A Story and a Recipe

By Dorothy Johnson


For Januaries on the farm, everyone was in survival mode, but it was not all chores and work.  I did not participate, but I have heard that Grandpa put many barrels of apples in the cellar and sometimes on a winter night, everyone in the house would participate in a baked apple gathering. My older cousins were around then and they enjoyed having the apples as a treat. When I came along, the orchards had been neglected for many years and we did not have barrels of apples.  We did have a few apples for fall eating and a pie or two, but that was all the apples the farm produced except for the wormy, rotten apples we picked off the ground for the pigs’ last few suppers. 

My aunt used to tell about going to North Perry for dances at the Red Men’s Hall and since she said they took a sleigh and horses through the Mains and Burke fields, I assumed they went in the winter.  She said they took heated bricks for their feet and baked potatoes in their pockets.  I do not know if this is true, but she did not lie to me about other history so I believe it is true.  Another piece of evidence I rely on is that I can see the Mains’ and Burkes’ fields from near the North Perry Methodist Church even today.

In my days on the farm, we did jigsaw puzzles.  My father and my uncle were good at it, but Aunty considered it a waste of time and puzzles made my mother’s headache. Uncle Hum would walk down from his house to feed and water his horses and then he would come in the house to put a few pieces in the puzzle.  That was a regular routine. 

Another activity we enjoyed was playing cards.  Our games were pitch, 63 and 83 and those games were competitive.  When my aunt and uncle lived upstairs in the Jones’ house that was later theirs, they had card games in their big kitchen around the kitchen table. I know that actually happened because I can just barely remember falling off that table one night during a card game.  I know my mother played cards then because she was there.  In her later years she did not play cards because it also made her head ache. Aunty, on the other hand, would stay out after Grange meetings and play cards until all hours. One night, Nina Huntley, Aunty and some Alexander Grange members played so late a state trooper stopped at the hall to investigate.

We would have huge 83 games at my Auny Marg’s on weekend evenings.  My Grandmother Barnes was a senior citizen by then, and believe me, she did not want to lose.  Probably, it was the cutthroat competition that made my mother’s head ache.  I remember several heated conversations while the points were being counted. The players usually involved in the conversations were Aunty, Gram and Uncle Sam. We kids were allowed to play, but we had to keep up with the game or we were replaced.

In our Woodland years, I tried to find something for Mama and Aunty to look forward to during the winter doldrums.  My idea was to have a Martin Luther King party on Martin Luther King Day.  My aunt would scoff at the idea because she felt that we had many great Presidents who deserved a day of their own, but once she was used to the idea, she went right along with it.

We had cheese and crackers, a pie, unusual dips and chips and of course, our fall back to farm days, sardines.  Of course, both Aunty and Mama complained that the sardines we had were not as good as the cans they packed. I have to admit that the food was nothing special, but the anticipation of trying to figure out what we would have for food made the winters go by more quickly. In fact, maybe that was the purpose of all of our winter activities…to make winters pass more quickly.

For this week’s recipe, I looked for a unique dessert that would fit in our Maine winters and be a sweet treat for a Martin Luther King party.  From one of the “Taste of Home Family Favorite Recipes” publications, I found this recipe for Caramel Apple Bars.


Caramel Apple Bars


CRUST: One-half cup butter or margarine, One-fourth cup shortening

One cup packed brown sugar

One and three-fourths cups all purpose flour

One cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats

One teaspoon salt

One-half teaspoon baking soda

One-half cup chopped pecan, optional


Four and one-half cups coarsely chopped and peeled baking apples

Three tablespoons all-purpose flour

One package (14 ounces) caramels

Three tablespoons butter or margarine


In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and brown sugar until fluffy.

Add flour, oats, salt and baking soda; mix well. Stir in pecans if desired.

Set aside two cups. Press remaining oat mixture in the bottom of an ungreased

 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan.

For filling, toss apples with flour; spoon over the crust.

In a saucepan, melt the caramels and butter over low heat; drizzle over apples.

Top with reserved oat mixture.

 Bake at 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool before cutting into bars.

Yield 15-20 servings