Memories of My Great Grandparents

Reprinted from an article I wrote on September 20, 2012

My GG and GG…. They lived healthy lives–no strokes, no Alzheimer’s, no dementia, no heart disease, no cancer…. (I do remember, however, that my Grandma GG’s long-term memory was sharper than her short-term, and she told me lots of stories of her childhood.)
I must also add that my great grandparents were quite thin. I mean, my Grandma GG wore the same clothes in her eighties that she wore when she was in her teens and she did not weigh much over one-hundred pounds. Both of my great grandparents were both spry, active, energetic individuals. My Grandpa GG was born in 1889 in Indiana and died at age 90; my Grandma GG was born in 1894 in Illinois and died at age 91.
I interviewed my dad, my grandpa, and my paternal grandma with regard to memories of my great grandparents, but I remember them well myself. Going to visit GG and GG was a great treat. They spoiled my cousins, brother and sister and me with lots of love, stories of the old days, hugs, and delicious food. In fact, the smell of bacon and coffee always reminds me of being in their home.
Grandma GG was well known for her cooking and butter was especially important to her. Even during the Great Depression, she believed that eating real butter would keep her family healthy. Even during those hard times, they never went without butter. (I might also add that their butter was never refrigerated. I wonder… Does leaving it out all the time help to culture it?)
My great grandparents lived on a ranch in Southern California, where they raised chickens and grew oranges commercially (although the chickens were raised on a relatively small scale). They also had a big garden and raised at least one hog a year. Consequently, they ate a lot of chicken, pork, eggs, oranges, grapefruit, and vegetables.
Breakfast: As far as everyone can remember, Grandma GG served eggs and bacon every morning—with bread. She fried the eggs in bacon grease. They also drank a lot of coffee with either full cream or half and half. It is my recollection that they sipped coffee throughout the day and not just for breakfast. There was a sugar bowl on the table, so I imagine they added sugar to their coffee, as well—at least, occasionally.
Lunch: Sandwiches… My dad and grandparents remember eating only sandwiches for lunch. I imagine they were made with either pork or chicken.
Dinner: My great grandparents had an abundance of chickens, so Grandma GG often prepared fried chicken and potatoes. She fried the chicken in pork lard and her potatoes were bathed in plenty of butter. There was always bread, as well.
Desserts and Snacks: My great grandma had a sweet tooth. When she baked any dessert, she had a habit of adding a little extra sugar and butter “to make it richer.” Chocolate fudge, persimmon cookies, and angel food cake were a few of her specialties. She and Grandpa GG ate little hard candies throughout the day. I remember eating those little Brach’s candies in mint, cinnamon, butterscotch, coffee, and fruit flavors.

There were nuts too, sitting in a bowl on the living room coffee table. My dad, grandpa, and great grandpa would sit on the sofa, talking or watching television, cracking nuts, and popping them into their mouths. Another favorite snack was popcorn, with lots of butter, of course. Grandma GG loved chocolate. She used to set out a bowl of semisweet chocolate chips for everyone to nibble on. Daddy recalls that she liked milk chocolate. I also remember See’s candies at their house and how my siblings, cousins, and I were allowed to choose one or two from the large assorted box–a great treat.

All these memories add up to a list of common denominators in my great grandparents’ diet: lots of butter, pork, chicken, lard, sugar, hard candies, citrus fruits, coffee with cream, and vegetables. Despite the apparent indulgences in their diet, my great grandparents remained thin and strong on this so-called “unhealthy” diet.
P.S. I’ll add to this blog as I learn more about memories of my great grandparents from other friends and family. Maybe I’ll even get some recipes and post them here. (In fact, I have my Grandma GG’s persimmon recipe somewhere….)
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