Great Grandma's House - A Glimpse of Me Blog at - 149514

A Glimpse of Me

Great Grandma's House 
Jan. 9, 2010 4:00 am 
Updated: Jan. 19, 2010 12:20 pm
Isn't it wonderful how some of our fondest memories of loved ones we've lost involve food?  If it weren't for food, I probably would have very few memories of my mother's paternal great-grandmother.

As a child, I used to cherish trips to Great Grandma Hildebrandt's house.  Great Grandpa had passed away when I was very little, so all I remember of him is his burgundy rocker/recliner and the lovely smell of his pipe.  But the memory of Great Grandma has held strong, even though she passed away when I was still quite young...about 12 years old or so.  Food is a HUGE reason behind my strong memories of her and I am thankful for its help in preserving her so perfectly in my mind.

A visit to Great Grandma's house always started out the same way.  We would be greeted with the requisite hugs and kisses (why do old ladies insist on kissing you on the lips?) and then we would instantly be herded to the dining table where a big pot of navy bean soup sat waiting, alongside fresh baking powder biscuits.  I don't know how she did it, but this soup was the creamiest, tastiest bean soup you could ever want to pass over your tongue.  Never, in all the years I can remember eating Great Grandma's bean soup, did I ever come across a dry bean.  And the bacon!  Oh my goodness, the bacon!  She must have put three pounds of bacon into this soup.  And we're not talking just any bacon.  No, this was the "ends and pieces" bacon!  That thick cut, meaty, glorious stuff that bacon snobs would discard because it wasn't perfect slices or uniform thickness.  Great Grandma's soup was swimming with it and we all ate our beans around the pieces of bacon, so as to save the very best part for last.  One ritual was always observed with this soup:  Great Grandma would serve everyone their bowls and then ladle up her own bowl.  Then, before she scooped even one bite into her mouth, she would crumble a biscuit onto the top of her soup.  I can remember thinking that seemed kind of yucky, as I have never been fond of soggy bread of any kind, but during one of our visits I surreptitiously sneaked a bit of my biscuit into my bowl of soup and I was hooked.  Ever since then, navy bean soup just hasn't seemed "right" without a biscuit, a piece of bread, or at least a few crackers broken up on top of it.

After we finished our heavenly bean soup and biscuits, we children were shooed into the back yard while the grownups had their visiting time.  Children nowadays would be bored out of their gourds in Great Grandma's back yard.  She didn't even have so much as a swing!  But what she DID have outshined any PS3, X-Box, or Wii I have ever had the misfortune to tangle with.  Great Grandma had FRUIT TREES!  Most of the time our visits were during the summer months, so the apricot tree was our destination.  We would climb up her sturdy trunk, high into her canopy, lie back on a comfortable forked branch, and eat apricots the entire afternoon.  Great Grandma's house was far enough away from any main streets that we didn't have to listen to constant traffic, and Mother Nature provided the most beautiful soundtrack to our afternoons.  Tiny butterflies by the hundreds landed on the flowering bushes to sip their nectar, hummingbirds hovered at feeders hung from the porch cover, and occasionally a bumblebee would pass through on his way to wherever he was headed, oblivious to the fact that Science insists he shouldn't be able to fly.  Once in a while a parent would peek their head out the back door and say, "You kids aren't eating too much of that fruit, are you?"  We would always reply that we had only eaten one or two apricots each, but of course we had been eating them as fast as we could pick them!  It didn't matter that we all knew from past experiences that we would be spending a good portion of the next day in the bathroom (anyone who has eaten large quantities of apricots in the course of a few short hours will understand what I mean)!  Those apricots, eaten straight off the tree without so much as a spit-shine, much less a good washing, were the best entertainment a kid could ask for on a hot summer afternoon.

When our visits were drawing to an end, the parents would come into the back yard with bags for us to fill up with apricots to take home.  It was then that they would realize just how many apricots we had all eaten, because there weren't quite as many left to take home as there should have been.  Even so, we all managed to have a decent amount in our bags as we prepared to leave our Paradise.  We reluctantly climbed down out of the apricot tree, thanking her for the wonderful afternoon, and filed into the house to wash hands and faces and visit the restroom in preparation for the drive to our respective homes.  On the way out the door, we were once again subjected to the requisite hugs and kisses (Really?  On the LIPS?!?!) and then climbed into our cars and waved goodbye, already looking forward to the next visit to Great Grandma's House.
Jan. 9, 2010 4:32 am
What a nice blog. I really enjoyed "our" visit to grandma's. Isn't it sad that our children today can't enjoy the same freedom.
