Grandmother Looper

Written by Braiden on November 15, 2012

Grandmother Looper Photo

That’s me at three years old, looking unimpressed by and a bit dubious about the arrival of my baby brother, Brad. Grandmother Looper gazes at the newborn adoringly, while my mother beams proudly after the arrival of her newborn son.

Inez Ellard Looper, my mother’s mother and my maternal grandmother, was a real Southern belle, described as a wonderful woman or a real ball buster, depending on which family member you get to reminiscing about her.

Afraid I didn’t know her well enough to form my own opinion. But I do know she and I shared something in common. . .our love for the kitchen.

As a little girl, I loved watching her in the kitchen when we’d visit her home in Georgia, after the long train ride all the way from Philadelphia.

Biscuits were her forte, ooh-ed and aah-ed over by friends and family alike. My poor mother never did pick up the knack, a fact long-lamented by my biscuit-lovin’ father.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see her arthritic right hand, the one with the same crooked index finger as I have, as it moved in and out over the biscuit dough, kneading gently and knowingly until it was just the right mix of butter, flour, and whole milk.

Her biscuits were light as the proverbial feather. She claimed that Clabber Girl Baking Powder was her secret, as she preferred that brand to Calumet. I think her real secret weapon was making her biscuits with lots of love.

I also remember my grandmother’s cornbread, the thick batter poured into well-seasoned and  -greased cast-iron pans. The molds in the pans were in the shape of corn cobs, so the cornbread sticks were especially fun to eat (with lots of butter, of course!).

My grandmother was also well known for her Japanese Seven-Layer Cake, her rendition of the popular Lady Baltimore Cake. Grandmother’s version featured spicy layer cake with raisins, boiled sugar icing, pineapple, and copious amounts of coconut. I wish I had a slice right now.

So what would I tell my grandmother if I had five more minutes with her? I’d tell her I wish I had known her better and that she’d lived longer so that we could have been friends. I’d tell her about how watching her as a child may have inspired my cookbook and food-writing career.

What would I ask my grandmother if I had five more minutes?

I’d ask her for her recipe box so I could continue her legacy of love in the kitchen.

Grandmother Looper Photo

Mom, Grandmother, and me–gotta love the pillbox hats and the mink stoles, as un-P.C. as they are today

Grandmother Looper Photo

My grandparents, brother Brad, and me in front of our house in suburban Philadelphia circa 1962

Braiden Rex-Johnson Second Birthday

Toddler Braiden swiping some icing off the big birthday cake at Grandmother’s home in Dalton, Georgia. I don’t know what happened to the sideboard, mirror, or framed botanical prints, but one of the pink vases still graces my office. . .a fond reminder of Grandmother and childhood visits to Georgia.