I had just turned 10 years old when my grandmother died. I was old enough to have memories of her but young enough for them to blur with stories I’d heard. I can visualize certain moments as if they were Polaroids—pulling over on the side of the highway in Arizona to take a photo by the welcome sign, my wide eyes and her patient smile as I picked out colored bundles of thread for my first cross-stitching lesson—and it doesn’t matter if these memories are true or not, because I remember them as if they were.
My grandmother lived in Fairview, Tennessee on enough land to ride four-wheelers and grow things. There were green apple trees, muscadine vines, and blackberry brambles. There may have been other things too, but I don’t remember them the way I remember sticky muscadine sugar dripping down my chin when I spit out the seeds, or picking up small, hard apples that fell off the trees too early to eat, or suffering scratched-up arms for blackberries sprinkled with sugar in a bowl of fresh cream.
I think I remember standing on a kitchen chair beside her, leaning over the stove, stirring berries and sugar and lemon juice with a wooden spoon. We made pie or jam—usually jam. I think I remember her telling me it was so easy that you didn’t need a recipe, but the cancer got to her before I could learn.
What I did learn was her love of baking. I carried it with me, learning lattice stitching on my own, and buttercream, and googling recipes for jam. Then, one day when I was visiting my parents, I dug into the recipe drawer and found a printout of an e-mail she’d sent me the year before she died. It was a Depression-era cobbler recipe from her grandmother, Fat Mama, and it was the only recipe of hers I had.
Who would have thought 2020 would bring our own Depression? I’ve spent the majority of my time at home in the kitchen, but a month into sheltering-in-place, when I was low on groceries and not feeling ready to venture out, I was reminded of Fat Mama’s cobbler. It tasted like a memory.
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup fruit
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Melt one stick of butter in a casserole dish. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and sugar together. Add enough milk to make it the consistency of a pancake batter. Pour the batter into the melted butter. Do not stir! Pour one full cup of fruit, such as blackberries or peaches, on top of the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour.