When my grandmother, who I always called “Mamaw”, died a few years ago, I realized just how many of my memories of her included/revolved around food. I think this is often true about the women in our lives, because we are usually the ones doing the cooking for family gatherings, Sunday dinners, etc. The exception is cooking that involves the outdoor grilling of some slab of meat or another, in which case the memories would be of the man of the house. Because in my lifetime I don’t think I’ve ever known a guy who would allow anyone to cook anything on his grill while there was still breath in his body.
Mamaw was a good cook—not a gourmet chef, but a good, memorable cook. Over the years she collected various recipes from friends and family members that she made a lot and that all of us remember her preparing. She is the reason that I have a particular fondness for the easy but unbelievably delicious dishes one can make by simply opening a bunch of cans and bags, mixing stuff together, and baking for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
And then there were her Christmas specialties such as her fabulous Bisquick Sausage Balls—to die for, people! For those of you who aren’t from the South, sausage balls are a common Christmas-time staple in our neck of the woods. They always have ground country sausage, mixed with cheddar cheese, and some sort of biscuit type ingredient to make them stick together and bake in the oven. Every Northerner or Californian I’ve ever made them for has fallen in love—with the sausage balls, not me. Mamaw found the easiest and also the most delicious sausage ball recipe ever, of course, and not only do I associate them with memories of her and her annual Christmas Eve buffet spread, but when I make them myself I can literally feel her presence in my home.
Food, especially a loved one’s trademarked recipes, is a conduit of memories, love, and comfort–even more so when they are gone from your life. Those sensory memories that familiar flavors spontaneously evoke are one way to keep your special person close to you always. Several years before she became ill and her health began to decline, Mamaw and my grandfather, who I always called Papaw, gathered up all her best recipes, typed them out (complete with some really endearing typos and misspellings), and made handmade cookbooks for all us kids and grandkids. My copy is well worn, and I have often referred to my “Kay’s Kollection” cookbook when planning a meal, or looking for something different to take to a potluck or Holiday gathering. And this book of Mamaw-related memory treasures honestly means more and more to me as the years pass on. Now I am somebody’s grandmother and I can only hope that my kids and grandkids will want to make some of my signature recipes someday. I have my own, and I have Mamaw’s originals, and my own versions of those with my special tweaks, that I can envision my kids and grandkids making years from now, and maybe remembering me when they do.
I wanted to share all of this with you because I think more people should consider putting together handmade cookbooks like the one I treasure so. It’s a priceless gift for your kids and grandkids, a great way to carry on family traditions, and to remember all the precious times we’ve shared with the people in our lives, who all will inevitably leave us at some point. And my Mamaw’s simple recipes and some of the memories they hold for me are worth sharing with the world, I think. So, hats off to my special someone, and her knack for the simple and delicious! A few of my favorites are scattered throughout this piece, and have been photographed just as they appear in Kay’s Kollektion, with her typos and my kitchen spill stains. If you click each of the photos to view its actual size, the recipes should be very readable and, of course, easy to follow.
I hope you enjoy them, and they will encourage you to make your own memory filled cookbook for your family!
She Made This Concoction During the 70’s & 80’s. And she got it from her sister in law and friend, Opal “Opie” Hunt, who also happens to be Phil Hunt’s Mom.
Until next time…