Since my paternal grandfather, whom I called Pap, owned his own candy store in Pittsburg, Pa. and made his own chocolate candy, I guess it was inevitable for me to find the Ratliff Candy Company in Bristol, Tennessee. All you had to do was follow your nose down the back streets of their town. And when you entered, oh my goodness what a refreshing smell!! The York Peppermint Patty commercials have nothing on The Ratliff Candy Company! They had big copper kettles with sugar and peppermint extract bubbling away! It had to be cooked to the perfect stage to be transferred to the marble table to cool and then at just the right time to the taffy pull! This was a family business, now three generations old. They turned their candy into works of art like little toy drums and Christmas wreaths. The candlestick holders and coffee mugs were cute too but the favorite creation of all were their candy baskets. Sometimes they would make wintergreen and add some dark green color to the batch.
They were beautiful to look at and decorate with but best of all was the way they tasted! Not at all like the hard candy canes that are too hot and too hard. They were sweet and soft enough to bite. I was so lucky to get the chance to play “candy maker” and eat the warm candy right from the batch.
Some of my fondest memories are when I took these baskets to craft fairs all over the south from Ohio to Florida including our nations Capitol. I figured if I could drive a van full of these baskets and make it there in one day, I would go that far. And so I did!!
Many times my parents and brother, Jonathan, would meet me and we would have such fun together. Always going after a show to a new restaurant we would find. Sometimes my daughter Heather would be able to make it. She has an interest in new places and this was right up her alley. There was a show in Charleston, WVa where my sister, LaDonna, and her family lived so each year that was like a family reunion. My husband, Roy and our son, Adam would even make it to this one. Even though it was hard work to set up and set down and drive the distances, it was way worth it. I shared many of these experiences with friends and family.
On many of these trips my friend, Bea Chadburn went with me. We had many adventures as we drove the roads to and from these many crafts fairs.
On one of these occasions when a craft fair ended, we had to take down our booth, pack up what was left and head to the next city. As we drove thur the night, singing Christmas carols, the van started rocking slightly back and forth. You see we had to put the wood panels from the display on top because they were too big to fit inside. A trucker started flashing his lights and with a rest area ahead we pulled over. He and his partner said our wood had come loose and we needed ropes to tie it down better. Well, we didn’t have any rope but as luck would have it we were both wearing hose. I know!! Those things women don’t wear anymore. So we both took ours off and they made very strong ties for our gear on top. The men were very impressed. The truckers had come from the east coast and had seafood already cooked of all kinds to share with us. Even though we probably shouldn’t have eaten it, we did. It was delicious! We just prayed a little harder before we ate it. Then off we headed to our next craft fair with the legs of our hose flapping in the wind.
Along life’s journey we meet many people. Some become really good friends that we have for a lifetime and yet others just make an impact on ours lives for a little while and then we loose contact with them forever. This is the case of a girl I met when I first moved to Bristol, Tennessee.
Again my husband had to put in so many hours on his job and I was left alone to fend for myself. We only had one car which he used to get to work most of the time. But I didn’t mind walking and so I did a lot of it. By now I had my first born, a precious little dark haired girl, all of 18 months and rapidly growing with each passing day. I would put her into the stroller and off we would go. A Burger King had just opened a couple of miles away so we made many trips that direction. This is where I had my first Whopper! In fact in was so good the first time I had one, I shared a second one with my little daughter.
After a while the empty apartment next to us became rented. I’m ashamed to admit this but I can’t remember their names. How exciting it was to get to know them though. I had never met anyone from Salt Lake City or the whole state of Utah for that matter. She was beautiful, tall and lean, with fabulous short dark brown hair and big brown eyes with long lashes of course! No wonder she was chosen to be a nude model for the art department at the University of Utah and while attending a concert there by Peter, Paul and Mary she met and dated either Peter or Paul, again I can’t remember which one. She had lots of fun things to tell me and it made for many interesting afternoon talks. She also enjoyed cooking and was teaching me how to use herbs and spices and in which recipes you used each one. Her “significant other” worked at Raytheon in Bristol. Every night when he came home she had prepared a delicious home cooked dinner using different herbs and spices that I was just learning about.
One evening when my friend’s partner came home from work, he announced he was being transferred to Norway. Norway? So the next day she and I went to the library because there were no computers to quickly look up information on. The interesting part that I remember best is the way they described the weather in Norway. It read that it rains so much there that they have fresh flowers on all the tables in the restaurants, even in the ice cream shops to remind the people that spring will come again! The people just put on their rain coats and rain boots and go about their business as usual. What a nice thought!
Excitedly my friend and her partner started planning their move. As it turned out for her to get to go to Norway with him they “had” to get married. She was very happy about that.
The day finally came for them to leave. Passports and visas in hand and bags all packed. As my friend was saying goodbye she handed me the cookbook we had been using all those prior months before and she wasn’t going to be allowed to take her spices with her either so she also gave them to me. I was so excited then, but still sad to see them go.
This cookbook by McCormick is out of print now but I saw on line there were some used ones for sale. Bristol had several things to offer like the race track Paul Newman raced on, the park I took my little Heather to that had a train to ride around on and the big sign downtown that said Bristol, Tennessee on one side and the same sign said Bristol, Virginia on the other side but my favorite gift of all was this little paperback cookbook she left me.
I add some butter and seasoned salt and any extra spices I feel like. You can serve it on rice, pasta or like they do in the south, try putting it on grits with a little cheese on top.