Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory. Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked. Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.
Grandma Knows Best
By Lenee Cobb
My Grandma Williams was known for her good cooking. She learned her cooking from her momma, another woman known far and wide and remembered fondly for her good-cooking. Homemade breads, strawberry jam with real butter, homemade noodles, you name it, these women were masters in their kitchens. But it isn’t any of my grandmothers time-consuming dishes that I’m thinking of today. Sometimes it’s the simple things that count.
We’re still in South Carolina. It’s Christmas time. It never feels like Christmas time in South Carolina. Never. This year, instead of stapling pine branches onto the wall in the den, mom had time to put up her fake Blue Spruce tree and dress it all up with those fancy, tiny Beauty Counselor lights. I helped her add the tinsel. It’s going to be a better Christmas this year because Grandma Williams is coming to visit. Grandpa Williams passed away this last year and so she’s coming all by herself all the way from Idaho.
We must pick her up from the airport but I’m terribly sick, sicker (to my stomach) than I’ve ever been in my life, all the way to the airport and back. Nobody wants to be around me, not even I want to be around me. I keep throwing up into a paper bag. I can’t even sit up straight in the car, yet I have to sit in between my little brothers in the back seat. This car has blue seats.
Don’t feel too sorry for my brothers, they think me getting sick is kind of funny and watch with interest—and plugged noses–egging each other on in their antics. Boys are weird.
Grandma sits in the front seat with my parents for the drive home.
Once home from the airport, my family races out of the car, leaving all the car doors open in their wake. I struggled behind, like a zombie, after them.
Once inside the house, Grandma sits me down at the kitchen table and as I watch, she heats up some water in a pan and pops a couple pieces of bread into the toaster. We have a small gray Formica table in here with silver edging and a couple of chairs to match. My little brothers high chair is next to it. The seats are cold but I don’t really care. This room feels warmer for Grandma being here.
She wipes her hands down the sides of her dress out of habit, as if she’s wearing an apron, then opens the cupboard searching for something and finally pulls down a box of Lipton tea. She takes the hot water off the stove and places a tea bag into it.
She opens the refrigerator and searches all around it, frowning. She asks, “Don’t you have any butter in here?”
I show her the margarine mom buys. Grandma frowns at that but when the toast jumps up, she wrinkles her nose and spreads it with margarine, then turns and smiles at me as if to tell me things will be all right in spite of there being no real butter. She sprinkles some cinnamon and sugar into my tea and onto the two slices of cinnamon toast. She made those pieces of cinnamon toast look beautiful and delicious by stacking them on top of each other and then slicing them into quarters, the diagonal way, the fancy way, removing the crust. She places my toast on a small plate, just so, and brings it to me with a smile, her hazel eyes twinkling. “You go ahead and eat this and drink your tea and you’ll be fine, dear.” She pats my head, gets up, and wipes her hands down the sides of her dress once more, then leaves me to my meal in peace and solitude.
I doubted her wisdom but followed her advice. That toast and tea strengthened me and I felt so wonderful and warm from her care.
Grandma was right. Like magic, my stomach settled.
Years later, when learning about medicinal herbs, I read that besides being a spice, cinnamon is a calming herb, likened to chamomile. Sometimes it takes a while for science to catch up to grandmas