The month of August marks the anniversaries of both of my grandmothers’ deaths, albeit 15 years apart. Oftentimes our food memories and choices for comfort foods come from our grandmothers’ recipes. These two women in my childhood certainly influenced my emotional connection with food and my love for the kitchen.
My dad’s mom, Lenora (aka Grandma Texas or Gigi) had a kind heart and a sweet tooth. She loved her canned fruit cocktail, making Jello with canned mandarin oranges, Klondike bars, and sugared jelly candies. My favorite lunch of hers with blue box macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs mixed in. At night, Gigi and I would camp out on her avocado green couch cutting perfect spirals of peel from our huge Red Delicious apples. We frequented many a bingo night at the Knights of Columbus hall feasting on a lavish buffet of spaghetti with meatballs and buttery garlic bread. She compensated for her lack of cooking skills by being a gracious hostess, especially at church functions. From both her and her sister, my great-aunt Dot, I learned the art of setting and decorating a table for family suppers and holiday dinners.
Marie, my mom’s mother, was a marginally better cook yet instilled in me a connection with home-grown food. Even today, the smells of tomato vines and juniper bushes bring me back to memories of her backyard in Baltimore. We would pick fresh string beans, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries, and I loved cutting sprigs of mint for our iced tea. Gram and Pop would cart home bushels of Chesapeake Bay crab and I would shuck ears of silver queen corn, all of which went into a pot to boil with Old Bay spice. You couldn’t say “Geez” without Gram adding “and Crackers.” Her humor and playfulness with all the grandkids made our infrequent vacations to Maryland all the more memorable.
To both of these women, I owe my love and gratitude for the food lessons they taught as a way to honor and bring together our family. Their spirits live on in my cooking so I can serve you wholesome home-made dinners to take care of you and your family. Cheers!