Jan. 9, 2010 7:11 am
I wish I could remember going to my great grandmother's house like that! My grandmother had the bigger house, so we all ended up there. It was so nice that she lived until I became an adult! I have many fond memories of her!
Jan. 9, 2010 7:13 am
Very nice blog. I, too, enjoyed my "visit" to Grandma's house. It truly brought back memories of going to my own Great Grandma's house. I was fortunate to have both of my maternal great-grandmothers until I was 13. They were both farmer's wives and still gardened well into their 80's. One of them even roller-skated at age 84! I first had persimmon pudding at Great Grandma's house. Last year I tried making it myself - not bad but not nearly like I remember it tasting. Thanks for a great blog!
Jan. 9, 2010 7:18 am
Hey Keri! I can so relate to your blog! Not only getting up 3:00 a.m., and not being able to go back to sleep but thoughts of my grandmother’s. Did not know my great grandmothers but heard amazing stories about them and how “they could cook”! I remember the first cake I ever made (8 years old) with my mom’s mother. Stories and recipes passed down from her mom and then my dad’s mom…I can still smell the pecan pies and cookies she would make. She had a pecan plantation and as young as I was I can still remember. Great memories and they live on every time I cook or flip open one of my old cookbooks that I inherited. Thank you!
Jan. 9, 2010 7:26 am
Keri...WONDERFUL blog...totally brought me back to my nana's house...soooo remember those kisses, they were even prickly, LOL!!!
Jan. 9, 2010 7:27 am
Awwwww. Now I love your Grandma too! Thanks so much for sharing. Brought up a few good memories of my own. Senior citizens usually have health problems like pain and/or loneliness or poverty (or, should I say "reduced funds")... BUT, our Grannies did not complain about those things! They cooked with LOVE, and they are so happy to have families visit them.... From your Grandmother's perspective, YOU gave her a bigger "gift" and your visits remained "the best memories" for her, which also lasted until your next visit.
Jan. 9, 2010 7:32 am
iVery nice, Keri! My grandma was from England and I can still hear her accent and remember her house and the yummy smells coming from her kitchen. We used to sit on her porch and she'd play jacks with us (no t.v. watching at gram's house!) She was pretty darned good, too. Pretty spry. She sure had alot more physical labor to do than I ever did. No fancy kitchen gadgets like a KA back then!
Jan. 9, 2010 7:40 am
Awesome blog! Thanks for taking me back to my own Grandma's kitchen. And you're so right, so many of my memories of her involve food, she was a wonderful cook! And the fruit trees! Mine lived on a big NW IA farm with Lassie. Really! Wonderfully written blog Keri!! Thank yo. Your Gram sounds like she was one awesome lady!
Jan. 9, 2010 10:08 am
Such a nice story that I think a lot of us can all relate to. My grandparents just died two years ago, they were 93 and 96. My kids have lots of memories with their "greats." It's something that stays with you for life. It was nice to hear your memories while at the same time reminding me of mine.
Jan. 9, 2010 11:10 am
I loved your blog Keri. It brought back memories of my Nana's and my Grandmothers house :)
Jan. 9, 2010 12:34 pm
Great blog Keri!.. Great memories of Grandmas house. In our family we would end up at my Aunt Mary's house.. Always lots of good Assyrian food,dolma, rice and stews... Us kids would play charades and we'd even come out and do skits for the grown-ups.. LOl.. I bet those were funny! :)
Jan. 9, 2010 8:07 pm
I'm so glad my story could bring back happy memories for so many of you! Traci - we used to do little skits, too, but that was a Christmas Eve tradition at Granny and Papa's house (my maternal grandparents - the Granny I mentioned in my Pie for Granny blog). Each family would prepare a skit and then all of the kids would get together to act out the Nativity story. It was always a magical evening!
Jan. 10, 2010 12:44 am
Keri this was a really well written story and I enjoyed getting to know your family just a bit more. You and a lot of others are the lucky ones to have had a great gramma. I never knew mine, and barely knew my own grandparents. One set lived half a world away and the other set were apartment dwellers in San Francisco. Going to gramma's house was not in the cards for me, instead that gramma & grampa would make the yearly or sometimes twice yearly trip to us. She was a "city" gramma and would much rather treat everyone to dinner at a restaurant or leave me with memories of shopping excursions. I would have rather climbed trees and baked cookies. Fortunately for my kids, they do have one set of grandparents that are giving them the kind of memories you have.
