Preperation, Uncategorized

The Famous Grandma Lee’s Rocking Chair

July 20, 2018
Rocking Chair

In today’s youth-obsessed society, the rocking chair gets a very bad rap, probably because many equate the rocking chair with old age and old age with death, so, just the mention of a rocking chair sends many fleeing, emotionally, from the mere concept of it. This is very sad to me, because the rocking chair of my memory is so much more than a place to cradle old, decrepit bones that are headed for the graveyard.

In Grandma Lee’s kitchen, between the heater side of the stove and the china cabinet Grandpa Silas built for her, sat a marvelous old rocking chair. It was dark brown and strong and broad of back. The seat was so wide it could sit Grandma Lee twice so you know it had no trouble sitting she and me together, which it so often did. Grandma Lee took the time to customize her rocking chair with love and warmth; never did I see it bare. It was always covered in beautiful throws and afghans, made by Grandma Lee, herself, ailing with pretty pillows, some hand made but all designed to surround a body with soft comfort and support.

Rocking chair

Rocking chair

The Memories…

I have so many memories of me and this rocking chair, none of which have anything to do with old age or dying. This is the chair where Grandma Lee rocked her own newborns to sleep and continued its tradition with me. I can’t tell you how often Grandma rocked away the pain of a scraped knee or the discomfort of a cold or fever. Here is where I whispered my youthful secrets in my Grandma’s ear. Here is where I discovered who I was as Grandma Lee built the foundation of my self-identity with tales of my ancestors, my relatives and my family history.

little engine

The Little Engine That Could

And here is where she read to me. I have no doubt that my love of words and my passion for writing was born and nurtured in Grandma Lee’s rocking chair. When I was very young, she read the Golden Classics to me. Two that I particularly remember are The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Engine That Could. I still vividly remember how excited I would always get when the little engine was trying so hard to make it up the hill; “I think I can, I think I can!” I would say with the little train, eyes closed, fists balled up with intense mental effort; and then, “I knew I could, I knew I could!” Then I would shout with pure delight as I and the little train triumphantly coasted down the side of the hill together after making it over the top. I recognize that I was, no doubt, a very imaginative child which is what allowed me to immerse myself so completely in the stories, but, I believe it is here, in Grandma’s rocking chair that I developed very defining trait, extreme determination. Anyone who knows me well will confirm that the best and perhaps only) way to get me to do something I don’t want to do is to tell me I can’t do it.

 

Five Little Peppers

Five little peppers

When I was a little older, the Golden Classics became Youth Classics, The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew,: Trixie Belden, and The Bobbsey Twins. So many rainy afternoons were spent at Grandma Lee’s feet, sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows (the real kind of hot chocolate, not a quick mix!) I learned so much from these books! About how to comport myself, with manners, in social situations and how to solve childhood problems in constructive ways. People don’t read as much as they used to, to their children anymore, electronic devices and Internet streaming have replaced this to a large degree. But, when one sees the content that the children are absorbing day and night, some of the social mis-behaviors we witness in children today may not be so very surprising. I know that I mimicked what I read. no doubt the children of today are merely mimicking the digital information they are absorbing.

Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales

On quiet evenings, just before bedtime, Grandma Lee would stimulate the vast landscape of my imagination with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Anderson (who could ever forget The Little Match Girl?) and the Arabian Nights. She left these books in a neat pile beneath the seat and between the rockers so that, when I was old enough, I would sit in the chair and strive until I could read them for myself. I have no doubt at all that the poor literacy rates in our public schools could be greatly improved by a few more rocking chairs and grandmothers ike Grandma Lee.

If I am honest, I will include the fact that, yes, during her final year, this same rocking chair did bring warmth and comfort to Grandma Lee’s aging body.  At the end, it was I who was reading to her as she sat wrapped in pretty woolen shawls that I crocheted for her to keep her warm. But, is this a bad thing? Something to be feared? Or is it simply a natural progression of care that a rocking chair provides during the duration of a life? Should we fixate on just one aspect of love dispensed by a rocking chair (care and comfort for aging bones) or should we widen our perspective to include the whole spectrum of loving care, starting with loving and nurturing our newborns?

I think if we, as a society, were not so fixated on being twenty or younger forever, we would come to understand that the cycles of life are normal and natural and instead of trying to escape them, we would embrace them and enter each phase of life with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. We would live well every moment, and make each moment count.

This is how Grandma Lee took on every phase of her life including the final one. It is my intent to do the same just the way she demonstrated it for me. Despite the way of the world, I have no interest in being twenty again. Twenty was nice, but so was thirty. And forty. There is just so much more to the experience of life and living than the concerns and challenges of being twenty. And, anyway, despite all of our fears and best efforts, we are all going to age, And when we do it will not be the fault of the rocking chair. When we are aged, it is the rocking chair that will show us what a good friend it can be. I say, why wait until we are old to make that discovery?

