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Clean eating is defined as “foods that haven’t been tampered with; with no preservatives”.

The more I read about the concept in today’s terms, I have come to realize that some of us were ‘eating clean’ before it was cool.


My grandparents planted a huge garden in one corner of my grandfather’s cotton field in Floyd County, Texas. They raised squash, cucumbers, beans, okra, cantaloupe, watermelon. I remember being coaxed out of bed at sunrise to pick beans; row after row of leafy, drooping plants heavy with clumps of slender green pods clinging underneath. Next were the rows of black-eyed peas. We had to get everything picked before the heat of the day. After a quick lunch, I sat with my grandmother under huge elm trees and shelled peas all afternoon until time for supper.

All of those vegetables couldn’t be ignored. The thing about fresh produce is that you have to deal with it. Pick it, wash it, preserve it. Maw would wash the produce in large wash tubs and then toss them into a huge pressure cooker of boiling water to blanch the beans. My job was to work at a sink full of canning jars. Scrubbed in hot soapy water, rinsed, and placed carefully on the drain board. A pan of water on the stove sterilized the jar lids and rings. Back then we fooled with with those home grown veges the entire time of my visit, but there’s was nothing more healthier.


True home canning came into being after the Civil War when John L. Mason, a tin smith from New York, invented a glass jar with a threaded top and metal lid. Fairly widespread by the 1900’s, the open kettle method and “bath” method of submerging the jars into hot water worked well for sweet jams and brine for pickles and relish. It wasn’t until the pressure cooker that allowed for safe canning of non-acidic vegetables and meats. Every good, rural housewife had a cabinet full of canning supplies. Mason jars, lids, rings, funnels, tongs and lifting racks, and a big, silver pressure cooker. This was serious business. My grandmother was a beast of a home-canner. This was the food that would feed her four kids the entire Texas winter. My mother wasn’t much into home canning, but we always went back to Lockney to help my grandmother with the summer’s harvest.

My husband remembers his grandmother filling mason jars with fried pork sausage, covering it with hot grease to the rim, and sealing those with lids and rings. She canned most of their beef as well.


The necessity of having a household budget, convenience of a stock pile of food, but a reassurance of where food comes from; all the reasons that people ate clean so many years ago continues today. I am in awe of the people who are committed to tending a home garden. I tried, but didn’t have enough energy to stay one step ahead of the rabbits. I possess a cabinet full of mason jars and my mother’s pressure cooker, just in case. In my reality, thank goodness for the local farmer’s market.

One year we had millions of sand creek plums and they were so beautiful.  There had been no late freeze on the white blossoms and the conditions were perfect. Every bush was loaded and I couldn’t ignore them. As we kept picking that summer, I thought about the native Americans who used to inhabit this area. I can imagine the women’s delight as they wandered down the creek beds filling their grass baskets with wild plums. I imagined the kids playing and stopping to snack on a handful every so often. Yes, even people in other centuries were eating clean before it was cool.

Here is my grandmother’s pickled green bean recipe.


By Iylene Shuffeld Williams
4 pints large green beans
Bring 4 quarts water to boil.
Pour over beans. Let this boil 3 minutes with no cover on pan. Drain.
Pack in jars.

In pan mix:
3 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
4 tablespoons picking salt
4 tablespoons dill seed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2-4 cloves garlic
Bring to boil and pour over beans in hot jars with lids and rigs. Put in large plan. Needs 2 inches of water over the top of jars. Boil for 10 minutes.


Here’s another recipe for cornbread mix from one of our ranching neighbors, Shirley Creacy, the Wild Cow Chuck Wagon Team. Why buy boxed mix when you can keep this on hand instead?

2 quarts corn meal

2 quarts flour

3 cups dry milk

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup baking powder

1/4 cup salt

Mix well. Store in air-tight container with a tight fitting lid.

To prepare cornbread: To 1 1/2 cups dry cornbread mix, add 1 egg and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir in 1/2 cup cold water. Cook in a preheated and greased 10” iron skillet.

Natalie Bright is the author of the upcoming book, KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’: The All-American Chuck Wagon Cookbook which is available for pre-order now at your favorite online book store. With over 100 recipes, cattle drive history, archival photos, and her Texas ranch photography, you can bring a taste of the old West to your kitchen! Available now for preorder at all online bookstores. She is also the author of the Trouble in Texas series for middle grade readers.

The 2020 pandemic has impacted book publishers in a big way as they struggle to keep their employees safe and adjust production schedules. The release date of KEEP ‘EM FULL has been pushed to spring 2021. If you have already pre-ordered my book, thank you for your support and understanding.