When I was in elementary and junior high school, I stayed with one of my two grandmothers each day after school. Being the studious, responsible adolescent I was, I always took care of my homework as soon as I arrived there.
Both my grandmothers watched Guiding Light (which was on from 3-4 p.m.), so whether I was at my Mamaw Lackey’s house or my Mamaw Penry’s, I finished my schoolwork while their “program” was on. Once the soap was over, they turned the television over to me. In my elementary school years, I usually watched Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Mr. Rogers. In junior high, it was usually reruns of I Love Lucy, The Munsters, The Addams Family, or Bewitched.
But no matter what I watched, my grandmothers always made sure I had a snack. My Mamaw Lackey would sometimes have a fresh bread pudding waiting when I arrived (no raisins on my half!). Sometimes we would make a mayonnaise sandwich with just white bread and mayo. And sometimes she would pop some popcorn (in those days, before microwave popcorn, it was in a covered frying pan with oil), which she would always serve with a glass of tomato juice.
When I have mentioned having popcorn and tomato juice to my North Carolina-native friends, they immediately nod their heads in familiarity. When I’ve mentioned it to people who hail from elsewhere in the country, they offer me a puzzled look. They’ve never heard of such a pairing.
What I loved best about popcorn and tomato juice was the little “sssss” sound the popcorn would make when I dunked a piece into the tomato juice. The combination of flavors—buttery, salty, sweet, tangy—was just perfect. Even to a 7-year-old.
My Mamaw Penry always had a variety of sandwich-makings on hand. I loved (and still do) pimiento cheese. She is the person who first persuaded me to try olive loaf (which eventually led to my ravenous addiction to olives), but it was her grilled cheese sandwiches that stand out strongest in my memory.
I never actually watched her make a grilled cheese sandwich, but the finished product, which she always brought to me on a 1950s yellow-and-gray Harkerware luncheon plate, was creamy, buttery, toasty, and—needless to say—delicious.
I have, in the years since, determined that she must have put a thin layer of mayonnaise (always Duke’s) on the outside, as well as a very thin layer inside, before grilling. I even came across this blog post, which confirms my theory.
Now that I’m practically middle-aged (nearing 40), I sometimes wish I could come home from work, turn on a rerun of The Munsters and sit down to a snack of grilled cheese, popcorn and tomato juice.
Heck, I wouldn’t even mind doing some multiplication tables or reviewing my spelling words first …