Grandma Hoppy: The best cook I knew


Sheryl Sollars - Welcome To My Kitchen



I have always said that the greatest gift God has given us is memories.

For you, these memories reflect your past and are fascinating stories to share with your children. I have more memories and stories than I could possibly tell you about in a single column, but hopefully you will sit back as I share some of my favorite stories with you.

We always went to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. Some of my best memories include a very special person in my life. My grandmother, Elsie Hopkins (my father, Harry Hopkins’s mother) had a dramatic impact on my life. She was known as Grandma Hoppy (Hoppy being a nickname all of her friends gave her) to all of her grandchildren.

To those who knew her, she was the epitome of the perfect wife, mother and grandma. There are two things I remember best about Grandma Hoppy. The first was going to her house for family dinners. All of my family were excellent cooks but no one could compete with Grandma’s meals. She could cook anything and you very seldom found a recipe in front of her because they were all in her head. This was great for her, but sad for me since there are few recipes in writing for me to share with my family.

Although she was famous for many of her creations there are a few that really stand out in my mind. They include: her chicken and noodles, chicken dumplings, bacon spaghetti, and her green beans.

I watched her make and roll out her noodles and each time I was more fascinated than the last. I can still see her rolling out that bright yellow dough. She would cut them in 3” or 4” strips and then stack them on top of one another before slicing them in very thin pieces. She would then add a little flour and shread them through her fingers before dropping them in her rich chicken broth.

She usually served them along with the cooked chicken she had pulled from the bones, fresh green beans and tomatoes.

The second memory of Grandma I treasure is the smell of laundry soap and starch.

Money was short for the Hopkins family and, being the hard worker she was, she took in laundry from Wilmington residents. Her basement housed her laundry facility which included a “wringer” washer and a rope close line to use when she couldn’t hang the wash outside. (Remember clothes lines and clothes pins?).

She would then do the ironing. Since a great deal of her laundry consisted of men’s white shirts — the smell of starch was almost always in the air. She would wash, starch and sprinkle the shirt. Sprinkling came from “pop” bottle with an aluminum and cork sprinkling stopper. She would set up her ironing board in the dining room and she would stand ironing all day long.

All of this for 25 cents a shirt. Can you imagine all of that work for such little money? You could walk in and see those beautifully ironed shirts hanging on hooks throughout her home. What a wonderful smell.

My Grandpa (Stanton Hopkins) was also a wonderful man. He worked hard at Sabin Osborn’s Market, but never too busy to share his love of fishing with his family.

After I graduated from high school, I worked for a local optometrist. Grandma Hoppy worked as a cook at Main Building so I would share lunch with Grandpa.

Grandma would make her famous spaghetti and bacon so that we could warm it up for our lunch time meal. Grandpa would often bring me a “cream horn” or other treat from Gene’s Bakery (remember this place?) and together we shared conversation that made for memories I will never forget.

I could go on forever about the wonderful memories I have of Grandma Hoppy and Grandpa Stan but I need to save room to share of her recipes with you.

Her bacon spaghetti — I have never found this recipe anywhere and am not sure if this is her “original” creation or if she found it elsewhere. I just know it is very unique and encourage you to try it and I know you will add it to your collection.

The salt added to this recipe may sound like too much, but because it soaks into the spaghetti, the dish will not be too salty. Also do not substitute other cheeses for the “sharp cheddar.”

BACON SPAGHETTI

8 oz. spagetti

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup RAW bacon – cut in 1/4 inch pieces

1 cup very sharp cheese – cut in 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 t. salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes

Cook spagetti in salted water- cooked al dente and drained (don’t over cook). To the hot spagetti add all the remaining ingredients, stirring well. (Check for flavor of seasoning, you may have to add more salt as it will be absorbed into the spagetti.) Pour into greased casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until bubbly.

I am sure all of you have a person who is special in your life, maybe it was your grandma.

GREEN BEANS

Her green beans were a tradition that my grandchildren love. They are not difficult but have the best flavor. Here is how I make them.

Snap the ends off the beans and break in half. Place in large saucepan and completely cover with water. Add several pieces of ham, a ham hock or 5-6 slices of bacon and 1 ½ teaspoon salt. Cover with a lid and place over a medium heat and cook for 45 minutes. Add 1 medium onion diced and ½ cup additional water. Reduce heat to medium low and cook additional 45 minutes. (beans should be breaking apart). Check often and add more water as needed to prevent beans from sticking. Remove lid and check the taste and add additional salt as needed and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook about 15 minutes (without a lid) to reduce liquid to about 1/2 to 1 cup (depending on amount of beans).

I hope all of you have someone special from your past — maybe it‘s your Grandma!

See you next week.

Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column Welcome to My Kitchen out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at kitchenlady44@yahoo.com.

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Sheryl Sollars

Welcome To My Kitchen