When the end of the year approaches, it seems that time compresses. My wife and I have been running around to attend to some chores…Christmas gifts for the grandkids, buying new fixtures for the outside of our house when the siding project is finished, and a multitude of other tasks. When we’re finished for the day, supper, more often than not, is a sandwich, soup or something else that can be prepared quickly and easily.
Sometimes, we skip lunch and in mid-afternoon, we’re looking for something for a snack. Usually for me, that’s nibbling on cheese. For Mrs. Crucis, it’s chips. We’re both burned out. In one of our conversations, I remembered that my grandmother liked to snack too. However, this was before the days of fast food and chips were still a novelty.
After my grandfather died, Grandma came to live with us. Dad still worked in the mines, Mom was teaching 5th and 6th grades in a school some miles away and I was in school.
Grandma would rise early to fix breakfast for us, and would have supper ready when we all got home around 5pm. She spent much of her day cooking. She liked to cook. She liked to bake. She wasn’t much on baking bread, although at times she did. Grandma preferred to bake pies and cakes. Large sheet cakes.
I still remember coming home late one school day. It was cold. Though the bus dropped me off at the end of our driveway, the short walk to the house still chilled me. I entered the house and found grandma finishing a large sheet cake—one of my favorites, blackberry jam cake with cream cheese icing. She had a piece waiting for me and a large glass of milk. The cake was still warm.
It wasn’t always a cake. Just as often it could be an apple, cherry or some other fruit pie. We had a one acre apple orchard on the farm, several cherry trees around the house, a dozen or so rows of strawberries in one garden and yards upon yards of blackberries and raspberries along our fence rows. We always had a supply of canned fruits and berries that Mom and Grandma canned every year.
But pies and cakes weren’t the only thing that grandma liked. She, like me, liked things that were salty. Things like cheese, nuts still in the shell and roasted, salted nuts. More often, she was seen nibbling on those more than sitting down to a piece of cake or a piece of pie.
Although we butchered every year, a hog or two, we didn’t butcher any of the cattle. For one, we didn’t have that many, and two, the cattle produced more income when taken to market than a hog. We raised more hogs and hogs had a quicker “turn-around” or reproduction cycle that cattle. We also raised chickens and for a while, several hundred turkeys for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year tables. In short, we weren’t starving. No, far from it. We lived “high on the hog” in more ways than one.
The usual evening meal was potatoes in some form, corn or some vegetable from our garden, a meat dish, and pie or cake for dessert. It wasn’t until a few years later, after Grandma was gone, that, on retrospect, I discovered Grandma’s favorite snack food.
I had never noticed that when Grandma laid out the meat dish, more often Fried Chicken, Pork Chops, a roast, or a turkey, she always seemed to fix too much. There was always left-overs. We didn’t mind. Dad always had a nice big lunch at the mine. Mom would sometimes take something to school depending on what was on the school menu.
I also noticed that chickens always seemed to have four legs and wings. When we had pork chops, Grandma made about half again as much as we could eat in one meal. When we raised turkeys, we had a roast turkey about one a month.
But the leftovers seemed to be gone quickly. The leftover turkey seemed to disappear quickly too.
One day I did discover Grandma’s favorite snack. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
Grandma was a small, slight woman, barely five foot tall and sopping wet, maybe a hundred pounds. No, she wasn’t a large woman. In fact, she looked remarkedly like Grannie on the old Beverly Hillbillies TV show.
I came home from school and entered through the back door. Most folks in our area at that time entered through the back door. The front door was reserved for “company.”
When you entered our back door, you can either go straight down the stairs to our basement, or turn right and walk up a few steps into our kitchen. When I walked through the door into our kitchen, I found Grandma sitting at the kitchen table…with a pork chop in her hand.
She held the chop by the bone and had just taken a bite off the chop. She liked cold pork chops…and chicken legs and wings…and turkey legs and wings…and turkey sandwiches. Grandma liked just about anything cold that had once ran or had wings.
I remembered later how often I’d come home, at bit hungry, thinking of that leftover pork chop from the night before, or of a chicken leg, or some sliced turkey for a sandwich only to discover they were gone. I’d always thought they went with Dad for his lunch at the mines. They did. But not all of them. No, Grandma carefully planned Dad’s lunches…and her snacks. After fixing Dad’s lunch, there was always enough for Grandma’s lunch and mid-afternoon snack.
During the week, I was the first one home. Dad arrived next and Mom usually arriving around 5pm. I caught Grandma snackin’ a few times but never thought much about it. Grandma could really put the food away but she never seemed to gain any weight. She was a hard worker and put those calories to work.
After she was gone, I remarked once at supper that the meals seemed smaller. Mom smiled. She knew. Dad just said we didn’t need as much for three as for four. I don’t think he ever noticed or if he did, he didn’t ever mention Grandma’s snacking.
Yep. Grandma was a snacker. No fast food or unhealthy chips for her. Nope. Grandma snacked high on the hog…or low as the case may be.