My Grandmother passed away yesterday.
She was a wonderful woman.
I’ll confess to you that I didn’t know her all that well. I haven’t seen her in a long time. She lived in Florida. But all the memories that I have of her are of a woman who was always kind, warm and loving.
I got to see her a lot more when I was a kid. Every summer my dad would take us on a road trip from West Virginia to Florida (or Georgia, depending on where she lived at the time). Mostly, I remember her from her Tallahassee days.
For me, when I was young, Tallahassee was a few things:
It was the capital of Florida (still is, though that’s not a very personal association, but true nonetheless).
Tallahassee was a couple weeks spent sneaking into a condo complex near my grandparent’s home so that us kids could swim for free (one time my sister did a belly flop off the diving board at one of the three pools in the complex (the “no kids” pool if memory serves), the sheer force of which, doubtlessly aided by ignoring the 30-minute rule of eating and swimming, caused her to vomit. On dark days I am still haunted by the image of beanie-weenies bobbing in chlorinated water. An unnatural sight. 1000 parts water, 20 parts chlorine and one can of condensed soup situated strategically under the diving board, waiting to ensnare any hapless idiot who didn’t look before he leapt. My dad’s solution to this particular dilemma was to just have us quietly leave that pool and go another one in the complex.)
Tallahassee was morning walks with my grandpa to get the paper (and, if I was lucky, stop off at McDonalds).
Tallahassee was a huge old tree. The oldest tree in the city (at least from what I remember). Just around the corner from my grandparent’s house. Dripping with Spanish moss.
But Tallahassee was mostly my grandma. And food. Not that I could ever separate the two. Grandma was food. Great food. Southern food. Comfort food.
A child’s palate isn’t very sophisticated. Hell, I used to put sugar on my frosted flakes. But even I knew that my Grandma was one hell of a cook. I remember cornbread. I remember some dishes that I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what they were. But they were delicious. I have an August birthday, and we would end up in Tallahassee for more than a few of them (I had one in a caboose at McDonalds!), so I remember a lot of cake. Fantastic cake.
I’ve always been a little curious about cooking. Probably because I like to eat so much (I especially did when I was a kid). One time I asked my Grandma to show me how to cook something.
Grandma taught me how to fry grits. Yes, she was that southern.
It’s not a huge trick to fry grits. You basically take any leftover grits that you have (or make a new batch specifically for the purpose, but what’s the fun in that?), press them flat in a pan and put the pan in the fridge until the grits congeal into a pasty substance. Once the grits have reached the consistency of set mortar, cut the grits into small bricks and fry them in butter until they’re golden brown and heated through. Serve with maple syrup.
If that description didn’t get your mouth watering, you’ve obviously never had them. They’re simple, warm, surprisingly fantastic and entirely comforting.
Just like my Grandma.
Like I said, my Grandma was food. She was her own food. And if you ever had the unparalleled pleasure of eating any of the dishes that my Grandma prepared, you would know that there is no better compliment than that.
I’ll miss you, Grandma.
I love you.