Lessons From My Grandmothers

My Grandma Walter holding me with my Uncle Wayne sitting beside us.

The older I get the more grateful I am for what my grandmothers taught me. I wish I could spend one more day with each of them to ask all the life, history, and family questions I was too young to know would be important later.

Most of the recipes I’ve shared with you were my Grandma Walter’s. I wish I’d made time to write down more of them while she cooked. As my birthday approaches, I remember the times I was on the farm in July. She would ask what I wanted for a birthday cake, and my response was always the same. I wanted her angel food cake with fresh strawberries mashed so they were all syrupy. She also gave me a love of gardening, though my thumb is more brown than green like hers was. I took a sewing class in high school (and still use those skills) because she sewed. From her I learned how women could be quiet, patient, and still possess an indominable strength.

My Grandma Ryan’s grocery store in Ohio, Illinois.

My father’s mother, my Grandma Ryan, possessed a more obvious strength. Widowed young, she raised four sons. With three grown sons, I can’t begin to imagine how daunting and scary that must have been. I wish now I’d asked her how she managed. She remarried, but her second husband died when I was a toddler, leaving her with a general store to run in a town of less than five hundred people. She had breast cancer before I was born and bone cancer as long as I can remember. Through all that, she never complained or thought God was punishing her with these trials. She loved to play cards and would sit with my brother and I playing her current favorite card game. From her I learned to laugh and that a woman could make a life for herself. But the best gift my Grandma Ryan gave me was, making me feel special. As one of only two granddaughters, she made no secret she loved us just a bit more.

A picture of me and my Grandma Ryan when I was two.

No wonder grandparents play such guiding, supportive roles in many of my books. In my most recent release, To Marry a Texas Cowboy, Zane carries a plane full of family baggage. After divorcing, his parents concentrated on their new lives and families. Zane became collateral damage and part of a past they wanted to forget. Who stepped in to fill the void and create the hero I fell in love with the minute he walked on the page as a friend in To Love A Texas Cowboy? His grandparents.

My Grandma Ryan spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, but rarely cooked. Today I’m sharing a recipe she gave me. This one, referred to as “frozen salad,” is easy and great for these hot summer days. Two notes about it. First, while we called it a salad, it could be served as dessert, and second, watch out for brain freeze eating it straight out of the freezer! I prefer to give it a minute or two to thaw some before eating.

Frozen Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 lg. can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ C lemon juice
  • 1 12 oz container Cool Whip (thawed)

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Place in 8 x 8 freezer safe container overnight.

 

Giveaway: To be entered in today’s random drawing for the USA y’all T-shirt and a signed copy of To Marry a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about something you learned from a grandparent or significant older person in your life.

 

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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at www.juliebenson.net.

47 thoughts on “Lessons From My Grandmothers”

  1. Both of my grandmas were so special. My Tennessee grandma was the quilter and my my Pennsylvania grandma made sock monkey dolls. Both canned and froze fruit and vegetables for winter. Both were women of faith. Both were hard workers. They survived during the depression and raised families. I could say so much more, but the thing I really received from them was lots of love.

    denise

    • Denise, sounds like you have tons of great memories of your grandmothers. I spent a lot of time with both grandmothers, but I never asked enough questions. I wish I knew more about their mothers. I wish I’d written recipes and asked amounts while they cooked. It seems when we’re young, we don’t have the wisdom to know what to ask about. Then when we’re old enough to realize how important their skills and the past were, it’s too late. I try to concentrate on what I did ask rather than what I didn’t. I also focus on the impact they made on my life. Thanks for sharing your memories today.

  2. My Grandmother Roy passed away before I was born. My Mom and Aunts shared recipes from my her. I have and make her pumpkin bread. She cross stitched. I have one of her tablecloths. I taught myself to cross stitch. Thank you for the opportunity. God bless you.

