It's funny what you remember as a child and what you try to recreate for your children because the memory you have is so wonderful.
Right now I'm making hush puppies. My grandpa used to love hush puppies. He was the cutest old man with a very slight southern accent that betrayed his North Carolina roots despite the fact he had lived most of his adult life on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
He had the deepest, most resonant voice. And, his hands were enormous. He was an Orthopedic Surgeon. I bet he could have wrapped his hands around a femur and thigh bone and melded the two together by sheer force. He was the most formidable man I had ever met.
But he was also the sweetest, most loving man I ever knew. He had a softness for his ten granddaughters, 2 grandsons, brownies and all things fried. My grandma, Dorothy, used to try to curtail his childish side. She was a lovely and proper German Jew, always dressed in couture and "sitting shoes." Even when she cooked. His family was 2 generations American, but still Easter European Jewish and their families clashed. But he lived for her and she lived for him and they were really happy together. Sure she kept him in line, but you could tell that was how he liked it.
I remember going to visit them in Boca Raton - where all Jews go in the winter. When my sister and I got off the plane he would hug us and kiss us and tell us we were "beautiful". He would say "I have the prettiest Granddaughters, I am so lucky." The twang of his accent infusing his words to make them sound even warmer, more casual and more intimate. I felt so special.
At least once every trip south, my grandpa would have my sister and I pile into whatever newest edition of the Mercedes sedan was available and parked in his driveway and we would head down the middle of one of Boca's major streets with the yellow strip of the road rolling under the center of our car. "Grandpa, is the yellow line supposed to be under the car?" I remember asking this once. His answer wasn't friendly. I didn't ask again.
Anyway, the trip always led to the most fantastic fried chicken joint on the "wrong" side of Boca. There Grandpa would order a whole fried chicken, 4 sides of french fries, 2 sides of cole slaw and 2 sides of hush puppies. Hush puppies were these balls of corn meal with onions deep fried till the crust was sweet and crunchy and the inside was moist and like a tasty little bite-sized corn muffin. Obviously, despite the fact he was a prominent surgeon, he had little concerns about trans fats. He LOVED hush puppies. And I loved him. And I loved that he loved them and despite the fact I lived on fries and peanut butter and jelly, I gave hush puppies a try at a young age to impress him and learned to love them.
Tonight, I'm making my own hush puppies in my kitchen. I popped one in my mouth, and tasted the sweet crunchiness of the crust and the moist interior. They were exactly what remembered and they took me back to my grandpa Irvin, his enormous hands rubbing my hair.
I gave one to my daughter. She wasn't impressed. Other than it being fried bread, there was no real charm in it.
Maybe the hush puppies only work their magic when you drive down the middle of a busy road to get them and are told at the same time that you are the most beautiful creature on the earth while enormous hands rub your hair and pull you in for a close hug.
Otherwise, I suppose they're just fat central.
Anyway, I'm going to eat my hush puppies and despite the fat content, I'm going to once again feel like the most beautiful girl on earth.