Guest Post: The Empress: Alexandra

April 5, 2012

Hi Readers!

Healing update: I still feel like Hades’ hairball. I certainly didn’t expect to be this sore, but what’s really Gobsmacked me is the fatigue. I seriously cannot funtion; I’m so exhausted that I’m utterly useless 22 out of 24 hours I day.  I can pack lunches, check homework, get the girls out the door without looking like Oliver Twist, and then…I’m pretty much done.

I’ve never had to ask for so much help in my life. The boys pick up dinner and run errands, mama and daddy come when they can to do the laundry. I can’t even frickin’ shower alone, just in case I, you know, slip and go Kerplunk! on the bathroom tiles.

The silver lining to all of this getting older bullshit is that people are suddenly willing to pony up and help your frail ass, which is the coolest thing ever. When I got an email from Alexandra (#GDRPempress) the other day, generously offering a guest post, I almost jumped out of my Depends undergarments. This woman, and her deliciously funny blog, can move mountains. She’s that big–I mean, she is called The Empress–and I worship both her big heart and her wonderful blog.

Please give a warm welcome to Alexandra, and hey #GDRPempress, I love ya, kid.

*********

For My Grandmother
I always childishly hoped my grandmother would be with me forever. My first memories begin with her, and even though it’s been over 25 years since her death, I still can’t believe I’ve had to learn to live without her.
She was born in Spain and came to Colombia, South America when she was four years old. She learned to cook from her Spaniard mother, and those are the recipes I grew up with. When I was about three or four years old I began helping my grandmother in the kitchen. She would tie one of her flowered aprons around my waist, and I would stand next to her on top of a cracked red leather kitchen stool.
She would sing in a soft and low voice as she’d grind the corn meal for our sweet corn cakes, one of my absolute favorites. With a worn rock from our yard, she’d grind the corn meal until it was as fine as white flour. The sand paper sound of the rock crushing the larger bits of meal is one that I can still hear if I close my eyes. When the corn meal was as smooth as we could make it, together, her hands over mine, we’d slowly add the milk and eggs, mixing all the ingredients together in a large wooden bowl. With the thick meal ready, we’d roll the dough mixture into little balls, pressing them down into the palms of our hands until they were flat discs.
She had a large cast iron pan of oil heating up on the stove, and to check if the oil was hot enough for the griddle cakes, she’d wet her fingers and then sprinkle the water in the pan. If we heard a sizzle, then we knew the oil was ready. She’d quicky toss the flattened patties in, and I’d hear the hiss of a pan that was perfectly calibrated.  The corn cakes would be fried until they were a pale gold, and my grandmother would lift them out deftly while I’d lay them between paper towels, pressing down with my small hands to squeeze out the extra grease.
While they were still hot, we’d spread the cakes with butter and jam, and the two would melt on top into a sticky sweet syrup. We’d sit grinning and eating those cakes that were almost as large as a salad plate. I’d always take a stack of two or three and my grandmother would say Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
There was so much more time to tell her what I wanted to tell her, that was always my thinking. My grandmother is gone now, and even though it’s been over twenty five years, I still can’t write about her without tears stinging my eyes and a lump start to build in my throat.
But, somehow, I hope that through the shining dark eyes of a grinning four year old girl, gazing up at her adoringly, clothed in one of her aprons while she stood on a kitchen stool next to her, that she knew how much she meant to me.
I hope.
Abuelita’s Corn Meal Griddle Cakes
1 c. boiling water
3/4 c. yellow corn meal
1 c. buttermilk or sour milk
2 eggs
1 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. soda
1/4 c. vegetable oil
Pour water over corn meal; stir until thick. Add milk; beat in eggs. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and soda. Add to cornmeal mixture; stir in oil. Bake on hot, lightly greased griddle. Makes about 14 pancakes.

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandra April 6, 2012 at 8:32 am

Oh, Dana: thank YOU.

To have a place for my grandmother’s stories, makes her immortal.

Thank you for the gift of your sincere friendship: meeting someone like you is what blogging has brought to my life: meeting someone like you.

Get better soon!

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Abby April 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

The fact that the two of you joined forces pretty much makes my head explode, as I respect you both so much.

With that said, I’ve written about my grandma and our Senior Moments many times on my blog, not only to entertain and share the beauty that is her cranky ass, but to have those memories forever at my disposal. To be able to share that about someone who has meant the world to me, and to be able to read about others who feel the same way, is truly amazing.

Great post!

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Alexandra April 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Oh, Abby, well said.

Yes, my Abuela: the HUGEST thing in my life. SO BIG.

I can’t tell you how she saved me from the homelife I had.

Thank you for reading.

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TKW April 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I love your Grandma posts! They’re hilarious and full of love.

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Privilege of Parenting April 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Hi Alexandra, Just reading this I was able to feel your love and longing for your lovely Abuelita, the echo of tears rising in my own throat at your imagery (and memories of my Buby grinding meat through some old-school thing and making kreplach for her matzoh ball soup to serve on this very sort of evening more than four decades ago).

Thank you for this, I will definitely make those corn cakes. And Healing Wishes for KW

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Alexandra April 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Oh, P of P! Yes. The meat grinder. You just opened a floodgate of memories.

My Abuela would make us chicken salad with her meat grinder.

Oh, what you’ve brought to me today.

THANK YOU for the gift of the memory trigger.

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TKW April 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Nap,

You have NO idea what I had to do today. GROSSness of the first water.

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Kimberly April 6, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Swoon.
I felt like I was right there. My grandma and I had a couple of things we did…we played chinese waitress (I was the waitress…oddly I am not Chinese. Yes I am weird)…we gardened….and we baked the hell out of cookies and pastries.
She’s been gone for 2 years now. The weirdest thing today happened while we were at a fish fry dinner at church. My 3 year old said “Hi Mamie!! Look Momma! Mamie is here”
There was no one where he was pointing.
I think she comes around when I’m not well. I really do.

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Alexandra April 7, 2012 at 7:18 am

Kim, I’ve had this happen, too.

It always gives me chills, but also makes me believe it really is possible.

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TKW April 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Kimberly,

I wanna play Chinese waitress! sounds awesome!

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idiosyncratic eye April 7, 2012 at 4:07 am

What a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman, thank you for sharing a little window into your precious relationship. Food binds us all, across cultures, across generations. :)

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Alexandra April 7, 2012 at 7:18 am

What a beautiful comment, IE. Thank you.

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erin margolin April 7, 2012 at 8:29 am

Dana,

I hope you are healing and resting and letting everyone else help you as much as possible. Feel better soon!

Alexandra,

Your recipe and the description of you and your abuela making the corn cakes together makes me drool. I can picture it in my head. They sound delicious and I am so glad you had such a strong bond with her. I’m sure she knew how you felt. And I’m ever so glad you had her in your life.

love and hugs to you both!

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Alexandra April 7, 2012 at 10:46 am

Thank you, Erin. She was HUGE in my life. Her influence cannot be understated. She is with me everyday, and my children know her as if she is still flesh and blood.

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brian miller April 7, 2012 at 8:47 am

oh you made me hungry and miss my gramma at the same time empress…i hope that you dana are feeling better soon…

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Alexandra April 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

These are the memories where I can see the impact of a few precious moments. Just an interaction like this, interactions like these, impact a child forever.

Excuse me, I have to go find a kleenex.

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LDiggitty April 7, 2012 at 9:01 am

This made me miss my grandmother so much, it aches.

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Alexandra April 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

I know. A perfect grandmother she wasn’t, but where it counted: her love was felt.

How important she was to me. Such a haven from the homelife I had.

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Ink April 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Dear, dear, TKW, take care! Am thinking of you!

Alexandra, lovely post.

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Alexandra April 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Thank you, Ink. I’ll have to click over and meet you. Anyone who loves Dana has excellent taste. xo

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SuziCate April 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Kitch, hoping you’re up and about soon…but take up those offers of help in whatever form they come in!
Alexandra, what a lovely memory! I never got to help my grandmother cook, but I have lovely memories of gardening and eating what she cooked.

