I've been thinking a lot about my grandpa and grandma lately. I've been struck by how so many things in life circle back around. My grandparents were farmers who moved here from the Georgia hills to find a better life and to provide for their ever-growing family of 10 kids.
My grandma was an excellent cook. My mom says that she never understood how lucky she was to have such beautifully, but simply prepared meals from her mom's tiny kitchen. My grandma would make fresh biscuits every morning, and my mom would often leave the house without one, which she now regrets! Who can remember a time when freshly baked biscuits were “the norm”? Apparently, they were such a staple in the Nichols household that skipping out on them was no big deal; after all, there would be a fresh batch tomorrow…
These incredibly flakey biscuits were almost "other-worldly". She cut them with a glass that she turned upside down, there were no "fancy culinary tools" at her disposal. And even though they were pretty poor, there was always an abundance of fresh produce. Her green beans were grown in her very own garden, and even though they were overcooked by any “chef’s” standard, but good lord, they were good. Calling it a “garden” seems an understatement. Grandpa & Grandma Nix used to farm almost every square inch of their lot in Farmington on Haynes Street.
Mom says it all seemed like simple food - that there couldn't be anything special about it, but as she grew up, she realized that this wasn't just any food. This was the food dreams are made of.
I remember everything about the way my grandmother cooked. She did so much with so little - the mark of an incredibly talented chef. My grandma never finished elementary school, she never owned a pair of pants, and she never learned to drive a car, but she was one of the greatest influences on my life. My love for food and cooking began at her table, and this is one of my favorite things she ever made - cornmeal gravy,
I hope this dish brings you as much happiness as it brings to me. That's what food, love and family are all about.
1 - 3Tb. bacon grease (use what you need)
2 1/4 cups milk (you might need an additional ¼ cup)
1/2 cup white cornmeal
Salt and Pepper, to taste
In a skillet, Add at least 1 Tb. of bacon grease and toast the cornmeal until golden brown. Wisk in the milk and boil. Make sure the gravy is thin enough too, because it will thicken slightly after it is cooked. Let boil for about 2 minutes (whisk it while it boils). Adjust the seasonings (you might like to add a pinch of cayenne, nutmeg or white pepper). Serve with handmade biscuits, hot from the oven and a fried egg and bacon.
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds