Granny often lamented that my generation was not made of tough stuff. She grew up during the Depression and said it taught her how to persevere and made her stronger.
“I don’t want to be stronger,” I told her. “I think this whole ‘struggling’ thing is over-rated.”
She snorted. “Yeah, you better get stronger than what you are or you gonna be a goner.”
Part of Granny’s innate strength building character meant she re-used everything she could; when I informed her she was environmentally conscientious when she reused Mason jars and tin foil, she rolled her eyes at me and replied, “My generation always was a little more worried about the environment than yours is – we depended on it to survive. To you’uns, it’s disposable like everything else.”
Of course, her homemade recycling system meant at any given time you could open her fridge to find 15 different Country Crock containers and open 11 before you finally found the margarine. The rest were leftovers she had forgot about re-serving because they weren’t labeled.
Not that there were many leftovers. Granny was not wasteful when she cooked and if she did cook extra, it was because it was going in something else – like cornbread for dressing, or roast beef for soup.
But sometimes, her ideas of things were a little odd.
“Like what?” Cole asked me.
Like the way the old gal would cook sausage for breakfast. I wasn’t sent off to school with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, which I would have preferred. Nope, Granny got up and made sausage and homemade biscuits for us.
If there were any sausage left over, she put them on a plate on the back of the stove and left them there all day.
Not even covered up.
“Did you get sick?” Cole asked.
I can’t remember. As a fat kid, I usually ate a bunch of stuff that made me feel queasy on any given day – watermelon, ice cream and funnel cake did it one day; watermelon, ice cream and cat fish did it on another. Maybe it was the combination of watermelon and ice cream.
But I never once thought it had anything to do with Granny and her sitting-out-all-day sausage.
Come to think of it, Granny left a lot of things sitting out that probably could have darn well killed us.
She would make potato salad with onions and leave it out after Sunday dinner. No one realized it was the onions you needed to be concerned about.
Back then, people worried about the mayonnaise going bad and I told her as much.
“You’re trying to give us food poisoning,” was my actual statement.
“I ain’t trying no such of a thing. It is fit to eat.”
When I tried to throw away a can of pudding – chocolate, no less—because there was rust on the can, I received a stern admonishment. “That pudding is fine; the rust is on the outside.” I still didn’t trust the pudding.
“She’s gonna give us botulism,” I told Mama one day. “We’re gonna die from botulism.”
“Maybe not,” Mama said, not too sure herself.
When Botox came out rooted in botulism, Granny was the first to let me know. “See there; you just a-knew I was gonna kill you and it turns out rich folks are getting that stuff shot in their wrinkles to look younger. When you’re 40, you’ll be wishing you had ate that canned pudding!”
Now that I am in my 40’s, maybe I should have ate the pudding.
Mama called to warn me about yet another food recall the other day; this time, it was on what she calls, “those little trees.”
I assured her I didn’t buy broccoli.
“Oh, good,” she said. “I didn’t want y’all to get sick. I know you make broccoli slaw sometimes and I know how sensitive you are to things. You try to keep up on those recalls don’t you? It seems like it is always on the stuff I know you get. You know, healthy stuff. Like spinach and stuff.”
I told her I tried to keep up with it but had to agree: it seemed like the healthier and more natural the stuff was, the sicker it made us. At least nowadays, anyway.
I used to worry about sausages and potato salad sitting out all day, covered with a dish towel for protection. I don’t recall getting sick off that but I can guarantee you I will check the recall alerts before I make a salad, a lesson I learned years ago, even though we didn’t get sick.
“You eating all that stuff didn’t kill you like you thought it would,” Granny told me one day when she learned how we survived the spinach recall. “I was just building up your immune system.”
Perhaps that was just Granny’s way of making me stronger after all.