22 May 2012

My Granny Was a Prepper (or Keppra Ramblings)

My in-laws being here over the weekend to help out while I was in the hospital was great! Mom is SO enthusiastic about life, and her attitude is infectious. No matter how bad you feel, or how freaked out you are (like after discovering you have a seizure disorder), just being around her makes you feel happy and hyper. Which is how I ended up cooking breakfast with Dad while my wife looked on shaking her head and telling me I should lie down. I enjoyed myself though. I baked a coffee cake and scrambled some eggs, while he fried up some bacon. That man was grinning like a fool! I love Mom so dearly. She's such a wonderful, caring person, and a great lady. But she keeps Dad on a healthy diet that I have expressly forbidden Sweetheart from ever so much as mentioning to me. Now don't get me wrong, I let her pare down my portion size and pretty much change my whole way of eating, and I've benefited from it in many ways. But I have made sure she understands that at no point in the future may she ever, EVER, try to feed me turkey bacon or fake sausage. I eat pigs. I love pigs. I'm pretty sure God created pigs just because he knew, in his Holy omniscience, that I would require pigs to make my life complete. Yes, God created pigs so I could enjoy the deliciousness of bacon. And that is the truth.

As he was frying up the bacon, surreptitiously licking bacon grease off his fingers while looking over his shoulders to make sure he didn't get caught, he asked me what to do with the grease. Even in my drug-induced haze (or perhaps because of it) I immediately flashed back to my childhood. In that murky, far distant era, I can remember watching the dinosaurs roam in the yard munching on the ferns as I tried to pour used bacon grease down the sink. That's when Granny smacked me in the back of the head. I'm pretty sure she used a tree trunk, but it might have been a wooden spoon...just a really big wooden spoon. As she, um, used creative terms of endearment (yeah, that's right, it's my memory, so I'll remember it however I want to...besides, most of what she called me was in an archaic Texas-German dialect and no one else would understand) she informed me that bacon grease was only to be thrown out when God told her to do so, or when it was so solid with trash, um, I mean taste (her word) that it could no longer be poured into the can.

I have no idea how I survived childhood. But my weight issues make so much more sense now.

Anyway...

I told him to turn on the disposal, turn the water on as hot as he could get it and pour the stuff down the sink. At that moment, I was hit with a splitting headache. Sweetheart says it's a side of the anti-seizure meds, but I'm pretty sure Granny reached down from Heaven and smacked me with that freakin' tree trunk.

I say all this to say, my Granny was a prepper. Before the term was invented. She was a prepper when prepping was called daily life.

When I was young, my favorite place in the world was my Granny's house. It was a wonderland. I wore down the grass in her front yard playing with my cars. I would sit and watch cartoons with my PaPa, laying on the floor while he sat in his chair at the head of the table. I would explore for hours in the storage rooms, the sheds, the smoke house and the well house. There were treasures everywhere! I couldn't identify much of it back then, but oh how I wish I could step back in time now and snag some of the stuff I saw. There were meat grinders and sausage stuffers and grain mills and corn shuckers and shelf upon shelf of home canned fruits, vegetables, stews, jams and jellies. Oh the jellies! How I miss the jellies. Mama made the most incredible plum jelly and Granny made the best elderberry jelly ever to see the outside of Heaven. I didn't even know you could buy jelly until after they had both passed on.

Granny saved everything. Mama did too, but not so religiously. I remember Granny catching me playing with some aluminum foil one day. She cried. Actually cried. Watching me be so wasteful took her back in time to the hardships of the '30s and '40s. That's when I first started learning how hard life can actually be. And how taking a few common sense steps can prevent said hardship. Granny taught me about survival and prepping without me even knowing it. Unfortunately, I was too goofy and young to understand most of it at the time. And I sure don't remember the recipes and techniques she tried to teach me. But every now and then, as I work the dough for the four loves of bread I make every week, I remember her standing in the kitchen, kneading her bread and throwing pearls of wisdom at me in the hopes I would catch a few.

For Sweetheart's sake, I'll let her know now, Granny is the one who drives you nuts sometimes, not me. She is the one who taught me the things I stick to until you grudgingly give in and admit I'm right. For instance, Granny is the reason I have a kitchen gadget obsession. Not that Granny had too many gadgets. Or even alot of them, actually. No, what Granny taught me is that the right tool make the job easy. Simple. I've driven my poor wife crazy with that mantra over the years, but it's true and that's all there is to it. Unfortunately, my memory is really lousy! So I don't know what tools Granny used until I find them by sheer process of elimination. Which, of course, means that I buy something I have researched and think will work, and if it doesn't, I buy something else. Sometimes I get lucky on the first try. Sometimes, I buy fifteen tools before I find one that works. Goodwill loves me. But I always find the one that works eventually.

And Granny is the one who taught me to never throw anything away. Well, PaPa helped with that one. He was a garbage collector, and a borderline hoarder. Oh how I miss that man! PaPa chewed tobacco. And being a good prepper, he never knew when he might need a chew. So when he took a ball of tobacco out of his cheek, he just sat it aside and saved it. God Bless Him! We were finding balls of tobacco ten years after he passed on. Sweetheart, remember that when you get on to me for not throwing things away. Remember, I could be worse, so count yourself Blessed and give me a little leeway. At least as long as nothing I keep gets too cluttered...or starts growing.

Granny taught me so much. And I forgot most of it. So now, Princess and Little Man and I spend our time happily experimenting in order to rediscover my lost knowledge. Princess proudly told her Grandma how she helps Daddy make biscuits in the morning and how she always helps Daddy when he bakes. She's my taste tester. I don't know if she thinks I'm trying to poison the family, or what, but nothing can be served to the others until she approves of it first. Luckily, she likes pretty much everything I make. She even liked the hardtack I made out of curiosity!

Yep! Granny is the mark I strive to reach. She's the reason I keep my pantry well stocked. She's the reason I have organized my kitchen with the goal of sheer utility and efficiency and not good looks. She's the reason Sweetheart sometimes looks at me and rolls her eyes. I mean, come on! What's wrong with sneaking in a soundproofed chicken house? As long as it's soundproofed, the HOA won't have any complaints. And who hasn't eaten goat bar-b-cue. Ah well, that's what I get for marrying a yankee. But I love her, and to her credit, she goes along with most of my ideas (hey, it's my story, I'll tell it the way I want to!) and keeps me from going too crazy in my quest for self-sufficiency.

Ah, who knows. She might have been right about the cow being a bad idea anyway. After all, even though cows produce such a beautiful ambiance, my crazy neighbors probably would have complained.