You may be interested in the recipe for hot chocolate that Grandma Lee made for me. You will need:

2 heaping teaspoons of Dark Dutch Chocolate (Drost is a good brand)

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream or evaporated milk

2 tablespoons sugar (adjust to your personal taste)

¼ teaspoon Vanilla Extract (homemade if possible)

Boiling Water

Mini marshmallows

hot chocolate

hot chocolate

Place chocolate powder, sugar and cream/milk in a mug. Stir together to make a smooth paste. Add boiling water to almost fill the mug. Stir to blend. Add vanilla and top with the marshmallows. This is delicious! i’m confident you will love it.
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Preperation, Sunday Breakfast

Sunday Breakfast In Grandma’s House

May 23, 2018
Pancakes On Sunday

Monday through Saturday, breakfast was pretty ordinary. It was nutritious but simple. There might be steaming hot oatmeal with brown sugar; or creamy Cream of Wheat with maple sugar; or hot buttered toast and scrambled eggs with orange juice.

But Sunday was different. On Sundays, Grandma Lee really went to town in the kitchen. This was a certainty and we all anticipated it; Grandpa and me and my siblings if they were there. I hopped out of bed on Sundays, washed my face, brushed my teeth, jumped into the clothes I had lain out and left neatly folded on my chair the night before, and hurried to help Grandma Lee. I loved the smell of coffee that always tantalized my senses on Sunday morning. I wasn’t allowed to have any, but I sure loved the smell of it.

Pancakes On Sunday

Pancakes on Sunday

“Good morning, Miss Prissy,” Grandma greeted me with a smile and a hug. “Ready to get started?” Boy was I ready! Because, at the very least, I knew we were having buttermilk pancakes, sometimes with blueberries in them; other times topped with strawberries and whipped cream. In that case, Grandma made her own strawberry sauce and whipped her own cream into the fluffy dollops that she heaped on top of it. Sometimes, it was a pan of the flakiest, melt-in-your mouth biscuits you could imagine, served with thick slices of bacon or homemade sausage patties along with piles of home fries or country fried potatoes. Sometimes, what Grandma served depended on the season because this was the only time certain ingredients became available. Like, in autumn, plain pancakes would turn into pumpkin pancakes with real maple syrup. Closer to Thanksgiving, breakfast could easily be a specialty breakfast casserole that only Grandma made consisting of beef hot links, potatoes, bell peppers, eggs and cheese, baked in a butter and cream sauce and topped with bread crumbs from two day old bread or leftover biscuits or rolls that Grandma crushed herself between layers of waxed paper. Oh my God! The memory has me salivating!

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As much as I loved all of these dishes, I absolutely lived for the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That’s when Grandma would cut thick slices from the leftover ham. Then she’d melt a generous portion of butter in a skillet and put the ham slices in. After they browned a little bit, she would add the onion rings of one yellow onion and begin to allow the onion to brown in the butter that was still browning the ham slices. Oh, my stars! The scent of this dish drove everybody out of bed if they were still in it! After the ham and onion were just the right shade of brown, Grandma would mix some flour and water in a glass. I can’t tell you the exact measurements because Grandma didn’t measure. Her hands just seemed to know how much. In later years when I asked her how she knew how much of stuff to use, she said, “I just feel it, Baby.” A good guesstimate of measure would be about two heaping tablespoons of lour to a full glass of water. Into this, she would add salt and pepper to taste, again, without measuring. She would pour this seasoned flour water into the skillet with the browned ham and onions and butter where first it bubbled furiously and then settled down into a caramel colored gravy that you simply have to experience for yourself. Let me tell you, Grandpa Silas, who normally steered pretty clear of the kitchen, couldn’t keep out of it when Grandma was making this! She served this heavenly concoction over hot grits and/or hush puppies. There was always fresh fruit on the side and with this dish, the beverage was Grandma’s own creation that we called “Ahhh Drink.” We called it this because Grandpa always let out a satisfied ahhh sound after he downed a glass full. It was a mix of sun tea brewed in the sun the previous day, To this she would add fresh lime and lemon juice and crushed cherries. This would refrigerate overnight, Just before serving she strained the liquid through cheesecloth into a pitcher, added sugar and served over crushed ice. Without fail, Grandpa would stuff himself and end up snoozed out on the sofa for most of the rest of the day.

