CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

February 4, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: Must Be Health Food

Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — What my grandparents ate that did not kill them (must be health food)

All my grandparents lived to a ripe old age, living well into their 80s and 90s. I’ve decided to join the health food craze because of them, so in order to begin my diet, I’ve compiled what they ate. In light of the fact that they enjoyed good health and longevity, obviously their diets must have been healthy, right?

Here is what they ate:

Anything fresh (not very much raw, with the exception of onions and tomatoes, a few carrots and cabbage in slaw).

Vegetables: Green beans, blackeye peas, butter beans, lima beans, okra, squash, turnip/collard/mustard greens, sweet and red potatoes, corn, cabbage, pinto beans, (all the above mentioned either simmered in bacon grease or fat back, and cooked all day long, or in the case of potatoes, drowned in butter, or fried).

Fruit: Watermelons, figs, strawberries, blackberries, plums, peaches, pears, apples and peaches dried on top of a metal barn roof for days at time, flies optional. All the above either eaten fresh, canned, frozen or dried, without preservatives, grown on their own property.

Never knew of any of them eating broccoli, tofu, Brussels Sprouts, soy products, or anything cooked on a grill, nor very much salad ... if you said “salad” they normally thought of poke sallet.

Lard (pure lard), fat back/bacon grease in every vegetable, salted pork (ham, bacon, cured, tasted like shoe leather)

Salted everything, some things twice

More salt

Fried everything

Fresh milk, eggs, butter, buttermilk, homemade cottage cheese

Gravy on everything (specialty of country grandmother, redeye gravy)

Strong coffee (never decaf)

Syrup or Karo, lots of times sorghum syrup, made locally, or honey

Bread at every meal, cornbread twice a day, biscuits everyday

Fried catfish, I don’t know why, but I don’t think they ate fish often

Fried pies, with dried fruit and probably dried flies, and more sugar

Chicken (tons) mostly fried, at least three times a week, freshly killed

Sugar (they were never afraid of it)

Pork, cured, hung in smokehouse for months at a time, scraped off mold when ready to cook

Squash, never in a casserole, always, guess what? Fried!

Okra; ditto

Pork chops, ham, bacon, more salt, at least five times a week, fried

Chocolate gravy (more butter and sugar)

Buttermilk, lots, with cornbread crumbled in a glass

Cokes, not much, they were too busy growing all this stuff to go to the store

Candy, at least three doses a week, every week, for 50-plus years

Boiled custard, rich with a dozen eggs, a gallon of whole milk, a sack of sugar

Sweet tea and coffee, at every meal except breakfast, and in between meals, mostly extra sugar

Loaf bread, only when absolutely necessary

Vitamins; I never knew of the four of them taking any, at least not until over 80 years old

Ice cream, homemade, every chance they got, store bought when homemade not available

Fluoride, city grandparents only, probably not before 1960

Well water, country grandparents, until maybe the mid-70s (sulfur water)

Health food? All the above evidently, as all four lived into their 80s and 90s!

Now for breakfast:

City: 2-4 biscuits, open-face, covered in Karo syrup, topped with large hunks of cold margarine, calories, about a zillion

Country: 2-4 biscuits, depending on how close you sat to the head of the table, crumbled into large coffee mug, filled with hot coffee, milk and lots of sugar. Eaten with gusto!

 Snacks:

 Country: (After school only) cold biscuit and green onions, sometimes with above mentioned salt cured ham, if your teeth were strong enough to chew it. Sometimes, if conditions were right, i.e. Daddy Young was in a good mood, there would be R.C.s and Moon Pies, or Coca-Cola with salted peanuts (poured in bottle). If cotton crop was good, small bag of penny candy, divided by Aunt Ann, into mostly equal portions, serves 5-15, depending on whose parents were on vacation (brand names; Jawbreakers, Good-N-Plenty, Tootsie Roll, M&Ms, Reese’s, Popsicle, Malted Milk Balls, Orange Slices, Hershey bar, Hershey’s Kisses, Licorice, Wriggly’s gum, bubble gum, bubble gum with trading cards as a reward (trading cards were our video games)

City: Ice cream and coke float

Cobbler, fresh or frozen fruit, at least 2x per week (frozen by them, not the Green Giant), pound cake, strawberries, in season, picked and eaten, standing in the garden

Incidentals/extra stuff:

Country: Commodity peanut butter, cheese, Spam, crackers, powdered milk, margarine 

City: Homemade yeast rolls, covered in margarine, eaten until you were sick, only when company came, only after company was served first (or whatever you could sneak past Granny), Cocoa Cola Cake, at Christmas, plum pulp (called jelly by everyone else), fried rabbit with gravy and biscuits

Food Forced on the Unlucky

Fruit cake, ambrosia, turnip greens, brains and eggs (sounds ominous to a child), gizzards (of any animal), frog legs, sulfur water

All-time favorites

boiled custard (available only on major holidays, in limited portions), redeye gravy, biscuits and coffee, hush puppies, soaked in ketchup, fried pies, cobbler, chocolate pie (only Mother’s, made in iron skillet), fudge (only mother’s) recipe on back of Hershey’s Cocoa tin, chicken and dumplings, chicken and dressing, fried catfish (always and only fried), fried chicken, ham, okra, squash, heck, fried anything

 Recipes (if they ever existed) available upon request

    • Medicines: Soda water induced vomiting in case you swallowed something you had no business with in your mouth, or if you complained a lot

    • Liniment: Applied to anything less than a broken bone

    • Gentian violet: (that purple horse medicine) applied if liniment didn’t work

    • Vick’s salve: Runny nose, slathered under nose and on chest, heavily

    • Iodine: Only if none of the above were available

    • Castor oil: When they didn’t know what was wrong with you, all purpose, guaranteed to make you think twice about whining, used with great success as a threat

    • Lye soap: Used to cure bad language, also smart alecky comments, sometimes used to take baths

Things I Thought My Aunt’s Invented

Casseroles: Any kind, I don’t ever remember either of my grandmothers mixing food up like that unless it was for stew, (and that was usually to get rid of leftovers ) until I was in my late teens or early 20s

Sandwiches: With the exception of meat on a cold biscuit, my grandmothers cooked huge meals, there was no reason for anyone to eat a sandwich, I still only eat them as a last resort, (excluding hamburgers, of course, and come to think of it, I don’t think they ate very many of those, either).

Pop-Tarts (wow, fried pies for breakfast, heated in a toaster!)

What became of them?

Edward Lomax Cammack, died of complications of a stroke at home in his bed at the age of 92 (b. Sept. 19,1883-Jan.3,1975). Occupation: pharmacist

Frances Ann McLemore Cammack, died of complications from pneumonia, in 1991, at the age of 92, at the home of her daughter, Jeanette. Occupation: seamstress, store owner, dress shop, homemaker

William Reason Young, died of heart failure in 1987 at the age of 82. Occupation: Farmer, Lawrence County Road Commissioner 1940s, row Crops farmer, cotton, corn, hay

Edna Wren Roberts Young, died of heart failure in 1995 at the age of 89 (after surviving breast cancer in her early 80s). Occupation: Housewife, homemaker, gardener