Saturday, September 5, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- September 2, 2015

 Memories of Grandma's Kitchen

Everybody in my family remembers my grandma as a good cook. No doubt about it, her years of cooking for the lumber camp, her large family, the farmhands, and at the cafeteria at a local grocery store made her one of the best cooks I have ever known.

I can still taste her food more than a decade after her death. I loved her mashed potatoes and gravy, lasagna, and stuffed peppers. To tell the truth, those stuffed peppers are the only ones I’ve ever eaten that I really liked. But wouldn’t you know, I never saw a cookbook in her house.

If there had been a cookbook, maybe it would’ve been stacked on her vinyl-clothed table. Grandma’s kitchen had just enough room for a table up tight against one wall with five chairs and for a path around the table past the stove to the refrigerator. Space was sparse.

Maybe that’s why so many things were piled on her table-- the radio, the mail, a myriad of pills, napkins, and every grandchild’s favorite-- junk food.

Junk food was not something my mother bought often, but that was fine with me because I could find anything I wanted on Grandma’s table. From a bag of barbecue chips to Oreos in the cookie jar to candy corn in the candy dish, every category of non-nutritional food was represented. About three-fourths of the time, a sweet tooth could also be satisfied with a slice of pie or a piece of cake setting out on the table. And that’s not even counting the homemade goodies you could find at Christmas time.

All these treats made a kid want to sit and stay awhile. On a chair wedged between the table and the window, I would sit and nibble on my snack set on a napkin in front of me with a cold glass of spring water (from the dispenser in the refrigerator) or some of Grandma’s perfect sweet tea. As the grown-ups sat around the table sipping strong coffee and chatting, I learned all the gossip I cared to hear about people I didn’t even know.

It seems food and family are a good combination for making memories, and gathering around that table for talk (and the occasional game of Yahtzee with Grandma) certainly made some of my finest childhood memories.


At different stages of my life, Labor Day weekend has meant different things. For the last decade, our family has enjoyed the company of our friends who have invited us over for a day of dove hunting (for my husband). This year, our baby is due Labor Day weekend-- kind of fitting.

But growing up, Labor Day weekend meant nothing to me other than the excitement of my Grandma’s family’s reunion. I loved playing with my faraway cousins, drinking Country Time Lemonade out of a can from an ice-filled cooler, and hunting for the best desserts on the picnic tables. If I was quick enough, I could score a piece of my Grandma’s carrot cake before it was all gone (and it always was gone quickly). Once she even submitted it to the county fair and won second prize. I’ll leave you with that recipe she gave me sometime before she died-- on Labor Day weekend 13 years ago.

Grandma Judy’s Carrot Cake

1 1/2 cups Wesson Oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 cups grated carrots

Cream the oil, sugar and eggs. Then add the flour, cinnamon, and carrots. Bake in a prepared 9 x 13 pan at 350℉ until done (until a toothpick comes out clean).  Cool cake completely and frost with cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing:

1- 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 stick of margarine or butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Soften cream cheese and butter.  Then beat them together. Add the sugar and beat well. Then add the pecans and spread over cooled cake.

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