Thursday, 26 May 2022

G Guest Editorials

Celebrate Lit: Melissa Wardwell

MWardwell 4 300x450  Melissa Wardwell resides in Owosso, Michigan with her husband and three teen-aged children.

She doesn’t mind alternating between the world of writing and the reality of being a mother, but she would rather sit with a good book or a good friend and a cup of coffee.

When she isn’t penning works of fiction, she is busy reviewing books for her blog, Back Porch Reads.

To see more from Melissa Wardwell, visit www.melissawardwell.com
blended lives cover

 

                          Faith, Family, and Food

By Melissa Wardwell

 

In 2019, when I was developing the stories that would become my contribution to The Independence Islands Series, I could see that there was something missing. The glue, so to speak, that would hold all my main characters together. It wasn’t long before I saw that it didn’t need a something but a someone. But who?

I leaned back in my chair and prayed, “Lord, who would be a great model? Who could act as the voice of reason in the lives of these people?” When I opened my eyes, the images of my smiling grandmothers staired back at me from the peg board above my computer. Grandma Apsey with her beautiful silver hair and shinning smile, and my Grandma McKay with her sweet smile as she snuggles in with my grandpa. These two women grew up in a time where you did what you had to in order to live. They were born just before the Great Depression so they knew what it was like to struggle, probably more than many of us could ever imagine.

In that time, you learned how to hunt, fish, and grow your food. You made things from whatever was available to you, and it wasn’t much. Milk, flour, butter, and eggs were hard to come by unless you had a farm. (I saw a recipe for peanut butter bread the other day that called for Peanut butter, flour, and a splash of milk – that was it.)

You also felt hopeless in your situation, or you held on to your faith in Jesus Christ.

As I thought about what these women endured as children, what their mothers might have taught them, and what their mindset might have been, I knew that these two ladies would make one dynamic grandmother for “Beth Stevens”. After giving her the nickname “Gram”, I went to work developing her by picking out the best parts of these women that influenced me.

I gave “Gram” Grandma Apsey’s sassy and straight forward attitude. She could be a little crass so I couldn’t share some of her tidbits of wisdom. But let me tell you, the woman knew how to have fun without getting too crazy. Grandma Apsey was tough, and she had no issue telling her kids and grandkids to “suck in that lip and keep going”. Her story, if I ever shared the whole of it, would be a heartbreaking novel with it ending in dementia. Sometimes I imagine what she would have been like if she’d found a life in Christ at a young age instead of when Grandpa Apsey died, but I still love the woman she was.

From Grandma McKay, I gave “Gram” her faithfulness in all she did and to God. My Grandma McKay taught me how to pray, how to be a “good Christian solider” and how to be faithful to my God, my husband, and my family (I think I was four when she taught me the hymn “Onward Christian Soliders”). It was in her that I had my first glimpse of Jesus and how He loves us. She and grandpa also taught this to their children thus raising two pastors, two worship directors, and all five had a heart for the Lord. Amazingly, that legacy has continued.

As you can see, these women are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as how they perceived things, but they had two things in common—good food and the love of family. They made some of the best meals I can remember. My Grandma McKay knew how to make fish in every way imaginable, because she and grandpa lived by a lake and fish was a daily meal. She was also an amazing bread maker. My Grandma Apsey made the best sloppy joes (or barbeque as she would call it) and macaroni and cheese. My mouth is watering now…lol. They both have wonderful, and unique, cookie and bread recipes that leave you dreaming of their sweet goodness. I grew up associating food with going to my grandparents, especially when I was little.

These women excelled at entertaining and loved every minute of having their families around them. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and reunions. They pulled out all the stops and showered us with love by making the family favorites. They weren’t affectionate women, but you knew they loved you by bringing the dishes you liked. If they thought you had done something stupid, they would tell you, but then they would love on you with a smile, some encouragement, and a plate of food. It was awesome.

Fast forward to present day and both these beautiful ladies are gone, leaving a hole in my heart that can never be filled. I also have most of their recipes and use many of them on a regular basis to feed my family. It somehow connects me to them, and I love knowing that they would smile knowing I am handing these dishes down to my children. Just last year, some of my cousins put together a recipe booklet that featured some of Grandma McKay’s most memorable dishes. One of them was a cake that dated back to her fourth great-grandmother in France. It’s called Jam Cake and I have every intention of making it soon. I’d like to do the same with grandma Apsey’s recipes as the books she wrote everything down in is old enough that the pencil marks are fading.

Throughout this journey on the Independence Islands, I have given readers a window into my heart and a look at the beautiful women that helped mold me into who I have become. They have also shaped the woman “Beth Stevens” has become through her “Gram”.

Read how “Gram” leaves little nuggets of wisdom for “Beth” and helped the “Comfort Cuisine” become a success on the Independence Islands in Scrumptious Independence, Heart Pressed, Seasoned Grace, Blended Lives, and Delicious Devotion.

 

Grandma McKay’s Oatmeal Cookies

1 c. butter

¾ c. brown sugar

¾ c. granulated white sugar

2 eggs

1tsp. vanilla

2c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp. salt

2c. quick oats

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix all ingredients together and drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for 10-12 minutes. (Optional add-ins: coconut, chocolate chips, raisins, and/or nut) Let cool on cooling racks for at least five minutes.

 

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