My late grandmother was an amazing cook. All of her sisters were; they learned from their expert mother. They grew up on a farm, making home-cooked fare like fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls, and pie. She had a garden every year and canned additional goodies. I’d pay many times the price of a meal at a high-end restaurant to belly up to the folding tables set up inside the bank at one more family reunion. I’d even pay $100 for one of grandma’s cherry pies–there would be no sharing.
Luckily grandma taught my mother how to cook, and she taught me. None of us are as good as grandma, but I’ve insisted my kids learn to cook. It’s almost a lost art as many kids today aren’t learning how to cook from scratch. But my girls know how to make homemade bread. That’s the one thing I learned how to make directly from grandma. I had the foresight years ago to realize someday I’d wish I’d had her teach me – I’m sure glad I did. I remember carefully writing down each step she showed me–setting the yeast, the art of kneading. But when it came time, I asked grandma how much flour to add. I’ll never forget the puzzled look on her face or her response “enough”. I carefully measured and wrote down every cup I put in until she showed me what the consistency should be and then I knew to stop. I still measure. I’ve always been in awe at the mastery it took for her to produce such amazing foods without a recipe. She had done it so long and was so skilled that she just knew. Many of the cooks of her generation never measured. Yet today, many people think baking cookies involves dough in a tube.
Grandma also lived through the Depression. I’ll never forget helping clean out her basement when it was time for them to move to town. It was so full of stuff there was barely a walking path through it. The single image that stuck with me was the bag of faded plastic flowers which wouldn’t have sold at a garage sale for a nickel. Like many in her generation, she knew the value of a dollar, having known what it was like to struggle for enough to survive. Her childhood memoirs wrote of no toys and having exactly two dresses, one for school and one for church. But her childhood also contained good memories, playing in the fields with her brothers and sisters, with pranks and much laughter.
‘Enough’ characterizes my grandmother well. She knew what so many today, spoiled in our disposable and convenience generation, do not–how to survive with enough. How to stretch a dollar. how to work hard to provide for your family’s daily needs. And how to enjoy your family and the simple things in life when you have little else.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never, never have enough.” –Oprah Winfrey