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Food for Thought

Yes, I realize that my post title is rather cliche but it also suits my topic.

Hello, I’m Bryonna Nobles, the newest member of the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Blog Group.  To say I’m a little nervous, this being my first post and all, is an understatement.

I honestly had no idea what I would talk about today.  Not until I was at work and one of the ladies there told me about how she’d made a cookbook.  Her daughter had been asking her for years to take all the recipes in her head and make a cookbook of them.  So two years ago, she did, giving it to her daughter for Christmas.

As she described how her daughter began to cry, tears came to my own eyes.  I know exactly how her daughter felt.

My Nana passed away unexpectedly in November of 2010.  While we readied for her funeral, my aunt handed me her recipe box.  This old fashioned wood one that had definitely seen better days.  As I opened up the box I knew so well from baking with my grandmother, I fingered through the stained index cards, picking one out every now and again.  I’d smile at the memories and I’d cry knowing we’d never have that time together again.

Nana taught me all I know about cooking.  I remember as though it were yesterday, dragging my little footstool up to the counter, cracking eggs into a saucer and watching her pick out the shell bits that inevitably joined the egg whites in the bowl before she pitched the contents into her Sunbeam mixer.

These are memories I shall always cherish.  Missing her like crazy, the day after her funeral I drug out her recipe box and I took out each card, one by one, and I typed them up on my computer.  It took me nearly a week, typing obsessively, but I wrote out each and every recipe into a cookbook.

That Christmas, I gave everyone in my family a copy of Cooking with Nana, some cried but all appreciated it.  No one wanted to lose those recipes we’d all grown up with.

What’s more, every time I came across a recipe that held a special memory, I wrote out that memory, sharing it with my family.  They, in turn, shared their memories with me and we spent Christmas with Nana, even if she wasn’t with us.

One such memory involved Nana’s favorite pound cake.  When I was a child, we always got to open one gift on Christmas Eve.  I was 2 and my mother gave me a set of dolls.  Papa, never a ceremonial man, just stood up, saying, “We’re giving out Christmas presents?  Alright.”  He then proceeded to go down into the basement where his office was.

A few minutes later, he returned with a large, unwrapped box still in its K-mart bag.

Before she even got it open, my two year old self looked up and said, “Oh Nana!  You got a mixer.  Let’s go bake a cake!”  My dolls forgotten on the floor, I toddled off into her kitchen.  And we did bake that impromptu pound cake.

I told my Aunt Reen, Nana’s older sister, this story at Nana’s funeral.  This made her laugh.  She said, “You know, its funny, Paula (Nana) always said that it’d be me having my kids cookin’ at 2.”  She then told me a story about my grandmother, I never knew.

Nana’s favorite desert is banana pudding.  Real, old fashioned banana pudding.  Not that box stuff.

Having been raised by her older sister, my Aunt Reen, she was very upset when Reen got married and moved away from the farm.  Whenever Reen would come to visit, Nana would have everything she needed for Aunt Reen to make Banana Pudding.

Well one day, Reen called to tell Nana she was coming to visit.  “Good, I have all the stuff so you can make me banana pudding,” Nana had said.  I’m guessing she was about eight years old at this time.

Aunt Reen replied, “Paula, I’m not going to make you banana pudding today.  I’m going to teach you how to make it so you don’t always have to wait for my visitin’.”

“I can’t do that!” Nana exclaimed.  “I can’t separate eggs!”  As though this was the most impossible task ever set before her in her life.

But Aunt Reen was true to her word.  When she got to the house, she sat at the kitchen table and talked Nana through the steps of making Banana Pudding.  It came out perfectly.

“Reen,” Nana said as she sat down to her plate of pudding.  “You’re goin’ to have your kids cookin’ by the time they’re 2!”

Isn’t it amazing how one little thing like a recipe, a certain food, even the smell of a certain meal can bring up so many memories?  And these are just a couple of mine.

