On April 28 of this year, my father’s mother, Catherine Griswold, died after 90 years on this earth, leaving a legacy that included 9 children (7 having survived her), 21 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren. Several years ago, I wrote about my grandmother in my journal. It was part of a rediscovery of myself, my family, my inheritance, through words — words that were “first thoughts,” personal and unpolished. In her memory, I share these words now:
Grandma Kay, aka Catherine Griswold, my dad’s mom, had nine children — five boys and four girls. What comes to mind about Grandma Kay is that she is quiet and kind. And fair. With more than twenty grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren thrown in for good measure, she would have to be. Fair, that is. I remember her saying once a long time ago, when I was little, that she would not play favorites with any of the grandkids, and if she did have one or two that she liked maybe a bit better than the others, nobody was going to know about it.
Fairness translated into food in large quantities: Make sure you have plenty for everyone, so nobody could say they didn’t get enough to eat or that so-and-so got more of such-and-such than they did. I remember one time sharing a can of Campbells chicken noodle soup with my grandmother, just the two of us at the long table in her long entryway/dining room/kitchen. I don’t know where everyone else was, but that day I had Grandma Kay all to myself. Chicken noodle soup never tasted so good.
But usually that endless table was full of aunts and uncles and cousins — at least when I was there. It would be the holidays — Christmas or Thanksgiving or some other clan gathering — so we were all at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. And because we were all there, we were all eating. There would be the requisite turkey, of course, and huge mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy. But those were footnotes next to the casserole upon casserole dishes of lasagna and green bean casserole and jello salad, and just about any food that fixed up easy in a large casserole dish.
That’s what I learned from Grandma Kay about food and about life: Make sure you have enough for everyone. Don’t play favorites. Get a large enough table to fit everyone.
In subsequent Griswold family gatherings, I’ve noticed a tendency toward delicious dishes with dubious names — e.g. “garbage bread” and “dump cake.” It is rather the kitchen sink approach to cooking — and with wonderful results. Maybe the lesson here is “you can’t judge a book by its cover — or a recipe by its name.
(July 15, 2004)
Grandma Kay’s legacy, obviously, included food. The aptly named Dump Cake (see below) has become a perennial favorite at Belmonte family gatherings. It’s easy to make, delicious warm or cold, and goes with anything. Enjoy.
Butter 13 X 9″ pan
Dump in 1 can cherry pie filling
Dump in 1 can undrained pineapple
Dump in 1 box yellow cake mix
Melt 1 stick butter
Pour over cake mix
Dump on 1/2 package coconut
Dump on 1/2 package chopped walnuts
Do not mix!
Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour
Optional: serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream