Manolo's Food Blog Manolo Loves the Food!

May 25, 2008


Filed under: American Food,Wine — Mr. Henry @ 10:54 am

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food entreats us to not eat anything our grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food. But just what did Mr. Henry’s grandmothers eat?

Was your grandmother exotic, bohemian, or fresh off the boat? Or, like Ensign Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, was she “as corny as Kansas in August, as normal as blueberry pie?” (Did she look like Kelli O’Hara, too?)


Sadly, Mr. Henry has no recipes from either of his grandmothers. Grandmother Eunice used to say: “If you don’t learn how to cook, you won’t have to.” Armored with this impregnable Irish logic, she lived a life blissfully unperturbed by dishpans. (But she danced a terrific Charleston.)meissen.jpg

German Grandmother Mae baked a marvelous potatoes au gratin. She was admired for roasts, puddings, and especially for wilted lettuce salad made with a warm vinaigrette of red wine vinegar and bacon bits.

At Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, in a notable departure from Mother Henry’s rules, Mae served the children a small glass of white grape juice spiked with white wine. Giggle fits arrived soon after. Cautioned to steer clear of the Meissen figurine, children were excused from the table so they could play on the carpet and wrinkle their Sunday clothes.

In her spirited blog, Casey Ellis tells of finding her grandmother’s recipe book written sometime before 1918. It is a captivating story of how a woman’s personality survives through her kitchen notebook, a moving testament to the way identity and food are inextricably bound.

Regarding his preference for the dessert spoon, Bronwyn derides Mr. Henry for renouncing the humble teaspoon. Don’t fret, Bronwyn. The Henry household is not wanting for spoons.

Grandmother Mae’s wedding silver service presents a remarkable picture of the 19th century table. In addition to two sets of 12 teaspoons, there are 12 cream soup, bouillon, dessert, iced tea, and coffee spoons. Just for show, there are 12 gilt silver demi-tasse spoons, too.

Dear readers, please don’t tell Mr. Henry’s siblings that he snagged the silver service. At the ancestral Henry manor, silver candlesticks remain up for grabs.


  1. Thank-you so much, Mr. Henry. Come on over and I’ll bake you my grandmother’s chocolate cake.

    Comment by Casey — May 25, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  2. Ahh, very interesting concept. I have never considered matching up my eating habits to that of my grandparents. I wonder what they would say if we discussed it? I do try to eat healthy and avoid the blatantly bad stuff…but i’m certainly not without my certain indulgances.

    CW Guy
    Wine Gifts

    Comment by CW Guy — May 27, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  3. In one silver service my mother gave me, I have 16 teaspoons. For years I thought they were just overkill, until I volunteered to serve coffee and tea to my neighbors when we had condo association meetings in our unit.

    I thanked her every time I used them.

    Comment by Phyllis — May 27, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  4. I had never considered matching my food habits to that of my grandparents either, but then, my paternal grandparents were too poor and had too many children to be at all adventurous, and my maternal grandmother’s heyday was the 1950s and 1960s; she made some rather hideous things involving canned vegetables and/or Jello that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Not exactly the ideal of unprocessed food.
    Our only “family” recipe is for meatballs rolled in rice and cooked in tomato sauce, but nothing about the recipe is particularly unique to our family.

    Comment by JaneC — May 27, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

  5. I’m finding that the older I’m getting, the more I’m craving the stuff my fresh-off-the-boat German grandmother used to make.

    Homemade apple strudel to die for, spaetzle, dumpfknodle (I think that’s how it is spelled), warm potato salad, and all sorts of other German goodies bring back fond memories of a grandma whose cooking meant love.

    Comment by Glinda — May 30, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

  6. I never met my maternal grandmother, nor know what she cooked. She died when my mother was still a little girl.

    My paternal grandmother was a wonderful woman and a lousy cook. She grew up in a small mining town where they held a contest every year to see who could make a Cornish pastie that wouldn’t break when tossed down a short mine shaft. The family scuttlebut was that Granny won every year because hers bounced!

    At her table I was subjected to hideous, loathesome desecrations of what were once perfectly good meats, vegetables, and potatoes. Everything was boiled, roasted, or fried until reduced to either mush or the elemental carbon from which it sprang.

    But there are two things she did in her kitchen that made up for shoe leather masquerading as roast beef and sludge of green beans: her preserves and fruit cobblers were miraculous. I’ve never had a jar of jelly as good as the ones that came from her kitchen. I would kill to be able to make such fabulous cobbler. She’s been gone for the better part of twenty years, and I still dream of her berry cobblers.

    God help me, though, if I ever attempt to eat anything bearing the slightest resemblance to anything else she cooked!

    Maybe I’ll stick with food that would have been recognized by Mr. Twiste’s maternal grandmother…the one who died in the bombing of Nagasaki. It may not be my background, but I love Japanese food. I miss Mr. Twistie’s mother’s home made sushi. Mmmm…sushi.

    Oh, and Glinda, I’m coming over to your house for spaetzle! What? I’ve got some German background, too, you know!

    Comment by Twistie — June 3, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

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