ham slices

Ham slices

And. as if all of this was not heaven enough, Sunday Breakfast was served outdoors, weather permitting. Grandma’s house had a porch that wound all the way around the house, and on the back end she stowed a folding table. On Sunday morning, while the women folk were cooking, Grandpa Silas and my brother, Wilton, if he was there, would set up the table and bring out the extra chairs from the shed. Somehow, Grandma found the time to lay the cloth and set the table without burning anything that was cooking.. Then she’d set out the food. Mmmmm! I can smell it now. My guess is our Sunday breakfast could be smelled for a mile around! Then we’d all gather around the table and feast with the sounds of nature all around. We’d breathe heavenly fresh air, feel the sun on our faces and enjoy glorious morning birdsong. We’d talk and we’d laugh and Grandpa would tell jokes that weren’t funny but everybody laughed anyway.

And it was all so very wonderful. This heaping helping of family time. Thank you so much, Grandma Lee for these wonderful memories of Sunday Breakfast at your house.

iced tea

Iced Tea

And I would feel so proud, because I had helped prepare everything; helped to make this wonderful time happen In this and many other ways, I came to be the very honored beneficiary of Grandma’s culinary expertise in the kitchen. She never went to an official cooking school; she learned, as I was learning, from the elders of her life as she was growing up. I fear this is a tradition that is steadily being lost on today’s generations, more and more every year. I fear the packaged and prepared foods have seduced us into dietary habits that are robbing us of necessary fresh ingredients in the foods we eat to nourish our bodies and promote good health. I fear we are overloading our bodies with preservatives used to keep packaged foods sell-able for long periods of time. I am aware of the convenience of these foods, especially given the driven pace of our lives today and I know many cannot cook like Grandma Lee did if for no other reason than they simply don’t have the time. But I’m thinking that perhaps a comfortable medium can be reached with simple little changes if an effort is sincerely made.

For instance, I’d like to share a recipe with you now that might eliminate commercially prepared pancake syrup from your pantry if you give it a try. Grandma Lee also made her own syrup to accompany her buttermilk pancakes. It was simple and easy and incredibly delicious and contains not a single chemical or preservative as it is made and used fresh. Take:

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Two cups golden brown sugar firmly packed.

1 and 3/4 cups water

Place these in a medium saucepan, stir together over medium heat and allow to come to a boil, stirring constantly. When the mixture begins boiling and sending large bubbles to the surface, reduce heat and simmer gently for two or three minutes, then remove the pot from the stove. Add a dash of salt, a pat of butter and stir in. Lastly, a teaspoon of vanilla extract (Grandma made her own extracts, but that’s a story for another day.) And that’s it!

Let me know what you think if you give it a try.

See you next week for blog #3, entitled, The Rocking Chair.

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Welcome To Love And Wisdom In Grandma’s Kitchen

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Preperation

Welcome To Love And Wisdom In Grandma’s Kitchen

May 17, 2018
Featured Image Post

Hello everyone. My name is Priscilla Johnston-Smith, Prissy for short. My Grandma Lee nicknamed me that. She loved to call me Little Miss Prissy and I loved to hear her say it. I am a woman of mature years now, and, looking back, I am able to see just how blessed I was to have had a wonderful Grandma from whom I learned the concept of unconditional love; both how to give it as well as how to receive it. I wish every child could have had a grandma like mine. Which brings me to the intent of this blog; to share my Grandma Lee and her kitchen with everyone who has interest but especially with those who, for whatever reason, did not experience one of their own as they were growing up.

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My childhood years were spent in Connecticut, in a town that was officially a city but held very many rural elements, especially during the time period of the late sixties/ early seventies. Most people owned their homes and houses were large and sprawling with land surrounding them. Fruit and shade trees were part of everyone’s back yard and it was not unusual to see personal gardens and even live chickens. In my early years, there was still a milk man who left bottles of milk at the front door at sunrise, although this was changing and the milk man would soon disappear. In addition to the milkman, there was a bakery truck who came around with fresh baked bread, although, this too, would soon disappear. On Tuesdays, the fish man came, early in the morning, with freshly caught fish packed in ice. It was first come, first served until the fish ran out, so it was not uncommon to see neighbors, still in nightclothes, running to get to the truck before all the fresh fish was gone. For other odds and ins that one might need, there was the neighborhood corner store. It was just one block from Grandma’s house and across one street. But, until I was nine, I was not allowed to go by myself because Grandma was afraid I might get hit by a car trying to cross the street, even though a car only came by only once every five minutes, if even that often. Before that age, if I got to go to Vann’s Corner Store, it was only with my older brother and sister, or Grandma herself.

