The Southern Staple

So, I am a grandorphan. Like many others my age, I do not have any living grandparents. My paternal grandfather died before I was born (I hear he was a prankster), my maternal grandmother died when I was 15, my maternal grandfather at 26 and my paternal grandmother when I was 30. Unfortunately for me, this was around the same time I caught the gastro bug. I was just starting to love the art of cooking when Freddie decided to say goodbye a few months after Hurricane Katrina. I remember getting the phone call from my parents, lighting a candle at 11pm and heating up a bowl of gumbo. The year before, we'd prepared gumbo together in her kitchen before Lake Pontchartrain took over her residence.

We prepared many of her signature Southern dishes that afternoon. My Dad was insistent that I get in the kitchen and learn what my grandmother was doing, regardless of the fact that I wanted chill with the boys. My grandmother Freddie was a no nonsense woman who said what she meant and didn't mince words. Her rules were law and good luck to you if you broke any. She had no problem snapping you up to teach you a lesson, regardless if you belonged to her or not. She had the same bravado in the kitchen. I was almost scared while I cooked with her. "Stir harder, Lesley!" she would tell me while I made the macaroni and cheese. Do you know how hard it is on your shoulder to mix non melted cheese into hot pasta for 20 people?

My other grandmother, Lyston, was the total opposite. My parents liken her to Dorothy from the Golden Girls and now I can kind of see that. She had a dry sense of humor and though she never put up with nonsense from my grandfather (I'm SO not going to look in that closet for some silly gadget you've forgotten you have), she seemed to rule like an iron fist in a velvet glove. It must have been the Libra in her. She was silky smooth with a southern style, so when she finally got you to do as she wanted, you didn't realize you'd been bamboozled and totally played from the very beginning. She is the only woman, to this day, that can make me drink prune juice and convince me that I like it.

Anyway, for the past few months, my mom has been organizing photographs from the past 35-40 years into a collection that makes some sort of sense and every now and again, she comes across a photo or a keepsake that makes her sigh and say, "Awwww, remember that?" or "Good Lord, what was I wearing?" or "Look at yoooooooooou!! Where is my little girl? I want my little girl back". Honestly, when I look at some of the photos, I want to be the little girl again too. That way, I could pay attention when my grandmother rolled out 12 cakes for Christmas like it was nothing. That way, I could peer over her shoulder when she made my favourite chicken dumplings.

My friend Tina wrote a blog post recently over at the Eclectic Eye that almost made me cry. She spoke of her grandmothers and took a pic of an old edition of The Joy of Cooking. It looked like it had been around the block and I could only imagine all of the faded pencil and pen markings decorating the borders. I suppose, since I was more interested in my Grandfather's coloured pencils and paints than my Grandmother's cookbooks, it would make sense that I don't have those keepsakes. Now I don't know where to start looking for them. My mom always wanted Freddie's cooking spoons. I don't know why, but she swears they were the best she's ever cooked with. The Lake has those.

So when my mom came across handwritten recipes for rolls from both grandmothers, I felt like I'd hit the jackpot. I may not have the whole book and all the recipe cards, but I have both grandmothers script teaching me how to make a Southern rolls. They make them a little differently, Lyston making potato rolls and Freddie making flour ones, but that's what I love. They were different in many ways, but in the end, they were the same. They were my Grandmommies.

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