My grandmother Lois was not known for her cooking. Well, maybe I should say she was not known for her good cooking. She was famous for her judicious use of the pressure cooker, for serving economic cuts of meat like tongue and tripe, for insisting on cooking on her own mother's 1905 wood burning stove (even in 2005), and for her love of canned...everything. Lois's dishes always contained at least a pinch of cat hair.
One thing she was good at was mixing a drink. I can remember shuffling downstairs in my pajamas at 11:00 in the morning on my summer holidays, to find Grandma at the breakfast table with a tumbler of 'juice,' which she must have felt she deserved after a morning of tending her garden, cutting the acre and a half of back lawn, playing bridge (and winning, no doubt) with the ladies at the Senior Center, completing the New York Times crossword of the day, and drawing up a 'to do' list for everyone else in the house, all before her grandchildren could even be bothered to get out of bed. It must have felt positively like afternoon by the time she reached 11:00.
As my uncle says, Grandma was a woman of traditions and routines. She always drank coffee from the same mug. She always served porcupine meatballs for Christmas Eve dinner, with a dessert of green jello and maraschino cherries. She always ate dinner at 6 o'clock. And at 5, it was always happy hour.
As a young wife and mother, Grandma started happy hour the minute my grandfather came home from work. Everything else stopped: no cooking, no cleaning, no kids running around the house. The two of them would each have a cocktail, a salty snack, and a cigarette (it was the 50's after all), and sit together to talk about their day. A simple moment, but one to look forward to.
My grandmother died last month at 94 years old. Two weeks later, I got married and as a thank-you gift, a friend gave my mother a bottle of Hendrick's gin. It's special: aromatic like perfume, but not cloying. With cucumbers from my cousin's garden, we started making G,T,&C's to drink by the sea wall every day before dinner, where we would sit and talk about the day, spot seals on the rocks, and throw stones into the ocean. It's a tradition that I cherish, and which makes me think of Grandma every time. I think I'll skip the cat hair though...
G, T, and C
1 shot of Hendrick's Gin
1 cup of tonic water
2 ice cubes
2 slices of cucumber to garnish
No need for instructions on this one, just put it all in a glass and stir.