Chicken Pie/Cheese Biscuits
By Amy Story
After my friend Linda Whittig lost both her parents to the pandemic within one year, she ran the family farm, which was located between Caldwell and Notus, for a final summer with the help of her husband, Devin Koski, before selling it. She brought her social media followers along on this beautiful journey, and when I asked for a couple of recipes, she provided two that go together from her late mother Teresa and she wrote the following mini-autobiography, which speaks for itself. Her mother’s recipes follow.
I was a farmer’s daughter—born in a hospital but in a larger sense born on a farm between Caldwell and Notus. My parents built their home in 1965, the only house I ever knew them to live in. They lived on Stafford Road their entire married life, first in a little rental and then in the home they built on the forty acres my dad acquired that bordered my paternal grandfather’s 120-acre property. Mom was a homemaker and a 4-H leader for many years. She made most of our clothes until we got to junior high and became too cool for that.
We raised and grew almost everything we ate. Dad liked to have a massive garden: potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, kohlrabi, radishes, onions, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, jalapeños, and loads of tomatoes. There also were grapes, strawberries, raspberries, and various fruit and walnut trees.
We canned, preserved, and froze everything. Each year when late summer rolls around, I still feel in my blood the intense need to put things up for winter. By early fall, we always had the kitchen freezer and two other uprights packed full. A dehydrator produced raisins and fruit leather.
We raised our own steers and chickens, and the hens produced lots of eggs. Dad kept bees for a time, producing a ton of honey per year. The “honey for sale” sign at the end of the driveway regularly brought people with canning jars to be filled.
Almost everything we ate was made from scratch. Honestly, it was a long time before I knew that a great deal of food came in cans or boxes.
Despite all this, I couldn’t wait to leave the farm for a more “glamorous” life. I went to art school in Portland and then came to Boise, where I’ve been ever since. I became an urban girl who nevertheless maintained a love of gardening, and earned an Advanced Master Gardener certificate.
I’m embarrassed to admit that after my move away from the farm, I almost never went there to visit. My parents would come to Boise and we’d go to lunch, but my life was busy and the farm far away.
It was COVID that brought me back.
I wanted to keep my parents safe from the disease, so I began running their errands for them, bringing them groceries, and Dad and I gardened together. I spent quality time with both parents, came back to my roots, and gained a new respect for country life.
During summer of 2021, my husband and I lived out there to care for Mom, who had contracted COVID despite our best efforts. Each night we set lawn chairs on the driveway and as we held glasses of wine, we watched the “Nature TV” of stunning sunsets and big barn owls that swooped around the fields. I felt it all again: the fragrant land after a hot day and the excitement around harvest season.
Dad got the disease, too. A World War II veteran and career farmer, he said the only way he’d leave that farm was in a pine box. He pretty much got his wish. Mom was ninety-two and Dad ninety-five when they passed in the pandemic.
If not for the last two summers I spent with Dad, I wouldn’t have known how to keep things going in the first summer after he was gone.
Dad was renowned for his garlic, which is an uncommon to this area. The hard-neck variety of garlic was originally purchased by his father from a door-to-door salesman, and the family kept it going for seventy-plus years. The garlic head and cloves are huge and its paper pops right off. After losing Dad, I’m obsessed with preserving this strain. My brother and I both are growing some of it and our fingers are crossed.
The farm has been sold. It was sad day indeed when it was not my farm anymore. But as I learned from my days there, it had to be accepted as just another changing of season.
Crusty Chicken Pie
From Teresa Whittig’s recipes
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. milk
3/4 c. chicken broth
2 c. diced cooked chicken or turkey
1 c. drained cooked peas
1 c. drained cooked diced celery
1/2 c. canned sliced mushrooms
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
> Melt butter and blend in flour. Gradually stir in milk and broth.
> Cook till thick, stirring constantly. Add remaining ingredients, heat through.
> Place in 1-1/2 qt. casserole. Top hot filling with cheese biscuits (see the next recipe).
From Teresa Whittig’s recipes
1 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. shortening
1/2 c. milk
> Mix dry ingredients in bowl, cut in shortening with pastry blender.
> Stir in milk, roll or pat dough into rectangle 1/4” thick. Sprinkle with
1 c. grated cheese.
> Roll as jelly roll, seal edges. Cut in 1” slices.
> Bake at 425 Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.