If You Need A Reason

29 Aug

My grandparents used to throw some amazing parties.

Their beautiful home would be full of people who had come from all over to hang out, swim, eat my grandmother’s food, and drink my grandfather’s extra-strong cocktails.

Nobody threw a party like they did.

And nobody made food like she did. Her fruit dip, daiquiri pie, coleslaw, cornbread stuffing, fried chicken, and rice and beans (to name just a few) were legendary and some of my personal favorites.

There was a certain familiar flavor that seemed to present itself in almost all of her dishes. Maybe it was a flavor that had been cultivated from years of cooking out of the same pots and pans. Or maybe it was something secret that she was adding to keep us all guessing.

I always assumed that she was sprinkling copious amounts of sage in everything but she assured me on one occasion that it was most definitely NOT sage.

Between you and me, I know sage when I taste it.  😉

Her culinary skills didn’t end with food preparation. She had a knack for presentation that had been fine-tuned over many years of entertaining as well.

Unfortunately over the years, as these things usually go, people moved away, friends passed away, and their own health started to fail them.

All too soon, those parties that I had enjoyed so much were over.

We would still get together once a month to reconnect and stuff ourselves silly but it was a much more low key affair that only included immediate family.

No more dressing up or putting out fancy serving dishes. No more afternoons spent peeling and deveining shrimp or slicing green olives to garnish coleslaw and deviled eggs.

It was just us, sitting around a much smaller table. Chatting and eating the uncomplicated food that we all loved off of simple plates that we could just throw into the dishwasher when we were done.

It was far from fancy but it was no less wonderful.

Our last family dinner together was on Father’s Day of last year.

My grandmother was admitted to the hospital for heart surgery two weeks later.

She would never come home.

I stood next to her at her kitchen counter and her stove so many times over the years, watching her cook and bake and arrange things just so.

I cut things and peeled things and stirred things for her so many times, but I never asked her to write any of her recipes down. I never watched her and wrote them down myself. I never asked where they came from.

Were they her Mother’s recipes? From a magazine maybe? Or did she just make them up as she went until something worked?

I would put off asking because she seemed too busy or maybe she looked tired or wasn’t feeling well. I foolishly assumed that there would be a next time so I would just ask her then.

That assumption will be one of the biggest regrets of my life.

My Grandmother passed away last week.

Her death wasn’t at all unexpected but it still stings none the less.

I’ll miss her for the rest of my days. And I’ll probably spend about that long trying to figure out how to recreate those dishes that came so simply to her but were so special to the rest of us.

After a few days of being incredibly sad, I’m finding that the most mundane, everyday things remind me of her.

Some of the strongest and happiest memories that I have of her are tied to food in some way.

She was the one who convinced me to put cream cheese rather than butter on my muffins and banana bread when I was a little girl and I’ve eaten them that way ever since.

I have no doubt that she was somewhere rolling her eyes as I was coming up with this recipe.

She was a purist when it came to banana bread. She’d add walnuts occasionally but that’s about as far as it went.

I’ll admit, it is a bit much.

Especially when you factor in the cream cheese that I’ll no doubt be smearing all over it in memory of her.

But because she used to get to school an hour before the bell rang for dismissal just so she could be the first person in the car circle line every day… and because she would make breakfast to order every morning, even if what you wanted was a hamburger and a milkshake… and because she never let me go to a school production, Christmas pageant, or Halloween party without a beautiful homemade costume… and because she once left a Christmas tree up, fully decorated with presents underneath, until the middle of May for me… and for so many other unforgettable reasons that made her so amazing, how could I not?

Brown Sugar Biscoff Banana Bread/Muffins

In a large bowl, whisk together:

2 cups AP flour

3/4-1 cup brown sugar (depending upon how sweet you like it)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

In a separate bowl, combine:

3 mashed ripe bananas

2 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbsp melted butter (let cool for a bit so it doesn’t scramble your eggs)

1/4 cup yogurt (plain, vanilla, banana – anything)

2 eggs

3-4 tbsp Biscoff (smooth or crunchy)

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Fold in a cup of good quality chocolate, caramel pieces, nuts, or other mix-ins.

I added this:

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 22-25 minutes for muffins, 45-50 minutes for loaf bread.

Let cool before slicing.

 

Although my banana bread is delicious, it’s not the reason for this post. Nor is it to share with you how wonderful my grandmother was.

You certainly don’t need me to remind you that tomorrow is not promised for anyone. Or that the people we love may not be there when we’re finally ready to say what we need them to hear. Or when we’re finally ready to hear the answers to questions we were always too afraid to ask.

But I will say this.

That Father’s Day, we all hugged and said our goodbyes in the kitchen, then we hugged goodbye again on my parents’ patio outside. Our goodbyes tend to linger – that’s just how we do things. For years, my grandmother would always say to me “I’ll see you later hun… come see me some time” as we hugged goodbye.

As she was getting into the backseat of her car so my grandfather could drive her home, I had an overwhelming need to say goodbye to her one more time and to make it really count because this time would be different.

There were a million things I could have and probably should have said to her but at that moment in time, I only needed her to know one thing.

So I leaned into the car, hugged her tight, and told her that I loved her where only she could hear it. It was only for her anyway. She whispered into my ear “I love you too sweetie.. take care” and gave me a kiss.

Those were her last words to me and they were perfect.

How many people get that privilege?

Here’s where I finally get to the point.

I know that saying certain things, even to the people that you’re close to can seem heavy and overwhelming.

But not saying them is a much heavier burden.

So say them. If you can’t do it in person, say them in a letter, on a voice mail, in an email, write them in a birthday card. The way you say them doesn’t matter.

Just say them.

And if you need an icebreaker – or a reason to get together, call those special people soon and tell them to brew some coffee because you’re on your way with the most ridiculously delicious banana bread ever and you’d just hate yourself if you couldn’t share it with them.

Don’t assume there will be a next time. How much time is there, really?

My grandmother was laid to rest today and the only thing left for me to say to her was “I’ll see you later hun, come see me some time”.

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2 Responses to “If You Need A Reason”

  1. Sarah August 30, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I am sorry for your loss. I love your post, at the same time, though. I feel ‘connected’ to your grandmother (and reminded of my own who we lost as well), and can feel what a wonderful person she is. My thoughts are with your family.

    Like

  2. Jane August 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    Beautiful Hun! So sorry for your loss, sending hugs and I will try your bread in honor of your Grandmother ❤

    Like

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