What about you?  What foods bring certain memories to mind?  I’d love you to share them.

Oh, and in honor of my grandmother, allow me to share with you, her Pound Cake and her Banana Pudding Recipe.  I hope you enjoy them.

Nana’s Pound Cake

3 cups sugar
1 cup Crisco
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
6 large eggs
1/2 pint whipped cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Sift flour 3 times.  Mix sugar and Crisco together.  Mix eggs one at a time into mixture.  Alternate flour and whipped cream.  Add vanilla.  Cook at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes in tube pan.  Do not preheat oven.

Nana’s Favorite Banana Pudding

3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Vanilla Wafers
6 ripe bananas, sliced


Mix together all ingredients but vanilla wafers.  Cook on stove top until pudding thickens.  About 5 minutes.  Take vanilla wafers and line the bottom and sides of baking dish.  Pour in pudding mixture.  Float more wafers in pudding if desired.  Top with meringue.

Preheat oven at 425 and bake about 5 minutes.

Meringue for Banana Pudding

3 egg whites
¼ cup sugar

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Add ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Bake at 425 degrees about 5 minutes.

Mary Preston - March 2, 2012 - 3:07 am

Whenever I think of my Mother I think of her delicious Port Wine Trifle. It’s so easy to make, but I never have. That is something she makes for me when I visit.

Sandra Elzie - March 2, 2012 - 6:44 am

Welcome aboard! We’re glad to have you join us. Your debut article with us is so touching….I love it.

I also had one of those grandmothers…but she taught me to sew on a Singer, treddle machine. She also taught me about reading the Bible every day and how to be a devoted wife for almost 60 years. I think of her often…and miss her.

Marilyn Baron - March 2, 2012 - 8:16 am

You hit a home run with your first post. My mother is a great cook and one of my favorite dishes is her challah egg and cheese souffle which I make a lot for company. It’s one of the dishes in our Petit Fours and Hot Tamales cookbook. You need to get a copy of that. Unfortunately, I never learned how to sew like Sandy. Great post. Welcome to the Petit Fours.

Sally Kilpatrick - March 2, 2012 - 10:42 am

Bryonna, what great idea. I wish I knew my granny’s recipes. I even tried to learn once, but she was a no-nonsense lady who didn’t have time for writing down her recipes. By the time I came along, she was well “set in her ways,” and I don’t think she could have explained to me how to make biscuits if she’d wanted to. She tried one day, but her hands moved in a blur scooping and mixing and using cups without measurements until it “felt right.”

I’ll tell you what, though. I’m going to cling to the hope that there will be more tea cakes and biscuits when I meet her in heaven some day.

Sia Huff - March 2, 2012 - 11:29 am

Welcome and wonderful first blog.
I have my Mother’s recipe box, so I understand what your Nana’s means to you. To see her handwriting and remember the fun I had learning from her. What a great gift you gave to your family and what a great honor you do to your Nana. I’m glad you have all those memories.
My favorite food memories are of Easter & New Years. We always served Greek food. Traditional lamb, roasted potatoes and spanakopita. And a certain way to color and break the eggs with family gathered close. Great times to remember.

Sia Huff - March 2, 2012 - 11:30 am

Also thanks for the recipes. I look forward to trying to make them. :)

Tami Brothers - March 2, 2012 - 11:43 am

Hey Bryonna!What a terrific story. I lvoe how you guys made something so positive out of a sad situation. That in itself says a lot about your family.

Thank you so much for sharing your Nana’s recipe. I am definitely adding this one to my own recipe folder.

Hugs! And welcome to the PF&HT crew!!!

Tami 8)

Susan Carlisle - March 2, 2012 - 12:19 pm

Welcome to the group. We are so glad to have you with us. I love the idea of your grandmother’s recipes. I have the recipes of my great grandmother. Some are the great old ones that you can’t find anymore.
I’ve written a memior about my great uncle that I plan to give the family. Great post.

