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Kim Shook

Labor of Love Foods and Memories

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I’ve been spending most of my weekends lately going to Reidsville NC to visit my grandmother who is in a rehab center working to recover from a stroke. Most of my childhood summers were spent in Reidsville with my grandparents on their farm. So many of my food memories, tastes and lessons were learned there. Either in my grandmother’s (or others’) kitchen, in the cafes that my grandfather took me for ‘dinner’ (lunch to Yankees) and at church suppers. Granddaddy had 80 acres and 30-some head of cattle, so we ate LOTS of beef. One of his friends had a huge vegetable farm and pigs. His tenants cooked exotic things like fried fatback and hog jowls and took me to tent revivals (slightly alarming to my Episcopal soul) where the food afterwards was always delicious, warm and always slightly damp from being covered with foil in the summer humidity. I remember my grandfather taking me along to the Tire company where he did business (along with a poker game) and, while he was busy I’d visit with the men in the factory, who would always buy me a Co’cola and a Tom’s peanut bar.

There is one pear tree left in my granddaddy’s orchard. Where there used to be almost two dozen assorted apple and pear trees. Snugged up next was a cow pasture where gathered the whole 30-some of them, chewing and drooling, their eyes entreating us to toss them the apple cores they loved so dearly. In spite of Granddaddy’s threats of switchings to come if I overfed them, I always obliged with a few. And never got the switch, either. Granddaddy was a tough talker, but soft inside.

Those apples were tiny and puckeringly tart – cooking apples, I suppose. They dried out the inside of your mouth like you’d been eating alum. Mostly, Grandma Jean cooked with them. But small, sour apples are still my favorites. The pears were small, too. Crunchy, with no pear-y juiciness. But they made the most divine pear preserves.

Granddaddy is gone now. Grandma Jean’s recovery from a stroke and return to home is questionable. The old log house and the huge, sheltering tree are gone and where there were cows and a barn and an old tobacco shed are new houses and a road (!!!). But the pear tree is there and Granddaddy’s shop still gives off a wispy scent of machine oil, hay and cigar smoke.

When I was there a couple of weekends ago, I dragged a step ladder out to the pear tree and picked all I could reach. I thought we’d eat what we could at home. But a couple of nights ago, I was driven to make some of Grandma Jean’s preserves. I had no business making preserves! I needed to do laundry and clean at least one bathroom. Or go to bed early. But I needed to make those preserves…I needed to TASTE those preserves.

So I peeled and cut up the pears:

gallery_3331_122_217681.jpg

I finally found a use for the useless (to me) Y peeler – it is wonderful for peeling extremely hard pears with very stubborn peels!

Added lemon juice and sugar and let them sit overnight:

gallery_3331_122_75601.jpg

Last night when I got home from work, I boiled them down and put them in jars, not forgetting to add the lemon slice that Grandma Jean always adds. Sometimes, when I make them, I add a slice of ginger, but not this time; this time I want HER preserves, not my version.

There weren’t a lot of pears. There was only enough for two jars:

med_gallery_3331_122_47822.jpg

One for me and one for Momma. I may never have these exact preserves again – it is a very old, gnarled tree – and who knows what will happen to it by next year. But for now, I have that jar and these preserves:

gallery_3331_122_129098.jpg

And they taste like sunshine and autumn and my grandparents and my childhood. All in one spoonful!

Does anyone else have a similar story? I'd love to hear it!


Edited by Kim Shook (log)

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I’ve been spending most of my weekends lately going to Reidsville NC to visit my grandmother who is in a rehab center working to recover from a stroke.  Most of my childhood summers were spent in Reidsville with my grandparents on their farm.  So many of my food memories, tastes and lessons were learned there.  Either in my grandmother’s (or others’) kitchen, in the cafes that my grandfather took me for ‘dinner’ (lunch to Yankees) and at church suppers.  Granddaddy had 80 acres and 30-some head of cattle, so we ate LOTS of beef.  One of his friends had a huge vegetable farm and pigs.  His tenants cooked exotic things like fried fatback and hog jowls and took me to tent revivals (slightly alarming to my Episcopal soul) where the food afterwards was always delicious, warm and always slightly damp from being covered with foil in the summer humidity.  I remember my grandfather taking me along to the Tire company where he did business (along with a poker game) and, while he was busy I’d visit with the men in the factory, who would always buy me a Co’cola and a Tom’s peanut bar. 

There is one pear tree left in my granddaddy’s orchard.  Where there used to be almost two dozen assorted apple and pear trees.  Snugged up next was a cow pasture where gathered the whole 30-some of them, chewing and drooling, their eyes entreating us to toss them the apple cores they loved so dearly.  In spite of Granddaddy’s threats of switchings to come if I overfed them, I always obliged with a few.  And never got the switch, either.  Granddaddy was a tough talker, but soft inside.

Those apples were tiny and puckeringly tart – cooking apples, I suppose.  They dried out the inside of your mouth like you’d been eating alum.  Mostly, Grandma Jean cooked with them.  But small, sour apples are still my favorites.  The pears were small, too.  Crunchy, with no pear-y juiciness.  But they made the most divine pear preserves.

