Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grandma and the Prince - Part 30

What is it with food and families anyway?

My Grandma El was many things to many people. I don’t think she really believed she was the Queen Mother but I’m fairly certain she believed she was worthy of the British Royal Family. (Whether she believed they were worthy of her is a whole other story!). Grandma El was difficult, demanding, manipulative, occasionally dangerous, often devious, a diva in every way possible. She was also the world's most fascinating grandmother but, to be completely honest with you, during the early years of my parents' marriage she was definitely the mother-in-law from hell.

My mother was twenty-two when she met Grandma El for the first time. Grandma had reason to believe that my father (aka the Messiah – beware the mother of an only son) was serious about the green-eyed blonde he’d been seeing for the past year and she decided to invite the young couple over for a proper English dinner.

<==engagement photo

“Remember Vi doesn’t like liver or kidneys or brains,” my father told Grandma. No innards. No organ meats. No sweetbreads. "She's a very delicate eater."

Grandma El smiled and patted his hand. "Don’t worry," she said. "I’ll make a fine dinner to impress your young lady."

And my poor innocent lovestruck father believed her!

Finally the big day came and my terribly nervous and insecure and beautiful mother showed up for what turned out to be her Engagement Dinnerl. Grandma was charming and warm in the manner of all English gentlewomen. She served cocktails before dinner. She served homemade cheese straws. She served a lovely clear consomme. She served an appetizer – something savory baked in a little tin and covered with a golden crust. My mother took a bite, chewed, swallowed, then smiled.

“How do like it, Vi?” Grandma asked sweetly.

"Delicious," said my mother.

“I’m so pleased,” said Grandma, even more sweetly. “Would you like to know what it is?”

"Oh yes," said my mother, still innocent in the ways of the Fuller Family. "Please tell me."

Grandma leaned back in her chair and smiled. “Kidneys and brains.”

At which point my poor mother turned her head and lost her dinner.

Yes. Right there at the table. Her reaction was so strong, so involuntary, that she didn’t even have time to push back her chair and stand up.

Grandma told that story over and over through the years and each time I swear to you she laughed even harder. “You don’t even know what you like,” she said many times to my mother. “If I hadn’t told you that you were eating kidneys, you would have asked for seconds.

Somehow, and I don’t know through what act of God, my mother always refused to take the bait. She would simply turn away and pick up the thread of another conversation. Grandma's Practical Joke became part of family lore.

(Remind me to tell you my husband's Beef Stew story one day.)

A few months ago I started gathering up some family recipes and the stories that went with them. I wasn't sure what I planned to do with them or when I planned to do it but Fourth of July weekend something came over me and I found myself scrunched over the keyboard teaching myself how to put together an e-cookbook.

The results can be found here. A SKILLET, A SPATULA, AND A DREAM is currently on sale at Amazon for 99 cents and I hope you'll take a moment to check it out.

I also hope you'll take time to leave a comment below. Family food fights or favorite recipes: I'd love to read about all of them. I'll choose one commenter at random next month to receive some signed books.

Hope your summer has been everything you hoped it would be and more!

PS: My name is Barbara Bretton and you can also find me here and here and even here.


marybelle said...


Virginia C said...

Hi, Barbara!

I love your "Grandma" posts--so interesting and endearing : )

Wow! I checked out "A SKILLET, A SPATULA, AND A DREAM"--forty fabulous recipes for only 99 cents!!! A feast for foodies ; )

US Resident, GFC Follower, Subscriber

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Kaelee said...

I too love your Grandma posts.

The food I miss the most is my mother's fruit cake at Christmas. Even though I helped make it and I have the recipe it doesn't turn out like my mother's.

When I got married my husband wasn't a cookie eater and I loved to bake. He told me his favorite cookies were oatmeal ones. I tried numerous recipes and even asked his mother for her recipe. None came in close to what he remembered. Some years later we were at his mother's having cookies and he told her these oatmeal cookies don't taste like the ones you used to make. He remembered soft cookies. She started to think about it and said that if they had leftovers porridge she would throw together some cookie dough using it. How could I ever compete with that.

traveler said...

Your stories are always unique and special. Your mother had strength and courage. Love that photo. I miss my grandmother's home cooked strudel. Yum.

petite said...

Your family posts provide me with enjoyment and are so well written. families are always entertaining and sometimes impossible as well. When attending a wedding this past winter in Chicago, was it ever cold. There was not one photo I later discovered of our entire side of the family. Over 2,000 of friends and the other side. Not one of our small contingent who made the effort to attend.

Liz Fielding said...

A classic!

Pat Cochran said...

With my family, it was liver that caused problems. My mother cooked liver in a way that I really enjoyed, so I always ate it. Can't remember how my sibs took to the meal. I decided to try liver for Honey & the children after reading an article by the headmistress of an area school. She said that the recipe used by the school was readily enjoyed by their
students. I made up the recipe and it
was heartily rejected by all except me!
I ate liver for a week and never served
it again!

Jo's Daughter said...

I really got into baking my own bread. A really simple and favorite recipe of mine is an Irish soda bread & I make it if my family is comming over. A quick sandwich from homemade bread is a winner with our crowd.

But daddy didn't like the sound of soda in connection with bread. He had the opinion that soda is a cleaning product and should not be eaten. He's the only one who refuses a bite after the first try...

Too bad for him, but luckily more for us ;) I posted the recipe on my blog in case your interested.

Michele L. said...

Your Grandma blog is always a favorite of mine! My Grandma was famous for her cooking, cookies and pies. She made a delicious turkey ala king! I always asked her to make it whenever I stayed over at her house. Then she would make fresh brewed ice tea with fresh mint leaves. Yum! Her lemon meringue pie was to die for! Oh, and she made the best homemade egg noodles. She would dry the dough on the bake of her chair. She would also make a bunch of cookies at Christmas time. My favorites were snickerdoodles, kolachis with poppy seed filling and sprinkled with power sugar. Just delicious! She mostly made everything from scratch without a recipe. So I don't have any recipes how she made anything.