Pam Asberry - March 2, 2012 - 12:19 pm

Welcome to the PFHT, Bryonna! I am THRILLED to have you on board and LOVE your debut post. Every holiday has food memories attached to it; both my grandmothers were fabulous cooks as is my mother, and I learned much from all of them. This year I would like to put together a cookbook of family recipes; after reading your post I am more inspired than ever. Thank you for sharing your memories AND your yummy recipes. I wonder if you could substitute butter for the Crisco in the pound cake recipe?

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - March 2, 2012 - 1:05 pm

Excellent first post, Bryonna! I could so relate as I grew up next door to my mother’s mama, my Granny and often cooked with her.

Like Sandy, I was taught to sew, by both my mama and Granny. One memory I have connected to the treddle Singer is when Granny’s legs would tire of making that machine go and I’d get down in the floor and make it work for her using my hands, starting and stopping at her command.

I recently came into a box of Mama and Granny’s recipes. Both of them are gone from this world now, but cherished memories of them live on in those family recipes.

Romily Bernard - March 2, 2012 - 1:09 pm

Welcome, Bryonna!! What a touching first post!! Also…who else is hungry now?

I’m really looking forward to what you’ll write next :D

Linsey Lanier - March 2, 2012 - 1:40 pm

You made me cry, Bryonna. Pretty good for the first time out. :) Yes, I’m hungry, Romily. And nostalgic at the same time.

What a sweet thing to do to create a cookbook for your family. A lot of people talk about that, few actually get around to doing it. My mother could make some mean Swedish meatballs, but never passed me the recipe. She did pass on her meticulous sewing techniques (which I’ve passed on to hubby, since I don’t like to sew any more.) :)

Nancy Northcott - March 2, 2012 - 3:11 pm

Bryonna, what a great idea that cookbook is! My mom made fabulous marshmallow cream fudge. Although the recipe is basically the one on the marshmallow cream jar, I can’t replicate it. The evil soft ball stage defeats me every time.

I do have my mom’s recipe for vegetable soup, but I never thought to ask my dad for his slaw recipe or my aunt for her ambrosia one. Now it’s too late, alas.

Darcy Crowder - March 2, 2012 - 5:14 pm

Hi Bryonna! Great post. And welcome to petit fours and hot tamales. :)

This reminds me of the recipe book my MIL gave me. She’d written down a favorite family recipe from multiple generations of family members and a little snippit of what each of them were like and how she remembered them. It’s quite a treasure and was a wonderful way to help me “connect” to family members already gone but not forgotten by the family I was marrying into.

Maxine - March 2, 2012 - 5:54 pm

Hi Bryonna and welcome! It’s great to have you as a PF&HT. What a great post, and it brought back so many memories of my mother’s wonderful cooking.

I have her hand-written recipe for cornbread dressing – so moist and delicious. My sister and I both make it and at the reunion each August, at least one cousin will ask us to point out “Aunt Wilma’s Dressing.” I don’t think I’ve ever exactly replicated it, but most of the time, it is really good.

Thanks for your recipes. They are going in my box “from Bryonna’s Nana.”

Debbie Kaufman - March 2, 2012 - 7:43 pm

Yum, Bryonna! Welcome to Petit Fours. Love the idea of making a family cookbook. We have one recipe passed down through a couple generations now, but we’ve never documented others. Might need to rethink that now that I’ve read your post. Thanks for sharing your memories of your Nana with us!

Bryonna Nobles - March 3, 2012 - 7:48 am

Hi guys. I’m not ignoring you, I promise. Thank you all for such touching posts. I’m in New Orleans right now for the Fantasy on the Bayou conference and I’m afraid I’ve just been so busy yesterday there was no way for me to get on! Sorry about that.

I’ve been reading through your comments and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I was worried but I figured if I had these kinds of memories, you would as well.

