My Granny’s house was a little white frame house, with a big front porch, set back off the road. A deep pine wood was behind it. The land rolled down to a spring fed creek, clear enough to drink, that stayed cold all summer and was the setting for many safaris and cowboy games. She always had puppies and cats and chickens and oddly enough parakeets in their own little house outside. There were fruit trees and grape arbors, and vegetable and melon gardens. The flowers and roses took over the yard. If you were hungry you almost didn’t even have to go inside to eat. But if you did go inside, there in that tiny hot kitchen, wonderful things were being made…almost all the time. Especially in the summer. Summer stretched from May, when the strawberries came in, to October when the pumpkins and winter squash were ready for harvest. Even after the 1st frost the turnip greens were harvested, that was when they were the sweetest. It was the garden of my life, it was the place where I took root, it was the place where I was “growed up”, if that seems a strange phrase to you, please let me explain. Being “growed up” means many loving people and hands were directly responsible for who I turned out to be as an adult, and those loving adults took that responsibility VERY seriously. I lived with Granny, there at that tiny farm, full time until I was 5 years old and stayed with Granny every afternoon after school through second grade. The summer I turned 8, we moved to Tennessee. My grieving started that summer, the summer of 1965. It is now the summer 2014 and I can’t believe I’ve been away so long. I’ve been trying to get back there my whole life…
When I cook in my Tennessee kitchen now, I am back in that kitchen, when I grow tomatoes (cherokee purples) that are the size of pumpkins I am back at that farm. When I taste fresh picked corn, cut off the cob, by the tiny pocket knife I take with me to the farmers market, it almost tastes as good as it used to, something about that soil at Grannys farm with mica sparkles all through it, down by the creek, made her corn really sweet.
One of the things we did here in the south in the summer is eat a lot of cold salads. I am not talking about lettuce here folks. I am talking chicken salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad, aspic, pimento cheese salad, potato salad, egg salad. Dishes where the food part could be cooked EARLY (4 a.m.) in the morning before the heat set in, mixed with other yummy stuff, stored in the refrigerator and whisked out at mid-day to provide a filling but cold lunch, along with a few lettuce leaves and some big juicy slices of fresh (never refrigerated) tomatoes and bread and butter pickles on the side. Even dessert was cold, jello salad (sorry, it was the early 60’s), banana pudding, ice box pie, cold bread pudding, cold coconut pie with meringue piled high. You couldn’t really keep a cake very long in the summer since most icings were butter cream, unless you had room in the refrigerator or a cold larder, they would melt right off the plate. One exception was pound cake, which was small and plain and excellent with fresh fruit on top, Granny cooked a lot of those early in the morning. What a wonderful smell to wake up to. So for the next month or so that is what I am going to be posting here in my world, those recipes updated, no real Jello will be used, but gelatin and fresh fruit juice, with sparkling fresh fruit suspended in it, will certainly make an appearance.
I hope you will join me this summer of 2014.