Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving, Food & Grandma Memories


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.

Happy Thanksgiving.

48 comments:

vickyb said...

LOL - what a hoot! I'd love to eat the fried chicken, but think I'll pass on the rolaids pie!

One time I remember odd foods was shortly after my dad had catarac surgery. Though my Mom worked as the cook at a lunch counter, my dad was our main cook at home. He always made the best soups. People would show up unexpectedly when he was making soups. One time he was making potato chowder. He'd just had surgery on his right eye the week before - and this was back when the surgery was a major operation. Anyway, he still had a patch over his eye and couldn't see really well. He grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge and poured it into the soup - and the soup came up brown! Yep. He'd grabbed the chocolate milk. So we had chocolate potato chowder. Trust me, not the greatest flavor.

But the biggest laugh we got in our family from food was my younger brother. My mom was making a special Christmas display for the store and had whipped up Ivory soap flakes to look like snow. My kid brother comes and thinking it was whipped cream, takes a ladle full. Yep, he finally got his mouth washed out with soap! :)

Ah, the memories. Thank you.

Vicky B

Christie Craig said...

Vickyb,

Oh my gawd!!! Chocolate Milk Chowder. I love it. And the mouth washed out with soap story is great, too. Thanks so much for sharing. Those stories are right up there with Rolaid pie.

Thanks for stopping in.

Crime Scene Christie

Vicky D said...

ROTFLOL. I had to read this because my mom is cooking her last family Thanksgiving dinner this year before she moves into the retirement apartments with her friends (I'm having visions of mom playing dominoes & serving up her famous Mojitos!) Anyway, every year, my mother cooks up something that she claims is *my* recipe. The problem is *my* recipe never looks or tastes remotely familiar. When I start to question her, she admits she forgot to buy some critical ingredient and just left it out. But my mom's heart is in the right place. In fact, her protective instincts are almost *too* well-honed. You see, my mom always makes sure that whatever we eat is truly dead. As in crispy critter, black as night, charred beyond recognition, ready for the ER burned. Just recently she made *my* recipe -- a chicken pot pie using frozen veggies, cream of mushroom soup & Bisquick mix. Then she invited me over for dinner. When I got there, she was in *a state.* Somehow the innards of the pot pie had bubbled over and messed up her stove. I guess it never occurred to her to put a cookie sheet on the rack below. I tried really hard not to frown at the charred top of the pies and asked her what temperature she used on the oven. You guessed it, about 100 degrees too high. Still, she'd worked hard, so I figured I'd somehow manage to eat *my* recipe. But when she cut open the pie, I couldn't help laughing. There couldn't have been more than a 1/2 cup of filling left inside! We went out to dinner.

Postscript: My brother insisted on bringing his turkey fryer this year. Bless you, Ben!

Gemma Halliday said...

Grandma 1 lived on a farm a lot of her life - great good and always tons of it! Grandma 2 was a fifties lady through and through - if it came in a can or was dehydrated, that meant it was better, right? I've improved slightly on her motto - if I can microwave it, I can eat it!

~Gemma

Christie Craig said...

Vicky d,

LOL, I've got a few charred and misrepresented recipe stories as well. I'm afraid I cook sort of like I plot. Fly by the seat of my pants. If I'm missing one ingredient, I improvise. I’ve cooked some pretty great dinners flying by the seat of my pants. Thanks for posting!

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Gemma,

I agree, if you can ‘nuke it, it's great!

The funniest microwave story I have is my husband who got the great idea to microwave his toothbrush to kill his bad cold germs. Have you ever seen a toothbrush with the bristles melted?

Crime Scene Christie

Faye Hughes said...

Christie,

I'm LOL here at the rolaids pie, and the Johnny-Come-Lucky dressing. Great post, as always.

Faye

Christie Craig said...

Thanks Faye.

I'm make sure to shoot you over those recipes. I'm sure you will love them.

Crime Scene Christie

Faye Hughes said...

CC,

It might be kinder if you just shot me. LOL.

Faye

deseng said...

Oh my, rolaids pie? I will pass please. I don't have any weird foods to mention. My Grandma was an excellent cook as well. She had the best German potato salad ever! We used to all gather at her house for the holidays. Then when she passed away we starting taking turns having Thanksgiving at different aunts and uncles houses. We still get together and it is the cousins now who do it since all the aunts and uncles have passed away.

Tori Lennox said...

ROFL re the Rolaids pie!!!

But I now have this sudden urge for fried okra, fried chicken, and biscuits....

Jana DeLeon said...

OMG, that is too funny! But what a great idea! We always eat far too much at Thanksgiving and maybe the pie would even things out. :)

ChristyJan said...

My Grandma used to make bread pudding every year at Thanksgiving. My sisters and I would always turn up our noses and just stick to having pumpkin pie. Several year ago I actually had bread pudding and realized I not only like it, but I really like it. My Grandma passed away 6 years ago this month. I wish I could go back in time and have her bread pudding. I miss her terribly.


Did I mention that it was Melissa/MelJPrincess that originally sent me here?

JOYE said...

Growing up, I remember my grandmother trying to teach me how to make egg whites stiff, and when she turned the bowl upside down to show how they would stay in the bowl, they slid out of it onto her clean apron. Being the happy person she was, she just laughed and laughed. Of course, we cleaned it up quickly before grandpa saw that we wasted the 12 eggs. She instilled the love of cooking into me at an early age.

Christie Craig said...

Deseng,

Family and Thanksgiving just go hand in hand. I hope you guys have a blast and enjoy every bite.

Thanks for posting and Happy Thanksgiving.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Tori,

Grandma Bessie's cooking was soo good. I remember her biscuits and was it called black eye gravy.

But seriously, she went through almost a tin of Crisco on one meal.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Jana,

Hey, great minds work alike. I thought the pie would be an excellent addition to the Thanksgiving menu!

Happy Thanksgiving, girl!

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

ChristyJan,

My grandma Evelyn passed about six years ago too. I don't miss her cooking but sure do miss her company. She was one heck of a humanbeing.

Thanks for posting. And you and Melissa will get those extra names in the hat. Happy Thanksgiving.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Joye,

LOL. What a great memory. I remember watching my grandma Bessie fry chicken. Great memories.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Oh...can you make egg whites stiff, now?

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Joye,

LOL. What a great memory. I remember watching my grandma Bessie fry chicken. Great memories.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Oh...can you make egg whites stiff, now?

Crime Scene Christie

Minna said...

Well, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Finland and instead of turkey we put some ham in the over at Christmas. I used to make -and I still make, sometimes- Christmas pastries, Karelian pasties, Ginger cookies and Cinnamon buns with my mother.

Christie Craig said...

Minna,

It must be lunch time, your menu is making my stomach growl.

Thanks for posting. And hey, Happy Thanksgiving, even if you don't celebrate there, may you pause a few minutes to savor good food and family.

Crime Scene Christie

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Reading your post it all becomes so clear as to why there was a whole aisle devoted to Crisco and lard when I (briefly) lived in central North Carolina!

My Grandmother hated to waste food too. She had a wonderful knack of cooking *exactly* enough. There was rarely enough to go around for anyone to eat too much. I remember sometimes actually wanting seconds and not getting any!

On the other hand, if there were any leftovers, you would see them over and over UNTIL THEY WERE GONE! She would literally put a spoonful of whatever it was on each person's plate instead of just asking who wanted a full serving!

I remember once she put a pear next to my plate at breakfast. I don't particularly care for pears so I didn't eat it. It was there at lunch and at dinner too. I think she may have finally gotten the point because I don't recall having eaten it!!

Christie Craig said...

Jenyfer,

Yep. Grease in the south is important. And don't get me wrong, I'm a believer. Fry anything and it tastes twice as good.

Maybe your grandma should have fried that pear. LOL.

Thanks for posting girl.

Crime Scene Christie

Minna said...

Hey, if you want to make those pasties and cookies, you can find the recipes here:
http://virtual.finland.fi/People/way_of_life.asp

Estella said...

Only maternal grandmother was alive when I was a kid. She could make me turn green just by putting dinner on the table---grease, grease, grease!
To this day I will go way around anything fried.

Christie Craig said...

Minna,

Thanks for that link. I'll check it out. I'm always up for new recipe.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Estella,

Seriously, I watched my grandma Bessie cook and was shocked at the huge heaping serving-size spoonfuls of Crisco she would put in the fresh vegetables. Those fresh green beans might as well have been fried. Today I think we cook so much healthier, but when we eat out, I think we revert back to the old habits.

I seldom fry anything. Sometimes my daughter or husband will request fried chicken for their birthday meals, but other than that, I keep a bottle of Pam in my pantry. Not sure it's really healthy either, but at least it less calories.

Crime Scene Christie

RachaelfromNJ said...

Omg Christie you crack me up!! Rolaids! I think I feel kind of sick. And all of the dressings to make one dressing! Oh boy!

RachaelfromNJ said...

My mother used to make cooked carrots and put sugar free pancake syrup on them so my brother would eat them. It was absolutely disgusting and to this day, I hate hot cooked carrots.

RachaelfromNJ said...

I forgot to mention that you made me really want fried chicken after reading that! I love southern food and just wish I knew someone who can cook some for me!

Lucy said...

My grandmother memory doesn't really involve food...it involves plastic on the furniture. Seriously. And kisses where she pulled her lips in so that they didn't "touch" you that made a popping sound.

Holidays were always at my mother's house and she always made a ham and a turkey for Thanksgiving. I think only ham at Christmas (I know no turkey, although I'm hearing it's a tradition?).

Great story and I'm not going to laugh at it because...well, you know. ;-)

readingissomuchfun said...

Every holiday my mom use to make a really big dinner and we have family come over also with food they made. I miss my moms cooking she was the best. Her fried chicken was so good. Everyone she knew use to come over every time she made fried chicken yummy.

Rachelfromnj reminded me to come over ;)

Thanks Rachaelfromnj. I can never keep up with blogs *G*

Hugssss
LindaH

Christie Craig said...

Rachael,

The pie really wasn't that bad. Now the dressing, well, you needed the pie. And I know what you mean about Fried Chicken, it really is one of those feel good foods, so . . . so very good.

Thanks for posting girl!

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Lucy,

Yep...you're afraid you'll wake up to find Rolaid pie sitting on your dining room table. :-)

Thanks for posting Lucy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Hi Linda!!

Yup. I think Fried Chicken is the perfect food. Heck, after writing about it, I'm beginning to want it.

Thanks for popping in. Keep on coming back. And thanks to Rachael for giving you a nudge.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Crime Scene Christie

Ms Terry In gadsden said...

Christie you had to become a writer. With all the funny things that just happen in your life , how could you not be either a writer or a stand up comedian.

My story is about missing my Maw Maw's cooking , Maw Maw who after we were teen agers and she found out Maw was a cow's belly decieded that she wanted to be called grandmother.
Maw Maw could really do some good cooking. Before my brother was born in 72 , she would cook buscuits HOME MADE from scratch buscuits , you know the kind that you have a huge bowl of flour that you use over and over again. Where you just add some lard and buttermilk and make em just right.
I hate to admit i ve never even attempted to master that art.
I remember the first time i tried to make buscuits from a mix they were hard as a rock , thats when i gave up.
Something else Maw Maw made that was out of this world was Salmon Patties, my sister and i were very picky eaters you would never see us eating okra , squash, or greens.
But there never was much in the way of meat that we wouldnt eat. I will never forget the day Maw Maw said to us well i was going to cook Salmon but yall don't like Salmon my sister and I looked at each other , and in unison said we like Salmon.

thanks again christie for another fun story.

Christie Craig said...

Ahh, Terry, nothing like Alabama cooking. And hey, girl, I can whip up some biscuits, I'm not promising they'll be better than can biscuits, but I can do it.

Thanks for stopping in girl.

See you soon on Alabama soil.

CC

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I rarely fry anything but I CAN make biscuits - from the pear Grandma's recipe :)

john said...

Smelling the sizzling turkeys already? Well, well, Thanksgiving Recipes can be yummier than you think. With the turkey sitting pretty alright, there are more to treat the taste-buds of your friends and folks. Get some Thanksgiving recipe ideas here ThanksgivingRecipe Ideas

Christie Craig said...

Jenyfer,

Hot homemade biscuits with butter jam are the best.

Yum....

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

John,

Thanks for that link. I've never fried a turkey. It sounds wonderful. But everyone be careful, I've heard those Turkey friers can be dangerous.

Crime Scene Christie

Lily said...

Thanksgiving has passed here... but making food is always extravagant :)

lila n. said...

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in my family... so no special memories... I have plenty of christmas though!

Maggie N. said...

We don't celebrate it because from where we come from... Lila forgot to say... we don't have that holiday :)

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Fried turkey is the best! Much better than baked (at least the way I've always had it!!)

Kathy Bacus said...

My most outrageous Thanksgiving moment was the year my sister and I shared a duplex and we decided to cook our first Thanksgiving dinner. 'Bear' in mind we were both state troopers at the time. We bought one of those turkey basting plastic bags thinking we'd eliminate the clean up mess. Unfortunately we neglected to puncture the bag with air holes before baking and the blasted bird exploded in the oven.

Conveniently, we were able to point the finger of guilt at each other.

I now use the traditional roasting pan--but only with marginally better culinary results.

Hey, I never said I was Rachel Ray.

~Bullet Hole~

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this