Jan. 11, 2010 2:29 pm
boy, Keri, that blog sure brought back some good memories, but mine was the plum knew what was going to happen, but they were so good you just didn't care! And the lazy summer afternoons....I really miss those and I feel sorry for kids today who think they can't be entertained by something other than electronics! Those were the days....thanks for writing this so I could take a trip down memory lane on this cold, grey, drizzly day. It's much appreciated!
Jan. 11, 2010 4:19 pm
What a heartwarming memory. I too have very fond memories of my Grandma Boyle and has strong ties to her through my sense of smell. I know that sounds funny but it's true. She would make chili sauce to go along with her Passties and the smell permeated the neighborhood. I also made the chili sauce with my Dad who is now gone. I'd better get the big pot out this summer and make some memories with my kids before it's too late. They do say that the sense of smell invokes the strongest memories.....Cook on ladies!
Jan. 11, 2010 6:22 pm
I so loved my great-grandmother; she died when I was 18. But most of the cooking memories are with my grandmother, probably because I stayed with her a lot more that with Great-grandma.
Jan. 11, 2010 6:22 pm
The tree in my great-grandmother's yard was a messy mulberry tree!
Jan. 12, 2010 8:50 am
Joanie - You are so right about the sense of smell. Every time I smell a pipe, it takes me back to the visits to Great Grandma's house before Great Grandpa died because he smoked a pipe.
Jan. 12, 2010 10:13 am
I want to tell you Iam a great grandmother and have a fine young great grandson living with us. He is only 9yrs and loves to cook, he says someday he will open a rest. named Nana's and use the things he has learn from me that I learned from my mom. So glad to have him in our life and all the memoirs he will have in the furture.
Jan. 12, 2010 10:58 am
I enjoyed your story of your Grandma. I agree, food is the #1 memory of Grandma's. Mine was frozen margerine that I thought was icecream!! What a surprise! Linda
Jan. 12, 2010 11:42 am
How sweet Keri-I remember my Baba's backyard was bare too except for her garden, the flowers and raspberry bushes mmmm. Happy memories...thanks for the trip down memory lane:)
Jan. 12, 2010 11:43 am
I was 23 when she passed on-had many years to enjoy her wisdom
Jan. 12, 2010 5:33 pm
My mom stopped in a couple weeks ago the week of Christmas with an old brown box. It contained my great grandmother's recipes. My mom grabbed it after my grandma's funeral back in 1982 when I was 12 and she packed it away and forgot about it. I'm 40 now and getting my great grandma's recipe box was the best Christmas gift I could have gotten!
Jan. 13, 2010 7:02 am
Wow, that brings back memories. We took long road trips to Grandmas house from Illinois to Florida every year. I could hardly wait to smell the sweet orange blossom filled air, let alone the home made italian food wafting through her home. Grandma and Grandpa had a large amount of orange, grapefruit and kumquat trees. Every morning I was visiting I would get up early with Gramps and help him pick the edible flowers for him to mix in the eggs he made me. Not to mention the tiny egg-shaped oranges I got to eat whole, sweet skin and sour inside(kumquats). I thought,"wow, how exotic". I remember the Charlie Chip man delivering potato chips in the big tin. We did not have such luxuries at home and although Mom was the best cook, she got her skills from Gram! We would all look forward to the made from scratch spagetti sauce, and the Wedding Soup with the baby meatballs(which had to have the hard boiled egg and parm. cheese crumbled over the bowl). Oh and the fried cabbage and noodles! Gramps was Italian, Gram Polish. I loved that the traditions of their food kept going. It opened my taste buds to so much more than chicken fingers as a kid. Thank you for the nostalgia. It did my heart good to read yours and reminisce mine.
Jan. 13, 2010 12:09 pm
My grandma or nonnie as we called her was from Sicily and I remember the smell of her sauce cooking in her kitehen when we visited. My mother cooked mostly Italian foods, but nonnie's was special. We did the kissing just like you said and then nonnie would take a piece of fresh Italian bread and dip it in the sauce for us to sample along with a meatball or two. My sister and I thought we were the most special people in the world when we visited our grandparents. I now do the same for my grandchildren when they come to visit and they say that my sauce is the best--too bad they never tasted nonnie's--hers was really the best.
Jan. 13, 2010 2:02 pm
Thank you for a great blog.
Jan. 13, 2010 4:26 pm
I never do blogs, but I had to comment on this one. I am a great grandmother. Our species are not extinct. My daughter made me a young grandmother(38) and her son made me a young great grandmother (57) I now have at last count 10 great grand children. We have 5 acres on a lake and a very large vege garden every year. (made convenient with raised beds and water on timers. The children love nothing better than coming to grandma mary. And no I do not kiss on the lips it was distasteful when I was a child also.