    • Debra, how sad that you never got to meet your Grandma Roy, but how wonderful your mom and aunts preserved her legacy. My mom valued and loved my grandmother but never took time or had the patience to sit down with her and write down recipes or learn to do things like hand stitch. I smiled when you said you cross stitch like your Grandma Roy did. I learned to crochet because my Grandma Walter did. I tried to have her teach me to do those lacy doilies crocheted out of thread but as with most things she did, she winged it. I tried to write it down, but I couldn’t keep up with her. Thanks for stopping by today, and stay safe.

    • Maureen, how wonderful that your grandmother taught you to do those things. I canned peaches with my Grandma Walter, but never thought to write down what she did. She also made strawberry jam. That’s another recipe I wish I had. I may have to experiment with some recipes and see what I can create. Thanks for stopping by today and take care.

    • I know what you mean about the carefree times. I loved going to my grandparents’ farm and my Grandma Ryan’s store. My grandma would let us go behind the register and fill a small bag with candy. I used to sort through and pick all the cherry Jolly Ranchers. It was so fun just wandering around her store to look. Then there was the farm. I loved just walking around watching the cows or seeing what the chickens were up. Thanks for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

  3. My grandmother migrated across the border in 1947 at the time of the subcontinent partition, all alone with eight little kids after being abandoned by her husband. She was so strong. She created a new life with next to nothing in her hands and no one by her side, for herself, my father, and my aunts and uncles. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like. She taught me courage and perseverance like no other.

    • Dani, your grandmother was amazing. What an incredible story. I can’t imagine the courage, intelligence, and strength what she did took. Heck, I’m overwhelmed just thinking about the 8 kids without all the rest! Someone needs to tell her story. You should write her biography. I bet we could all learn something from how she dealt with her adversity. Talk about surviving in the face of adversity. Thank you so much for sharing her story!

  4. I make this all the time minus the lemon juice and almond extract. I just put in a bowl. My grandma made this often. Sometimes ill throw in chopped walnuts.

    • Cathy Ann, I love the idea of adding walnut! I think I’ll do that the next time I make it. That would give the salad a little nice crunch. Thanks for stopping by today and suggesting adding walnuts. Take care and stay safe.

  5. I wish I could say I learned a lot from my grandmothers, but I didn’t spend enough time with them after I was ten and our family moved to Texas. I only saw them once a year after that when we would drive back to New York to visit family. When I was a teenager, I quit going on those trips. The only thing I can think of was one used to give me ginger ale when I was sick and the other might be responsible for my ice cream habit. I remember every night, that grandmother would have ice cream before bed even in the middle of winter.

    • Janine, my children had a similar situation to you. One set of grandparents lived in Iowa (we were in Texas) and we were somewhat estranged from my parents. For them, they had other older people from church who served as surrogate grandparents. I regret that they didn’t have the wonderful memories of spending time with grandmothers that I had. (My paternal grandfather died when my dad was a teenager and my maternal grandfather was not the nicest person.) But, like you, they turned out to be great people. Thank you for stopping by today. I’m sorry my post brought up painful memories for you. Take care.

      • It’s hard when you don’t live close by. My memories weren’t really painful, more like absent because I wish I had spent more time with them.

  6. What an amazing tribute to both of your grandmothers. I was very close to both of my grandmothers. My Granny Lucas was the kindest lady, a true saint to ever graced this earth. She was a great cook, an amazing seamstress, she made quilts, clothes, and worked in a sewing factory, and who I went to church with.
    My Granny Douglas was like a 2nd mom to me. She taught me to make homemade chocolate pudding and I made it often. She too sewed and made lots of clothes and quilts.
    Both of my granny’s made homemade quilts some they even made together. I have around 15 of them and I treasure them so much.
    I’ll say both Granny Lucas and Granny Douglas both influenced my life in so many ways. I lost Granny Lucas in 1990 from throat cancer while I was 21 years old, not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. My granny Douglas I lost her in 2018 when I was 49 years old. Like I said, she was a 2nd mom to me. I’ll always be grateful I was so honored to have 2 great women in my life, to help shape it.

    • Tonya, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. My Grandma Walter had the patience of a saint too. She didn’t get mad very often, but when she did, we all took cover. My middle son is named after her. His middle name was her maiden name. What’s funny is, when we named him, of course, we had no idea what his personality would be like, and he reminds me of her in so many ways. He even looks like her side of the family! My Grandma Ryan was feistier. I would say my grandmothers were a bigger influence on me than my mother was. I definitely strove to be more like them. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your memories of your grandmothers.

  7. Oh the lessons learned while watching either of mine cook – and no recipe cards were ever used!! Just throw the ingredients in a pot and then taste!! Thanks for bringing back these wonderful memories!

    • Teresa, your comment made me chuckle. My Grandma Walter was the same way. One time she said to me about something, I can’t remember what now, “And you cook it until it’s done.” I laughed and said, “Give me a ballpark idea, Grandma. Ten minutes, ten hours, ten days?” I admired her ability to just toss ingredients in and have something turn out right. Thanks for sharing and making me smile. Take care and stay safe.

    • Debra, how fun to see how those pieces of history worked! My Grandma Ryan had a cabinet filled with all kinds of little trinkets. I remember the small sets of animals. There used to be sets of three or four animals. Most times a mom and children, I think. Deer, skunks, cats, dogs, you name it. My brother and I would sit in front of it and look at the stuff for hours. When she moved into a senior facility, she gave me the cabinet and the items that had been in it to my brother. Thank you for reminding me of that wonderful memory. Thank you for stopping by. Take care.

    • I’ve never been able to master dumplings. Mine come out mushy. One of my family’s favorite meals is my grandmother’s chicken soup recipe. It’s not like traditional chicken soup. It doesn’t have vegetables, only noodles. It’s served over mashed potatoes. I know it sounds weird, but it’s what I grew up eating. Thanks for stopping by today. Stay safe.

  8. My grandparents taught me that a hot watermelon and a creek are all you need for a good time!

    • Abigail, what a wonderful memory! One of my favorite memories with my Grandma Walter was getting the cattle for milking time. If they didn’t come back on their own, we had to find them. It wasn’t often, but sometimes we had to walk to the spring on their farm. I miss those days. Thanks for stopping by the corral today. Take care.

  9. I was closer to one grandmother than the other. The one attempted to teach me to knit, but it was a lost cause. The other one influenced my life so much. She taught me family was always family, what loyalty was, and a love for children. She taught me about God, how God was the creator of all things, and to be thankful to God. She also taught me to value education. She would tell us to get all the education we could because that was something no one could take away from us. She was a family-oriented godly woman!

    • Karen, your grandmother sounds like an incredibly wise and amazing woman. How blessed you were to have her share her wisdom as a guiding path for you. I don’t think we realize how important and influential grandparents are when we’re young. I think that comes when we start looking back at who we’ve become and realize how they helped shape us. Thank you for sharing your grandmother’s wisdom today. Take care and stay safe.

  10. My grandmother taught me so much, but the one thing she taught me was how to set an elegant table… It’s one thing I learned from her that I still use today.

    • Kathleen, setting an elegant table is a lost art! I wish I had that skill. My Grandma Ryan had all boys, so forget having an elegant table with four males. My Grandma Walter lived on a farm. She was thankful to get the food to the table! If I ever have a fancy dinner or write a scene with one, I know who to go to with questions. Thanks for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

  11. I love your grandmother post and photos. Such a loving tribute which is wonderful. My grandmothers had hard lives and were able to have the strength to continue to bring up their children, one had 6 and the other had 2. Both widowed young. One lives with us for 7 years and was a great cook and baker. I want to say that she taught me her skills but she didn’t and I regret that very much. I do though want to speak to them about their lives and children.

    • Pearl, first of all, my Grandma Walter’s first name was Pearl. My Grandma Ryan’s first name was Goldie. Grandma Ryan wanted me named Goldie Pearl. Pearl is a lovely name which is making a comeback, but can you imagine being named Goldie Pearl?!

