Pork Chops and Other Disasters

On Thanksgiving Day 1988, unbeknownst to all of us, one of the cats pissed on the stove. Sometimes a smell indelibly sears itself onto your memory bank, and that incident, fairly and unfairly, confirmed the fact that my grandmother was a disaster in the kitchen. It’s not like she put the cat on the burner herself. But her cooking was atrocious, and the cat burner fiasco definitively created a Pavlovian connection between grandmother and food.

Her specialty, as it were, was pork chops and biscuits. Specifically, Shake ‘n Bake pork chops. She always managed to find these tough little chops that were mostly bone, and the Shake ‘n Bake coating would slide off in a greasy sheet. The biscuits were made from scratch, possibly out of rocks. Nary a hint of flake in these things.

Many nights my brother and friends and I would make a show of eating, and then bring dinner outside for games of Pork Chop Toss and Biscuit Shooting. The house down the hill was maybe 300 yards away, and with a good flick of the wrist and a good crust on the snow, a pork chop could make it a long way toward the property line. And a biscuit could take two BBs at close range and barely even flinch.

All was almost lost, but not all: gram made the most amazing donuts from scratch.

On frigid winter mornings, we would come downstairs and find her covered in flour and stirring a fresh batch in boiling Crisco. They were spectacular! Unless, and until, you bit into a “prize” donut and found yourself choking on a nice big clump of gray hair. Those mornings we quickly turned to heaping bowls of Boo-Berries or Fruity Pebbles, saving the remaining donuts for bird feed and target practice.

She tried, and I loved her for the effort. And we certainly didn’t go without. But the woman was an absolute nightmare around the stove, with or without the noxious fumes of burning cat urine.


  1. I’m going to be that grandma some day…

    • siigh…me too….

      • lol

  2. Good way to start the morning. Brings back memories of crappy homemade pizza (hot dog pizza at that) and my personal fave, soup. I mean how does one butcher soup.

    • Hot dog pizza. Um…uh…holy…..

      • My Mother was pretty much the same, other than the cat thing.

      • The cat thing was really her A-Game.

  3. Is it possible that we’re related? Did your grandmother also specialize in all things fried, and by fried I really mean burned to hell? Fried/hell-burned chicken? Fried/hell-burned bologna Fried/hell-burned okra?

    • Fried/hell-burned hair balls…YES. In CRISCO. My heart still hurts just thinking about it.

  4. Whew, brought back some memories with the Shake N Bake – I think I was served those exact same pork chops 🙂

    • And now you know that those chops can be used for competitive sports!

      • Love it…I need to cook this for my two boys just for the experience 🙂

      • Do you have cats? Make sure one of them gets up on the stove first, in order to get the full experience.

  5. Ha! I guess I better thank my lucky starts this morning that not only did my grandma not even own a cat…she was an excellent cook. 😉

    • Double score!

  6. I have no cats thank goodness! My in-laws had a cat who was found licking a roast they were thawing for a family dinner one night – I thought my father-in-law’s head was going to explode! Let’s just say the ‘sailor’ in him came out in full.

    • …shudder….

  7. Lily said:

    Haha poor grandma! Sounds like your meals were either feast or famine. I think I’ll be able to stop eating donuts if I picture your grandma’s hair in them. Perfect diet idea!

    • At your service, ma’am!

  8. Mmm . . nothing like a fresh batch of Grandma’s boil Crisco to start the day off right!

    • Crisco flavored with kerosene, newspaper, plastic milk jugs and whatever other garbage she threw in the woodstove below. 😉

      • Ha ha! Well what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

      • Touche. *grin*

  9. Brian, your grandmother was tough. I can’t believe she kept at it all those years. (The cat urine thing? That sensory image is going to be with me alllllllll day.)

    See, my grandmother hated cooking. She could cook, but she really, really hated it. She loved sewing. When the last child left the house, she hung up her apron. That was it. My grandfather grabbed up that apron and put it on (metaphorically speaking). You see, his mother had taught all the boys to cook and bake when they were young. Picture this tough rancher man canning fig preserves with orange zest. That was my grandfather.

    Gosh, this story brought back a lot of good memories for me. (And a few funky ones.) Thank you for that.

    • And my grandfather stopping all farm work every frickin’ day at 2:00 for Another World…

      I’ll have more about my grandmother’s actual toughness soon! I’d love to hear more about your …ahem, but it’s perfect… kin’folk.

      • See what I mean? When people talk about the gender divide at home, I have to stop and remember that this happens… at other people’s houses.

        I’m waiting to tell some more terrible kitchen tales near the next big holiday. I have SO MANY.

        Around here, you’d say “kin” (and it would sound like KEE-IN) or you’d say “my/his/her people” (which means my/his/her family).

      • Kee-in. Well, shucks.

      • Ye-up!

  10. ahaha! at least she always tried. but you guys are bad, bad boys – making games out of grandma’s cooking… ^^

    in our family, it’s our mother who isn’t good in the kitchen, she’d just toss everything in the pan and hope the concoction will come out good, haha. curiously, they often do… that’s my mama for you… hey, hope things are owkey. 🙂

    • I prefer “quality control.” One never knows when one may need protection from wayward BB fire.

  11. My grandmother was a fabulous cook. I don’t remember her making anything that tasted bad. My grandfather however, was a whole other story. He made us taste frog legs and told us it was chicken. 😛

    • Oh, that is so WRONG!

      • lol…I know…but as an adult, I actually like them (they are served here in buffets). 🙂

      • I guess I’d try ’em. Better than fried/hell-burned chops.

      • lol..and they really do taste like chicken… 😉

  12. “The biscuits were made from scratch, possibly out of rocks.” Hahaha! I love this post!

    I knew when I went over to my mom’s house for coffee recently and found cat hair floating on top of my ‘Cremora’ that her best food prep days were behind her. : )

    • Guuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh…..

  13. Oh this is great!!!

    • Awww, thanks!

  14. Poor Grandma!!
    Your stories are so amusing 😉

    • You are too awesome, thanks!

  15. Mmmmmm!

    • Oh yeah. 😉

  16. I never had the Shake and Bake experience, probably because of their commercial with that little girl and her annoying southern accent, “It was She-yake and Bayke, and ah hey-ulped.” Besides, my mother could kill a pork chop without it-you know, the trichinosis scare. On the other hand, she was an awesome baker and could make some mean fry-cakes: dunk and bite! Only, she used lard. Oh, to be free to be a fry cake glutton on an HCG diet!

    • YES, I remember that commercial! Well, I say back to your holler, Daisy Mae! 😉

      I’m absolutely amazed, in retrospect, that we didn’t get destroyed by trichinosis. Small miracles, I guess…

  17. Aww. I think we had the same Grandma. Very nice little memory you shared here. 🙂

    • Glad you also survived…barely. ;P (And remind me to post about her skills with fish sometime) Great to have you here, thanks!

  18. Ick… my cousin had a cat pee on her stove once… no one noticed till it was turned on and then the heat just turned the smell into something that was nearly tangible. Thinking of it now makes my teeth grind together in revulsion… nasty!!
    I really didn’t think there was such a thing as a granny that wasn’t an amazing cook… my favourite grams has been gone a decade now, and I still miss the smell of her kitchen.
    Great piece, as always!

    • So you know the horror first hand…

  19. Awre! Loved it…

    • Sweet!

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