Jan. 13, 2010 8:34 pm
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I only knew my maternal grandparents. Both of whom are now gone. We spent our time playing under the weeping willow tree. Great place for make believe and playing with the cat. The front porch with the metal rockers and the metal glider was also a favorite place to play. I also looked forward to the box of toys which were toys that had belonged to my mother and her sisters. The food always tasted so good at Grandma's house. Her ice tea was the best. Maybe it was the fresh squeezed lemons she used. She had one of those glass lemon juicers which I found so fasinating as a kid. Maybe it was the enamel pan she used to brew the tea. Any way I could never make my ice tea to taste like hers. I can still see her house as plain as my own and it's been at least 30 years. When I make my soft sugar cookies, it brings back memories of my grandmother. Oh so many wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing yours.
Jan. 14, 2010 4:01 am
Great blog! I definitely keep Grandma's memory alive through the food she cooked. Thanks for sharing!
Jan. 14, 2010 10:01 am
It took two days to drive to Grandma's house for she lived in Winona Mn.Her meals were always good I know because my plate would always be licked clean. I remember along with breakfast she would fix cinnamon toast. Her backyard had fruit trees also and walking onto her screened in backporch always had wonderful smell of apples. Thanks for wonderful story and bringing those happy memories back to life.
Jan. 19, 2010 12:20 pm
Great blog Keri...brought back memories from my gram i was lucky enough to live with her until she passed i was 11, her food was great pinto bean soup, cornbread and her famous lasagna the neighbors would line up for some of her lasagna!! ive tried to recreate some of her dishes but they just dont taste the same:( she also had a huge garden strawberries, green onions are a few of the things i remember along with her flowers that she would cut for me to take to my teachers at school tulips in the spring! Thank you for taking me back in time, I sure do miss her and really wish my kids would have had a chance to meet her:-)
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About Me
I have loved cooking since I was a young girl helping my mother make dinner or bake cookies during school vacations. My favorite class in elementary school was "Nutrition", because we cooked almost every day. I have two daughters who love cooking and baking as much as I do and my husband is even getting interested. He recently started making bread from scratch and he's doing an awesome job of it! We share our home with pets of all different kinds, including birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, a rat, snakes, frogs, a tarantula, and a turtle. We also provide foster care for a local dog rescue, taking in abused, neglected, abandoned dogs and giving them a safe, loving environment to live in until they find their "fur-ever" homes.
My favorite things to cook
Rosemary garlic roasted chicken with roasted garlic gravy; Skillet cabbage; Almost any baked goods; Anything I can make in my slow cooker! Somewhere around September 2008 I decided I was going to start baking all the bread my children and I eat. I'm COMPLETELy loving it and my kids like to brag that "my mommy MADE this bread!" Their favorite is when I make bread items that aren't your traditional loaf of bread, like hamburger buns, bagels, and soft pretzels.
My favorite family cooking traditions
For several generations, my father's family has made a "family tradition" dessert item at each major holiday. At Easter, it's Italian Cheesecake, made with ricotta cheese and anise flavoring (published as "Italian Cheesecake II", if you'd like to check it out). At Thanksgiving, it's "Roly Polies", which were invented by my great grandmother when she had leftover pie crust dough she needed to use up. My absolute favorite, though, is Christmas, when we make Birds Nests. These are made out of walnut-sized balls of a sweet pie crust type dough rolled out very thin. Then we cut slits in the dough without cutting through the edge, gather every other strip, twist them up into a jumble, and then deep fry the pastries. When they are cooled, we sprinkle them with powdered sugar. It doesn't matter how many we make, they all get eaten!
My cooking triumphs
I managed to make decorated sugar cookies for Christmas 2008 that turned out awesome!! I've NEVER gotten sugar cookies to turn out good looking enough to warrant decorating them. They always turn into shapeless blobs. This particular time I reduced the amount of butter in the recipe by 25% and chilled the cut-outs for 15 minutes immediately before baking them. They turned out beautiful!
My cooking tragedies
My first attempt at making Fairy Food candy (also called seafoam candy) was a disaster! I tried cooking it too quickly over too high of heat, so it burned, smelling up the entire house for DAYS. Thank goodness I still had enough ingredients (and courage!) to try again, and everyone at my family's Christmas gathering was impressed with my second attempt. I conveniently "forgot" to tell them about the first batch :-)
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