My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein was an amazing cook. The food she made wasn’t fancy, and in fact I suppose it was what would be called “comfort food” these days. Grandma learned to cook as a girl taking care of her dad and brother after her mother left them when she was about ten years old. She loved her dad and brother, and for a while, it was just the three of them. Then her dad remarried, and things changed again. Grandma didn’t talk about that time much, but she endured and grew to be the wonderful woman that we all knew.
There wasn’t much that Grandma couldn’t handle, and when she married Walt Hein, she became a rancher’s wife. They had a big spread out in the country, and she cooked, canned, helped with the animals, gardened, and kept the house. It was work she had trained for since she was a child. She was destined to be the family matriarch, and she was good at her job. Over the years she helped out with grandchildren when their parents worked, and the kids absolutely loved to be at Grandma’s house. Even the grandchildren who lived far away loved to come to visit Grandma and Grandpa.
My husband, Bob Schulenberg went to stay with Grandma and Grandpa just about every year. He helped out around the ranch, and in general, got to have a great time on his “almost like summer camp” visits. And when he was grown, he still liked to go visit his grandparents. When we got married, he wanted to pass that tradition on to his girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, and to me. We loved going for visits, and that is something I miss to this day. Grandma didn’t always like to play cards, like Grandpa did, but she would do it for us. You had to have partners, after all. Grandpa would have played for hours, but Grandma had other things to do, so after a couple of hours, Grandpa would head out to the barn to take a nap, while Grandma and our family did other things around the house. He didn’t want to interfere with the dinner preparations, after all. Grandma always had wonderful things, like real cream, thick and cold, a taste I have never found in a store. Strawberry Rhubarb pie and jelly too. Wonderful home raised beef, and farm fresh eggs. And of course, her canned vegetables and garden-fresh vegetables too. It would have been worth the drive just for Grandma’s good cooking, for sure, and I would sure love to have one of her meals again right now. Today is the 113th anniversary of Grandma Hein’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma. We love and miss you very much. And it looks like Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of Winter, but I guess that no longer matters to you, like it did when you were a kid.
This morning, at my office, my granddaughter, Shai Royce was telling our co-worker, Carrie Beauchamp and me about a friend of hers who made her dinner last night, and just how good it was. They had baked chicken, and apparently it was amazing. Then, she said that the same friend was going to make her homemade Macaroni and Cheese. Well, that got the conversation on food going. I mentioned just how good, homemade Macaroni and Cheese was because it used real cheese, and not the powder or fake cheese. From there, it was a free for all. We talked about our favorite foods….like Lobster Mac and Cheese from Outback Steakhouse or Kentucky Fried Chicken, but for me, none could compare to my Mom’s cooking.
My very favorite food was my mom’s fried chicken. Oh my gosh…Mom made the best fried chicken on this planet. It was so good, that you couldn’t help but overeat. I suppose that in the arena of dieting that is the reality for most of us these days, this wasn’t such a great subject to get on, but it sure brought back the memories of meals at home, when I was a kid…filled with energy, and no need to watch what I ate. I remember so many of the meals at home. Tuna Casserole, made as only my mom could, was always a big hit. I could eat the whole pan of it, if my sisters hadn’t felt the need to eat too. Of course, Mom’s fried chicken could not be topped…not even by Colonel Sanders at KFC, and I do like KFC. Holiday dinners were so good, and we ate so much that all we could do afterward was to lay on the couch to let it settle. Sunday breakfasts were always a special treat. The whole house smelled of bacon and eggs, and our stomachs growled waiting for that moment when we could all sit down to eat. I miss those times. Those were the days when all was well with our world, and we, as kids, still innocently thought it always would be.
Those were the true days of Comfort Food. Days when we could eat anything we wanted, and Mom’s cooking was by far the best. In fact, nobody else’s cooking could compare. Whenever we hear of the word, Comfort Food these days, we immediately think of some frozen dinner that is being advertised, but real Comfort Food…well, that came from our mothers’ kitchens, because there is more to Comfort Food than just the food. There is great comfort in knowing that our parents love us and want to provide for us in the best possible way. The meals they provide are their way of showing just how big their love for us is. Without the love that our mothers, or anyone else who loved us that much, put into each and every meal, there would be no comfort to it. It would just be food.