My Paternal Grandmother and I had a great relationship. We laughed, we played, we created, we cuddled, we swam, we laughed some more, we ate, we talked and we baked. What sticks out most to me was time we spent In My Grandmother’s Kitchen*.
Most people remember my Grandmother’s famous Christmas Cookies. Her soft, buttery homemade cookies shaped like Christmas trees, stars and other whimsical designs kissed with colorful sprinkles. What I remember most however is her Peanut Brittle. That delightfully sweet and crunchy Peanut Brittle. I’ve been obsessively thinking about her peanut brittle for months.
I planned on making my Grandmother’s Peanut Brittle for most of the year. I kept putting it off and reminiscing instead. I’d go to the grocery store, look at the ingredients and continue on with my shopping.
When my Grandmother passed away in October, I told myself I had to make her peanut brittle, but grief called me to the couch during my spare time. I finally made the decision the month after her Celebration of Life service. I purchase the peanuts first and contemplated what sugar I would use since I do not cook with white sugar, and much to my son’s chagrin, I don’t even keep it in the house. On a separate shopping trip, I decided on cane sugar.
The weekend I decided to make the peanut brittle ended up being filled with grief. I had very little energy, watched television and didn’t even want to leave the house. I cried often, wrote in my journal and thought I’d give in to spending two days on the couch. Sunday afternoon after my online church service, I felt a powerful feeling well up inside of me. I stood up, walked into the kitchen, and began the process.
I pulled out all the ingredients and started to take pictures. I cried so much I frequently visited the bathroom to blow my nose and wash my hands, over and over again. I saw a friend call and I contemplated not picking up the phone, but I did anyway and chatted. I felt overwhelmed with emotions and started to feel agitated. I knew I needed to focus. I finally told her I was going to finish the brittle and politely ended the conversation.
After we got off the phone I chopped and laid out the peanuts, then poured the sugar into my stockpot. Even though my Grandmother’s recipe clearly said to use a frying pan, I hadn’t washed mine from the morning’s breakfast so I decided to use what was clean.
I poured in the sugar and felt nervousness rise as I wondered if cane sugar would melt similarly to granulated white sugar. I watched and stirred with no results. Finally, after about five minutes, I saw a sticky brown appear at the bottom of the pot. I stirred, walked away and returned with my camera to take a picture of the melting goodness. I grabbed my phone and took a brief video. I smiled as I watched the sugar melt into a sticky brown syrup.
I turned off the pot and carried it over to the peanuts, then poured the syrup over them. I felt the smile on my face widen, the happiness in my heart and realized that I had stopped crying. The sorrow dissipated and I felt pure joy. I tried to spread the melted sugar, however I realized a wooden spoon wouldn’t do it. “No wonder my Grandmother used a rubber spatula” I thought to myself. I decided that even though the sugar syrup did not cover all the peanuts, I would like it cool as it was on the pan.
I chopped a few too many peanuts, but instead of putting them back into the container, I sprinkled them on top. I admired the pan of peanut brittle with a wide brimmed smile. I quickly took pictures and put the warm brittle into the fridge.
From sorrow to joy, this is what making My Grandmother’s Peanut Brittle brought me through. As I reflect on the beautiful childhood memories I shared with my Grandmother, I smiled. It was these moments that I lived fully, freely as a child deserves, in that beautiful small kitchen on Kathy Ellen Drive in Vallejo Ca.
I love you Grandma! I miss you! Rest in Peace!
*In My Grandmother’s Kitchen is a recipe-filled memoir I’ve been writing for several years now. Publishing date TBD.