Summers Spent with the Grandparents. The Best Memories and Meals of Your Life!

As I was thinking about my next food article, I first thought of some good summertime recipes that I wanted to share.  As I was thinking about some of these recipes, my mind drifted away from me, and I took a stroll down memory lane.  Nearly every summer as a child, I recall spending the biggest majority of the time with my grandparents.  Most of the time, I would stay with my Aunt Sharon, but she would take us (her children included) to our grandparents almost on a daily basis.  Oh the fun times we always had.  At Mamaw & Papaw Perry’s house, you could walk in nearly every day to soup beans simmering on the stove, coffee brewing on the counter, and the smell of a fresh homemade apple pie, one on the counter, and one cleverly hidden on top of the refrigerator (well, maybe not so cleverly hidden).  Everyone always gathered in the kitchen.  The talk of the family and town was centered around the kitchen table, and EVERYTHING was discussed.  As large as their house was, everyone would stay put in the small 12X15 kitchen, literally crammed in there with people sitting on extra stools and chairs from the dining room, just to talk as a family.  It was great!  My great-grandmother Myrt, who lived across the road, would come over just as soon as any visitors or family got there, and she had to make her presence known.  Myrt was a bit of busybody, who loved nothing than to learn all the gossip she could, tell all gossip she knew, and tell anyone how she felt regardless if it hurt your feelings or not.  Myrt was in her 80’s, and she could get away with it…except when Mamaw would scold her when she got a bit too out of line, to which Myrt, would set behind the table, raise her hand to cover her mouth, and sheepishly grin in victory knowing she had made Mamaw mad…LOL!!!

After everyone talked for a while, Mamaw & Aunt Sharon would get lunch ready, which generally included soup beans, cornbread, fried taters or potato cakes, and a slice of apple pie for dessert.  The apple pie was to die for, and the recipe was 100% homemade.  Here’s the recipe:

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Mamaw Perry’s Homemade Apple Pie:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks of very cold unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup very cold lard or vegetable shortening (lard is better!)
  • 1/2 cup of very cold water (The idea here is that your butter, lard, and water is very cold. This makes for a very flaky crust)
  • June apples, cooked up on the stove to your liking.  Mamaw always liked it the consistency of thick applesauce with bits of apple in it.

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixer bowl. Cut the butter into cubes. Add the butter and lard. Mix together in a mixer or food processor together until the butter and lard is broken down, and the butter is the size of peas. Add the cold water and mix until the dough forms a ball. At
this point, if you feel the dough is a little warm, place it in clear wrap and put into the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour. If not, proceed with rolling it out.  Take the dough out and cut in half. Roll each piece into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, to the size to fit your pie pan. After you add your apples or other fruit, cut slits in the top after adding your top crust and crimp the sides with your fingers or a fork.  Bake pie at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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Also, I remember the summers when Papaw had tobacco at his farm, and generally he, his sons, & his brother (my great uncle) Virgil would always work to set the tobacco.  On the weekends, Mamaw would prepare lunch, and then we would travel to their farm at Winding Stair to feed everyone.  And the food, though simple, was ohhhh so good.  She would prepare bologna sandwiches, putting several slices of the meat onto each sandwich, and then dressed them with Miracle Whip and fresh garden tomatoes and onions.  Chips and Little Debbie cakes were also served.  But the best thing was her homemade lemonade, made from fresh lemons.  Light, crisp, and refreshing.  Here’s the recipe:

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Mamaw Perry’s Homemade Lemonade:

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup of Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice (juice 4-6 lemons)
  • 3-4 Cups of Water to dilute (after each of the 3 ingredients above make a simple syrup)

Make a simple syrup with the sugar and water in a small sauce pan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved in the water.  Remove from heat.  Add the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and sugar water to a pitcher.  Then, add the water to taste.  If the lemonade tastes a little too sweet, add more fresh-squeezed lemon juice to it.  Add lemon slices to the pitcher.  Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.  Serve with ice.

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Now, when we didn’t travel to see the Perry grandparents, we would go to visit Mammy & Pappy Bradley.  I remember well my Mom taking me there before she would go to work, which were the mornings I wasn’t staying with my Aunt Sharon.  She would drop me off around around 7:00 a.m.  Pappy was always busy making his breakfast…yes, “his” breakfast.  I would always go over to the stove and look at what he was making, and it always looked so delicious, and he would always say, “Your Mammy will cook your breakfast later.  Go get in the bed with her until she gets up!”  Mammy didn’t wake up till nearly 10 o’clock every day, and I was ready to eat now, but I always did as I was told, and I would go into the bedroom and climb into bed with Mammy.  When she would wake up, she would always give me kisses, then we would proceed to the kitchen, where she would offer me something to drink, and she would get her morning coffee.  Then, we would go out to the back porch and set in the swing.  Pappy, who was generally out in the garden at that time, would come over, and we’d all talk, laugh, and tell funny stories.  When Mammy
started laughing, the world laughed with her.  I can still hear the sweet sound of her laughter today.

Up in the day, after breakfast was served, Pappy would bring in all the harvests from the garden for the day, and Mammy would work it up.  Some things were refrigerated, others frozen, some things canned, etc.  My favorite vegetable that Pappy would bring in was zucchini, and it’s all because of what Mammy could make with it…Zucchini Casserole.  A perfect summertime treat, and definitely a meal all its own.  Here’s the recipe:

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Grandma Sarah Ellen Williams’ Zucchini Casserole Recipe (this was Mammy’s grandmother’s recipe):

  • 2 zucchinis
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 small or 1/2 of medium size onion (all thinly sliced)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • breadcrumbs or Ritz crackers
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese.

In a pan, put in 1 tablespoon of salted butter and the zucchini, which was thinly sliced. Salt and Pepper to taste. Cook for 5-10 min. or until tender. In a round casserole dish, layer the zucchini, tomato, and onions, and a portion of the cheddar cheese. Repeat layers. Then, add breadcrumbs or crackers (your choice) and dot with butter. Put in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Yields 4-6 servings.

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One thing that Mammy loved to do was host a party with family and friends.  She would put out a spread in her dining room like no other, with h’ordeuvres, meats, cheeses, casseroles, side dishes, and desserts.  One of her most talked about desserts would have to be the 7-Up Salad.
The cheddar cheese in this sweet salad always caught you off guard, but it was a pleasant salty bite to a fresh-summer sweet salad.  Here’s the recipe:

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Mammy’s 7-Up Salad

  • 1 Large box Lemon Jello
  • 2 Cups Hot Water
  • 16oz. 7-Up
  • 1 can crushed Pineapple (drained and reserve juice)
  • 2 lg. Bananas, sliced
  • 2 Cups Miniature Marshmallows
  • 1 cup Pineapple Juice
  • 2 T Flour
  • 2 T Butter
  • 2 Eggs, well beaten
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 1 Large Cool Whip
  • 1 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese

Dissolve Jello in hot water, let cool.  Stir in 7-Up.  Chill until thickened.  Fold in pineapple, bananas, and marshmallows.  Pour into a mold.  Chill until firm (better if overnight).  Combine pineapple juice, flour, butter, eggs, and sugar.  Cook until thickened, then cool.  Add Cool Whip, fold gently.  Spread over mixture and garnish with cheddar cheese.  Makes 10-12 servings.

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As I think about all the good times I’ve had with my grandparents, good food was always a part of the mix.  I wouldn’t trade my time with my family for anything in this world.  Spend all the time you can with your family.  The time you spend will be priceless, the food so comforting, and you’ll have memories that will last longer than….a Morgan Minute!