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Jan 27

BACK IN THE DAY: Granny liked to hot up her guests coffee –

Hendersonville Times-News

Of her many old-time expressions, one of my favorites was Grannys smiling offer to hot upher guestscoffee at the dinner table.Afterfolks walked a mile through the forestto the Bear Mountain home place on cold, wintry Sundays,steaming cups ofcoffee wereparticularly welcomed.Oftenchilled to the bone,theyappreciated the warmth of the wood cookstovethat heated the wholeroom. Then theygathered round herwhite-linen-coveredtablein anticipation of ahot, home-cookedmeal.

Grannys wintertime, company menu included her signature main dish, chicken and dumplings. From the can house, shedbrought jars of green beans, corn,and pickled beets. She kept cabbagesfor fryingthatwerepreserved upside down in the field.Fresh turnips and greens somehow held on for a while in cold weather, too.They were always tasty with hot cornbread crumbled in the pot likker.

On the secluded mountain farm, having company was a treat for Granny,soshe was a very attentive hostess. Few modern waitresses could surpass her awareness of a half-full coffee cupat the far endof thetable of ten guests.Carefullybalancing the still-perking percolator withpotholders, she wentfromone side of the table to the otherasking, Can I hotup your coffee for you?Folks indicated their appreciation by moving their cup and saucera littlecloser as she came by.

This routine happenedoftenduring long Sunday dinners at Grannys house.And they were long because she and Grandpa were known for encouraging guests to eat several helpings ofher good country cooking.Older people still tell me about their memoriesof Grandpas Appalachian-Englishinvitation, Now youall eat. Theres a-plenty more biscuits cominout of the oven.

Recallinghard times,oneof Grandpas sayings was, Even if all I have is cabbage and cornbread, I want all I can eat of whatever I have. Strongly disliking modern ways of serving smaller amounts of several differentfoods, he derided such as a little bit of this, a little bit of thatand not much of nothing. He instructed Granny to always haveextraon the stoveandin the oven.

In those days,mountainpeopleearned their livingfrommanual labor. Farmers, loggers, and railroad workers didnt need too much encouragement to pile their plates highatSunday dinners. Besides, theyd already walkeda milethrough the woodsinfreezing weather.Thathike in itself helped work up an appetite.

Alifelong(and rather endearing) personality trait of Grannys was never being quite sure her best was good enough.For daysafter company left,shewouldinvariablyworry that shed added too much salt to the beans, or reckon that cherry cobbler was doughy in the middle?Since mostguestshad eatenmultipleservingsof chicken and dumplings, their enjoymentshould have beenobvious. But IstillrememberGrannyexpressingdoubts, They must not have liked it, they only ate three helpings.

Now that I am a carb-conscious older lady in the 21stcentury, I enjoy reminiscing abouttimeswhen eatingextra helpingsof high-calorie foods pleased and reassured the hostess.Withthatheritage, itis no wonderI dont do wellwithdietsthatadvocateportion control.An appropriateportion seems to be one-thirdto one-halfcup ofdeliciousdumplings or mashed potatoes like Granny made. Iamalwaysamusedatcartonsof whipped topping that indicate 50servingsandstandard-sizedcans of soup meant for 2 meals.

Of course,we modern folksdontreplace crosstieslike Grandpa, nor dowecarry water buckets up steep trails like Granny.Sunday-dinner guestshadlikely cut timber all week, so everybodyrefilledtheirplates without modern-day concerns for calories, carbs, fat content, or cholesterol.

Guestsanticipatedthe moment whenGrannywould servehertallcoconut cake, along withacrustyblackberrycobblerhot fromthe oven.Thedessertcoursecertainly called for another round ofhotting up thecoffee. Finally, when nobody could eat another bite,folksenjoyedsitting aroundGrannystablesippingcoffee. The wood cookstove was still giving off heat even after the cooking fires had died down, and guests caughtup with news about their extended families:

Hows AuntMatildadoin these days?

Shesfeelinright peart the other day when Iwalked over to her house to takeheradried-apple stack cake.

Everybodyconcurred,Thats real good,considerin she just passed 95 last month.

As Granny offered to hot up the coffee again, somebody elsementionedwhat a good funeral Pastor Osteen preached for one of the oldest members of the church. Granny was glad to hear the service went so well;she hadnt been able to attend because of so much snowat the time.

Another guest brought news of CousinAnnabelleand her husband having a newlittlegirl. Granny was tickled to know that life does go on, and that theyd namedthebabyafter Great-GrandmaIrmaLeewho lived at Mountain Page.

Such was the pleasant Sunday-afternoon conversation around the kitchen table in the old dayson Bear Mountain. The menfolk had already wandered into the front room with Grandpa to listen to the battery radio and admire his new .22 rifle.If afternoon sunshine peeked through, they might take it down in the fieldandshoot tin canswhile the ladies helped Granny wash dishes.

With so many hands, the task wouldsoon be finishedsincedishwater was already hot in the woodstove reservoir. Then, the women would admire Grannys latest crocheting projectand compare patterns for newmantlescarves. Grannys favorite was the rather-complicated pineapple design,and she willingly demonstrated how tocount enough stitches for each section.

Everybody wanted to seetheyo-yo bedspread shed worked on for seven years during the Great Depression. The red, green, blue, and white showpiece was displayed only when company came since Granny valued it too highlyfor actualovernightuse.The 2,880hand-made yo-yos always caused oohs and aahs of appreciation from guests.

Gunshots rang across the top of Bear Mountain and laughterwaftedfrom the field as the men competedwith good-natured camaraderie.As was proper intheir era,Granny and the ladies were content sittingbesidethe front-room wood heater discussing crochet patterns.

Living onanisolatedmountain farm, having company wasspecial. Granny and Grandpa enjoyed entertaining guests and wanted to make visits worth the mile-long hike fromthe highway. They need not have worried. Nearly eighty years later,guests and kinfolkstillrememberGrannys tasty home cooking and that she smilinglyofferedto hot up their coffee.

Since Granny was the onlypersonId heard use that old-fashioned term, I checked my copy of a valued, authentic source. TheDictionary of Smoky Mountain Englishwasresearched andcompiled by Dr. Michael B. Montgomery,Professor Emeritusof English and Linguistics atthe University of South Carolina. Born in Knoxville, Dr. Montgomery grew up hearing and appreciating Appalachian English.In his 710-page dictionary, hot up and hotten aredefined as toheat or warm.Granny heard theunique term somewhere in thesemountains, and I was fortunate that she passed it to my generation.

Think about Sunday-afternoon visits at older relatives homes, even if you didnt walk a mile from the nearestroad. Recalldistinctiveold-time sayings, especially those relating to hospitality. Rememberthe joys ofmultiple helpings of home-cookedfood, andthe pleasures ofsipping coffeearound wood fires.

Janie Mae Jones McKinley serves up memories in her column Back in the Day.

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BACK IN THE DAY: Granny liked to hot up her guests coffee -

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