Side Dish: Grandmother’s Table

By Cheramie Sonnier

In my mind’s eye, my paternal grandmother is always in her large kitchen with its little green-and-white stove. But I don’t remember watching Grandma Baker cook — except for a delicious cherry pie made with fruit from a tree in her backyard.

My maternal grandmother lived in Denver so we didn’t get to visit her often enough, and then she left us far too early, when I was only about 9. I remember her as a wonderfully warm person, the perfect grandmother. My family treasures her yeast rolls recipe, but, while I know she was a good cook, I don’t recall seeing her make anything. I think my mom and aunts must have done most of the cooking when we visited.

Consequently, I’m quite envious of the grandchildren who contributed stories and heirloom recipes for the cookbook “At My Grandmother’s Table: Heartwarming Stories & Cherished Recipes from the South” by Faye Porter. Many of them recall helping their grandmothers in the kitchen and others talk about favorite dishes made for every family get-together.

The book is beautifully illustrated with full-color photographs of some of the prepared dishes.

It includes recipes from more than 150 Southern women. Some of the recipes are classic, old-fashioned ones while others are more modern and take advantage of convenience products. There are recipes for beverages, breakfast foods, breads, biscuits, appetizers, soups, salads, side and main dishes, pies and cobblers, cakes, cookies and other desserts. Among them are Kentucky-style Southern sweet tea, spoon rolls, cream cheese date nut sandwiches, marinated cucumbers, Grandmommy’s corn pudding, Grammy’s New Orleans shrimp, pumpkin pie and ice cream.

Readers will recognize some recipes as variations on popular recipes that originated with food manufacturers, like the no-bake cookies made with oats and peanut butter or the marshmallow cream fudge. But, each recipe will take the reader to a time and place where Grandma offered love, hugs and a tea cake still warm from the oven.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Advocate-tested recipe

Grandmother Caldwell’s Petite Coffee Cakes

Makes 24 muffins. Recipe is from “At My Grandmother’s Table: Heartwarming Stories & Cherished Recipes from the South” by Faye Porter, who writes, “Mrs. R.W. ‘Ethel’ Caldwell (Lawrenceburg, Tenn.) was known to her grandkids as Grandmother or Mrs. Caldwell. She was a dignified, true Southern lady to whom manners were paramount — that’s why grandson Brian Carden (Nashville, Tenn.) says he only called her Granny once. He recalls, ‘… My mom said Grandmother never used a true recipe, just a dash of this and a little of that. No matter how she made it, it always was perfect in our eyes. When I graduated college and moved from Knoxville to Nashville, Mom made me a recipe book, and these coffee cakes are one of Grandmother’s best.’ ”

Petite Cakes:

Cooking spray

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsps. ground cinnamon

1 cup pecans, crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 muffin tins with cooking spray.

2. To make the petite cakes, in a large bowl cream together the margarine and sugar. Add the eggs and blend well. Add the flour, then the baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla.

3. Mix well and pour into 24 muffin cups, filling one-half full.

4. To make the topping, combine the brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the muffins before baking. Then sprinkle with the crushed pecans. Bake for 30 minutes or until the center tests done with a toothpick.