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My Granny, on the Cold War & “Bacon is my downfall”

March 29th, 2009

Last week my grandma informed me that she was going to stop eating. And taking her medicine. And, eventually, living.

Then along came a platter of bacon. And the Cold War.

As my grandma once told The Oregonian newspaper in an interview: “Bacon is my downfall.” They ran the article in the FoodDay section, with a pretty picture of her, and her coconut cake recipe. (See below.)

The girl loves bacon. You can take the girl out of Arkansas but you’re sure as hell not going to get her eating tofu, tempeh and mushrooms and acting like some kind of g.d. vegan what are you nuts? So when she decided to stop eating, one of the aides (smart, smart, smart woman) told her, “You’ll feel better not eating if you have a little something in your stomach to help with the nausea.”

Granny: “Sure!”

Me, silently: They do not pay these people enough money.

So she had some bacon, a little toast, some soup… but the coffee? “The coffee at this place is lousy,” says Granny. I brewed up a fresh pot, weak (the way she likes it) and put it in a thermos. Took it to her with some fancy mugs and a jar of milk (just the way we both like it).

“Blech!” she says, and spits it out. “Same old garbage!”

Ah, shit. At least I tried. The medicine? The aides just put it on her tongue and she complains heartily “they tricked me again.” Later on, I took the kids out for a visit. She gave them many words of wisdom. First and foremost: “You both need to watch ‘Gone with the Wind.’ Not now, you’re too young. But by the time you graduate from high school.”

(Then to me, privately: “It is the only true depiction of slavery.” Me: “Yeah, that’s what I heard.”)

We decided to stroll down the hall to see what what happening in the social club/dining hall. Bibs. Drooling. One lady clutching her baby doll.

My granny, whispering in stage whisper, “Look at ’em, poor things — they’re a mess! Did you see that one with a doll? First time I saw her I cried!”

Me: “You don’t need a doll, you got these two here.” (I gestured with my thumb to the kids.)

Granny: “Ha ha ha ha ha! Yep, that’s true!”

They were playing that Perry Como and Betty Hutton song, “A Bushel and a Peck.”

I love that song, it’s cute. I love all the old-timey stuff. The kids were being little angels, naturally. Sitting there next to Grandma, checking everyone out. Did not complain or say, “I wanna go hooooooooome…” even once.

Then the cruise director marches in, turns off the song which, hello, was only halfway through. Harshed my mellow.

“Do you know about the Cold War?” I’m thinking, look at ’em. They’re a mess. They don’t even know where they left their teeth.

“Russia! Versus the United States! Both countries had nuclear weapons and they agreed to not use them!”

The custodian walked by at this point, sweeping up crumbs from breakfast.

“Say,” Granny says to him, conspiratorial. “You know what she’s talking about? The Cold War?”

Custodian stops sweeping, gazes at the cruise director, “Yep. Yep, she is.”

Granny: “Well, I don’t think that’s very cheery, do you?”

Custodian, laughing: “No I don’t, ma’am.”

Grandma, elbowing me: “Tell her I have a comment to make.” I raise my hand.


Granny, loudly, in her stage voice: “I am dying soon.”

(Pauses for full effect. There is none. The kids had already heard the whole spiel five, six times by now.)

“…and when I get to Heaven, the first thing I am going to do is find my husband. And the second thing I’m going to do is find President Truman and thank him for dropping that bomb.”

Cruise Director laughs uproariously. “On JAPAN!” she says.

“Yes,” Granny says, “They dropped it on Japan.”

(Me, apologizing in my head to the Japanese.) (There is no one Japanese in the room, just old white people in bibs.)

“And I said thank God, President Truman, because my husband was in the Air Force and then I got him back. We were married almost sixty years and it is all because of that bomb.”

Looks at me and the kids, “I’m ready to leave now.” So we wheel on out.

When they say you’re supposed to be writing down all those memories from the old-timers, before they go… is this what they mean?

First get a coconut from the store. (Don’t buy one unless you can shake it and hear the milk inside.) Take scissors or a screwdriver. There are three little eyes at the end of the coconut. Make a hole in it with the scissors or screwdriver. Make a hole and drain the milk out.

Then hit it with a hammer and get the shell off. Take a knife, gouge down in there and get all the pieces of coconut and get them out of the shell. Get all the brown off. You can grate it – that’s how Mama used to do it, but it’s hard on your fingers. I run it through the blender – that flakes the coconut up. Or if you got a food processor you can run it through that. Then I add a couple of tablespoons of sugar on the coconut to sweeten it up.

(You can freeze the coconut, too – it freezes well.)

Then, get a Betty Crocker white cake mix. For the liquid in there – I think it calls for milk – use part coconut milk. Save part of the coconut milk for the frosting. Use egg whites, not whole eggs, or else you’ll have a yellow cake.

You put the oven on 350 degrees. Put your cake in there to bake. It takes about 35 minutes or something like that. It will tell you on the box.

You take one of your pans, a small one, you put a cup of sugar, and pour some coconut milk over the sugar. Cook it until you put a spoon in there and it will kind of clump. Then you have three egg whites, beaten pretty stiff, in the mixer. Turn the mixer on high. As it’s mixing, pour the sugar and coconut milk mixture over the egg whites. It should be pretty thick by then.

Ice your cake with that, then sprinkle coconut all over the top of the cake. That’s it.

That’s it!

No, wait. One more recipe, since we’re feeling a little coco-nutty over here. Did I mention that we have a VW micro-bus parked in front of our house? With a couple of hippies and all their gear living inside? Damn.

(This one is also from my Grandma, of course.)

1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix ingredients, rolls into balls and flatten with a glass dipped into flour. (Add a little milk if dough is too dry.) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.




  1. Anne says

    That aide is brilliant.
    How good that you are there, that the Wacky kids are there with your granny. There is nothing more important.
    You made me remember this story:
    My friend took care of her very sick grandma for years. She was her only known living relative. Grandma was bed-ridden and her only pleasure in life was really thick milkshakes. Some silly doctor told my friend to stop giving them to Grandma because she needed to bring her cholesterol down. My friend laughed and ignored the doctor.

    March 29th, 2009 | #

  2. WackyMummy says

    My thoughts are with you and your grandma. She sounds like a fighter. :)

    March 30th, 2009 | #

  3. LIB says

    “When they say you’re supposed to be writing down all those memories from the old-timers, before they go… is this what they mean?” Yes, that’s what they mean.

    How good that you are involved in her life still. And, how good that WG & WB are too.

    March 30th, 2009 | #

  4. Nan says

    I have been trying to remember how the rest of that song went for YEARS!

    April 1st, 2009 | #

  5. WackyMommy says

    Nan, glad to be of assistance hahaha.

    April 1st, 2009 | #

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