Tuesday, May 31, 2011


La June is my grandmother and this month, my family and I plan to cook as many of her dishes from her well-loved cookbook as possible! Here's my story:

A few month back, while weathering one of Oregon's most sunless winters and with a severe case of post-break-up blues, I was moving some boxes I'd been storing in a friend's garage when something tumbled from the box and BAM! hit the concrete floor of the garage. Glass shattered, then something unexpected happened. The heady smell of summer roses floated up, permeating the garage. I knew immediately what I'd broken: an old-fashioned glass bottle of rose water that once belonged to my Grandmother La June. I'd been saving it for a rainy day --- just hadn't realized I would use it up in one BIG WAY on one February afternoon.

Being the somewhat superstitious girl I am, I immediately thought: "Ahhhh, grandma's here... and she's trying to send me a message." Now before you go thinking I'm looney, let me add that I'm a Mormon-- a faith that believes Heaven is always close (in fact right here on earth, just in another dimension...), and that loved ones come back on occassion to help us make it through this crazy life.

Here's a photo of my Gram when she was young.

I knew my Grandmother La June, with her flair for drama, would be especially audacious in her attempts to reach her posterity to and let them know she was watching over them. So I caught myself telling a friend, "I think grandma is here!"

But this is how I remember her!

When alive, it was grandma who always set an extra plate at the table in case an angel wanted to join us. Her communication with the "other side" is well-documented in my family, and though some of my relatives viewed it as bizarre, I counted it as one of her spiritual gifts.

But the day in the garage, her message seemed obvious; here it was: "It's okay, Jenie dear, things break, but life is still full of sweetness! Don't fret!"

In life, gramma was a bit of a mystery to me. A strong and angular Norweigian woman with impeccable taste and an endless supply of talent. I'm the tom-boy grandaughter, more comfortable wearing sneakers, casting around a fishing rod or digging in the dirt, but gramma was the embodiment of feminity (though she did love to garden!) What I inherit was her talent for music, writing and an incurable love of cooking. What got lost somewhere in that passage of DNA was gram's sense of order and her meticulousness in the kitchen. I'm a disaster when I cook!

I'd watched grandmother cook several times. She was not one of those affable grannies who will praise all your attempts at cooking, she had been a professonal chef and knew how things "ought" to be cooked. One time, my job, simple as it sounded, to mash potatoes, had not been up to snuff. I remember her pointing out that I needed to remove those stray potato skins I had left floating brown in that sea of beautiful white spuds.

Well, onto the intent of this blog post.... using the moment of breaking a bottle of rose water as an impetus, I've chosen to invite my gram into my life and kitchen (and the lives of my relatives) this month by opening up her cookbook "Plain and Simple Cooking by La June" and cooking some of her favorite recipes!

1 comment:

John and Laura Holbrook said...

Hello! I loved ready your blog post about your grandma and her splashy way of getting your attention through the broken bottle of rose water. So precious! The salad looks delicious. I cook up memories of my mother sometimes with her recipes.