Friday, September 27, 2013

What My Grandparents Taught Me About Food

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I am my Grindiddy's girl. He was my biggest fan, my hero, and my best teacher. I love him more than words can say, and I miss him still. At his funeral, one of our family's best loved ministers quoted him as saying, "I believe if you could find a way to fry water, it'd taste better." He LOVED fried foods... mostly vegetables. My Granmother, who is an amazing example of hospitality and selflessly caring for her family, cooked for him... a lot.

From the time I was little-bitty, I remember them having a huge garden-- we're talking acres here. Had there not been such variety-- cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, squash, okra, lettuce, cabbage, onions, potatoes, blueberries, gooseberries, apples, peaches, plums, pears, kiwi, grapes, cherries, blackberries, peppers, turnips, rutabagas, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, beets, collard greens, lima beans, green beans, black-eyed peas, sweet peas, peanuts, carrots, sweet potatoes, figs, muscadines, & scuppernongs-- it would probably qualify as a truck farm. Oh, and he also had honey bees.

He fed people. He and I would climb into a tiny, blue Isuzu pickup truck with greasy vinyl seats that smelled of diesel fuel and deliver produce to the community. We'd never go but one or two places at a time-- taking a big paper bag or two to each stop. We never spoke. We didn't have to. We couldn't have over the hum of the engine anyway.

black and white, grandparents, women, 1930s, food, lessons
"Laaaw! Look at them pretty to-maters," widows would declare. I got to hear fabulous stories. One tiny, shrunken woman with drawn hands who was still driving a maroon Corolla into headstones in the cemetery told me of the time she hid from her husband behind the door because she had tried to dye her hair red, and it came out green. One sweet lady educated me on the fact that wearing long sleeves and pants when you garden, even in the summer, helps to keep you cool. Others didn't talk much, ever. But they loved to see my Grindiddy coming with his grocery deliveries.

When people visited, and they often did, Grindiddy wanted to feed them. "You want something to eat?" should have been posted over the door. No one ever went into my grandparents' home without being offered something to eat or drink. And they fed  them huge meals. Four or five vegetables, including sliced tomato, sometimes chicken or pork chops, and always, ALWAYS cornbread. Granmother cooked it in an iron skillet and would turn it out onto a dinner plate. It sat Grindiddy's left hand.

Every family member had their favorite. When Aunt Tammy was home from Texas we had fried potatoes. My cousin Kristin ate rutabaga. Aunt Louise wanted black-eyed peas and cornbread, with homemade pepper sauce. Grindiddy used to mash the peas into the cornbread for her when they were children. I remember seeing him do it one time at a big family dinner. I was young, but I knew even then that something special was happening right there in the dining room.

Now my favorite was breakfast... homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs, & bacon. I'd climb up into a kitchen chair and "help" roll out biscuit dough and cut with a round tin cookie cutter. Of course, I was more of a hindrance than a helper, but I never recall a time I wasn't allowed to help with making the biscuits. When I met my husband, we discovered we both love the taste of raw biscuit dough. He excitedly told his mom that I must be The One, because I, too, ate the sour, soft stuff.  She wisely advised, "That's great son... but you can't build a relationship on biscuit dough."

fried pies, peach, ice cream, food, Mountain Brook
Image credit: "Peach Fried Pies" by Ralph Daily via Flickr

Food is celebrated throughout the world, and it holds a special place in our souls, because it's really about people and about love.

Here's what my grandparents taught me about food:
1) Food tastes better when you work for it.
2) Cornbread goes with everything.
3) Everyone has a favorite. Love them through their favorite.
4) Feed others.
5) Never send away a visitor hungry or thirsty.
6) Eat at the table.
7) You're never too old to take care of your baby sister.
8) Let the little ones help.
9) You can never have too much variety. Just because you've never grown eggplant before, doesn't mean you shouldn't plant it this year.
10) You may not can build a relationship on biscuit dough, but it's a good start at least.
Who taught you about food? What are the lessons you learned in the kitchen or in the garden?

Shared with Simply Helping Him.,  The Better Mom, Modest Mondays, Grace Laced Mondays, Titus 2uesday, A Wise Woman Builds He Home, Walking Redeemed, Whimsical Wednesdays & lowercase letters,


  1. I loved your walk down memory lane. I didn't have a grandfather, but I always imagined that they were absolutely wonderful, just like yours. I had a pretty wonderful grandmother who loved food, and she'd always say, "I want to die with a cup of coffee in one hand and a piece of cake in the other." I love food with an equal passion, but didn't inherit her love for coffee. Cake on the other hand. . . . :)

    1. Oh your grandmother sounds like my kind of person! I love coffee and cake, and the combination... yes! Thanks for visiting!

  2. This is a beautiful post. My mom never really took the time to teach me about food and I've never been interested but I have many associations of my mother's cooking and what it meant to me.

    1. Thanks Debbie! There will always be certain food lessons and stories that the taste and smell of that food will bring back for me... sounds like it's the same for you.

  3. Loved this! Thanks for sharing :)