When our grandparents were alive, we frequently spent nights over at their house. During the summer, we would even spend a week or two at a time there. It all depended upon our activity schedule, really. The routine was pretty much always the same. Grandpa would spend his afternoons and evenings out on the front porch which served as their living room. Grandma could be found in either her room or the kitchen. She liked to cook and it didn't take much to convince her to cook something special just for you.
Our grandparents were born in the early part of the 1900's and both had fairly rural upbringings. As a result, their half acre was coaxed into a fairly productive piece of land. They had apple and peach trees and frequently maintained a vegetable garden. Grandpa would dry sliced apples out on the clothes rack. The lack of humidity allowed them that simple preservation method. Grandma would put up many jars of jam or pickles each year. Behind Grandpa's work shed, they had several wooden barrels filled with glass jars just waiting a hot wash and a parafin seal.
Grandma was not what we would call a foodie today. She was a good cook, though. Her food was simple, easily put together and satisfying. It was comfort food. Pintos and cornbread, chile rellano pie, ham and cabbage, and stuffed trout were all things I remember her cooking. Lyn particularly liked a dish called big macaroni.
I'm not sure who gave the dish its descriptive name. It may have been Grandma or one of us kids. Regardless, if we were to stay at Grandma's for the night, big macaroni was a frequent request. When asked for it, Grandma always seemed to have the ingredients on hand. We were amazed at the size of the noodles she used because Mom used either spaghetti or elbow macaroni. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized she just used rigatoni and chuckled at us when we thought the noodles had dramatically increased in size in the water. What can I say? We were unobservant kids who didn't pay attention to the pasta as she pulled it off the shelf.
Her sauce tasted differently from Mom's as well. Mom lived in Italy for 4 years and learned a tremendous amount about Italian cooking while there. Grandma didn't make her own sauce like Mom. Grandma didn't use Prego, either. I laugh as I write this. Grandma used either tomato juice or V8 as her sauce. Big macaroni was V8, rigatoni and ground beef and we loved it! Lyn was happy when Grandma made big macaroni.
Given last night's dinner, I wish Lyn could have joined us for big macaroni.