Tales From Grandma's Kitchen

Morning Reflections

As I wash the morning dishes, my mind drifts back in time to a scene in my grandmother's kitchen. The sun shines through the window, throwing light on her Elizabeth Taylor-esque features as she finishes her work at the sink.

"Grandma," six-year-old me asks, "how old are you?"

"Twenty-nine," she answers, adding another coffee mug to the drainer.

I pause for a moment, making some quick calculations. Something isn't adding up.

"Are you sure?"

"I should think I know how old I am, Lizzy," she answers without looking up.

"Well, Dad is 33," and realizing she may not understand the implications of this fact, I add, "I'm pretty sure a mother can't be older than her kid."

"I don't know, Honey," she dries her hands with a dishtowel, averting my eyes to avoid cracking.

You Better Be Hungry

Grandma was always happiest in the kitchen. As her guest, she was ready to feed you. But her hospitality had a militant edge to it--no one could eat enough to satisfy her need to feed.

Five minutes into Christmas dinner she'd start calling us out. Her frustrated outbursts always the same:

"Eat! Aren't you hungry?"

"I cooked all this food and you people won't eat."

"What, are you afraid you're going to gain an ounce?"

My grandmother's signature creations included the baked macaroni with a crispy top, the pork chops with rice and ketchup gravy, the shaved carrots she burned on purpose, and the hamburgers that were really meatloaves formed into patties.

But everyone's favorite was her chicken parmesan. She pounded the cutlets thin, then fried them in an egg and bread crumb coating for several minutes. Her from-scratch tomato sauce simmered all day long. Buying a jar of the store-bought stuff was against her personal code of ethics (and we were okay with that).

The cutlets sat in a casserole dish between mounds of sauce and handfuls of mozzarella, a cheese always pronounced with an Italian accent. The dish cooked in the oven for anywhere between a half hour to an hour and a half. Several loaves of oven-toasted garlic bread completed the feast.

And we were expected to eat those, too.

For other dinners, she made those biscuits that pop out as you pull the paper off the canister. She left them in the oven a bit too long one day, making the bottoms burnt and inedible. We pulled the doughy tops off and used the blackened circle remains to set our drinks on. Grandma's Coaster Biscuits, we called them. She wasn't amused.

"You fresh kids," she'd sigh. "You'll miss me when I'm gone."

David Sedaris King of the Essay

How About You?

Do you have fond memories of your grandmother in the kitchen?

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Her second great-grandbaby
Her second great-grandbaby | Source

Say It Again, Gram

Like most grandmothers, she had a collection of overplayed sayings. In the summer, the weather was hot as bejazzes. If she questioned the validity of your statement, you were full of soup. And the worst names she would ever call you were doopus or fuddy dud.

After my nephew's birth, she was beside-herself excited about becoming a great-grandmother. Over instant coffee and buttered Italian bread, she asked if she had ever told me the story about the day I was born.

I knew the story--just as sure as she knew I had already heard it. Still, we played our parts:

"What story is that, Grandma?"

"On the day you were born, your father called to give us the news. I was so excited, I had to call Aunt Terry right away. As soon as I heard an answer, I yelled into the phone, 'It's a girl!' The woman on the other end said, 'Mazel tov, Lady, but you've got the wrong number.'"

We laughed, as usual.

Two months later, I repeated the story at Grandma's memorial service. My father and aunt repeated the mazel tov line with me in unison.

Sweet Memories

It's no surprise that my grandmother visits my memory while I'm in the kitchen. At the very least, I imagine she checks in to make sure I'm eating enough. Surely, she's on my side when I hound my four-year-old at the dinner table. If only I could get her to make a batch of chicken parmesan while she's here . . .

