Today is the third anniversary of the death of my beloved Granddad. He passed away at home after a two year battle with lung cancer. Throughout it all, he remained an example of excellence. I only hope I can die with the grace and dignity that he possessed. I miss him more and more every day. I wish so much I could just call him and ask for advice when I am confused; I would give anything to hear his voice. This post is in honor of him and of my other (thankfully still living) hero- Grandpa.
They taught me that family is the most important thing… There was a time in my life when some people walked away. They didn’t like some of my decisions and chose to remove themselves from the situation. This division was really difficult for my grandparents (and myself) to deal with but they kept encouraging all in the situation to remember that the family ties are truly what binds us together. Now that time has past and more water has flowed under the bridge of life, the rift between has diminished. Wounds do heal over time. Forgiveness is the key.
They taught me about unconditional love… I have a deep faith within my heart that these two wonderful people believe that I can and will be a success. That they are proud of my accomplishments and that I have live my life thus far in a way that represents them well. I have a picture on my locker at work of my Granddad; I look at it when I am feeling unsure of myself. It gives me the courage to keep me going when times are tough.
They taught me important life lessons- the importance of hard work, commitment, good money sense… Both grandfathers worked many years and retired from their careers. Grandpa retired from the Navy as a Master Sargent. Granddad retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratories after 30 years as an electrician. After their retirement, each has lived a life full of more work and commitment to their community. Grandpa bought and ran a 100 acre farm, where three generations of our family continue to work. Granddad was an active member of Habitat for Humanity and a 20+ year member of Lion’s Club; he traveled all over the country (and a couple of places internationally). Both have been able live comfortably and with health insurance. When I think I will never make it to retirement, I can look at their commitment and see the importance of providing for yourself into the future.
They taught me that personal growth never stops… Both of my grandfather’s have read more books in their lifetime than some libraries hold. Their homes are places where curiosity about the world is encouraged. Grandpa would always answer a question with “Look it up!” pointing to the now out of date set of Encyclopedia Britannica. As a kid, I once had a hair brained idea of reading my way through the series. I didn’t even make it half way into volume A. Granddad took classes at the local community college. Some of his favorite topics were economics and religion. He said he didn’t want his mind to go to mush. He encouraged me to keep exploring the world through books, giving me his National Geographics to read. Granddad and Grandpa taught me that knowledge is the key to both personal and professional success.
They taught me that a good marriage is struggle, sacrifice, and loving the other person despite their flaws… Both sets of grandparents have been married for 50+ years. Not every one of those years were a bed of roses. I have watched them disagree without shouting, kiss each other good night every night. Even though he was well over 70, Granddad would still smack my grandmother on the butt and call her sweetheart. They watch out for each other in a way so fine tuned it could have only come from years of devotion. I have heard them encourage their children to stick with marriage even when it’s difficult. They are a united front, a rock and foundation for their family.
Nothing is more Southern than sitting on the porch with a big slice of coconut cake and glass of sweet tea. Come and get it, y’all.
Our Favorite Coconut Cake (an old Kraft recipe from my grandmother’s recipe box)
- 1 pkg (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
- 2-2/3 cups flaked coconut (7-oz pkg), divided
- 1 pkg (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup cold milk
- 1 tub Cool Whip, thawed
Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the cake batter and bake as directed on package for 2 (9-inch) round layers, stirring 2/3 cup coconut into batter before pouring into prepared pans. Cool cakes in pans 10 min.; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, beat pudding mix, sugar and milk in large bowl with whisk 2 min. (Pudding will be thick.) Stir in COOL WHIP. Refrigerate until ready to assemble cake.
Stack cake layers on plate, filling layers with 1 cup pudding and 3/4 cup of the remaining coconut. Frost top and side of cake with remaining pudding mixture. Press remaining coconut into pudding mixture. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.
Today my hubby and I hosted a family cookout at our house. It was a warm but blustery fall day filled with good food and conversation. We had homegrown beef hamburgers, hot dogs, creamy potato salad, crunchy pea salad, and baked beans. Dessert was the peanut butter pie listed below and my mother-in-law’s white chocolate peanut butter cookies.
