My Granny – Abbie Ruth Phillips — passed away on Sunday, November 24, 2019. Since she played such a huge role in my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, and enjoyed reading this blog, I thought it only fitting to pay tribute to her here.
Here's my Granny WAAAAY back in the day with my dad. She and my Pa, Gordon Phillips, had two kids — my dad (David) and my Uncle Mike.
Before she retired, Granny was a manager at Dillard's at Indian Mall in Jonesboro. I grew up hanging around Dillard's and watching her be an awesome boss lady. From a very early age, Granny showed me that women can be large and in charge!
In my pre-teens, I aspired to be model when I grew up, so Granny had me model in Dillard's mall fashion shows! And one time, she asked me to dress up as a troll (with a full head mask) and hand out candy for some Dillard's event (maybe Halloween? I can't remember), but I felt very cool.
Eventually, Granny joined my Pa in retirement. They used to LOVE to go camping. Or more like "glamping" since they had a fancy camper with a full kitchen. My parents and I would drive over to join them for camping meals sometimes. Granny and Pa loved to fish, so we often had fried fish for those meals. This was before I was vegan, of course!
Here's me and Granny. I remember thinking she must be really old with all those candles on her cake, but she was probably only in her 50s then.
Granny was a breast cancer survivor. I love that she proudly let her bald head shine!
When I was in college, I was a folklore minor (also a women's studies minor — I had two!). I did a big paper on canning and preserving, and Granny taught me how to can and put up veggies for the winter. Granny was a prolific canner! I still have some of her canned goods in my pantry, and I will cherish those meals.
Granny also taught me to save jars and plastic containers to re-use. It's something I'm sure she learned growing up during the Depression, but as someone who is always trying to lessen my environmental footprint, I'm grateful that Granny taught me the value of saving.
Granny was a master of Southern cookin'. It was at her home that I had my first bowl of blackeyed peas on New Year's Day — a Southern tradition that she firmly upheld. Nobody (and I do mean nobody) could make better greens than my Granny. Rather than traditional collards, Granny used rape greens, which she often stole from her neighbor's garden. Ha!
When I went vegan in 2004, Granny quickly adapted her recipes, specifically her desserts, using vegan margarine and egg replacer. She GOT it. And she worked and worked until those veganized recipes were perfect. Granny's vegan coconut icebox cake and coconut pie were amazing, and I'm so grateful that we got those recipes on paper before her dementia set in.
In fact, Granny might as well have been named as a co-author on my cookbook, Cookin' Crunk, since so many of the recipes (both desserts and savory dishes) were hers. I'll have to make her Corn Casserole and Mandarin Orange Cobbler soon in her honor.
We'll miss Granny. She was an awesome lady.