Food In Memory

My desire to make bread started when I met my (now) grandmother-in-law and tasted her delicious homemade multigrain wheat bread. Her bread was so light and fluffy while still being hearty and flavorful. All of my in-laws would fight (good-naturedly) over who would get to eat the ends or the last piece.

Sadly, my grandmother-in-law passed away this week from pancreatic cancer. Yesterday, in her memory, I made the bread that got me started on this interesting baking journey and thought about how she has impacted my life. Without her, I may never have discovered a love for homemade bread–something I take for granted almost every day.

For me, food is a great way to remember someone, whether it be a recipe they shared or a food that we both loved. It’s nourishing in so many ways to sit down and enjoy a bite of food while remembering better days. I encourage all of you to pull out an old cookbook or visit a favorite restaurant this weekend and think about all the happy things tied to the food you consume every day. I think you’ll see what I mean.

How Coffee Says “I Love You”

When I talk to people about coffee, I generally get one of two responses: “I couldn’t LIVE without coffee!” or “I HATE coffee!”

While I could survive if coffee suddenly didn’t exist, it would be like losing a best friend that’s been with me almost my whole life.

My grandmother first introduced me to coffee when I was three. I don’t really remember it, but when I was older she pulled a baby-sized teacup and spoon from her cupboard and told me, in her homely Cajun accent, “This is what I taught you to drink coffee from.”

My grandmother drank Community dark coffee seasoned with roasted chicory–a coffee widely available in southern Louisiana. While it wasn’t “so think you could stick a spoon in it,” it was dark, earthy, and strong enough that I couldn’t drink it without adding cream and sugar. Neither could she, and she drank at least twelve cups a day since she was married at the age of sixteen.

When I stayed at her house, I would wake up around six or seven as the sun started to peek through the gaps of her roller shades. I would hear the slight clang of my grandmother stirring a roux or putting a pot of water to boil on her gas stove. Groggy, I would shuffle out of her room and down the hall to see what she was cooking.

The second she’d see my face, she’d set a pot of coffee to brew in her old four-cup Mr. Coffee, scramble an egg, and get a small portion of grits cooking. As I’d take the last bite of my breakfast, she’d fix us each a cup of coffee. Then we would walk out onto her porch to greet the morning.

We wouldn’t really talk. We might exchange a word or two, but mostly we’d sit on the dew-dampened bench and watch the cars roll by, hummingbirds drink from her feeders, or her dogs as they played in her well-tended garden. The food and coffee spoke for us, saying things like, “I love you” and “I’m glad you’re here.”

In her house, you knew that you were loved when she didn’t have to ask how you liked your coffee. My coffee was always easy because I drank it exactly like she did–a dash of cream and a teaspoon of sugar. Everyone else liked it different, though. When one of my aunts would visit, my grandmother would always joke, “Still like a bit of coffee in your sugar?” To those who didn’t drink coffee at all she’d give a bit of good-natured teasing.

When I moved away for college, I continued drinking coffee. I even worked as a barista for three years to share my love of coffee with others. My way of coffee making has changed–I use a french press instead of a brewer–but I still like to sip on a good cup of coffee and watch the world pass by, even if it’s just for a moment.

Now that my grandmother has passed, I drink it and think of how she would laugh a little at my ‘fancy’ coffee. Mostly, I wish she was here beside me to see the cars roll by my house, the hummingbirds in my honeysuckles, and my cats futilely chasing the birds among the trees.