When I was little, spending the night at my grandma’s, I used to hate to go to bed. (As I sit here typing this, it’s hard to remember what that felt like.) Grandma, the crafty woman that she was, had many tricks up her sleeve to help convince me to sleep. For one, she went to bed at the same time as me; it was always just me and her or, me and her and my little brother, and, after a day or two with our water-gun fights and games and yelling at each other, I suspect she was just as thrilled to get some shut-eye herself as to get us kids to calm down. I’d crawl into her queen-size bed right next to her, my brother on a fold-out cot nearby, and she’d tell us stories.

There was the time she and her friend Marie went on a hunting trip with their husbands and howled like coyotes (this, obviously, was complete with reenactments) and the time she opened her front door to a goat on the front steps (they’d had the first suburban house on their street, surrounded by open land and farms). I loved the one where she mowed the lawn in a new yellow suit (could this really be true, I now wonder?) and ran over dog droppings, sending it all over herself.

Along with these stories, she’d scratch my back—who knows how long, get me to do leg exercises (stretch your right foot high to the ceiling!) and sometimes, turn on the small T.V. on top of her dresser and watch whatever was on. Oh and also, there were snacks.

toast and apples

I’d follow Grandma to the kitchen, padding behind her on a path to the fridge. She’d take out a large apple—I remember it being Granny Smith, that green, slightly bitter variety—and cut it into wedges. This, along with buttered toast, was heaven. Or it was, I guess you could say, comfort food.

A boy I knew once asked me what made something comfort food. Would a salad work? Maybe chili? I told him something about it being, well, you know, comforting to you when you ate it. How could I explain? When my stomach hurts, I want ginger ale and crackers, maybe some soup. When I’m depressed, chocolate. Maybe comfort food is soothing because of what it is—fizzy drinks or a bland diet—or maybe because it reminds us of experiences, people who made things feel O.K. again. (My mom always gave me ginger ale when my stomach hurt, it’s true).

Whatever the case, tonight, before bed, in a time when the plunging stock prices and another presidential debate and people losing jobs seem to be the noteworthy events on everyone’s mind, I made toast, and I sliced an apple. And I ate them happily while I paced around the kitchen, remembering Grandma, remembering her stories, thinking of a time when things were O.K. And then, after telling you about it, I went to bed, peacefully.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Katie

    This was a good post. It reminded me of my grandma and how she would scratch my back… we would draw pictures on each other’s backs and try to guess what it was….

    My night time comfort food was a graham cracker with some milk. My mom would tell me this would help me fall asleep if I got up in the middle of the night. Every now and then, I still wake up in the middle of the night and find a graham cracker to help me fall back asleep. Thanks for brining these memories back :)

  2. meri

    I really liked this post too. It reminded me of a number of things. All of which were warm and comforting.

    One of my comfort foods is cinnamon toast. The smell, the taste, and the buttery goodness just make me feel good in general.

  3. Lan

    i love grandma stories. thank you so much for sharing yours. i lived with my grandma until i was 10/11 and it was wonderful. i’m only just now beginning to compile all the foods she used to make for me.

  4. Shannalee

    Katie: That’s adorable about you and your grandma drawing pictures on your backs. love it. and a graham cracker, huh? :)

    Meri: Cinnamon toast was one of my grandma’s favorites! So good with butter on top.

    Lan: Me, too. It’s nice to hear about people’s relationships with their parents and grandparents, I think. I’d love to hear some of YOUR grandma’s recipes!

    Jacqui: Yeah, indeed! Love the fuzzy blanket image!

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