There are three foods that remind me of my Grandma McKracken (“Granny Kracken”): Spam and Eggs, Vanilla Zingers, and honeysuckle.
I don’t remember Grandma cooking a lot of different things for me and my sister back when the two of us would spend the night with her as kids. About the only meals I remember her cooking for us are spaghetti, meatloaf, and grilled cheese sandwiches — then again, maybe my sister and I were just picky eaters. For breakfast we usually had a bowl of cereal, but if we were lucky (or perhaps unlucky) Granny would make us scrambled eggs with a slice of skillet-fried Spam on the side. I’m pretty sure that’s the only place I ever ate Spam, and I don’t think I’ve had it since the last time I spent the night at my Grandma’s house sometime in the mid 1980s.
In the back of my grandma’s < 1,000 square-foot house was a giant chest freezer consistently filled with bread, frozen pizzas, and snacks from the "day old bread store". The Hostess Outlet will make you a good deal on desserts nearing their expiration date, and my grandma's freezer was always overflowing with every kind of month-old snack you can imagine, from Twinkies and Ding Dongs to Cherry and Apple Pies, Chocolate CupCakes, and those disgusting Sno Balls (chocolate and marshmallow covered in coconut -- yuck!) My favorite though was Vanilla Zingers. My sister and I were allowed to pull snacks right out of the freezer -- as a result, we both learned the art of nibbling away at frozen desserts (frozen Zingers are actually pretty difficult to eat). As frozen Zingers thaw the cake tends to stick to your fingers, which is where I learned to eat Zingers upside-down (I still eat them that way today). Did you know if you eat a frozen Zinger quickly enough you'll end up holding a frozen stick of filling? It's true. Vanilla Zingers have a unique flavor. Nothing else in the world tastes like them, and every time I eat one I think of my grandma's freezer.
My Grandma's over sized yard (which probably seemed bigger than it actually was due to the small size of her house) was surrounded by a chain link fence, much of it covered in vines. Her backyard had dozens of trees and between them and the vines it was easy for my sister and I to pretend we were in a forest, miles away from anybody. There was an old cellar that was home to jars of jelly and spiders, an endless supply of trees that were perfect for climbing, and a ditch full of vines and leaves that made a perfect place to play. Next to the ditch interwoven through the fence was honeysuckle that ran the whole length of the property. Honeysuckle flowers contain nectar. You pop the flowers off, gently pull the stem out from the bottom of the flower, and you get ... well, less than a single drop of nectar. It's delicious, though. My sister and I would sit out there for what seems like hours, eating thousands of those little flowers, one drop at a time.
Last week Susan, the kids and I stopped by the day old bread store to pick up some snacks. I got a pack of vanilla Zingers. With each bite, I thought about Granny Kracken.
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