A Day In The Life


The Most Important Ingredient
August 23, 2007, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Food, Life in the South

My Granny W. was a great cook.  I remember so many meals eaten around her big kitchen table.  We used to gather there on Sunday after church for the noon meal and, of course, holidays were always celebrated with feasts fit for kings.  Unfortunately, Granny didn’t write many of her recipes down primarily because she was always changing her ingredients.  She often changed things in an effort to improve the taste, but she also simply cooked with what she had on hand substituting a new seasoning for something she didn’t have in her pantry at the time.  And Granny just wasn’t keen on sharing her culinary secrets.  She enjoyed her status as the supreme cook in the family and she loved listening to people trying to figure out what exactly she had added to this food or that to make it taste so good. 

Nowadays when the family gets together for a meal, it is usually served at my mom’s house.  All the family members generally pitch in and bring several dishes making a giant smorgasbord for sampling.  When Granny was alive, she did all the cooking.  She actually turned down offers for help with the meal.  Mom remembers when Granny did all her cooking with a wood stove.  Can you imagine?!!  I can’t remember the wood stove, but I do remember Granny making her own butter and straining the cream from the top of the warm milk that Grandpa brought in fresh from the cow.  I can also remember the absolute perfect taste of that freshly churned butter smeared on bread still warm from the oven.  It was like eating a little piece of heaven. 

I learned to love cooking by watching Granny W. at work in the kitchen.  I have a cousin who also ‘studied’ at Granny’s side.  My cousin and I spend a lot of time trying to replicate Granny’s specialties.  In our separate kitchens, we add a pinch of this and stop adding a cup of that trying to find that perfect blend of ingredients based solely on our memories of Granny’s delicious dishes.  We bring our finished products to the family gatherings and wait expectantly as our kin folks dig in and devour the food we’ve prepared.  “That tastes just like Granny’s…..” is the phrase that is magic to our ears.  My cousin has perfected Granny’s coleslaw recipe and I can whip out a pumpkin pie that puts everyone right back in Granny’s kitchen.  The one recipe that still eludes us is Granny’s banana cake.  Try as we might, neither of us can figure out exactly what Granny did to make her banana cake one of the most requested desserts in the county.  

One of the last meals Granny cooked for me was turnip greens and cornbread.  That’s so Southern it’s almost a cliche’, but just thinking about Granny’s greens and cornbread makes my mouth water.  The turnip greens were always fresh from the garden and she cooked them with pork fatback and a generous helping of sugar.  I can’t even begin to tell you what all she put in her cornbread, but she baked it in an iron skillet and I believe that had a lot to do with how good it tasted. 

Granny gave me her one cookbook several years before she died.  The copyright date in it is 1938.  The book is one of my most treasured possessions and it does contain many of the recipes that she used, but the thing is, Granny used those written recipes as a starting point from which she added, subtracted or substituted at will.  Often times I’ve carefully measured and stirred following recipes from the cookbook, only to create something that doesn’t taste like Granny’s cooking at all.  Through all my trial and error, I’ve discovered something very important and I’m sure my cousin who loves to cook would agree with me.  The most important ingredient in Granny’s cooking was love and there simply isn’t a substitute for that.

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Why is it that grandma’s food always tastes so good?

my daughter informed me tonight that “Daddy and grandma make better rice than you.”

I’m doomed.

Comment by Karmyn R

It sounds like your granny (and her cooking) were very special.

In our family saying it tastes like Grandmpa’s isn’t always a good thing!

Comment by Susan

Aww what a great post… you choke me up all the time when reading your posts.. they are so passionate 🙂

Comment by Tonya

AMEN! Great post! I miss my Grandma’s Plum Jelly. She would make me a jar for my birthday knowing how much I LOVE her plum jelly.

Comment by Debbie

[…] 2, 2007 Why Mine Is Better Posted by arkansassongbird under Food  On a recent post about my Granny W.’s delicious cooking,  Karmyn left this comment: “My daughter […]

Pingback by Why Mine Is Better « Quarter Notes




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