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 19 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

One of your best, Lizzy. A personal touch to this one, and I can relate easily. You tied the conclusion to the introduction, and as a former teacher I'm always looking for that....A+ kid. :)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

What a great story, Liz! I only have a few memories of my maternal grandmother because she lived in Missouri and we didn't. However, on one of our visits, she made me a fried egg, over easy. I don't know what she did that I don't do now, but no one could make a Grandma Egg (as all her grandchildren call them) as Grandmama did!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

Terrific reminiscence of your grandma and her 'need to feed.' It's no wonder she visits you while you're in the kitchen, because scent memories are very strong. I peel an apple every day, and every day the smell of apple takes me back six decades to a fireside hearth where my granddad showed me how to peel an apple in one long, continuous strip.

There's a visible family resemblance between you and your grandma in the photograph. It's easy to see why you compared her to Liz Taylor when you were six, because she did resemble that star and was still beautiful when you were grown up.

My own grandmother made light-as-a-feather biscuits, and I was always allowed to have one that was split apart and filled with sweet cream butter as soon as it was cool enough for me to hold. Everything she cooked tasted great, but (as a southern rural cook) if she didn't fry something, it was guaranteed to have butter, bacon fat or pure lard added. Need I add that I was a slightly chubby kid?

I love the way you tied in the memorial story near the end. You're a good writer, Liz, and this is a fine example.

Voted Up/Awesome/Beautiful/Shared

Jaye


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Thanks, Billy. We've already established my teacher's pet status. :)


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

I love the Grandma Egg story, Sha! Isn't it funny how Grandma food just tastes better? Thanks for sharing.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

What a beautiful comment, Jaye! I got chills when you described the apple and how it brings you back. It's the quintessential Grandpa story. And now I'm dying for a *real* biscuit! Thank you for your kind words.


PurvisBobbi44 profile image

PurvisBobbi44 2 years ago from Florida

Your story brought tears to my eyes--- because I can relate to being in the kitchen with my Angel Grandmother Knight. I miss her so much everyday.

Your story was a precious one to share and your grandmother was beautiful. How lucky we were to love such wonderful grandmothers. I can still feel her love wrapped around me like a warm blanket.

Bobbi Purvis


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA

My Grandma left so many memories with me that it would take an entire book to write about all of them. She was German, so the word when you were bad was nix noox. It meant bad boy. She said it even to the girls.


CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 2 years ago

I loved your story of you Grandmother. I too loved my Gran, she was a great cook and a wonderful person who died so long ago now - but I still miss her and my Grandad and the good times I had with them. Thank you for bringing back the memories.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Bobbi, I'm glad I helped conjure up good memories of your grandmother. They are so comforting, aren't they? Like a warm blanket is an excellent description. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

That's too funny, Barbara! Maybe you should write that book ;-)

Thank you for sharing!


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

CyberShelley, memories of our grandparents can be comforting. They overlooked our flaws and emphasized our gifts. Thanks so much!


travmaj profile image

travmaj 2 years ago from australia

What a lovely tribute to your grandmother, what a loving and loved lady. I never knew my grand mothers, but I'm one myself now and hoping I can be remembered, just as you remember yours. Thank you, enjoyed your Gran with you.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

I have no doubt you will be remembered, travmaj! Whenever I see your name, I still think of the lovely piece you wrote on tea. You're a beautiful soul. Thank you for stopping by!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Beautiful story radcliff, and the photo of you and your grandma is wonderful, our grandma's were so special, I remember mine always in the kitchen cooking, and I would sit at her feet on the floor when I was tiny and she would hand me down biscuits/cookies and chocolate, lovely, nell


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Thank you, Nell. What a sweet memory!


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

This account of your grandmother reminds me so much of my own grandmother, who's been gone more than 10 years now. My grandmother also spent most of her time in the kitchen, begged people to eat and served incredible baked macaroni. Voted up and shared.


Radcliff profile image

Radcliff 2 years ago from Hudson, FL Author

Thank you, ologsinquito!


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 18 months ago from Oklahoma

I have such fond memories of my grandmothers' cooking. Makes me sad that time has passed.

Great hub!

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