Most of the memories I have of my grandmother center around food. She’s been gone now for almost 10 years, but I think of her often and it doesn’t take long before I am yearning for a huge helping of her homemade chicken and dumplings or those amazing fried pies, which were really baked with raisins, apples or peaches tucked inside.
She loved to feed people; it didn’t matter who — her family, church members or someone in the community having difficult times. Breakfast wasn’t just a bowl of cereal or oatmeal at her house. That first meal of the day had to include some biscuits, crispy bacon, sausage and eggs, cooked to your preference. As kids, my siblings and I would spend summers with her and visit often other times of the year. We got to sip Coca-Colas from glass bottles and eat hamburgers fried on the stove. I recall she also made desserts that we didn’t get at home.
My grandfather loved to take his turn at the stove, too. Since my grandmother worked outside the home as hard as he did, he didn’t leave household chores for her to do alone. Their marriage lasted, probably with that as one of the many reasons.
My mom, rightly so, is a great cook, too, but with us three kids and her grandkids spread in four different states, she doesn’t have many occasions to stand over the stove all day to crowd the table with a hearty meal. We gather now mostly at my house for family dinners when they happen.
I have taken up the reins, I guess. I have some of my grandmother’s hand-written recipes and my mom readily shares some of hers and others. I have been making sourdough bread now for months, after receiving a starter from Olivia Sipe. The recipe for it is in one of her cookbooks; it’s the one in my collection that is barely held together because of frequent use.
I do love to cook and try new recipes. With so many cooking shows and websites, you can find one for just about anything. I tried making my own pumpkin spice latte today; I think the experts at our local shops do it better.
It’s coming on holiday season soon enough. I know we are still weeks away from Halloween, but I assure you Thanksgiving and Christmas will arrive pronto. The older I get, the faster they arrive. I have already been talking to different groups who have holiday events coming soon. It will be time to dig out the Christmas CDs and put some wassail on the stove.
Th holidays are the greatest times to celebrate with food. My mom always makes the dressing and other sides. I get to deal with the bird and some casseroles. Desserts are always aplenty. We cook like we’re feeding the whole town. Then wonder why we can barely move to the living room.
Cooler weather on the horizon means pots full of soups and stews, soaked up with some slices of cornbread. I’ve already made a huge pot of chili and it was just what I needed as fall inches closer. There are only so many sandwiches and salads I can consume before I want something that’s a little more of the stick-to-your-ribs fare.
I keep reading on social media how I shouldn’t be eating white potatoes, that sweet potatoes are better. Some diets tells us to do away with everything white — flour, sugar and salt included. I don’t think I could live in that world. There are now so many milk choices, I don’t even know what to select — oat, soy, rice, coconut, cashew, almond, kefir or the traditional cow varieties.
I do try to limit sugar and I rarely salt my food at the table. I drink lots of water, not sodas. Now I hear I need to add lemon to my H2O. But I just think moderation is really the key with a lot of things. Tomatoes are even getting a bad rep because they contain lectins. We can still eat walnuts and asparagus, i think. I will never give up pasta.
It’s no wonder the obesity rate in the U.S. continues to climb. So-called experts bombard us with the next big thing in the diet world. It’s tiring, confusing and maddening. Some tell us that we can even lose weight while sleeping, if we just take this expensive little pill. I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure that will not do it.
There are things I don’t make. I have never tried to replicate my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings. She made them from scratch; none of those canned biscuits dipped in chicken broth. I also don’t make pie crusts. I know they are supposed to be easy and have just a few ingredients. Maybe some day.
My aunt’s mother-in-law is 101. She invites us to come to Arkansas every year and stay with her. She is also one of the best cooks I know. She bakes apple pies like none other. Fresh baked bread is served at every meal. The 500-mile journey is worth the opportunity to sit at her table. We are making plans for 2023.
I’ve heard that us Southerners celebrate everything with food. I’m on board with that. Nothing says I care about you more than an oversized pan of lasagna, a cheesy chicken casserole or piping hot bread pudding. Words aren’t even necessary.