How do I remember my grandmother? She lived in a small town in Eastern North
Carolina, in a house on Church Street that backed up to a big garden. As with many
things in my life, some of my best memories of her include food.

I remember her crying when her pecan pie didn’t set. I remember her chicken salad
sandwiches (crusts cut off) with fresh tomatoes and her bread and butter pickles. I
remember that my mother loved her braised cabbage with peppery pork tenderloin.

Every family gathering to this day is filled with both wonderful food and adult beverages
of all kinds. We have evolved from bourbon and water drunk at the sink to beers to,
thanks to my cousin Chrish, wine of all kinds.

My grandmother was my favorite growing up. After I turned 5, she deemed me old
enough to learn to play cards. Gin rummy, obviously. We would play together against
my mother. My grandmother always won. In the afternoons, when it was too hot to
do much else, we would sit at the table and eat blister peanuts and play cards.
Sometimes, my grandmother would have her ladies over for lunch to play actual penny-
ante poker.

If she liked the ladies, she would make shrimp salad in lettuce leaves with a side of
cucumbers in vinegar or lovely Better Boy tomatoes. Or maybe her really delicious
Brunswick stew with a little tiny diced fresh cayenne pepper on the side.

Does everybody have a family like mine? Food obsessed, prone to excess of all kinds,
full of storytellers and odd ducks. Loud and messy and funny.

I have an idea of writing a blog about my life, through food and stories. My stab at
seeing whether I could write a book or not. I’ll share recipes, stories that I hope won’t
mortify my family members or call them out, but will remind us of where we came from and offer some food on the side.

What has been most on my mind lately is my mom’s passing. I’m finally getting around
to selling her house and it has brought a lot back from her funeral a little over a year
ago. What would I say about my mom’s funeral? The most I have cried and the most I have
laughed in a long time.

Service where I was sitting in the front row. Bad deal since I suck at such things. I was
basically the one supposed to stand and sit like I “knew” how to do. But a combination
of general shock and my lack of attendance at church meant those behind me were
stuck. Do what they knew to be right or try and not make me look ridiculous? A true
Southern dilemma. Kind of funny if you think about it.

Barbecue lunch with the family and all the lovely folks who cared about my mother. I
hesitate to say “sweet” mother. Because she could be sweet, but only if you deserved it.
And she could be equally cutting and snide if that was called for as well. 

Drinking and snacks at my cousin’s house. The last time I will be at that wonderful house next door to where my mother and Uncle Joel grew up. And taking the teenagers for a quick “driving lesson” in the cemetery, where we laughed so hard and drank wine in the back seat while they maneuvered our cars around. We took the flowers from the service and took them around the decorate the graves of our various family members.

Ending with oysters at the Sunnyside oyster bar. I remember eating there when I was
little. The hot sauce poured out in coffee pitchers. The oysters shucked and dumped
into little side bowls. Our kids did what many of my cousins’ did; they ate chicken in the
lounge with the pinball machines and the bar. The only thing missing was my mother,
who would have loved it. And maybe my grandmother.



My Grandmother’s chicken salad--
(forgive me as she never used a recipe for this)
chicken breast and thighs, boiled not to death, with ALL the skin and gristle removed
4 stalks of celery, cut lengthwise and then diced in an organized fashion
lemon juice
Duke’s mayonnaise
salt and pepper
shot of Tabasco
Mix to your taste but remember that moderation is a good thing. And you can’t take
something OUT but you can add more. That goes especially for mayo, salt, and lemon.

~a
 


Comments

david sutton
03/02/2017 12:02pm

what a lovely beginning! i'm so happy that you are writing about what we all to be true, our mothers and mother's mothers are all the best! can't wait to read what's next.

Reply
Megan Ziglar
03/02/2017 12:45pm

this is WONDERFUL...of course, you are a fabulous writer ...in addition to chef, wife, mom, friend extraordinaire! i miss seeing you terribly...write often! xox

Reply
Shelly Green
03/02/2017 1:32pm

Way to go, it will be fun to read your stories.

Reply
Ginny Neelon
03/02/2017 1:47pm

O yes! Brings smiles and tears.

Reply
Amy O'Connor
03/02/2017 1:56pm

I felt like I was there with you. For all of it. I suspect that means you are on the right track here!

Reply
Rose
03/02/2017 3:20pm

Lovely Amy! Keep writing... I have wonderful memories of being with you and your wonderful family at the gatherings following your mother' funeral.

Reply
cindy
03/02/2017 5:06pm

sounded so familiar, thank you for taking me there...keep going

Reply
03/02/2017 7:49pm

Amy, you have done the hardest thing for a writer, started. It is a wonderful beginning. It gets easier, but only if you fo it religiously. Write, even when you think you don't have anything to say. Although I've never known you to have that problem. Takes one to know one!

Reply
Lisa M
03/03/2017 2:52am

What a gift this was. I could hear your voice telling the story (which was awesome since I dont see you as regularly anymore) and could see it all clearly in my mind. What an honor to feel like I know thre generations of women from your family (you included, obviously) that much better now. Unsurprisingly, you are a gifted writer. And your are wonderfully you and real about all that that is in writing just as in person, which is so refreshing. Keep it up, my friend. I look forward to more.

Reply
Bri B
03/03/2017 6:46am

Love this Amy! You really painted a picture. Excited to follow along for the stories and the recipes:)

Reply
Cynthia King
03/03/2017 9:33am

This is wonderful Amy! I really look forward to following along for more.

Reply
Eunice Chang
03/04/2017 5:04pm

I'm glad you're telling stories. Stories and food are how we heal. xoxo.

Reply
03/05/2017 10:46pm

Amy, Keep on blogging. I am just "picturing" you, and probably Chrish, riding around the cemetery while drinking wine. Is this why your daughter doesn't drive her grandmother's car yet!...You have a gift of gab and many visual stories to tell...Please continue to share them!

Reply
Gretchen Cooley
03/09/2017 1:37pm

So well done, Amy. Good for you. I'm proud of you and I know your Mom is too. You are fortunate to have a large family and I've been fortunate to meet many of them over the years at various life cycle occasions. You've inherited ET's ability to put your thoughts and feelings down, so those of us who are anxious to follow your blog are in for a real treat.

Reply
Ethel Vogel
03/09/2017 2:36pm

Write these essays, they will be read and loved. Reminded me of MFK Fisher, much easier read than Frances Mayes, with the sweetness of Bill Smith.

Reply
Ellen Dagenhart
03/09/2017 8:09pm

You're talking to friends here. Just imagine us sitting on the porch on the warm days to come, drinking wine and talking about recipes. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Reply

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    Author

    Chef Amy Tornquist
    Creator of Watts and Sage and lover of the way things taste in the South.

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