Granny’s Dumplings

I never got to say goodbye to my Granny’s dumplings. Celiac took them away from me. I wish I could have them one last time without suffering the damage they would do to my body. They are hands down the most comforting food in the world to me. I miss them so much. Her dumplings are filled with so much love and history. Everyone in my family begs for them. They are a staple at every holiday or special occasion. They are perfect for a cold and rainy day. They warm you right down to your toes. They are filled with gluten. They are poison to me now.

My Granny has been making them my whole life. She cooks them in the same kitchen that she has cooked in for 50+ years. It’s tiny and dark and old. Yet, somehow it’s the brightest spot on Earth. It’s the place where memories are made and love is shared.

Dumplings are such a simple, country dish. If you aren’t from the South you will have no idea what I’m talking about or what you’re missing. It’s worth the trip. We just call them dumplings instead of chicken and dumplings because the chicken is only a supporting cast member. These are gooey, doughy dumplings (biscuits) in a thick creamy broth.

My Granny starts by making a huge pot of homeade chicken stock, using the same beat up cheap metal pot that she’s always had. When the stock is ready she removes the whole chicken, shreds the meat and puts a about a quarter of it back into the pot. Then she opens up a few cans of biscuits and starts to pinch off tiny little pieces one by one. She drops them into the stock until the pot is full. She adds salt and pepper and stirs, and stirs and stirs. It’s a process and I’m not even sure how long it takes for everything to cook. Time flies when I’m standing in the kitchen with her. All I know is that when it’s done it’s thick and velvety and tastes of heaven. I wish I had a picture to show you but I was too sad to ask her to cook them for a photo. I’m not there yet.

It’s my favorite dish in the world. When you break it down it’s really nothing special. Canned biscuits in chicken broth. But it’s become so much more than those simple ingredients. It’s everything that it reminds me of and makes me feel. When I ate them I felt at home. They remind me of the way my Granny would always scratch my back as I laid in her lap as a little girl. She would do it for hours it seemed. She would scratch and scratch until she thought I was asleep. Then I would start to wiggle so she would know I was still awake. So she would scratch and scratch some more, never complaining of tired hands.They remind me of how she always smells of Oil of Olay and rose petals. Of the way she wears curlers in her hair every night. Or how I would huddle with her and my Paw Paw around the one floor vent in the entire house on cold mornings. And most of all they remind me of how much I am loved, of laughter and tradition.

I mourn them. Yes, they are food and not people. But doesn’t it feel sometimes as if you are losing a loved one? I love to cook and I have been able to recreate so many of my favorite dishes to be gluten free and still yummy. But there is no possible way that I will ever be able to make those dumplings again. I really don’t even want to try and face the disappointment.

It IS ok to mourn the food you loved. You need to. If you don’t, you will always be tempted by it. I speak from experience. You have to say goodbye in whatever way works for you. I will say that having a food “one last time” did not work well for me. I just wanted to have it one more time and one more time after that and one more time after that. Having it again just made it harder to let it go. Food is not just for nourishment. It’s for enjoyment, for memories, for showing and sharing love. Some of our favorite foods have been there with us during the most special times in our lives.

My Granny shows and shares her love through food. I think I got that from her. I just made a trip to Alabama to see her and my Paw Paw this week. It was hard because they are true Southern cooks. Dumplings, cornbread, fried chicken, apple pie. That is all they know. She kept asking me if she could make me something and I had to decline everything she offered. It was not only hard for me, but I could see it was hard for her too. She didn’t feel like she was taking care of me the way she should because she couldn’t feed me. I think it made her feel disconnected.

Almost 3 years after diagnosis, it’s still a process for us. I’m still mourning those dumplings and so many other family favorites. But I will always have the memory of them. And I still have my Granny who will always smell of Oil of Olay and rose petals. I can squeeze her tight, close my eyes and taste the love in that dish. I can watch as she feeds my children and see the proof that life comes full circle.

What food do you miss the most?

My next post will discuss a little more in length about dealing with friends and family after diagnosis. It’s a rough road and we all need a little support. Stay tuned!