Sunday, June 10, 2007

Grandma Hopkins

Today would have been my Grandma Hopkins' 101st birthday. She lived to be almost 96 and really it feels strange that she did not live longer. I have talked about her a lot on my blog because of the great influence she has had on my life. We had some rough times...I think I shared that as an adult I discovered that some of her criticalness towards me was that we were so alike, I believe she saw things in me that she did not like in herself. I share this because I realize that the way I talk about her at times may seem that I have her raised on a high pedestal. Fear not! It is just impossible to overestimate the value of her influence in my life. So I encourage you Grandmothers reading...God has a plan for you and has always meant for generations of families to live together, help each other and for older women to teach the younger women and children (Titus 2). It is a blessing. You may not see all your rewards this side of Heaven, but you will be rewarded for the love, care and instruction that you give your grandchildren.

Cooking is one of the many ways my Grandma Hopkins influenced my life. She really was a woman ahead of her times in many ways. She knew so much about health and nutrition. I was often her guinea pig for new recipes and ideas, new techniques and interesting foods. She was cooking and using healthy foods that some people are only learning about now and advertising their health benefits as if they were "new discoveries"! She even taught a Wok Cooking class for community schools when they needed an instructor and taught her own style of "Western Wok Cooking". I remember helping her run her mimeograph machine and collating and stapling together copies of her recipes and handouts! LOL Wow! What she could have done with a computer. If you took one of her classes, you definitely would not have left empty handed. I have a stack 6" deep of her handouts that I want to go through and scan and save.

The good thing about Grandmas is that they don't have to worry about all the things that parents do. They are free to hang out, experiment and do things that parents would probably nix because of the mess, time restraints etc. One of the first things I remember learning how to cook at Grandma's was homemade tomato soup. We also made "French Toast Turkey Sandwiches" which was one of my favorites. Basically it is a turkey sandwhich dipped in egg and milk (not really French cinnamon and vanilla) and fried. I have since modified it to do the bread that way and add the turkey meat after. This is my favorite Thanksgiving leftover...sounds weird, but it tastes great!

Grandma always made interesting things with her raspberries, which she grew in her large garden. We made smoothie style protein drinks back in the early I said, things that people think are "new" now. It was fun to grind grain in her small mill and I loved making her beet bread which was modified from a recipe in The Ten Talents Cookbook, a 7th Day Adventist cookbook with healthy and vegetarian foods. Beet bread doesn't taste anything like beets and has the loveliest raspberry colored dough. A lot of people were afraid to try it but I liked it. She made large batches and shared with everyone. We even made bread in tin cans and experimented with shapes.

I might have shared once that Grandma would say that she had a "surprise" for us and us kids would get excited because most Grandma's would have surprises that were toys or candy or something like that. Not my Grandma. Her surprises would be things like, "Guess what? I got this fabulous new tool that will make the garden much easier to weed." GROAN! Just what every kid wants to hear, right? Well, one of these "surprises" was that she decided to build an outdoor brick/concrete block oven. She often had these ideas. She would get very excited and all into something, full boar. Sometimes they were good ideas and sometimes not. When they flopped, she would call those "Holly's Folly"! Every once in awhile I will find myself saying, "I thought this would be a good thing when I bought it, but I think it's really a 'Holly's Folly'"! The apple doesn't fall far from the tree! Or like my Mom says, "We're all becoming Mother!" LOL

Anyway, we had fun with this outdoor oven/stove that was really a homemade BBQ that burned wood. She bought me and probably my cousins a copy of Roughing It Easy which was a big hit in the 1970s. I still have mine somewhere. From the book we learned how to cook a lot of things in tin cans, tin foil and other homemade from recycled materials, cooking devices. We used it in Girl Scouts too.

There were some of Grandma's cooking experiments that were pretty disgusting, especially as she got older and would leave things in the fridge far too long. Those were the times that I would say, "Oh I'm sorry, I just ate on the way here" or "I'm on a diet!" Usually I was a good sport and at least tried.

Some people are born teachers and she came out of the womb as a teacher. She was the oldest of four children and I'm sure she was a bossy big sister! :o) My Aunts probably wouldn't appreciate me saying that. However, as the mother of three children and as someone so close in personality to my Grandmother, I'm pretty sure I can say that with certainty! LOL I didn't inherit all of her teaching genes, but I did inherit her love of learning. Yes, I was born a "nerd". I have never walked in step with the time and I've always had my nose in a book. Early on I became an avid notetaker. Children do, afterall, learn by example. Grandma would watch an information show about cooking or new ideas and she would take reams of notes. She would often order books to add to her extensive library after watching shows because she never lost that desire to learn new things. I have often said that if Martha Stewart had been on during my Grandma's days of watching the television, she would have filled bookshelves with reams of notes she took while watching her show. I think in some areas Grandma could have 'out-Martha-ed Martha'! How's that for a word?! And you should see the sermon notes I take...just the same as Grandma.

One nice thing about her being a prolific note taker is that there is so much of her writing to read. She wrote down quotes, ideas for teaching in almost every subject and had a hobby of "collecting names". She wrote those in her notebooks too and she liked to look up their meanings. She did all these things up until about the last year or so of her life. Well, everyone has to slow down at some point in time.

I feel so blessed to have some of her hand written recipe cards and I was able to scan her handwritten cookbook which my Aunt Marilyn owns. I own some of my Grandma's cookbooks too...they are always an adventure to read! She followed the Levitical food laws, so if there were ever any "unclean" foods she would cross them out of the recipe and if some recipe or article caught her attention and got her thinking, she would brain storm there right on the page, filling it up with ideas to improve or add to the recipes and different ways of making it. She always said she was NOT a perfectionist, but an "efficiency expert". It may sound crazy but some of the precious markings in her books are the squiggly pen lines which are where she dozed off with her BIC pen still in hand and it wandered off along the page in haphazzard fashion. They are precious because they are her and they bring such vivid memories.

The pictures above...yes I'm finally getting to the point, but I'm really writing this post for my own benefit anyway...are from Grandma's cooking. The first is a scanned page from her cookbook. It's for the recipe that she used for bread when her children were at home. Marilyn made the bread and she still is a wonderful bread maker. The second is a piece of junkmail envelope. She never wasted anything, having been a young bride in 1930 at the beginning of the depression. She saved all her junk mail, slitting open the envelopes so they lay flat, making a full page of paper and keeping any sheets from letters which had writing only on one side. These were stacked neatly in a little telephone table that sat beside her TV and held her pink dial-up phone. Whenever we wanted to draw as kids...we always knew where to go for paper! "Waste not, want not"! Anyway, this is one of those sheets of paper and it is an example of how she would start reading a cookbook and would write down everything she wanted to make and all their variations. Some things I think she wrote down just because she liked the sound of the name.

I know I'm rambling on with my own memories, but even though I have written much...this is just the tip of the iceberg of what I could write about this fascinating woman. Many years I had to share my birthday celebrations with her, feeling like second fiddle at I wish she was here to celebrate with me every year. I am so thankful to God that He chose her to be my Grandmother and thankful too that I learned to appreciate her before she died and that I absorbed so much of what she wanted to teach and pass on to me. What a jewel she was and there is so much every day with my children that I would love to share with her as she loved children so much and taught for so many years. These things will have to wait until Heaven. In the meantime I will have to be diligent in passing these things down to the next generation.

If I ever catch up this week, I will have to post some pictures from the air show that happened here this weekend. I feel like I will never catch up though! It's been a long time since I've had any knitting to share...sorry, not much knitting in this time and place in my life. I do have some things planned for this summer though and will write about them soon.

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