Making Something Hot & Delicious in Grandma (Nana’s) Kitchen

Stephen L Dalton

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I never felt safer or more loved than in my Nana’s kitchen. Also, I never went hungry.

The above picture looks nothing like my Nana’s bread pudding, but it was the closest I could find.

When My Nana Cooked, My Job Was to Lick the Mixer Blade

I only had one job, and that was to lick the mixer blades. Well, I usually only got one because I had to share with a sibling or cousin usually. Although Nana would sometimes ask me to fetch something for her, licking the blades were a required chore, though I never thought of it as a chore as a child. I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I could hardly wait.

Can you imagine getting so excited about licking a mixer blade the drool runs down your chin?

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The smell that makes me think of my Nana’s kitchen is…

My Nana’s kitchen always smelled of burning wood. She had a big wood stove in the kitchen, but it wasn’t a bad smell like most things burnt. It just smelled like love to me.

On Saturday, the kitchen always smelled of baked beans and baking powder biscuits or sometimes yeast bread or rolls. The smell coming from the oven, intermingled with burning wood, was always terrific.

The taste that makes me remember childhood…

My Nana’s bread pudding was one thing I could never be too full to enjoy. She almost always made it Saturday night, though we would be in bed by then. She’d make it Saturday night so that she could refrigerate it, and it would be cool and scrumptious for after church Sunday afternoon.

There was never a lot. Well, she made a lot, but with 11 children and 20-something grandchildren, you would only get a little. I think that’s what made it so special to us.

She’d use an ice cream scoop, put one scoop in each dish, and pour a dollop of canned evaporated milk over it. We didn’t have fancy whip cream or Cool-Whip like nowadays. But it always tasted extravagant to us.

My grampie would complain the whole time, saying, “I hope you’re leaving enough of that for my morning coffee!”

She’d always smile and practically purr, “You know I would never deprive you of your morning coffee, grumpy.” And we’d all howl with laughter. Even he had to chuckle a little.

Looking back, I think he asked her that, knowing she would call him grumpy for our entertainment and to make us laugh. It never failed.

If it were up to me, I would only eat…

The quick answer, without thought, would be pizza. There are so many ways to eat pizza; you shouldn’t get bored.

Not to stir up controversy, but do not put pineapple or corn on my pizza. If you like those on yours, you can have it that way. I do not. But I have tried both. The Koreans put corn and sweet potato on pizza. Nope, not for me!

I do love pizza, though I would never deprive myself of all the other flavors of the world. I kind of feel sorry for people who eat the same things all the time.

When I was seventeen, I joined the Army and went to Fort Jackson, SC, for basic training. We had a four-day pass for Labor Day. A bunch of us got hotel rooms down in Columbia.

We went out on Saturday night, got drunk, and hung out. The next morning, hungover, I ordered breakfast at a little diner close to the hotel: two eggs, over-easy, bacon, sausage, and rye toast. When I got it, my eggs were floating in this white stuff. I looked at it and asked the waitress, “What’s wrong with my eggs? They’re floating in some white stuff.”

She said, “Oh sugar, that’s just grits. You’re gonna love ‘em.” (She sounded just like Florence Jean “Flo” Castleberry from Mel’s Diner. If you’re old enough to remember that.) And I did, surprisingly enough. For the next 28 years in the Army, I discovered a whole world of flavors and cultures I previously had no idea existed.

I used to love it, but I don’t eat it anymore…

I honestly cannot think of anything I once loved but do not eat anymore, except my Nana’s bread pudding. But that’s only because she is gone. If she were here, I’d still be eating her bread pudding with a dollop of evaporated milk. Hell, I might even get carried away and put some Cool-Whip on it!

I knew it wouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen, but I still did it…

Actually, there were a few rules or eating etiquette even though we didn’t have a different piece of silverware for each food dish.

First, you always pulled the chair out for the lady sitting next to you, you didn’t start eating until everyone was seated, and you heard the word, “Amen.”

You could never, not on your life, ever, drink milk out of the bottle. Nor Kool-Aid from the pitcher. At my Nana’s, you always got a glass and sat down at the table; the same was right at my mother’s unless you were the only one there. “If a tree falls in the forest…”

The Most Vivid Memory from Nana’s Kitchen

Nana Young had an Aunt Jemima cookie jar. It might be considered racist now for a white family to have in their kitchen, but it meant nothing but love and wholesome sweet cookies back then. We were only allowed one because there were so many of us grandchildren.

But she made really big chocolate, molasses, and vanilla cookies that were soft and delicious. Unforgettable. Actually, my mother made those too. And they were just as good. Alas, they’re both gone now.

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Stephen Dalton is a retired US Army First Sergeant with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Top Writer in Virtual Reality, Sports, Short Story, Design, and Creativity. I especially like writing about design and home improvements.

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