Now I’ve read through every one of your comments, smiling at each one.

Mary Preston, that Trifle sounds amazing. I hope you’ll share that recipe.

Sandra, thank you for your welcome and sharing about your grandmother. Grandmothers are very special beings. My friend, Mary Beth, always says that no one wants to be a parent but EVERYONE wants to be a grandparent. lol

Marilyn Baron, that challah egg and cheese souffle sounds interesting. *looks embarrassed* I don’t know what Challah is. Like you though, I like serving guests my grandmother recipe. I go to New Jersey every year for a family reunion with my mother-in-law and I plan on taking Nana’s recipe box and cooking them some traditional down home cooking Georgia style.

Oh Sally, your comment made me sad. With my other grandmother, she died when I was 6 and I never got any of her recipes. So I know how you feel. :( I like the positive spin you have with it but it still makes me sad.

Sia, you and I are going to have to get together and exchange recipes. I adore Greek food. I decided I was Greek in another life. lol Mother even says she had to have my baby formula shipped in special from Greece when I was a baby because I could only handle goat’s milk.

Susan, that memoir sounds interesting. It makes me very curious about your uncle. Humm… will likely have questions when next we meet. But I think preserving memories as well as recipes for one’s family is always a good idea and always worth the effort.

Pam Asberry, DO IT. Make the recipe book and give me a copy! ;) And I haven’t tried to substitute the Crisco yet but I’m willing to bet you can. This recipe was simply written when Crisco was huge at the time.

Carol, I’m so glad you have those memories with your grandmother. And that you got that recipe box. Thank you for sharing.

Bryonna Nobles - March 3, 2012 - 7:58 am

Fearing there’s a limit so how much I can type in a comment box, let us start again, shall we?

Thank you, Romily. Oh no, did I set the bar high? Well, just a hint for the next blog post. I AM in New Orleans right now. lol ;)

Linsey, love that you passed sewing onto your husband. That made me laugh. If it had been any other time, I probably wouldn’t have made that book either. But I was hurting so badly with her dead and kept thumbing through those recipe cards with her handwriting and food stains on them, I just started writing it and didn’t quit until it was done.

Oh, Nancy that’s sad. But I’ll tell you this. If those recipes were really good, their friends or other relatives might have it. Ask around. Nana had a recipe for Milky Way Cake that was amazing. She use to make it every year for Christmas but stopped after my Papa died. The Christmas after she died, she was suppose to teach me to make it because the recipe is so hard. She never got to. But I’ll just keep trying until I get it right.

Darcy, that was a sweet thing your MIL did. When my husband and I married, my MIL’s family gave me a family recipe book as well. Mailed it down from Pennsylvania. I treasure it as much as I do my Nana’s because I know that the people in it, even if I didn’t know them, were so well loved by the people who created that book.

Aww, thank you Maxine. We do a big Thanksgiving Reunion with my family every year and I make Nana’s three traditional dishes. Every time I walk in with her Broccoli-Cheese casserole people start crying, saying they never thought they’d have it again. For a little while its like she’s back. I’ve had to start making two.

Debbie, do it. Its a lot better to write down the recipe and have it than wait and never be able to attain it. So I hope you will.

Bryonna Nobles - March 3, 2012 - 8:00 am

You guys, I found all your comments touching. Thank you for sharing. Those of you talking about a cookbook for your family, just do it. Its worth the effort though I’ll say I printed my at home. Save yourself the hassle. Pay Staples to do it instead. Trust me.

I hope you’ll come back, share your recipes and let me know if you do those cookbooks or not.

Thank you all for commenting and especially thank you to those of you who shared your memories. I’m all teary now and I need to get ready for breakfast before the conference begins.

Dianna Love - March 4, 2012 - 4:51 pm

Welcome Bryonna (sorry I wasnt’ here the other day to say hello). Love the post. Very sweet and so nice to share those awesome recipes!

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