Gemma’s Thanksgiving blog got me thinking about food and cooking. Then I thought about my grandmothers.
Aren’t grandmas synonymous with food? Fried Okra, fried chicken, flaky buttermilk biscuits, unchewable jello, unidentifiable pies, and Johnny-Come-Lucky dressing?
Yep, those are my food/grandma memories. Strange?
Maybe. But you know, I have an explanation, right?
Grandma Bessie could cook like no tomorrow. And according to the Surgeon General, if you ate it regularly, there wouldn’t be too many tomorrows. She had southern cooking down to an art. The bowl of leftover bacon grease, and Crisco—after she gave up lard—were her best friends. She never met a vegetable she couldn’t batter and fry and make taste like a piece of heaven. Her fried chicken was to die for. Figuratively and literally. It was finger-licking, heart-stopping, artery-clogging scrumptious.
Ahh, but what a way to go.
Grandma Bessie’s motto was: every southern gal had to learn to cook a mean bird. So, with the aid of a extra-large can of Crisco, I can almost—I said almost—do my grandma proud and cook a piece of fried chicken that will send your taste buds to paradise and your waistline to Weight Watchers.
Then there was Grandma Evelyn—a woman born before her time. She wanted to be a writer, but no decent woman did that in her day. (Wonder if that still stands?) Back then the only two careers acceptable for women were teaching and nursing. She chose education. Born in 1913, she is one of few women to get a college degree. To say she was brilliant is an understatement. But to call her a good cook is a stretch of anyone’s imagination.
Now, part of her cooking impairedness was due to an emotionally-induced issue, which was why we all forgave her for the food poisoning events. Her motto was . . . no leftover left behind. At eight years old, her father died, and her mother and seven siblings went to bed hungry a many a night. So even late in life, Grandma couldn’t bring herself to throw food away.
Come Thanksgiving, she would make her clean-fridge dressing. What ever was in the fridge went into the dressing. My dad had another name for that recipe: Johnny-Come-Lucky dressing, cause after eating it, only if you were lucky did you make it to the john in time. Yup. Eating at grandma’s was risky business and it wasn’t just on Thanksgiving.
Have you ever tried to eat a piece of Jello in the bottom of the bowl that had the consistency of shoe leather? You should know, Grandma Evelyn also believed in the clean-plate club, so if you got the chuck of unchewable Jello—and Grandma’s Jellos always had one chuck—there was only one option. After you chewed on it for a while, you somehow sneaked it onto someone else’s plate. I’ve seen a piece of Jello make the rounds of the kitchen table at least twice.
However, when I think of Grandma’s cooking quandaries, I mostly remember the pie episode. I, with a boyfriend, had been invited over to her house for dinner.
Anyway, off we go, over the river and down the hills to Grandma’s house. I was very selective about what I put on my plate. Canned veggies were usually safe. Still hungry, I awaited dessert. Other than Jello, her desserts were passable. But this pie, well, it was the oddest pea green color. I had it down for pistachio, but my first bite proved me wrong. Don’t misunderstand, it wasn’t bad . . . just strange.
“Grandma, why kind of pie is this?” I asked.
Grandma smiled. “Now, that’s a funny story.”
Of course, I stopped eating. (Can’t say the same for the boyfriend.)
“I was making a chocolate pie,” she explained. “But when I pulled out my cocoa, I only had a teaspoon. I decided to make it a vanilla cream, but I was fresh out of vanilla extract. Then I got the idea to make it a chocolate mint, since it did have a half teaspoon of cocoa, but I was out of mint flavoring, too. But when I was looking for mint flavoring, I came across a pack of . . . Rolaids. They kind of have a mint flavor, but who knew they would turn it green like that?”
Yup, you got it. My grandma had just served me and my boyfriend a slice of Rolaid pie.
“How is it?” she asked.
I looked at the green bite balanced on the end of my fork. “Not bad,” I told her. “You should cook one for Thanksgiving.”
Hey, maybe it would help counter the Johnny-Come-Lucky dressing.
So there you have it, my grandmas/cooking memories. What about you guys? Any holiday/cooking memories you’d like to share? (Want me to share some of my grandma’s recipes?) Come on…in only two days we’re giving away another prize. The more you post, the more your name goes in the drawing. And send a few friends our way and get your name entered 10 times.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Posted by Christie Craig at 6:36 AM