I learned two important lessons early on from Miss Eleanor Sprowl, my 2nd grade teacher. The first was how to look up a word in the dictionary, a skill which has served me well to this day. The second was multi-faceted. Thanksgiving of 1947 was approaching and World War Two was still on everybody's mind. To honor the soldiers who were stationed in Germany and to provide them with joy at Thanksgiving, Miss Sprowl proposed that we, her Claflin School second grade class, make Cranberry Orange Relish, an old New England Thanksgiving treat, to send the soldiers, a gift from all of us back home. Miss Sprowl asked each child to contribute some fresh cranberries, an orange, or a cup of sugar. (My mom gave me an orange for the relish.) Miss Sprowl provided the sterilized jars and covers. Set up in the classroom were several stations with what my mother and grandmother called chekejeks (hand grinders). Our second grade class was about to make cranberry relish to send to 'our boys' in Germany. I remember and make the recipe to this day.
Cranberry Orange Relish
2 cups fresh cranberries, washed, sorted and stemmed
1 juicy orange with skin (washed)
1 cup sugar
32 of us took turns putting the cranberries through the hand grinders (coarse blade in place) and turning the handle to watch with delight as the large bowl filled with multicolors of red, pink and cream. We cut the oranges into quarters (leaving the skins on) and removed the seeds before putting the now seedless unpeeled oranges through the hand grinder. We added the sugar and stirred. At another station, some of us spooned the Cranberry Orange Relish into bottles and secured the lids. Our reward was to carry home a copy of the recipe. (I don't think we were allowed any tastes!)
I begged my mom to make the Cranberry Orange Relish with me for Thanksgiving, using our chekejek at home, and of course, my wonderful mom (who loved to cook and try new recipes) complied. That Thanksgiving, as we ate the simple yet delicious mix of cranberries, oranges unpeeled and sugar, I had my first lesson in how bitter can be sweet.