The food fixed at family gatherings is a great reflection of where the family has been. My family (my husband and I) has been together for approximately 4 years; we rely heavily on recipes of our childhood. I fixed potato salad using my mother’s recipe- simple with celery, sweet pickles, and plain mayo. Yum! The baked beans (called Calico Beans by the Rose family) are my mother-in-law’s recipe. Food is a way to trace your heritage. Our food heritage is a reflection of our humble country beginnings. No fancy schmancy food. Beans, potatoes, meat. Simple. Good. Country.
This peanut butter pie recipe is quick, easy, and an excellent make ahead dessert. Mamaw Rose says she makes these in advance in case someone in her very large extended family shows up unexpected. I have always heard about Mamaw Rose’s amazing pie but had never had any myself. I picked the pie as my dessert for this get together because I needed to make something in advance so I could have enough time to clean for the big day. (Every time I have company, especially my family, I try extra hard to make sure everything is squeaky clean.)
Frozen Peanut Butter Pie
- 1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
- 1 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 (16 oz) container frozen whipped topping
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 (9 inch) graham cracker crusts
- Chocolate shavings, optional
Combine cream cheese and peanut butter in a large bowl. Beat until fluffy. Add whipped topping and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and spoon into pie shells. Garnish with chocolate shavings if desired and freeze at least 8 hours before serving.
I don’t like store-bought graham cracker crusts near as much as homemade. Of course, homemade is always better. Sure it is more convenient to buy but tastes so much better if you just make it yourself.
Graham Cracker Crust (for one pie)
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (I use one sleeve of the crackers)
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter or margarine, and cinnamon until well blended . Press mixture into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 7 minutes. Cool. If recipe calls for unbaked pie shell, just chill for about 1 hour.
This picture was taken early one summer morning by my mother-in-law near their home in Wolfe County, KY.
Family reunions are one of the best events of the summer. Today we went to the Nickell family reunion and were treated to good company and a flat bed trailer full of delicious country food. Fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, meat loaf, salads, casseroles, breads and desserts were in abundance. The family reunion is the perfect example of how good company makes food taste even better. I ate two platefuls and then dessert. I was so full!
These get-togethers are a great way to reflect on who we are and where we are from. While the majority of the family were seated in the yard on picnic tables and around card tables, the elders of the family sat on the porch, almost as though they were surveying the results of everything they had ever worked for- the children and grandchildren, their farm land, and peace of mind. So much has changed since our families first settled into Kentucky. Today we have instantaneous technology, instant gratification, and ultra-processed foods. Family reunions are a way to bring us back to a slower (and, perhaps, better) time when conversations were had face to face. When food was fresh and the culmination of a summer’s worth of hard work.
This is one of my most favorite dishes my mother-in-law makes. I can eat it until I am nearly sick. The whole combination is just divine. The name sounds kind of strange but you should try it. It is so fantastic!
This picture does not do this recipe justice. It is much prettier prior to serving but it gets all mixed up on the plate.
- 1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 1 cup mayo
- 1 9-inch pan of cornbread, crumbled
- 2 (16 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 (16 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
- 3 ounces of bacon, crumbled
I love food… It is a huge part of my Americana. I was raised on Appalachian/ Southern cuisine. Nearly every night my mother had a made from scratch dinner on the table. Family reunions and church dinners also helped shape my understanding that all social occasions are made better around a plate a delicious food.
In my own family I try to continue this tradition. I cook at least 5 times per week. Quite a lot I have been told for someone of my age (25), a full-time employee, and a member of the “now” generation. I try to avoid fast food, prepackaged food, and foods that contain chemicals I cannot pronounce. I am convinced that I can make delicious, healthy, and fast foods that save my family money and make us happy.
Sitting around the dinner table every night is a favorite memory of mine. I consider myself blessed that I probably ate fast food twice a month. The rest of the time it was homemade all the way. There is nothing my mother (and my grandmothers) cannot cook and cook well. I aspire to reach that pinnacle.