Not your Granny’s Xmas


Childhood memories often lure me into a disappearing world of culinary and sensory delights. Those were the days of anticipation which made you drool when you heard the rotary mixer hit the side of the glass bowl, the popping of grease from frying chicken, or the smell of a fresh-baked pie.  

These days I just buy a candle called apple pie spice and plop a bucket of KFC on the table beside bottles of designer water.  Those culinary and olfactory pleasantries of yesteryear are likely to cause a panic attack among the self declared food police


who have taken all the fun out of eating. Frying anything is considered gauche; lard has become the devil himself; and the mixer is dying of boredom because everyone is avoiding sugary desserts which require one. 

Entertaining has become a nightmare because in my circle of friends and family everyone is either vegan, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, popping pills for acid reflux or worried about animal rights.   Counting carbs is more fashionable than calories and suddenly the lowly potato is in danger of extinction. I’m almost glad Granny never had to see such a travesty.

Cooking has become a challenge of monumental proportion especially during the holidays when you strive to accommodate every taste and ban all things judged unhealthy by someone in Washington.   Ordering a salad when you really want a burger has become a badge of honor and depriving ourselves is a national past-time.  So why as a nation have we become fatter?  Could it be we’re sharing our beds with a package of Oreos after everyone goes home?


I can see my grandmother’s Christmas table groaning with platters of mashed potatoes swimming in gravy, corn on the cob picked at its peak and flash frozen, peas cooked in bacon drippings and the best corn bread dressing this side of the Mississippi.  She would have cringed at my table laden with some unidentifiable substance pictured above called tofu, a newfangled grain called quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) and stove top stuffing mix.  Oh the horror.

The food prepared by my grandmother was simple fare, and to date has never been replicated outside her blue and white checkered kitchen. Her menu always included squash and onions fried in bacon drippings, long-simmered collards mingled with white cuts of turnips dressed in hot-pepper vinegar, and butter beans cooked down to creamy heaps. These dishes were eaten before the main event which was pecan pie if the trees produced that year or egg custard pie if not. 

My grandmother’s spice cabinet contained salt, pepper, cinnamon, and vanilla. That was it. I doubt she ever heard of cumin or dried basil. And Rosemary was the name of her second cousin.

While trying to live healthier lives and trim the extra pounds, food became the enemy somewhere around 1980 when processed food emerged as a cheaper alternative to fresh fruits and vegetables.

We live in an age when professional cooks are household names, and some of them are as famous as athletes or movie stars. We spend more time watching food being cooked on television than we spend actually cooking it.  We are so incredibly blessed as a nation but I can’t help but feel we have sacrificed the tastiest of creature comforts to conform to the latest designer fare.

May each of you have a Merry Christmas filled with peace, joy and at least a few dishes your grandmother would recognize.

4 thoughts on “Not your Granny’s Xmas

  1. I think we started to battle the extra pounds WHEN processed foods emerged. If we all still ate the way of our grandparents (and got as much exercise as they did just in their day-to-day lives), we would be better off – and slimmer. I’m OK with quinoa (I actually like it), but not tofu… bleh. And, don’t get me started on all the individual dietary needs of dinner guests.

  2. I agree with everything that you wrote. Sadly the acid reflux hits home with me and the blood sugar issues. But I think that we are losing some of the magic that was the holidays. I feel like there is more pressure than ever to make sure and have something that everyone would eat. I remember my Grandma not asking what we wanted to eat, she was cooking what she wanted and we could eat or not. It was always wonderful. Fresh veggies out of the garden. And you are right, there wasn’t a lot of those spices for me growing up either. If we could have skipped the processed foods – that were created to make our lives easier and more lazy – we would have come out a whole lot better. Merry Christmas Emily!

  3. We have fried chicken for our Christmas dinner. Many moons ago we were supposed to be at my parents’ house for Christmas dinner. Jay had fever, so we didn’t dare go. Husband searched for a store that was open and found a chicken at Jr. Food Mart. Jay and Rusty wanted fried chicken and creamed potatoes (that’s what I grew up calling them, not mashed potatoes), and that’s what we had. Several other sides have since been added, but basically we stick to the above; and I fry the chicken in the same electric skillet I’ve had for 51 years. Funny what a little fever can do!

  4. Jenny, why does tht not surprise me! Knowing Jay’s passion for southern cooking, fried chicken sounds like the perfect Christmas dinner., I need a lesson on how to fry!

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