Granny with great-granddaughter Laina
Our grandmother, Ione Holm or “Granny” to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, was the inspiration for our cookbook. She was such a poignant person in my life that I would often hope I died before her because I didn’t think I could go on living without her. Although she had nine grandchildren, each one of us felt her love as though we were her favorite grandchild. Extended family and friends felt that same love.
She rarely spoke about it to us, but Granny had a hard childhood. Her mother suffered from mental illness and eventually could not care for her four young children. The children had to move to Arkansas to live with an aunt. While living in Arkansas the children went with their aunt to someone else’s home for a meal (I don’t recall if it was a friend or family member–so I’m referring to that person as “someone else”). This someone else was not happy to have the children at her house and treated them that way. She would not allow them to sit with the others to eat the meal. The uncomfortable and dreadful feeling of being at a home where you were not welcome stayed with Granny for the rest of her life and she made sure that everyone who came to her house always felt welcomed and loved.
Granny would express her love through kind words, hugs, listening, food, and her generosity. Everyone was welcome in her house and at her table. Granny would have Sunday dinner at her house for anyone that wanted to come. I think the average was usually 25 people. I can’t imagine cooking for 25 people every Sunday, but this is what Granny lived for. When my cousins, sisters, and I were in our twenties and living on our own, in addition to the Sunday dinners, Granny would cook supper on Thursday nights for anyone who wanted to come. And, ANYONE who happened to stop by her house any day of the week would be treated to lunch, dinner, or cookies with coffee.
Granny lived on the family ranch in the Livermore Hills, which is about a 20 minute drive to the nearest grocery store. In addition to the food she purchased on her weekly trip to town, she kept a well stocked pantry and a freezer stocked with food she preserved or that our grandfather had grown. During the summer she had our grandfather’s large vegetable garden as a resource for fresh fruit and vegetables. She was like a magician in the way she could whip up a huge meal with little notice and without the use of a microwave oven to defrost or heat up food.
Granny passed away on February 12, 1998, just 11 days before her 92nd birthday. She passed from this earth in her sleep, in her beloved home overlooking Cedar Mountain with some of her family members nearby enjoying a meal and each other’s company. She had lived a long life–her body had given out and her passing was a blessing.
The most important thing Granny left us with was the recipe for the love of friends and family. She also left us with many of her recipes for food. When I make her recipes I can remember the love I felt at her house with our siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Now when my sisters, cousins, and I have gatherings, it is doubtful anyone ever leaves feeling hungry or unwelcomed.
Below is the recipe for Granny’s spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti was one of the meals she would serve for Sunday dinner with love.
Granny’s great-granddaughter Laina with love all over her face
Granny’s Spaghetti Sauce
– Makes about 7 cups of sauce
Granny would make her spaghetti sauce in her pressure cooker. She stewed tomatoes she canned herself. Most of us are afraid of pressure cookers and don’t make the time to can our own tomatoes, so we have adjusted her recipe to work for us.
- ½ oz. dried porcini mushrooms (or your preference of mushrooms)
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or salad oil
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2-14.5 oz. cans whole stewed tomatoes
- 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed oregano
- 1 bay leaf
In a small bowl, pour the cup of hot water over the dried mushrooms to rehydrate. Set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, but not brown. In the same skillet, brown the ground beef and drain fat. Stir in the next 6 ingredients. Remove mushrooms from the water and add the water to the sauce. Slice the rehydrated mushrooms into thin slices and add to the sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Continue simmering 30 minutes, removing the lid for the last 15 minutes.
Serve over 1 pound of cooked spaghetti noodles.