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.
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.
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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