To me. Vann’s was a wonder world. Mr. Vann had all kinds of penny candy, and chips and soda. There were other kinds of real food items there, too, but I hardly noticed those. I had my eye on the peppermint stick that Grandma was sure to get for me just before we left the store. This is in stark contrast to today, where children are not allowed treats like this because of the sugar content. The world has demonized sugar, scared to death that it will cause diabetes. But, in my childhood world, sugar was an ordinary part of life, the part that made life sweeter. And we were not afraid of it. Sugar was a mainstay in Grandma’s kitchen, used often and well. Grandma didn’t buy baked goods that had been filled full of chemical preservatives so that they would last God only knew how long on a store shelf. Grandma baked her own cakes, pies, cookies, breads, the scent of which remains an integral part of my memory of my childhood and Grandma’s kitchen.

Pumkin Pie

Pumkin Pie

There is stark contrast between what is prepared as food in today’s kitchen, to what was prepared as food in Grandma’s kitchen. Today, we have become so afraid of real food that our kitchen cupboards are stocked with food substitutes instead of food. Our food today has become de-fatted, de-sugared, de-carbohydrated, de-animal-proteined an un-dairyed, In their place we have accepted soy substitutes, chemical additives and artificially created substances designed to make food look and taste like what nature intended them to look and taste like before they were altered, which, as I’m sure you know, never quite works. Then, someone sticks a natural or organic label on it and we buy it and eat it. But, after they’re done with it, is it really food? My Grandma Lee wouldn’t think so. And neither do I.

But, there were no such shenanigans going on in Grandma’s kitchen. She would never have served these things as food from her kitchen. Grandma cooked with real butter, real sugar, fresh vegetables and fruit, real grains, corn and olive oil. She cooked with what nature provided naturally, not what chemists cooked up in a lab. We grew up strong and healthy and did not become diabetic. During this time of growing up and cooking with real food with real ingredients, I don’t recall people having diabetes and/or cancer at the rates they suffer from these diseases today. and I can’t help but wonder if today’s chemicalized and processed foods are not only not part of the solution, but are actually part of the problem.

“You can tell a whole lot about a woman by her kitchen.”

This is one of Grandma Lee’s famous sayings. If it is true, what does your kitchen say about you? That’s why my kitchen today closely resembles Grandma’s kitchen both in looks and in function and I’m very proud of that. I attribute this to the fact that I am not fat, I am not sick and I am not diabetic. I owe so much of this good fortune to my Grandma Lee’s love and wisdom shared with me in a sunshine yellow kitchen trimmed in white with blue checkered curtains at the window.

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At this time, it would be my honor to introduce Grandma Lee. She was a strong, striking= looking woman with thick, strong, black hair, pecan colored skin and soft brown eyes. Grandma was by no means fat, but she was built in such a way that when I hugged her around her waist and rested my head against her, I felt softness and warmth. In fact, just about everything about Grandma Lee was warm and soft. In contrast to many modern grandma’s who are deeply immersed in glamor and trying to look as young as possible for as long as possible, Grandma Lee was not focused on those things. Not that she couldn’t clean up real nice when she chose to, as I saw for myself when she spruced up to step out with Grandpa, but on a daily basis, Grandma’s focus was more on family. Taking good care of her family. To do that, her normal appearance was simply clean and neat and sensible. I can’t imagine long or artificial nails done at a nail spa on Grandma’s hands as they labored in the kitchen. It would have been completely incongruous. They would have been completely out of place kneading dough for bread or rolling out pie crust. They would not have worked out very well when we were weeding the garden or picking fruit from the trees! I’m not saying there is anything wrong with glamor grandmas. I’m just saying that was not my Grandma Lee.

Soup pic

Soup Pic

My family home was not very far from Grandma’s house, only two hours drive away, so summers, holidays and some weekends were often spent with Grandma Lee. Sometimes my siblings came along too, but mostly it was just me. Because I loved being there and Grandma Lee loved having me. It was as though we were joined at the hip; as though I was an extra bone that God had accidentally left out of Grandma’s body that found a way to connect, anyway, from the outside. As soon as I arrived, I ran to the kitchen, the room of the house that I most loved, to see it again; smell once again the cinnamon/vanilla scent that always lingered there. To jump up on the wooden stool pulled up to the country block table that looked strong as iron. My stool. Where I spent so many hours cooking with Grandma Lee, being her young eyes, her helping hands and her extra pair of legs. And, in the process, as Grandma Lee shared her heart and soul with me, learning so much and receiving so much love. Allow me to reach back in my memories to where Grandma Lee still lives and share her with you. If this sounds like something you’d like, come back next week. There will be a new article about Sunday Breakfast at Grandma’s House waiting just for you. Until then…

 
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