My grandmother was a fantastic cook. Good cooks ran in her family, and I sorta think they may all have tried to outdo one another at times. One great-aunt (her sister) could make the best fried chicken. Another made a fruit salad that was out of this world. They were all good at bread making. Desserts were the best.
I, of course, was prejudice when it came to my grandmother. I thought what she cooked was the best by far. It seemed everything she cooked was good no matter what. I don’t recall having anything that wasn’t tasty at her house.
I remember my brother and I having a taco-eating contest once, which seemed to delight my grandmother. She had her own recipe for taco seasoning, and it was the best. I’m pretty sure I had eight to 10 tacos that night, and there would have been enough left over to have 10 more. She was used to cooking for large groups.
My aunt, grandma’s daughter, ran around the kitchen behind my grandmother once and tried to copy her signature sugar cookie recipe. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a sugar cookie like that. They were cross between a cookie and a piece of cake. I can’t even describe them to you. Only my relatives can understand. Needless to say, Aunt Sue’s attempt at making them failed.
I can’t tell you what my favorite was when it came to the dishes Grandma made. I know she was always aware of what all of us liked and didn’t like.
She’d often say “I think I’m going to make something that you don’t care for.” It usually ended up being something I DID like, though. If not, she’d make us a hot dog, which wasn’t just any ordinary hotdog. She had a knack for even the simple things.
Other times, we’d come to her house and she’d say “I made a batch of cookies over there and they aren’t fit to eat.” I guess we didn’t agree, because there was quite a “dent” in the batch by the time we went home. Even her self-proclaimed mistakes were good.
My grandmother’s cooking defined, for me, the words “comfort food.” I remember taking some of her food back to college or back to my apartment after I had started teaching.
I’ll never forget one weekend in the middle of winter when she sent a pot of chili back home with me. The next day, after an overnight snow fall, school was called off. Here I was a bachelor in my little apartment. I could have ordered a pizza or something, but what a treat to curl up in front of the TV on a day off of school with a big bowl of Grandma’s chili. I can remember it as if it were yesterday.
So, I was very excited to come across an envelope of Grandma’s recipes in my keepsakes. They had been tucked away in the family Bible and I had put them in the envelope to copy at some time. There was her familiar handwriting with the perfect cursive strokes she had learned in the one-room schoolhouse down the road from her home.
The recipe I was most excited about was her peanut butter fudge recipe. But, you guessed it — it didn’t turn out at all like what I remember it tasting like. I was disappointed. Had she been there, she would have told me I hadn’t stirred the concoction long enough or there was too much humidity in the air; things that were second nature to her.
I’m pretty sure I’d trade just about anything right now for a couple of pieces of that fudge. Or one of those sugar cookies.