Granddaddy is gone now.  Grandma Jean’s recovery from a stroke and return to home is questionable.  The old log house and the huge, sheltering tree are gone and where there were cows and a barn and an old tobacco shed are new houses and a road (!!!).  But the pear tree is there and Granddaddy’s shop still gives off a wispy scent of machine oil, hay and cigar smoke.

When I was there a couple of weekends ago, I dragged a step ladder out to the pear tree and picked all I could reach.  I thought we’d eat what we could at home.  But a couple of nights ago, I was driven to make some of Grandma Jean’s preserves.  I had no business making preserves!  I needed to do laundry and clean at least one bathroom.  Or go to bed early.  But I needed to make those preserves…I needed to TASTE those preserves. 

So I peeled and cut up the pears:

I finally found a use for the useless (to me) Y peeler – it is wonderful for peeling extremely hard pears with very stubborn peels!

Added lemon juice and sugar and let them sit overnight:

Last night when I got home from work, I boiled them down and put them in jars, not forgetting to add the lemon slice that Grandma Jean always adds.  Sometimes, when I make them, I add a slice of ginger, but not this time; this time I want HER preserves, not my version.

There weren’t a lot of pears.  There was only enough for two jars:

One for me and one for Momma.  I may never have these exact preserves again – it is a very old, gnarled tree – and who knows what will happen to it by next year.  But for now, I have that jar and these preserves:

And they taste like sunshine and autumn and my grandparents and my childhood.  All in one spoonful!

Does anyone else have a similar story?  I'd love to hear it!

What a lovely story and what a good granddaughter and daughter you are! :wub:


Edited by Darienne (log)

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Oh, Kim!!

I'm so glad you told me about this!! It's so beautiful, and such a continuation of the generations and their recipes.

I have visions of your going to see your Grandma, taking a small box, a la Evelyn Couch and the Fried Green Tomatoes for Ninnie, only yours would have a fresh hot biscuit and a little pot of those incomparable preserves.

Your writing just blows me away, every time.

rachel

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Oh, Kim!!

I'm so glad you told me about this!!  It's so beautiful, and such a continuation of the generations and their recipes.

I have visions of your going to see your Grandma, taking a small box, a la Evelyn Couch and the Fried Green Tomatoes for Ninnie, only yours would have a fresh hot biscuit and a little pot of those incomparable preserves.

Your writing just blows me away, every time.

rachel

As soon as she can eat something besides mush, she will be getting that biscuit and the preserves!

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Nice preserves, awesome story. Has me thinking of the peach preserves my grandmother used to make. After my grandfather passed away, she got tired of cleaning up the peach mess in the yard (I live much too far away to have been able to do it for her) and had the trees removed. So there's no chance of doing what you did but it was really cool to read about it.


Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Where's the little smilie dude, the one with a tear in his eye? I, also, have fond memories of jelly and jam from long vanished grapes and raspberries, sekle pears (the little brown ones) and gooseberry bush in the yard of the house I rented in nj when I was first married. Wistful is the word I'm looking for, I think.


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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OK, you're making me cry a little bit here. :smile:

I lost my favorite aunt last year. This story sounds very similar; just change the setting to Michigan.

Thank you. And those are beautiful pictures.


V

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What a beautiful story! I love pear preserves. My family is NC native as well, but we don't do much in the way of preserving (sadly).

Food is really the best way I can think of to connect with our families. I've made some of the stuff my great-grandmother (who I never met) did - what a way to cross time.

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Growing anything my kid can pick and eat on the spot.

Making berry jam or jelly.

The first time I ever got to eat food I picked was the summer I turned 5. We went to England where both sets of my grandparents lived.

Went berrying in the New Forest with one Nan (and ate ourselves purple). Then I picked the berries in the backyard, and made jam with the leftovers with the other Nan (the leftovers after eating myself purple).

I got to meet two of my greatgrandmothers. My kid didnt even get to meet all 4 grandparents, but we do what we can.

She's also got G-gma's on the other-side's cake recipe.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Some of my favorite memories of childhood gardening was to be able to sit on the back patio with a cucumber (washed under the garden hose) and a salt shaker... or picking persimmons or loquats off the trees in my grandparents backyard and eating those.

My maternal grandfather's persimmon tree (fuyu variety) is so abundant that we often were taking persimmons to school in our lunch for a good month afterwards.

"Labor of Love" foods took on a whole different meaning after my oldest son was diagnosed with food allergies at the age of 3 1/2. I remember spending 3 months trying out different pizza dough recipes (soy, egg, wheat free even), 4 months trying to find the perfect cake recipe, and learning to MacGuyver many, many recipes to make them safe to feed him.


Cheryl

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Wow. That's beautiful.

I keep meaning to try and recreate my maternal grandmother's recipe for gefilte fish -- I never got to experience it personally, but it lived vividly in my imagination through my mother's stories about the live carp kept swimming in their tenement apartment bathtub until its appointment with destiny. I may not go so far as to do the actual carp-in-bathtub part. But every time I visit the seafood department of 99 Ranch Market, and see their tanks full of frisky carp, I find myself thinking "Hey, if you ever wanted to give it a go ... there you go." :laugh:


Edited by mizducky (log)

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