By Carlton Hughes
Have you ever been the apple of someone’s eye? The object of affection from someone who loves you unconditionally?
That was me with my grandmothers. They loved me more than anyone else has in this world, and I say with a straight face that I was the favorite. Apology to my cousins—who probably feel the same way. Both grandmothers had a way of making me feel like I was the most important person in the world.
Growing up, I loved to visit my grandmothers, and there were always special treats and surprises.
Mammaw Dema, my paternal grandmother, was petite in stature but strong as could be. She didn’t mince words, and you never had to guess what she was thinking. At her house I could always find a fresh pitcher of green lemon-lime Kool-Aid in the fridge, and, if I was lucky, there would be a homemade chocolate pie. Not a combination you find every day, but it worked for us.
Mammaw Arietta was my maternal grandmother, and she was a bit more soft-spoken. She loved having her family members around her, and they often gathered at her small home to talk, to drink coffee, and to play cards. Speaking of cards, I spent many an evening getting thumped by her at 500 Rummy. When I finally beat her after hundreds of tries, she wasn’t disappointed—she said she had taught me well.
One of my favorite treats at Mammaw Arietta’s house was her homemade gingerbread. It wasn’t shaped as cute gingerbread men—it came out of the oven in big slabs, with a design made from pulling a fork through the dough. I enjoyed large pieces smothered with peanut butter; again, it worked for us.
My mother recently provided me with the recipe, which is typical of a grandmother’s method of cooking. Some of the measurements are not exact, and there are no baking instructions. The cooks from that era didn’t have Google or hundreds of cooking blogs to draw from—just their own instincts, put to good use with limited ingredients.
The recipe was passed down to my grandmother from her mother. It’s the best gingerbread I have ever had, and, to this day, when I smell ginger, I think of those days at her house.
GRANDMA GREER’S GINGERBREAD
2/3 cup sweet milk (what we called regular milk, as opposed to buttermilk)
1 cup molasses
½ cup regular granulated sugar
½ cup shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger (or more to taste)
Mix all ingredients together. Add enough all-purpose flour to make the dough stiff. Grease a large baking sheet and spread the dough on it. Run a fork through the dough several times to make a design. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.