Take Two Tuesdays….Of Angels, Nuns, and Granny

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

 The Holidays are a time for making merry, celebrating what we believe, and practicing our traditions.  Whether that means going Christmas caroling, lighting a Menorah, or playing Mary in the church Nativity scene, we all have some sort of festivities in which to partake this time of year. This is also when many of us remember and honor our loved ones who have passed.

During my family’s annual Christmas party, a group of us were in the kitchen (where else?), talking about my cooking adventures, and someone said to me “your Granny would have been so proud of you…”   I was taken for a moment, but not because I was surprised at all to hear it.  My Granny was proud of all of her children and grandchildren, whether it was for academic achievements, athletic prowess, or just being the tallest kid in class.  She would have been proud of me if I chose to dig ditches for a living, as long as I enjoyed it. But to hear it put into words that she would have been proud of me for this culinary adventure meant a lot.

Anyone that has read my “About Me” page will know that I give much of the credit for my culinary interest to my Granny, Neva Lee Knight Gough, in whose kitchen I spent the majority of my youth.  She was a stunning woman, beautiful both inside and out. She had a constant smile, and this huge, gi-normous laugh.  The kind of laugh that made others laugh to hear it.

She dedicated much time and talent to support fund-raising efforts for the nuns at the Incarnate Word convent–for several generations my family has attended school there. Many of those efforts were kitchen-centric. Each year, the convent would have a “Pounding Party”.  This was not when all the naughty students got clobbered for their misdeeds, although that would have been quite a sight.  This was a “stock the pantry” event, of sorts, for the nuns.  All of the guests would bring bags of sugar, flour, cornmeal, etc, to restock the sisters’ kitchen for the coming year.  I remember her making the bourbon spiked eggnog for this annual Christmas event, and folding in copious amounts of stiffly whipped cream. We Catholics are opposed neither to adult beverages, nor to copious amounts of whipped cream.  We are opposed to giving children booze, however, so as good as it looked, I never got to taste it..

What I remember most is that she always, always cooked with love.  Favorites included Chicken and Dumplings (she did the big, fluffy, drop variety), Vegetable Beef Soup, and Chicken a la King.

In the Fall, the kitchen became a non-stop whirl of baking and candy making, of fruitcake, penuche, divinity, and fudge.  The whole house smelled of cloves, and cinnamon, and caramelized sugar.

If you were sick, she made chicken noodle soup.  And she would prepare your favorite meal on your birthday, your anniversary, or when you brought home a good report card.

My sister, Robbi, loved her homemade macaroni and cheese, with a side of canned beets.  Gross.  Have I mentioned my persistent aversion to beets?

My dad loved Chop-Chop, a recipe that surely came off a can of oriental vegetables in the 1950’s.  It consists of pork chops caramelized in a large pot, and then covered with Chinese vegetables and soy sauce, and simmered until falling apart.  It is one of those comforting dishes, and has become most synonymous with remembering Granny.

I loved her Salmon Patties.  The recipe for Salmonettes was clipped from a Hints From Heloise column a long, long, time ago. It apparently is still requested periodically, and appears to have been circulated again by Heloise in 2008, by request.  I am including a copy of the one that Granny had in her recipe tin….I just love the verbage and tone of this article, written in the days of June Cleaver and Donna Reed.  I think I’ll make some this weekend–as my Granny did, I put in some grated onion, and flatten them into patties.

My Granny was my Pop’s only love, and he was hers.  The picture below was taken when she was 13….13!  There was a garden party at her school, and she didn’t have the right dress to wear, so she fashioned one out of a tablecloth.  Oh, if I could wear a tablecloth like that!

My Beautiful Granny

She looks like a goddess–no wonder my Pop believed her when she told him she was 18, as was he.  I’m not sure if her age made her jail bait back then, but it doesn’t matter–they spent their whole lives together.

Granny and Pop

After serving in the Navy during WWII, he worked as a postman until he retired.  Pop had the voice of an angel.  As a child, he sung in the Boy’s Town Choir.  As an adult, he sung in his church and diocesan choirs and was always humming or singing to himself—“Ave Maria”, “Oh Danny Boy”, “The Lord’s Prayer”…I can’t get through anyone singing these without shedding a few tears.  Like my Granny, he also donated of his time and talent, running the old mimeograph machine for the Church chancery office, and helping out the Incarnate Word Sisters in any way he could.  If angels exist in Heaven, then I know they are both among them, since they were angels here on Earth.

