BY JOAN THOMPSON, COURIER CORRESPONDENT
OTTUMWA — The moment she speaks, you know she is not an Iowan, though she has been here quite awhile and has been around the country. There is an English (almost British) accent here!
Valerie Godfrey grew up in Rhode Island and her ancestors are English and followed many of the customs of the early settlers of our country and still do. Like drinking tea from bone china cups (with milk) at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day. This practice Valerie still follows in her own home, too. She prefers Lipton’s orange pekoe tea and uses about 100 bags per week.
“I really like English breakfast tea from Celestial Seasonings, but feel it is too expensive to use every day,” she says.
Her husband does not share this activity with her “because he doesn’t like tea and calls it swamp water,” Godfrey says.
A graduate of Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I. she was teaching second grade at Maryville, in North Providence when she attended a dance one night and met a young man in the Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport. He also was a teacher. The year was 1964 and before he finished the officer training school and many outings later, Roger Godfrey had asked her to marry him and accompany him to Florida to Officer Flight Training School.
Valerie Godfrey says she did not start cooking until after she was married, though she had watched her mother cook. Her father had heart problems and required care, so Valerie had much of the responsibility for her younger brother and sister. One of the things the children liked to do was to clam and she often took them to the beach, which she says, “no one is ever very far from the beach in Rhode Island.”
After marriage, she used the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Two. After raising two daughters and two sons, she says she is now back to that original cookbook. As she would taste other foods at dinners or potlucks, she would ask for the recipes and has collected quite a file of good foods over the years. Fortunately, she says, Roger is not a picky eater. The first dish she made (often) was chicken and noodles, she says, laughing, “and Roger’s mother made the noodles.”
They have moved around during the service and Valerie said she had a teaching contract in California when they reassigned her husband to Washington state and she was unwilling to break her teaching contract which she had just signed, so she stayed in California. Then he was sent to Vietnam, so she was alone more than two years, which were difficult.
When he returned, he was offered a job as a teacher in Minnesota where many of his family lived and they moved again. She was able to complete her graduate degree at Morningside College in Multicategorical Education and began teaching special education classes, as they moved around Iowa, finally landing up in Ottumwa, where she taught in the Ottumwa Schools, retiring in June 2003.
Valerie’s 85-year-old mother lives in Rhode Island and has tea daily. Valerie’s father died when he was 42. Valerie tries to visit relatives in the East annually and renew her love of the beach and ready access to fresh clams and fish. But she has learned to adapt her recipes to landlocked Ottumwa, because after all the years of enforced roaming, moving is not in the Godfreys’ plans.
“We love Ottumwa and want to stay here,” she says.
Valerie and her retired pilot/educator have six grandchildren around the country.
This bubbly warm former teacher is very active in her church as president of the Women’s Circles, active in the sewing/quilting mission group and is trying to teach interested members to knit. She recently held a mother-daughter banquet (a first for the church) which she cooked all but the side dishes and so many attended, it made money!
1/4 pound margarine or salt pork
4 large onions, chopped
4 quarts water
2 quarts diced potatoes
1 quart milk OR one can tomato soup (10 3/4 oz.)
Salt and pepper
1 quart chopped canned clams or quahogs (large clams washed up on beach at low tide).
Directions: Brown onions in fat until brown. Add water, potatoes with the milk or soup, seasonings and clams. Cook until potatoes are tender. Valerie uses the tomato soup for English type clam chowder, but if you prefer the white clam chowder, use milk instead. *Recipe could be cut in half to serve 5.
Don’t make too big or they will be raw in the middle.
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg beaten
2- 6 1/2-ounce cans minced clams
Directions: Sift dry ingredients into egg. Lightly stir into clams and juice. Add only enough milk to moisten, as batter maybe dropped by tablespoonfuls into hot deep fat. Turn using metal slotted spoon. Drain on paper towel. (Sprinkle with white vinegar before eating — English style).
CRANBERRY NUT BREAD FOR TEA
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1 egg beaten
2 Tablespoons Crisco
2 Tablespoons orange peel
1 cup cranberries chopped
1/2 cup nuts
Directions: Mix all dry ingredients together. Add orange juice, egg, Crisco and egg peel. Mix. Stir in berries and nuts. Greese bottom only of a loaf pan. Pour mixture in. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.
CHERRY BARS FOR TEA (*My husband’s favorite)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oleo
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup quartered maraschino cherries
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts
Directions: Mix flour, oleo and powdered sugar with hands. Put in 9x 13-inch pan and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Mix remaining ingredients and spread over baked crust. Bake 25 minutes longer.
Can frost with frosting made with: 1 beaten egg white, 2 Tablespoons melted butter, 2 Tablespoons maraschino cherry juice, 2 cups sifted powdered sugar.