SOAKIE: A GRANDMOTHER'S BREAKFAST STORY

She’s been gone for 17 years, but I still can’t eat breakfast without thinking about my grandmother.

Every time I sat at her breakfast table, she said the same thing: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and you need one that’ll stick to you ribs.”

What she did not mean by “stick to your ribs” was a Pop Tart or a Dunkin’ Munchkin. 

For as long as I can remember, she kept a large green Tupperware bowl filled with self-rising flour under her kitchen cabinet.  Every morning, while Granddad scrambled the eggs and fried the sausage, she would pull out the Tupperware and make a well in that flour with her fist.  Then she’d pour in a little bit of vegetable oil and some buttermilk.  “Doing it this way saves you from having to wash a bowl,” she would say as she worked the mixture with her fingers.  Once satisfied with the dough’s consistency, she would place golf-ball sized mounds of it on an aluminum baking sheet.  After twenty minutes in a 450-degree oven, her drop biscuits came out perfect--crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. 

I preferred my biscuits topped with her homemade sausage gravy. Granddad smeared butter and apple jelly on his. Grandmom would eat one with butter and grape jelly, but she liked to plop a second one into her cup of black coffee.  When the biscuit was completely saturated with the coffee and beginning to fall apart, she would eat the concoction she called “soakie” with a spoon. 

There was, of course, a story behind the soakie.

Grandmom was one of eleven children born to a sharecropper in the hills north of Rome, Georgia, on the tail end of Appalachia. Her mother died giving birth to her younger brother. Her older sisters and father kept the baby alive with cow’s milk, and when he got a little older, they fed the younger children soakie. It became a staple in her diet when she was a small child. Later, during the worst days of the Great Depression, there were days in which the only thing she had to eat was soakie, or sometimes, a glass of buttermilk and a hunk of cornbread. 

I’ve never been that hungry, so I can only imagine that when you don’t know when you’ll eat again, soakie and buttermilk and cornbread would become precious. I believe that’s why they stayed with Grandmom forever.  

One thing I know is she would have approved of Storied Goods’ granola. She would have marveled at the dried cherries, cinnamon, and cashew nuts, likely wondering aloud if that’s what the rich folks were eating. When I pour a bowl of it and add milk, I can almost hear her saying, “Now that’s a breakfast that’ll stick to your ribs.” I take a bite, and the stories of my breakfasts with Grandmom begin to come back. I become absorbed in the memories, and, completely saturated, I begin to fall apart.

 

 

Martha Bourlakas