For those of you who don’t know, I moved to another state this week, leaving behind my friends and family. On the way out to my new home, I stopped and stayed a couple of days with my grandparents. They raised me for the better part of my life, and I am not sure how long it’ll be before I see them again. I am 10 hours away by car, and flying isn’t a whole lot better for them since they they don’t live very close to a good major airport. Grams doesn’t travel well anymore, and Grandpa stays close to home with her. So, this time meant a lot to them and to me.
Cooking for and feeding people is my way of showing love and affection (yeah, it’s a wonder Undercomplicated isn’t huge). My grandfather did more to foster my love of cooking than he has any idea about. My mother was very mentally disturbed, and not only were we poor because of it, she also just didn’t care to feed me. Often, no food for days was a punishment for me, and so I developed a deep affinity for the things I did get to eat. When my grandparents finally got custody of, then managed to adopt, me, they tried to undo the damage.
I began putting together foods I’d never had before, simply because I hadn’t had them and wanted to eat them all at once. Why wouldn’t you eat oranges on fish? Of course you should put syrup on cereal, and maybe some peanut butter. As I grew and became healthy again, my palate began catching up. The combinations got better, and I kept cooking. I give people food because it was what was denied to me. Withholding food was how my mother showed me her displeasure, her lack of love for me. Therefore, for me, it has always meant that food was a measure of love. Yes, it’s astonishing that I am a fairly tiny girl, and I can only think that I didn’t develop a horrible eating disorder because my grandparents stepped in.
Grandpa stayed with me through this time. He let me pack his lunches, he encouraged me to “help grandma” in the kitchen and cook. He made me feel important when we had guests and b-b-q, asking me to help him prepare things because I did it so well. He showed me gently, in his own way without discouraging me, how to combine things. And he ate it all. Every. Single. Thing. Fish with orange marmalade cooked in the microwave, cereal rolled with peanut butter, and I can’t even remember what else. I just remember it wasn’t good. He complimented me on it, and then helped me with it. Eventually, I got better at it, and today it’s a huge part of my life.
And it’s still how I show that I love him.
Gramps making hobo potatoes.
Fried Green tomato fixings:
Above: egg & buttermilk wash, spiced cornmeal & flour. Below: garden-fresh green tomatoes.
Thank you, gramps, for everything.