Come with me to the grocery store. We’re idly walking the aisles fulfilling our lists and comparing prices, mentally checking off items from our to-do lists, smiling at the strangers passing by and stopping to talk to familiar faces. We handle items in the produce section gently choosing the perfect avocados, testing the mangos, walking slowly through the citrus just so we can inhale deeply. We consider the grapes and wonder why we always buy broccoli only to forget about it. We measure the pears and select this weeks bananas.
We look up to scan the sea of faces one last time, the same group of shoppers that you walked silently in with finishes at about the same time as us and we cross the vast spaces between almost-out-of-here and the check-out-drudgery before we choose a line with a check out girl who seems to be proficient today. We calmly turn our carts towards lane 22 and sideways glance at all the magazines screaming at us to believe Ben and Jen are adopting, that the Princess is pregnant and that sex is better on vacation. We take a small detour towards the candy selections and note they’re on sale, too. What would we really do with 10 reeses peanut butter cups? Are they really for s’mores? We’re honest with ourselves and pass this opportunity.
Almost there. It’s almost time to unload our cart when we see an elderly woman behind us carrying just a few items. She’s not that elderly, but she’s of respectable age. Older than my mother, with kind eyes. She declines our offer to go ahead of us (we have a small load today too, no big deal) when she starts the conversation …
My grandkids called and asked for ribs today. (She’s excited but almost unbelievably)
She notes that they prefer all organic produce and dairy, that they check to make sure she’s adhering to their standardizations.
We make small talk, she’s retired and thought she’d have all this time on her hands. She discovers my kids are school aged and we bond over the silence of our time, how we miss the chaos a little more than we’d like to admit. How we both realize that we’re the lucky ones.
She’s worried about the time, it’s almost noon and usually she has more notice for ribs than this (but thankfully they were on sale). She tells her husband to not expect to get too many, they never know how many kids are coming to the table since her grandkids brag about her ribs and always bring friends. They often feed their grandkids and then go out to eat together after. (And this is when I fell in love with her.)
If you have a head start, you cook the ribs low and slow for 8 hours. Starting at 275 at about 10 am. You cut the fat off the back and rub them, lightly, with seasoned salt. That’s it.
If you’re crunched for time, say you start around noon for dinner – you cook at 325 to help it along. In the last hour or so of cooking you take the ribs out and brush them with barbecue sauce.
She serves them with mashed (organic) potatoes and cooked carrots. (She winks and tells me she forgot the cream but with the 2 sticks of butter in the potatoes, she might get away with it this time.)
I didn’t catch her name but I’ll know her forever.
Grocery Grandma’s Ribs.
My kids actually cheered for me after Sunday lunch today. I started the ribs about 9:30 this morning and we ate at 2:30. I used the 325 method and actually tried to doctor up the rub a bit but made it too salty. Just means I get to try it again.
I served it up with mashed potatoes, our favorite kale caesar, some crusty bread, and creamed spinach.
We decided tonight that we’ll write a family cookbook. It’ll be a collection of our favorites and instead of chapters we’d have people. Jessica, Oliver, The Whole FamDam.
Jessica’s portion of the book will read like this; Ribs, bread, pies, sweet breads (scones) … the flour and water, elemental stuff of a kitchen. Fire. Meat! She likes sharp food – vinegars and mustards.
Oliver’s portion of the book will read like this; Salmon, rice, muffins, oatmeal, breakfast!, salads, shrimp, Asian infusion. The water, the sea, the salt. With the sweet finish, and anything that feels like a hug in a bowl. Veggies! He likes calm food – tea and rice.
The Whole FamDan of the book will read like this; roast chicken, meatballs over rice, tacos (3 ways), pancakes, breakfast, birthday cakes, Grocery Grandma’s Ribs, hot chocolate mix, Christmas cookies, cinnamon rolls, The foods we made memories with, spring rolls, camping food. The earth, the sky. The grounding and the flying – the take-off and the landing.
And they told me they’d tell all their friends about my cooking and then they promised to always come home.