My Grandmother, Lucille McNulty, a feisty, silly redhead and product of The Depression, stood apron-clad in her kitchen for years, where she scratch cooked every meal, washed and dried every dish by hand, then did it again for the next meal. She never tired, nor did she complain. Her feet never hurt, nor did her back. She was a cooking machine and it came to her naturally.
She couldn’t cook for just two. Or four. Or even eight people. There were always at least ten to a table, whether it be for a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner or a weekday pot of pinto beans, cornbread, cabbage and collards. She was not educated or chef-trained, but my Lord, she could cook!!! Nobody in Rusk County ever drove by her house without stopping around “lunch, dinner, or suppertime” because they knew Lucille would welcome them with open arms, a big grin, a big hug, a plate full of food and homemade yeast rolls. She’d whip out 36 yeast rolls on a dime and there were never any left.
The one mystery we can’t solve is the yeast roll recipe. She wrote it down on the back of a Southern Living envelope and my Uncle Bobby still has it. He once spent three days trying to perfect them to be like Lucille’s. Never happened. We think she left out an ingredient on purpose!!! (ladies used to do that!) Well, we do still have many a handwritten recipe for zillions of other foods. They’re written on the back of utility bills or her bank statements, coated with now-faded pencil scratched instructions, jelly, cake icing, and love.
I don’t presume to be as talented as Lucille. She gave me my first cookbook in December, 1978. I still have it and use it quite often. And every time I fire up the stove, I think of how she’s watching over me…encouraging me.
I’m not sure how I really learned to cook from my Mother, because when she married my Dad, all she could make was brownies! Over the years, she’s shared some of her best recipes with me. When I was a poor college graduate, she taught me how to cook economically, “a pot of rice and beans can last a week” or “make tuna salad and keep it in the fridge”, and so on. My beautiful Mom is an excellent cook. In fact, my daughter claims, “no one makes pancakes as good as Mimi”.
Mom has shared with me some really fancy recipes, as well as some basic ones. There’s nothing wrong with basic. When I first talked to her about this foodie adventure she said,” Oh, I think it’s a great idea! I once had a recipe that said, “cook the chicken” but it didn’t explain how to do it!!!” She has taught me how to make a killer pot roast, stewed okra and tomatoes, salmon croquettes and a delicious “school night” favorite we call, “Hamburger Meat and Rice.”
And from that one, simple story spun my idea to forge ahead into the world of recipes, cooking and food blogging. Plus that, she has a lot of creative ideas…invaluable. Thank you, Mom!
My other Grandmother, Rozie, (aka Mozelle) was also a product of The Depression, but she was a bit more contemporary in the kitchen than Lucille. After college, I moved out of state. One day, I was very homesick and craving Rozie’s biscuits and gravy. I had never made gravy before so I called her, “long distance” mind you ( = $$$) and she walked me through the process. I was so homesick but somehow, having her talk me through the steps and tasting that gravy got me through the day.
Rozie’s breakfast spread literally put restaurant buffets to shame! Eggs, anyway you liked, ham, bacon, grits, biscuits, gravy, homestyle shredded potatoes–every weekend morning. Then, on Sunday, we’d have lunch at her house and you’d think she was cooking for an army! Meatloaf, pinto beans, mashed rutabaga, ham, barbecue ribs, pork chops…you name it. She liked variety and there was always plenty of it, not only on her kitchen table, but in her life, as well.
She tap danced with me when I was six years old and when she turned 73, she took up ballroom dancing. She danced until she was in her 90’s. Always in sparkly clothes, always dressed to the nines, and always with a dirty joke. She was a wonderful character.
In 2016 at the age of 101, she went to The Lord. At her Celebration of Life memorial, people shared stories about her and her food. Number One Topic that day: her meatloaf! Nobody in the family has the famous recipe. I don’t think she ever wrote it down. Maybe she never made it the same way? We’ll never know…
Then there’s my Aunt Darlene who could make the meanest bunch of fried doughnuts ever! I loved to go to her house because she’d get up at 5:00 am on Sunday, before hauling four kids to church, and make fried doughnuts! That kitchen would be covered in powdered sugar by the time all of us kids got through shaking the brown sack full of fried dough. She also made a mean chicken fried steak. And mashed potatoes. In fact, I never had a meal at her house that wasn’t delicious!!!
Aunt Darlene could cook up some mean greens, too. I’ve never known a 12 year-old to like collard greens, but I sure loved hers!
Amy and I have been friends for forever. I’m not sure when we started hanging out in the kitchen, but we have definitely cooked a meal or two together. Her family hails from Mississippi, so her food background is a smidgen different from mine. She has some awesome recipes, but I don’t think she really uses them. She’s just a natural at inventing foods that complement one another. Every time we chat, we end up talking about food.
Our girls are about ten years apart, and now in the kitchen with us. When we get together and cook, which is not often enough for me, we have fun, make messes and make memories!
These women, and more, have helped me get where I am today. Thank you for your love and support!
As for me…I’m a Mom and wife, but before either of these roles came into my life, I was an overworked business-lady who was really just a crazy foodie in disguise. At the time, I didn’t know why certain recipes worked and others didn’t. I just kept experimenting and reading recipes. Several years ago, I began to study our food sources, processing, additives, preservatives, labeling and so on. This took me in a whole new direction!
Today, my emphasis is in food science and nutrition–applying the how’s and why’s to the recipes I’ve prepared for many years, as well as new ones! Tweaking them because of the science and substituting ingredients because of the nutrition.
Thanks for checking out my site! I hope you enjoy the recipes and anecdotes see you! See you in the kitchen!