Arts & Culture

Readers Shared Memories of Their Southern Grandmas, and Honestly We Wish We’d Met Them

Fearless chefs, expert anglers, gardening gurus, and other extraordinary matriarchs

Photo: courtesy of cj lotz diego

In a recent Talk of the South newsletter, we asked readers to share their favorite memories of their Southern grandmothers. Read just a handful of the many touching responses below:

My grandmother loved to fish from the bank. Instead of her standard prim and proper wear, she wore culottes and a pair of old dress shoes. She would not touch a worm or the fish, but she sure could catch them. When the game warden pulled up in a boat, she would throw her rod and reel in the bushes and run. —John H. 

My grandmother, Sammie Catherine Parker Bagwell, was gifted with healing talents and delivered most of the babies in her community in North Alabama. She also was a teetotaler, but she would make a wonderful cough syrup with honey, lemon, and my grandpa’s homemade whiskey. So, as curious children, we were plagued with coughs. A lot. —Theresa L. 

While watching her make cobbler, I asked, “Grandma, does everyone in the world love peaches?” “Honey, Jesus Christ loves peaches.” —Julie F.

photo: courtesy of emily daily

Saturday night, early baths, and Mom Mom’s fried chicken for Gunsmoke. Followed by homemade crullers. My brother and sister always remember this when we’re together. Mom Mom always said, “James Arness could park his boots under my bed any time!” —Mike M. 

I loved following behind her in her garden. She didn’t know I was behind her most of the time and she was always talking to herself! I became a gardener because of her. She always had on an apron with seeds in the pockets and a hoe to cover the seeds. She was so special to me, and when I am in my garden she is always on my mind. —Kathy C. 

photo: courtesy of cj lotz diego

She would wait for a coconut to fall from the tree in her yard, smash it on the sidewalk, and then make a fresh coconut cake with lemon-meringue filling. Heavenly! —Sherry T. 

My maternal grandmother kept a small pen with chickens in her backyard. She loved fresh food and fresh meat. She would walk down the back steps, grab a chicken, and lay his head on a step. Instantly, it seemed, the head was off, the feathers plucked and singed. That bird was on the plate in thirty minutes. I’ve never had chicken that good again in my life. —Rhonda H. 

She was totally blind, kept a spotless house, cooked all the meals, and spent the afternoons in her porch swing. —Nancy M. 

My grandmother lived in the Mississippi Delta. When I visited, I loved how she would prepare for breakfast our placemats at the kitchen countertop the night before. She would have a plate for each of us, with a cereal or oatmeal bowl turned upside-down on the plate, a glass for juice, a glass for milk, a cup, and a saucer when we were old enough for coffee. The utensils were carefully wrapped in a napkin and placed next to each service. She did this every night. When I woke up the next morning, I loved to simply sit at my place, and breakfast was served. I can still see it, smell it, to this day. What a beautiful woman my grandmother was. —Rance S. 

Whenever we left Granny’s house in the country to drive home, she’d say, “Watch out for those nuts comin’ out those side roads.” (And this tip coming from someone who did not drive.) —Mart M.

photo: courtesy of Emily Daily

When I was a tween in the ’60s, Mimi would take us to the beauty salon to get our hair done. Then we would go enjoy chicken croquettes and sweet tea at the Butterfly Room at Battelstein’s in River Oaks, Houston, Texas. She did her best to make me into a proper Southern lady, but unbeknownst to either of us at the time, I had other plans! —Barbara L.

Tasting her homemade blackberry wine in the basement. Couldn’t have seconds because we had to be able to get back up the stairs! What I wouldn’t give for another taste with her. —Marilyn T. 

My Mimi would take me shopping in downtown New Orleans. We would both be dressed to the nines, have lunch at the Holmes cafeteria, and head home with a half-pound of nonpareils in a paper bag from the Maison Blanche candy counter. Breakfast with my Maman in Bay St. Louis was the best—cafe au lait (mostly hot milk with just a splash of coffee), pain perdu made from stale French bread, and fresh Creole cream cheese from the local bakery. I am so blessed to have such wonderful recollections of both of my grandmothers. —Wendy D.

photo: courtesy of Elizabeth Florio

Old Gold Straights, card games, and drinking beer from a jelly glass. —Kathleen M. 

Arriving at her house on Sunday before church and the platter of fried chicken was sitting there for you to have for breakfast—hot, crunchy, and just waiting for her granddaughters. Coke floats in the cold, metal cups in different colors—the ones your lips would freeze against. —Amanda R. 

As a young child, I remember standing in the front garden of my grandmother’s Uptown New Orleans home and realizing how beautiful she was in a crisp cotton pink blouse and matching lipstick. She always had incredible style. —Lynn W. 

I had two Southern grandmas: One elegant with her embroidered house coats, tea sets, china birds, and chinoiserie. The other who taught me to grow a garden, bait my own hook, and use colorful adjectives in the right situations. I loved them both so very much. —Jessica L.  

photo: courtesy of cj lotz diego

My great-grandmother took me fishing with a cane pole and a bobber. She made dough balls, I thought they were for us to eat. Nope, they were the bait. —Becky B.

My sweet grandmother in Greenwood, South Carolina, had a tall, skinny bottom kitchen cabinet that she stacked high with Jell-O flavors and let me choose any one I wanted! A different one for every day. —Jennifer S. 

My grandmother had two favorite expressions concerning family calamities, depending on the gravity of the situation at hand: “We shall rise above it!” or “Lord help us to get right!” —Jeff F. 

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