When Sharon and I were young, we spent many summers with our maternal grandparents, Granny and Papa, in Panama City, Florida. We loved going to their house for a lot of reasons, not least because they had cable television (we never did) and could watch Nickelodeon and such classics as Rugrats, Doug, and Salute Your Shorts. But we particularly enjoyed our visits because our grandparents were like grown up children. My grandmother has a decorative pillow that says, “Grandmothers are just antique little girls.” How true this was.
They took us to Shipwreck Island water park and Miracle Strip amusement park. We went to Saint Andrew’s State Park for picnics and the beach. We went fishing, boating and swimming in their neighbor’s pool. We got ice cream, tried on mom’s wedding dress (every year) and played with her antique Barbies. One year they even took us on the Big Red Boat, a Disney cruise. Life was pretty sweet when we were with Granny and Papa.
Especially the food. Good Southern “soul food,” my Granny calls it. We were good sports when we were kids, we’d eat just about anything mom put in front of us, but at Granny and Papa’s house – we loved everything they made. Of course Papa was a grill master, particularly with ribs and his famous Lemon Chicken. Granny made chicken and dumplings, pot roast, chicken tortilla casserole, fried fish and hushpuppies, southern-style vegetables, cornbread, coconut cake, chocolate pie and our favorite: Dirt Dessert (ground Oreos made the “dirt”), complete with gummy worms.
At Granny and Papa’s we got to drink soda and sweet tea by the gallon and eat potato chips from the bag. It was a food free-for-all for kids who were fed three healthy squares a day and just two cookies in the lunchbox. My poor mother: she worked so hard to give us a balanced diet, just for her parents to spoil us rotten. But that’s what grandparents are for.
By far the greatest delicacy was Granny’s Banana Pudding. An amazing Southern classic, I could have eaten an entire bowl. A few years ago, I asked Granny if she would write down the recipe for me. She pointed to the side of the Nilla Wafers box. Okay, so it’s not an heirloom family recipe, but it’s a wonderful dessert and it will forever remind me of my Granny and Papa and those blissful summers in Florida.