THE STORY OF GRANDMA
One snowy night on New Years Eve I sat and ate their “Mima’s meatball”. And immediately — as if I were the critic in the movie Ratatouille — I found myself back in my Grandma’s house on a hot summer Sunday where:
Beyond her den and through its arch, around its curve and up the stairs, soulful sounds of Mahalia Jackson reached my ears, as I lay atop the bunk-bed that my Mother and I shared.
Mom and Grandma were already downstairs dressed for church with breakfast made: shallow fried catfish and pepper-speckled grits, orange juice and a side of toast on a flimsy and struggling styrofoam plate.
Before leaving for church I was sure to grab a handful of “Werther’s Caramel Candy” from the glass tray atop the mahogany table adjacent the record player on which the Mahalia Jackson record spun. While we were gone, wood paneled walls echoed her song and protected the home [from robbers] in our absence.
Church never lasted too long, but somehow I managed to fall asleep each week. To jolt me awake, my Mom’s method of choice was a pinch which she executed flawlessly using only her fingernails. Grandma’s less painful, less intrusive and more effective method was a piece of peppermint candy which was my caffeine.
Upon returning home, Mom and Grandma would change into their capes (looking back they may have been aprons), and this is when the ritual would begin.
With my back to the small black and white television outfitted with a long-limbed antenna on top, I watched Grandma carve onions in the palm of her hand while hunched over the kitchen sink. Never once did I see her cut herself as she used her thumb like I would use a cutting board. The smell of pig feet poaching in vinegar may sound disgusting to the ignorant and mature palate, but till this day and forever more the smell still sparks joy in me.
Mom’s cake was always last to go in the oven because while it baked no one was allowed to walk in the kitchen for fear that it would “drop” — so during this time I was confined to the table, unable to move from my stoop as I licked the cake bowl clean and found a way to make my task last for 45 minutes straight.
Cornbread, cake and candy yams. Pig feet, fried chicken, mac and cheese — notice, a conscious omission of collard greens cuz only Cousin Lil was allowed to make those. These were the dishes that adorned Grandma’s table as guests found their seats by 5pm for supper.
Circling the table sat the likes of family, friends, neighbors and sometimes even the dopefiends on the block. Here, all were welcome and all were equal. This was Sunday’s tradition — each week the same, so much so that it’s chronology was its ritual. On Sunday’s, Grandma’s table served as a safe space and bunker in the middle of the West Philly ghetto. The food had the ability to communize it’s participants and the magic lied in its power to heal those who suffered. No matter the discussion, no matter the problem, no matter the chaos that lied outside the door, for the duration of Sunday’s meal and at Grandma’s table everyone was family.
On that snowy night in a Syracuse suburb, an Italian migrant Mimas’-meatball reminded me of my southern, black Grandma’s table, where food represented more. Her meatball was a memory and her recipe was Love — a magical ingredient seemingly synonymous to every single Grandma in the entire world, regardless of their history, heritage or hue. Amazeballs is my homage to them.
Our mission is to spread Love through food, and to decorate our food with a little flair. It represents the preservation of their story so that when you taste it, immediately Grandma’s table comes to mind. Our award winning OG Sauce is their name sake, and our menu is their spirit — simple, fast comfort-food done well. I pray that when you taste them it not only edifies your belly but also your spirit. KEEP IT SAUCY my friend and see you soon.