      I don’t think my generation realizes what difficult lives our grandmothers had growing up in the depression. So many were widowed young and had four or more children to raise. They didn’t sit around waiting for someone to rescue them or wondering why they were having such a rough time. They did what needed to be done. We could all learn a lot from that. Thanks for stopping by to chat.

  12. My grandmother was a devoted mother and grandmother who had lived through major difficulties and was depressed but lived to give of herself to many in the family. I realized much later when I was a young adult who much suffering she endured. Her gourmet lunches were something special. I learned so much wisdom from her and apply it everyday in my life.

    • Ellie, that’s one thing I remember about my grandmothers, too. They didn’t talk a lot about what they went through and there certainly wasn’t any help for depression then. I never knew my Grandma Ryan’s husband died suddenly in his 40s until years after she died when I found the obituary among her possession. While we still have a ways to go dealing with mental illness we have come a long way from the days of our grandparents. Thanks for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

  13. My grandma was my rock… she showed me that I was stronger than I thought… encouraged me all of the time…

    • Colleen, encouragement and believing in you. What better gift could a grandmother give to her child along with her unconditional love? You were so blessed to have her in your life. Thank you for sharing that today. Take care.

  14. I learned a lot from my maternal grandmother about life and living to the fullest. She also taught me how to do many of the needle-arts and how to cook. I always enjoyed summers spent with her and grandpa on their Colorado farm.

    • Jackie, what a wonderful legacy your grandparents left you with. Thanks for stopping by today and sharing what they meant to you. Take care and stay safe.

  15. My grandmother had to contend with a great deal of adversity but had several careers. A milliner when she was young and still living in Eastern Europe and a camp cook in America. I never was aware of these creative abilities and did not inherit them. It was a difficult when I was young and she never smiled at all. When I grew up I had nightmares about her.

    • Sharon, my grandfather was the one who never smiled and he also yelled a lot. He scared me me entire life. I had trouble understanding why my sweet, patient grandmother married him. How awful that her stern visage gave you nightmares. Take care and thank you for stopping by today.

  16. My paternal grandmother used to make the best cornbread and then she would make some vanilla ice-cream with evaporated milk. She would also knit, crochet , now that is something I never learned, I sure wish I would have paid more attention then. She lived next door to us so we got to see her alot more than my maternal grandmother. Our maternal grandmother lived about 5 hours away with one of my aunts, now she used to bake the Best cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls, of which I don’t know how to bake . Yes, I too would have loved to have asked them both a lot of questions. Your book sounds like a great read and your book cover is stunning. I love the book title, of course I would have to say that since I am from Texas and your book title has Texas on it. Even though I did not marry someone from Texas. Have a great rest of the week and stay safe.

    • Alicia, my Grandma Walter made the best bread and cinnamon rolls, too. But then she had way more patience than I do. I think I admired that most about her. Very rarely did she get upset, and I never remember her yelling at anyone but my grandfather. (And usually he deserved it. The man scared me my entire life and had a temper.)

      Thank you for the kind comments about my book. My publisher, Tule Publishing has blessed me with fabulous covers done by Lee Hyat. You have a great week, too. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your memories.

  17. My paternal grandmother passed away when I was young. My maternal grandmother has been gone a year. She lived a hard life losing her mother at the age of 9. She never got over being bitter. She wasn’t a pleasant person to be around.

    • Caryl, it’s so sad when someone becomes bitter. My mom has always been that way, too. She chooses to be unhappy and makes everyone around her miserable. She blames God for every problem she has and wonders how he can do this to her. Being raised by her, I’ve had to work very hard to reframe my thinking and not fall into that bitter, poor me trap. I’m sorry if my post brought up unpleasant memories. Take care.

  18. My grandmother taught me never to waste anything when cooking or baking, to always scrape the bowls clean.

  19. I loved my grandmother dearly. She died when I was 12 and she was only 58 but our times together were the best! We laughed and she always made me feel special.

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