my grandmother, or grams as i have always called her, owned her own restaurant in monroeville, indiana, long before i was born. grams was, and is to this day, the best cook i know. mom and aunt linda used to tell us stories of grams getting up at 4am to make pies for the day...and she'd bake up to ten pies before going over and opening the restaurant.
grams had like a million brothers and sisters. and she left home at age 16. she married grandpa, who was 16 years her senior, and was a milk man. he delivered for parts of ohio and northern indiana. later, he bought/owned/ran a car dealership in monroeville. they had two girls, linda (my aunt), and nila (my mom). and grams had the restaurant...or "rest'rint"...as she pronounces it.
so here's the thing....grams makes all these wonderful dishes and desserts and things....and everytime we see her, she cooks. her purpose in life is to feed people. and she feeds people with her kind heart and soft spirit, too. but do you think i have any of her recipes? no...because she never writes anything down! grams turned 80 this last december, and she can still make her zuccini bread from scratch, by heart, just by sight. she just knows. she's like that with lots of things. she just knows.
grams's kitchen was a place where we could always find snacks....there were always grapes and cottage cheese in the fridge and pringles in the cabinet. we stayed overnight at her house more times than i can remember, and the kitchen was where we'd hear her, clanging around, at 730 in the morning. i secretly believe she was clanging around so we'd wake up and she'd have company, but she'd always pretend to be drinking coffee and reading the paper when we'd arise from bed. her kitchen is where we played umpteen million games of uno, thirty-one, and skip-bo. it was where we'd sit and watch wheel of fortune after dinners, and it was the perfect piece to a summer afternoon for slurping popsicles after walking the log on the edge of her lawn. grams kitchen served for the meeting grounds for so many family get-togethers, and it was the resting place of an old formica-topped desk from the old car dealership that still hinted of grease and new-car scent. many times did i sit at that desk and do homework, while grams put together a lunch for us of her lumpy mashed potatoes and country fried steak. and it was where, on a summer morning, sitting in worn jammies, we ate mickey-mouse pancakes and listened to the bustle at the next-door post office.
grams's kitchen holds so many of my childhood memories. i hope that my children will have similar memories someday of something as warm as mine.