Let’s think about food and the different foods you associate with certain people. You might smell something cooking and immediately a person’s face comes into your mind. Usually it’s a good memory of someone you love or loved from your past.

My Great Aunt Eunice Emert was a fabulous cook. She could take a dib of this or a dab of that and turn it into a dinner for the gods. The food I most associate with her was her canned tenderloin beef and gravy put over biscuits. I have never to this day tasted anything so good.

My mouth is watering as I write this. She canned the meat and gravy in quart jars. Whenever our family visited when I was a kid, or later when I brought my husband with me for a visit, she’d get jars down off her shelf and fix a meal fit for royalty.

My Grandma Colligan came over with her mother from Liverpool, England, when she was 11. When her mother died, her father, a German sea captain, put her and her brother in an orphanage and went to California. She left the orphanage at 13 and went on to become a Ziegfeld dancer. She met my grandfather on Coney Island where they were both performers. He was a red-headed young man who was Irish to the core.

They married and had six children. I remember when my mom, sister, and I lived with my grandparents while my dad, an Air Force officer, was in Morocco finding us a place to live.

My grandmother would fix spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce had a simple tomato base and the meatballs were Italian. It was so good. I also remember her fixing broccoli. I had never had broccoli in my life, but the first time I tasted it, it was a match made in heaven. It’s my favorite food. Seriously.

My grandma also poached eggs for breakfast. This was Grandpa’s favorite breakfast. I fell in love with poached eggs, too. They had a runny yolk and Grandpa taught me how to dip buttered toast in the egg yolk and eat it down. Makes me want to fix a poached egg right now!

My Grandma Emert would prepare a big country breakfast every morning when we came to visit from wherever Daddy was stationed. He planned his leave during the winter holidays and the summer.

She’d have country ham, sausage & sawmill gravy, scrambled eggs, grits, and homemade biscuits. I fix this breakfast now for the family or sometimes just for Bill and me. She’d always have coffee going and fresh cream from the dairy cows. From the time I was around 5, I’d finish off the coffee others left in their cups. If Mom caught me, she’d tell me it would stunt my growth. I’m 5 feet, 1 inch. She might have been right. I’ve been a coffee drinker all my life.

My mom’s devil’s food cake with 7-minute frosting sprinkled with coconut was my favorite cake in all the world. It still is. She made it from scratch and always made it for my birthday, even when I was in college. She’d make a big sheet cake then, and all the girls on my dorm hall got some cake. My mother’s pot roast was the best. I try to fashion mine after hers.

Our daughter is famous for her casseroles during holiday dinners. The pandemic denied us her casseroles this last holiday season. Our daughter-in-law, Kelly, makes a great pumpkin pie and banana pudding. Our other daughter-in-law, Carrie, makes a great Texas hash brown dish. Heath makes wonderful potato salad and Hayden could start his own pizza business. His pizza is the best I’ve ever tasted anywhere. Hartwell’s baked turkey at Thanksgiving is fantastic, but his specialty is his cranberry sauce made from scratch. He strains some of it through cheesecloth and actually puts it in a can to set so I can have it like I had as a kid.

When I married my husband I had no idea his mother, Evelyn Causby, was such a great cook. The first time I ate at her home she served smoked pork loin, fried green tomatoes, corn fritters, sliced regular home-grown tomatoes, and slaw. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I made such a pig of myself. She looked at me with a wide grin and said, “You surely eat a lot for such a little bitty girl.”

My husband Bill’s specialty of Guinness pie he copied from Ireland is fantastic. It surely beat his pizza with anchovies he made to win me over years ago. I gagged. He married me anyway.

Our daughter put together a cookbook of family recipes for Christmas this year. I cherish it.

Coleen Brooks is a longtime resident of Gordon County who previously wrote for the Calhoun Times as a columnist. She retired as the director and lead instructor for the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Adult Education Department in 2013. She can be reached at coleenbrooks1947@gmail.com.

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