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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cooking Up Memories

Contributed by Stephanie Bearce

My Grandma Vida was a little bird of a woman. Just five foot two, she used every inch of herself to take care of her brood of children and grandchildren. She loved having a houseful of company and feeding an army of hungry boys and girls. Her mantra was “Have another helping.”

I remember visiting Grandma when she was nearly eighty. I walked into the kitchen to see my tiny grandmother scampering across her kitchen counter tops. She couldn’t reach the top shelves, so of course she had pulled the drawers out to make a stepstool. There was no need to bother anyone else when she could “do just fine for herself.”

Grandma was an amazing cook. Nothing fancy, just good old fashioned corn canned from her garden, golden pan fried chicken, and mounds of creamy mashed potatoes. Grandma was a lifetime member of the county Homemakers Extension Club where she learned all the modern ideas of balanced nutrition. Because of this she always insisted that we have “a green” with every meal. Of course Grandma’s green vegetables were usually covered in butter or flavored with bacon. In other words, delicious.
Grandma’s cooking abilities were known throughout the county and she was called upon to use her culinary skill to judge at the local county fair. I liked going with Grandma and watching her judge the canning entries. First she would check each jar to see if it was properly sealed.
“They make a popping sound when you open them,” she explained.
If there was no “pop” when the lid came off, Grandma would write a note on her judging sheet. Then she would sniff the contents. Another round of notes followed. Then finally she would taste the food. I was jealous when she tasted jams and jellies, but happy to abstain on the pickled beets and sauerkraut.
There was one jar of peaches that lives in my memory. My mouth watered at the sight of those fat gold globes of fruit. If I were the judge I would have ripped right in to them. But Grandma took her time. She examined the jar and twirled it around. I saw her eyebrows rise.
She cracked the lid. There was no “pop.” Grandma scribbled furiously. She slowly opened the jar, took one look inside and dumped the whole thing in the trash can.
All those peaches gone! I ran to the trash can and I saw golden ripe peaches floating in smelly gray mold.
“That’s what happens when you don’t get a good seal with your pressure cooker!” Grandma said.

I never learned to can like Grandma and I don’t claim to cook like her either. But she did leave me one legacy recipe that even I can handle.
A morning at Grandma’s meant caramel rolls. The smell of those rolls baking in the oven brought out even the laziest cousin. Grandma always made two batches, one with pecans and one without. That last batch was for me.
I love making Grandma’s caramel rolls for my friends and family. They are easy enough for the novice chef and taste wonderful. I may not be able to duplicate Grandma’s skills in the kitchen, but I hope I can carry out her tradition of hospitality and love.

Grandma Vida’s Caramel Rolls
1 pkg. frozen dinner roll dough
(I was SHOCKED when I found out that Grandma had converted to frozen dough!!! But then again, she was a smart lady.)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 cups vanilla ice cream
Pecans (if you must)
Thaw dinner roll dough. Grease a 9x13 in pan. Melt sugar and butter together. Add ice cream and heat until all is melted. Pour into the pan. (If you have to use those pecans, put them in now.)
Place dough rolls on top of ice cream mixture. Let rise in a warm place.
Bake at 375 degrees until brown. Invert onto serving plate.

Best served with a batch of good memories!

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