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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cooking withGrandma Wright also known as cooking with whatever

Growing up I had the the privelege of being close to both sets of Grandparents.  You can read an earlier post about my Grandma Keyte here 

I got the chance to live with my Grandma and Grandpa Wright for several summers while I was going to college. Several years later while attending college a second time, I was able to live with Grandma. She has since passed away, but her memory sill lives on in my heart and my cooking.

Cooking with Grandma was always an adventure. Grandma would say the meal wasn't complete until we had added our favorite ingredient which was "whatever".When she would ask what I had put it something, I would respond "a little this, a little that; whatever." We loved to invent good eats. Grandma used recipes as a starting place. She hardly used a recipe as is. She would always add her own twist to it. I have many of her recipes now. They are full of notes about what she added or changes she made.

One summer Grandma made some yummy strawberry ice cream. Her sister asked for her recipe. My Grandma replied "Oh it is your ice cream recipe!" Her sister looking rather perplexed stated "I don't have a strawberry ice cream recipe." The story goes on with some very colorful languge that I will not expand on here. The point of the story being; the recipe was for burnt almond fudge ice cream. Grandma had used it as a base and added her own twist. I get that from her.  

Grandma taught me the art of cooking from the pantry. She always had a well stocked pantry and could cook whatever from what she had on hand. I love those skills that I learned from her.  I learned alot of my home preserving skills from her also. I have many fond memories of being with her in the fall harvest time preserving all types of fruits and vegetables. I am grateful for her knowledge that she passed on to me.

Cooking with Grandma was a joy (most of the time) except for the part where I am supposed to learn the secret of her famous Divinity candy.  For the holidays she had several recipes that she would make. You can read about her green onion dip here.  She would make fudge, gumdrop bars and divinity for family members and for select friends and neigbors. The Divinity was a favorite. Those who came to her house for the holidays left with a real treat. Most everyone agreed that her Divinity was something special. 

 Learning to cook the divinity was a real challenge and one that I have not mastered yet. It starts with beaten egg whites to which a hot sugar syrup is beaten it. It is again beaten, this time by hand to create the smooth creamy texture. It is then dropped by teaspoonful onto buttered cookie sheets to cool.  It all sounded easy until; "Cook until it looks like this,When it does like this, it is ready". I am learning and putting it all into my brain and then,"Oh it is humid today we have to cook it a bit longer".  She has been doing this so long 20+years, it is a part of her. She has temperatures to which to cook the syrup on her recipe card, but she says that they are no good. She can't trun it out using a thermometer. I have to learn to do it her way. I tried hard. I spent many a years at her side trying to get it right. She would look at a batch halfway through and she could tell if it was going to be perfect or just ok. I tried and tried, I could not see any difference. With her help I turned out some batches of divinity, but left on my own.....oh dear!

How many batched of divinity can one ruin? For me it was an endless supply. One year I made a bad batch that did not set up. It was a gooey mess. I recreated it into the most lovely ice cream topping. My sister asked how I had made it and I said "First you have to wreck a batch of Grandma's divinity" Mom would say that you better enjoy food I made, you may never have the same thing again. This was a prime example. 

I have found that if I slow down and don't hurry it. I can turn out some good divinity. I turned out one nearly perfect batch and one ok batch this last winter. I also wrecked two batches. 50/50  It is better than one good out of every ten (which is what it seems like I started as). But it is things like this that we cherish.  Take time to teach each other and learn from others.  The time that we spend together now becomes one of the most important things later on.


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