Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lifestyle vrs The Experts

Eating healthy. Everywhere you go you hear or read about it. "If you eat healthy, you will live longer". Yes, I'm sure that eating healthy is important to a long healthy life, but there is just so much more involved.

My grandmother, God bless her soul, was an incredible cook. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING has ever tasted better than the meals she cooked. Deep fried Chicken, Light Bread Cakes (biscuit dough deep fried until crispy and then split in the middle and covered with real butter). YUM! Succulent ham and vegetables cooked in the ham hock. Butter beans cooked with sugar, butter and ham...INCREDIBLE! Greasy yummy delicious food. Bread, rolls or biscuits with butter were at every meal. Fried Fish with homemade french fries cooked in the deep fryer. AMAZING! Blackberry Roll smothered in a thick cream sauce that was so good it would make your toes curl. sigh.
Meals were an event. They were planned the day before, started the next morning and talked about throughout the day.

Thanksgiving dinner was as close to Heaven as anything on this Earth could be. Usually as many as 50 people, eating in shifts. No dishwasher, so someone was always at the sink washing and cleaning as the next group got ready to eat. And we were loving every single minute of it!

How she fed all those people and made all those meals on a set income is a feat in itself. And EVERYTHING was hot at the same time. I still struggle to get hot dogs and mac and cheese to be ready at the same time! And as for a microwave....what was that?? She had one stove with 4 burners and an oven...period!

Oh, and she had a garden. Not flowers but with green beans, butter beans, tomatoes and more. Her neighbors had their gardens with corn, etc and then they all switched and traded. NOTHING WAS WASTED! The jars of canned veggies lined the shelves of her pantry.

She lived on the water and much of their freezer was full of frozen fish, crabmeat, deviled crabs, softshelled crabs that she and my grandfather caught.....and and me too when I was lucky enough to be there.

She LOVED to cook and to entertain. She and my grandfather had a tiny house but with a sleeper sofa, cots, sleeping bags and even a side porch with comfy reclining chairs, she could easily sleep 20 people in that tiny 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home. (Just be sure you watch your step if you got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom).

She smoked cigarettes throughout the day. She drank her co-cola in the morning, and then "had herself a little drink in the afternoon" that went on until bedtime.

She and my grandfather lived a long, happy, and I believe very satisfying life. Both were in their 90's when they died.

Her secret. She worked hard. She stayed busy. Even in their 70s and 80s, my grandmother and grandfather could be found out in the garden picking "ve-ge-ta-bles" as early as 5AM. By 7AM she would be washing, canning and preparing while my grandfather would be out in his little boat pulling up crab pots and or fishing.....oh, and usually cussing the skiers and fast boats and of course the "summer folk" that would sometimes empty his crabpots in the middle of the night.

Wow, I sure did love them. In the evening (after dishes were done of course) we would play rummy and canasta. My grandfather could cheat as well as any sailor. (and cuss better than most of them).

Instead of the "typical" church services, every Sunday, their community would gather outside on a patio beside the Piankatank River. We would pray and sing while the water splashed onto the sand. There would be a short service and then socializing. In the winter it was always in someones home. Not as fun as outside for a kid like me, but still special.

You see, I spent every summer with them. Loved, Loved, Loved them.

Although my cooking skills are lacking (at best), the little bit I do know is thanks to her. She also taught me how to make my bed, dust, clean etc. Monday was cleaning day. Again, I loved every second of it.

They ate what we consider horribly unhealthy foods, drank their "little drinks", smoked their cigarettes AND YET they rarely RARELY ever got sick. When they did pass away, in their 90s, it was pretty much due to natural causes.

Hard work, enjoying life, tons of friends, family that adored them = long life. Oh how I respected them. I always wanted them to be proud of me.

I remember when I was about 14 years old, my grammy commented that I didn't say "Yes Ma'am" and "Yes Sir" as much as I used to. She told me she was always so proud of my manners. To this day, "Yes Ma'am and Yes Sir" are parts of my regular vocabulary.

OK, so what made me start this walk down memory lane?

I started thinking about all of this just because I happened upon a list of the 30 Healthiest Foods while thumbing through Real Simple Magazine. (ADHD at work again)

I doubt my grandmother had ever even heard of many of them. And unless they were cooked in ham hock or drenched in butter they couldn't taste like anything she would have eaten or prepared.

Maybe, just maybe, the secret is to mix hard work, love of life, God, friends and family. Then when you sit down to a meal, eat until you are satisfied, (not stuffed and unable to move). Anyway, just a thought.

Here are some of the Top 30 Healthiest Foods. One or Two might be ok (again, if deep fried) but seriously.....

1.BULGUR-Made from wheat that has been steamed, dried and cracked.

2. BARLEY-Use the pearl or quick cooking variety if short on time. If you have more time, give whole barley with its extra layer of bran a go.

3. Almonds-OK, I like a snack.

4. Mushrooms- Sounds ok until you read this..."Meaty and filling, use as a stand in for BEEF."!!

5.Lentils- A protein powerhouse, these are flush with folate, a nutrient that may help prevent birth defects.

6. Chard-leafy green.

7. Edamame- young soybeans.

8. Oranges- FINALLY! HURRAY!!

9. Sardines.

10. Non-Fat Greek Yogurt.

And the list goes on....

As for me, I'm going to go look up some of my grandmother's recipes. Does anyone know how much a smidgen or a pinch is?

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Kelly Combs said...

I think part of the secret was FRESH. They ate tons of fresh veggies that came from their own garden and fresh meat like deer or fish. No preservatives, chemicals, etc.

These were happy memories. Thanks for sharing.

Edie said...

"Maybe, just maybe, the secret is to mix hard work, love of life, God, friends and family. Then when you sit down to a meal, eat until you are satisfied, (not stuffed and unable to move)."

I think you and Kelly are both right.

My grandma made lots of fried and buttery foods too. I always say if you don't know how to cook something, fry it. It's bound to be good. :)