard hose and stirred with a stick. After pouring the mix into their “baking pans,” I’d carefully set them in the sun to bake. The early picture shows my pal Susie, and me, hard at work on our creations. Good thing labor leaders weren’t around to see the “sweat shop” conditions.
As I grew more accomplished, I made fancier pies. A massive Sweet Pea bush clung to one of Mother’s clothesline posts. So I’d pick its blooms and decorate my pies with them—sometimes in a straight line like snowman buttons, but other times, randomly scattered. Supply determined the design, but as you can see from the bush behind me, blossoms were usually plentiful.
One day as my teenage older sister took out the trash, she checked on my efforts.
Marge: “So how’s the baking going, Carol?” Me: “Great! Wanna bite?” Ever the smart aleck, I offered her one, smiling wryly. Marge: “Don’t mind if I do!” SHE TOOK A BITE and walked on with the trash. It’s a good thing flies weren’t bad that day. I’d have caught a hundred with my five-year-old gaping mouth. For years, my big sis let me believe she had actually EATEN that thing, instead of spitting it into the garbage. See why I was in awe of her?
As my baking skills progressed, I eventually opened a Mud Pie Bakery and enlisted neighborhood kids to help. Gwennie’s garage abutted the “bakery,” so it was our storefront. She chose the salesperson job, pulling rank as the store owner. Other neighborhood kids were our customers, while Johnny and Jimmy delivered the goods in their pedal cars. Meanwhile, Johnny’s sister Susie and I, by now experienced bakers, whipped up pies as fast as we could in “the back of the house.” Luckily, we had baked ahead to meet the demand, since we couldn’t crank up the temp on the sun.
Those mud pies bring back Old School fond memories involving no phones, no video games and not a single computer. Go figure.