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Messages: No Grandmothers
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We Said No Grandmothers, but….

When we opened up the Hidden Kitchens Hotline on NPR, we asked, we pleaded, “Please don't tell us about your grandmother and her cooking.” We know, it sounds harsh, cold, and heartless.  Kitchens and grandmothers. The two are inextricably linked, but that’s what we were afraid of.   We knew if we gave grandmother stories an inch in, the hotline would have a meltdown. It would be a torrent, a flood, an endless sea of grandmother's and their cookies, pies and advice. Fortunately for us, most of you completely disregarded our plea, and called up not once, not twice, but three times to tell us about, you guessed it, Grandma.  Here are some little kitchen stories even the hardhearted Kitchen Sisters could not resist.

Message #38 was received at 2:40 PM, Thursday.

My name is Douglas Weed.    I have a story to tell about my two Grandmas’ kitchens.  There was only one Grandma at a time in my family.  They rarely saw each other—didn’t particularly like each other. I called them little Grandma and big Grandma in an accurate reflection of the their physical sizes and the food on their tables.  They each lived in small obscure Pennsylvania towns.  Their kitchens both had those 1950 refrigerators with the tiny metal freezer at the top and gas stoves, a dry sink and running water. Lots of handheld devices; mixers, peelers, the cherry pitters, spoons and ladles and sharp–very sharp knives.  Both my grandmas wore white aprons over their housedresses when they cooked.  Both went to church and Bible school every Sunday.  Both had been born just before the turn of the last century.  Both shunned written recipes.  Yet despite these similarities, my grandmas had fundamentally different attitudes about food. 

Little Gramma ate no seeds, no salt, no sugar, refused to make sauces, would not serve jams, berry pies, berry cobbler, berry pancakes.  All meat was boiled or baked.  Coarse whole wheat bread was served with salt-free oatmeal for breakfast.  Lots of plain boiled vegetables, canned sugar free fruit for dessert.  For a little boy in the 1950s this was a tough assignment.  Any meal at little Grandma’s house was a challenge.  The solid, oh so plain food and not much of it.  Big Grandma by contrast produced dinners to die for.  Her table was covered with china serving bowls filled with chicken gravy, gravy soaked biscuits, another with hot biscuits, two kinds of jam, honey still in the comb, the chicken in its own bowl and milky coleslaw, a plate of ham, fresh fruit swimming in condensed milk. Big Grandma loved to make decorated, two-layer, buttercream frosted cakes.  Yellow, white, chocolate.  You could have whatever flavor you wanted.  She once made three different cakes for the same day. She baked pies too and home made doughnuts.  Frycakes, she called them. I loved my Grandmas.  Little Grandma was as sad and troubled as her food was plain.  Big Grandma was as happy and as thoughtful as her table was loaded. Both lived into their 80s.  Little Grandma died depressed and a bit demented.  She lingered.  Big Grandmother died of high blood pressure and diabetes.  A little artery blew up in her head.  She fell to the floor dead in mid-sentence.  No surprises for either I suppose.  They died as they lived—as they cooked in their nearly identical kitchens.

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