My great-grandmother’s notion of cooking: Love, care, life

Jalon Young, Contributing Columnist

“My great-grandma knows how to make nearly any pie imaginable — that’s that Southern-woman magic.” (Shivani Bondada)

My great-grandmother has come to the point where she must meditate on death. For 82 years, she has lived out her life story, seen a multitude of births and deaths, triumphs and trials, smiles and tears. And now a close seems near. 

She has begun the process of making preparations mainly by pushing us to take a hand at cooking. For her, cooking is an art. Well before history was written, Black folks developed art that was functional. This means, art can very well be simply marveled, but meaningful art serves a purpose of comfort, survival and sustenance. 

Of course, we can stop here and say, “Oh, so food is to be eaten. Eating is a means of survival.” But my great-grandma would take it further: the ingredients must be handled as if holding a swaddling baby; each mixture must be stirred with perfection; the “looks” of the dish must be Naomi Campbell perfect. 

Even more, the food cannot remain in the house it was cooked in. It must be packaged in carryout plates or placed on paper plates laid over with aluminum foil. Then, it must be given, perhaps to a lonely neighbor, a best friend with no living relatives, the preacher living next door or someone traveling a long distance. 

So far, she has taught my granny, her daughter, different canning techniques. She has taught my mother how to make dressing. Admittedly, I am not a cook. This may be why my great-grandma just makes the dishes I like and gives them to me. But I have developed a hand for baking. 

My great-grandma knows how to make nearly any pie imaginable — that’s that southern-woman magic. As any grandchild, I wanted to emulate this skill. 

With the holiday season approaching, this baking skill will come in handy. If you are just absolutely stuck on what to make, I present to you a few easy options.

Spice Cake

I first had this cake in Bruff — I guess everyone calls it the Commons now, but anyway. I vowed to make it for Thanksgiving. It is almost like a carrot cake but without the carrots. As made evident by the name, the cake is all about spice: all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and brown sugar. Some like whipped cream frosting, but I can’t stand it. So, you can make, or buy, buttercream frosting. 

Brown Sugar Cookies

I made these last Christmas after coming by a tutorial video. It’s basically a sugar cookie with brown sugar as its base. The instructions said that chilling the dough isn’t completely necessary, but please chill that dough. The Lord showed me right quick that I made a mistake by not chilling it. Pecans are used in the recipe I followed, but the cookie will be fine without them. 

Pecan Pie Cobbler

Much like the brown sugar cookies, this is a remix on the South’s beloved peach cobbler and pecan — pronounced PUH-KUN — pie. 

There are two ways you can make it: 1. you can make a traditional pecan-pie filling with corn syrup, brown sugar and the likes; a layer of filling is placed between two rolled-out pie crusts; and a finishing layer is placed on top 2. or you can do a traditional cobbler; just make a concoction of melted butter and pecans, pour a batter over it, then top it off with hot water. Finally, you can get to baking. 

I pray this relieves some stress during these cooking and baking times. And remember, if your elders are still with you, give a tight hug!

Leave a Comment