Lessons from my Grandma
My grandma on my dad’s side died suddenly on Christmas Eve 8 years ago.
Grandma Stewart was already on my mind this year. A couple weeks ago I found a stack of photos in my craft box while looking for some things for Christmas presents. My grandma was a painter. I spent many weekends in her basement studio learning about oil painting, how to mimic the colors and shapes seen in nature and translating them to canvas. She had piles and piles of books and magazines that she used for inspiration as well as photos that she collected from her adventures and drives—old barns and houses, the ocean, desert rocks, clouds. She looked at the things around her in a different way, noticing textures and colors and composition of the landscape.
When I was 15 or 16 I started learning to drive. She took me out in her little red PT Cruiser and we drove around the old North Idaho mining towns and back roads. Sometimes we’d stop to take a picture. Many times we’d talk about the sky and the clouds. I’d never thought about how many colors go into a cloud until she tried to teach me how to paint the sky. Her house was filled with little antiques. Some she inherited but many she picked up from little antique shops. She loved reading old literature, much of it about the Old West. She befriended a stray tom cat and named him after Zane Grey, whose books and movies she loved.
My brother and I were really picky, but she always made us whatever we wanted. Her fridge was always stocked with ice cream, hot fudge and sprinkles so my brother and I could have sundaes (his with extra sprinkles and mine extra maraschino cherries). She made the best apple pie and I finally spent an afternoon with her and learned the secret to her crust. It was Crisco. Though my brother and I hated anything that didn’t come out of the freezer or a blue box, we did love her roasted chicken with country gravy and mashed potatoes.
She was (and still is) an inspiration for me in a variety of ways. Her laughter was infectious and I can still hear it so vividly. She helped me see the world in a different way. She imparted in me a love of history and artifacts. She showed me how food could be such a pure expression of love and caring. And as I think more about what kind of food I want to make, it brings me back to all these characteristics of my Grandma. Appreciating old things, historical artifacts and antiques. Translating beautiful things in nature and presenting them in your own way.
And especially the emotion and caring behind feeding someone you love.