Beet Juice Stains and Grainy Fudge – Life Lessons From Grandma’s Kitchen
I ran across a touching recording on StoryCorps.org today about the life lessons one woman learned from her Grandmother in the kitchen, and I think it may be the best Mother’s Day tribute I’ve ever heard. One day, Chloe Longfellow touched her grandmother’s favorite cookbook and accidentally stained the page with beet juice. Her Grandmother’s reaction is a lesson in kindness, generosity, and love that still resonates with her granddaughter.
Chloe was devastated at the thought of having ruined Grandma’s favorite cookbook. Lovingly, Grandma Doris dipped her own hand in beet juice, and made a second handprint on the opposite page of the cookbook so that the book would show the two handprints, with thumbs touching. This tender and sincere teaching moment taught Chloe something important about the power of a grandmother’s love, about mending mistakes, and about the priceless value of time spent in the kitchen with her Grandma.
“It’s really surprising the amount of life lessons you can learn in the kitchen if you have the right teacher,” Chloe asserts.
Here’s the story, and it’s worth three minutes to listen:
Hearing this brief, but touching account has reminded me of all of the life lessons I’ve learned in my mother’s and grandmothers’ kitchens. I remember a disastrous batch of fudge I made on a Sunday evening when I was a 10-year-old. Sundays were my family’s favorite “together” time, and Mom and Dad often gathered us in the living room, built a fire in the fireplace, and we’d just spend time together playing games, eating popcorn, or watching a slide show of photos from past family vacations. My grandparents lived 8 hours away in Meridian, Idaho, and because we only saw them a couple of times a year, this Sunday was a special occasion–elevated in importance simply because they were there. Wanting to do something to make the evening extra special, I asked if I could make a batch of fudge, which was a rare treat.
Mom’s candy thermometer was only marginally trustworthy, so she had taught me how to pour a small amount of fudge into a cup of cold water and test it by hand to make sure it had cooked to the right consistency–soft ball in this case. I thought I’d done everything right, but the fudge “went to sugar,” meaning, that the fudge was grainy instead of smooth and creamy like fudge should be. It wasn’t fit to eat, much less enjoy, and I was distraught because not only had I ruined the treat for the evening, but I’d also disappointed my Mom, who was bothered that I had not followed the instructions she’d carefully taught me. Not only that, I had wasted some expensive ingredients. I’m sure I must have reacted badly, because I remember Grandma Tanner taking me aside quietly, drying my tears, and then showing me that if I carefully added some additional liquid, and washed down the crystals from the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush, the fudge could be re-cooked and rescued. What I remember about that event isn’t how to save a ruined batch of fudge. If I had to repeat Grandma’s process, I don’t think I’d remember enough of the details to be able to do it. What I do remember is that she found a moment to help a distraught 10-year-old salvage something “irreparable.” I think it helped me to understand that with knowledge and patience, many mistakes you thought were catastrophic can be amended. Maybe even some of the very worst ones.
One of the difficulties with repenting for mistakes or asking for forgiveness is the fear that the person we have harmed is so upset by our actions that they will never be able to hear us out as we apologize. When the mistake requires forgiveness from God, it can feel even more hopeless.
“The power of sin is great. To become free from it, we must turn to our Heavenly Father, pray in faith, and act as He asks us to. Satan may try to convince us that we are not worthy to pray—that our Father in Heaven is so displeased with us that He will never hear our prayers. This is a lie. Our Father in Heaven is always ready to help if we will come to Him with a repentant heart. He has the power to heal us and to help us triumph over sin.” (Source: lds.org, “Repentance”)
My Grandma Tanner understood that. Chloe’s Grandma Doris Louise Rollison understood it too. Ruined cookbook pages can be transformed into priceless heirlooms. Some simple kitchen chemistry and the knowledge of how to use it can return a destroyed batch of fudge to its original and perfect state. In each case, Grandma had wisdom and knowledge and knew how to apply it. How much more likely is it that God himself is able to help us amend and repair mistakes when our own grandmothers are so good at it?
P.S. If you need your own advice on how to rescue a batch of ruined fudge, here are instructions from Cate at GirlCooksWorld.com
If you would like a way to capture more of the important stories you and your grandmother share, Grandma’s Storybook: Wit, Wisdom, and Words of Advice will give you a great starting place.