On an old hand written recipe for 7 Minute Frosting, or Angel Frosting,  she had written in the margin “Bob’s favorite”.  It is also one of my favorites, and an excellent foil to a Devil’s Food Cake, or something with fresh berries. It is beautiful, shiny, fluffy, and develops the slightest, and most delicious crust on the outside if you frost your cake a day ahead of time.  Try this with my recipe for Chocolate Cake, The Chocolate Cake

Seven Minute Frosting

 7-Minute Frosting

  • 3 ½  cups sugar
  • 4 T corn syrup
  • ¾  teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring sugar, syrup, salt and water to a boil until candy thermometer reads 242 degrees.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl to a froth.  With the mixer running, pour in hot sugar mixture in a slow stream.  When all has been added, beat on high for 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla or other flavoring and continue beating until a nice spreading consistency is reached.

With Dark Chocolate Cake…

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Categories: BAKING, children, Cupcakes, dessert, Family, Food, Gourmet, Holiday, humor, recipes, Texas, writing


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21 Comments on “Take Two Tuesdays….Of Angels, Nuns, and Granny”

  1. 2012/12/25 at 1:51 am #

    Your grandma was a beautiful lady. In both spirit and looks!

  2. 2012/12/25 at 7:55 am #

    What a lovely family story!

  3. 2012/12/25 at 8:52 am #

    What a wonderful story to read on Christmas morning! Your grandmother was, indeed, a stunner. Thank you for sharing her today.

  4. 2012/12/25 at 9:45 am #

    What a wonderful tribute to your grandparents. Wish I had known them. You aren’t kidding when you say she didn’t look 13. 25 maybe. Merry Christmas.

  5. Lance
    2012/12/26 at 5:30 pm #

    Great article! I noted your dislike of beets, I don’t like them canned either. Yuck! However, they taste altogether different if you buy them raw and roast them in the oven, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper.

    • 2012/12/27 at 4:48 pm #

      I have had them that way too….Much more edible, but still taste of dirt to me. I am trying, though…Lordy am I trying.

  6. 2012/12/26 at 7:39 pm #

    What a pleasure it is to sit down and reminisce with you…even if the memories don’t belong to me! Happy Christmas!

  7. 2012/12/27 at 10:41 am #

    Ahh, family memories, told with love. Thank you for sharing this one.

  8. 2012/12/27 at 11:20 am #

    wonderful family photo!

  9. 2012/12/27 at 11:34 am #

    Your grandma was gorgeous! I love reading stories about the lives of people, especially women. Your story was a real treat to read!

  10. 2012/12/28 at 8:15 am #

    Love this, just wonderful, such great memories!

  11. 2012/12/28 at 11:53 am #

    OMG your grandparents were SUCH lookers! I see where your good looks come from 😉 Also….yum! frosting!

  12. 2012/12/28 at 12:24 pm #

    You look a lot like your Granny! What a wonderful family story…

  13. 2012/12/28 at 4:34 pm #

    Love the family story. Thanks for sharing.

  14. 2012/12/31 at 7:49 am #

    I love how you weave together stories and recipes! And what a lovely tribute to your grandparents!

    • 2012/12/31 at 4:01 pm #

      Thanks…I hope to be able to offer something to everyone….Come for the food, stay for the stories, or the other way around. We watched old family videos a few days ago, on Christmas night…We were looking for ones from when I was a toddler, but found some that I hadn’t seen before. They were from Christmas, 1985, when I was 17. As we were watching them, the shots panned from room to room, my dad chasing us kids down to get shots of us, and everyone else. Suddenly, around one turn, there were my grandparents, talking at the camera, laughing, and later singing Christmas carols. I had thought that I would never hear my granny’s laugh, or my Papa singing ever again. And then they were there. I am sure I wasn’t the only one with tears running down my face, but we had quit looking at eachother when that started. It was wonderful seeing them and hearing them again. It was a really special Christmas surprise.

  15. 2013/01/03 at 3:04 am #

    Wonderful post! And the story of your grandparents is lovely, and she was a lovely woman!

  16. Suzanne Banfield
    2013/01/07 at 2:32 pm #

    Your Granny was a hottie! So, I have never put baking soda in my salmon patties before, but I am going to try it out. I make salmon patties a lot-they are Brett’s favorite. Anyway, I missed this post during the holidays, but it is a lovely story.

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