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Gardening! Oh, yes, the gardening. My Abuela grew so much in our backyard. I think of how much she must’ve missed the ranch she had back in Colombia. But she moved here to take care of us.

I still can’t believe I never stopped to think about how much she gave up for us.

I’m older, I understand more now…and it feels like it’s too late…she’s gone. And I never got to thank her for what she did for us.

Gave us a home when we had none.

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Poppy April 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

You made me miss my abuela too (though in her last few years she’d pick a game of Bingo over making me something to eat:) I want her mortar and pestle that my mother keeps in her own kitchen, but I guess a rock in the yard would do the trick too!

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I know, Poppy.

I just miss her so much. And more and more as I get older.

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Kimberly April 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I always love your stories about your abuela, Alexandra! She sounds a lot like my own. So glad you’ve introduced me to a great new blog, too!

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Oh, Dana…Dana’s posts are something I love. She tells the best stories, in the best way, and the recipes fit in perfectly.

Really. Something nice and different.

I love this site.

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Alison@Mama Wants This April 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm

My grandmother fills my childhood memories too – as do her cooking and her delicious cooking. Thank you for sharing your abuela with us, Alexandra!

Dana, get well soon!

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm

A, have you ever published recipes from your grandmother? I’d love to see some.

I love anything that is different and out of the usual American fare.

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Ann April 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Dana, I hope you feel better, but wow, you picked a GREAT guest poster! Alexandra, what a lovely food memory and recipe! I’m glad you’re here….

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Ann, I’m introducing you to Dana now.

You will LOVE her.

You’ll both LOVE each other.

Ann, meet Dana.

Dana, meet Anna.

Both of you, with the delicious food blogging sites. xo

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Andrea April 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm

I love this story, and have a feeling that minus the corn meal on the rock I just won’t be able to taste the love like you did!

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I was with her in the kitchen. Always. It was me.

And someday I’ll post onit, but my lifelong prayer…since I was a little girl, was to not get a phone call telling me she passed. I was so afraid of that.

And guess what? In my lucky lucky life: I was with her, to help her pass on to her next life.

She died with me holding her.

I am so lucky.

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Barbara April 9, 2012 at 3:36 am

Fabulous guest post, Alexandra! I feel the same way about BOTH my grandmothers…but one was a special kitchen-mate. Wonderful memories.
Dana: I hope you’re feeling a little better each day!

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Dana needs to get better soon because her posts and recipes are AMAZING!!

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Arnebya April 10, 2012 at 10:58 am

Unfortunately, I never met my paternal grandmother, and because my mother and her mother were at odds, I only saw my maternal grandmother a handful of times (the last memory I have of her was when I was 7 and she gave me size 4T clothes for Christmas because she thought I was younger). This is why I love this post so much, that you treasure your time with her, that you have these special memories, that your love for and admiration of her are so achingly evident, (and that you gave a corn cake recipe that is making me drool! Seriously, it’s part of what’s for dinner tonight).

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm

The corncakes..oh, how my kids love them. And my darling kids let me tell them the story of how much I love my grandmother every time I make them.

Thanks for stopping by…xo

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Lady Jennie April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Dana,

I don’t know what you’re ailing from, but I hope you get better soon, soon!

Emp I will make these corn cakes this week in honor of your precious Abuelita.

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Alexandra April 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm

lady Jennie: how wonderful are you?

Thank you. so very much. *snifsnif*

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Erin I'm Gonna Kill Him April 13, 2012 at 6:42 am

I, as a rule, do not cook, but I want to make these in tribute to your abuela. You know I love her as a storied heroine…

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Heather April 16, 2012 at 7:33 am

This post took me back to my great-grandma’s kitchen. Only the memory was of mincemeat pie – and my introduction to pie that tastes like crap! Still a fond memory :) Thanks for sharing your beautiful memory and a recipe that, no doubt, should be passed on for generations.

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