A page a day

Life on California's beautiful Central Coast

Excerpt from tomorrow’s column

I had started to write this column about cooking with lemons the night I learned that my grandmother had passed away. We were very close, so I abandoned what I was doing to grieve and remember her.

My grandmother (my father’s mother, Marion Etling) had many talents, but cooking was not one that would go on the list. She did, however, make a mean cinnamon toast and a mouth-watering root beer float. My brother remembers how she used to cut peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into the shapes of cars for him after school. There were raisins for hubcaps.

She let us eat Cap’n Crunch cereal, which we didn’t get at home because it was too sugary. Cool whip was another thing that was only in her refrigerator .. one question I never asked was why she bought cool whip over whipped cream. And at holidays there was always a tub of sliver-thin Moravian cookies jetting to California all the way from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

One food lesson she taught me was never let anything to go waste. Backyard apples from her fruit tree were sliced and dried on wire racks inside an old station wagon out in the backyard. The rest of the apples were made into applesauce and frozen. I can’t look at a “Hello my name is ..” tag to this day without cracking up, because we used those tags, leftover from her political events, to label the applesauce Tupperware. “HELLO, my name is, APPLESAUCE.”

 As kids my brother loved eating the figs off another tree in her backyard. I hated figs but loved the blackberries, but those bushes didn’t last forever in our California climate .. so she found another friend who grew raspberries and took us there to pick them. We were encouraged to be outside and run around as much as possible. I know it was her desire that the weight issues from her life would never be a part of ours.

When I came back to this column I knew that she wouldn’t want me to let the lemon recipes I’d made to be wasted, so they’re merely presented in a different form than I had planned. A lot of local lemon trees are covered with ripe fruit this year, so here are some ideas about what to do with it. Even though she never had a lemon tree, I’m sure my grandmother would have agreed.

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