Granny’s Story

grannyCooking has always been a passion of mine; I think that I must have cut my teeth on a wooden spoon. As a child, I collected recipes and made a scrapbook of them. Collecting recipes and cookbooks is a hobby of mine, trying out a new recipe that I have collected. I was going to compile a recipe file of my favorite and family recipes for each of my nine grandchildren (Holly, Lisa, Scott, Caryn, Jenny, Rodney, Rhonda, Reece, and Regina). My sister (Ruthola Leffel Neel) said “why not compile the recipes into a book”, which I did in 1978. When my grandchildren would come for a visit and when they hit the kitchen door, I would hear them say---”mm--mm, it smells like Granny's kitchen”, so naturally I named the book “Granny’s Kitchen”. This book was an act of love and posterity since I dedicated it to my grandchildren. I also dedicated “Granny’s Kitchen” to my mother (Sallie Mae Kinser Leffell) from whom I received most of my cooking knowledge, but will never be as good a cook as she was. Simplicity was mostly her method of cooking, as she cooked with a pinch of this and a dash of that. Since we lived on a farm, I was taught to cook with churned butter, rich cream, and eggs fresh from the nest. I ordered 500 of this book from G&R Publishing Company in Iowa and when they came in, I thought-”what am I going to do with all these books”, they were gone in two weeks and I ordered more.

I lost my sister to cancer in 1979, so I compiled my second book in memory of her. I named it “From Granny’s Kitchen to Yours” and included a section of her recipes in it. I miss her very much, as we cooked together and exchanged recipes. She cooked with love and a pinch of salt (as she added love and that extra pinch of salt to everything she cooked). Her daughter-in-law, Cynthia G. Neel, used her talent for the drawings for the covers and divider pages in all of the “Granny’s Kitchen” cookbooks, which I appreciated very much. In 1984 I combined my first “Granny’s Kitchen” book and the second book, “From Granny's Kitchen to Yours” and made a larger “Granny’s Kitchen”, which is my basic cookbook.

One just keeps collecting recipes, so in 1989 I compiled a sequel to “Granny’s Kitchen' and it is year round “Holiday Treats from Granny's Kitchen”. In 1992 I compiled “From Granny's Apron Pocket”, which means just that! Recipes over the years have been restored from jotted-down or traded recipes on scraps of paper, stuffed into apron pockets, which all old women wore aprons, and taken home for later use in their own kitchens. I asked family members to share their favorite recipes so one section of this cookbook are family recipes. A recipe that is not shared with others will soon be forgotten; but when it is shared, it will be enjoyed by future generations.

I am sorry that Ruthola did not live long enough to see the results of Granny’s Kitchen cookbooks, since she was the one that encouraged me to compile my first book. My hobby turned into a small business, as I have ordered approximately 25,000 in all. Not all of these were sold, as these were a lot of giveaways to family and friends. My mother is also gone now; she died at the age of 93. So now, all that I have are memories and her cookbook. It is a three-ring binder with the back cover missing and on the red front cover the title is MY RECIPES. The tattered pages are mostly in her hand writing and there are clippings yellow with age. Then there was her one-handed rolling pin, which rolled out lots of her famous Refrigerator Rolls and her Ma Ma Cookies (which the grandchildren named). I make these, but they are not like hers, she had her own “touch”.

Happy Cooking and Happy Memories!
Theone L. Neel (Granny)
(Written by “Granny” 1998)

In Memory........

Theone was her given name, but most people knew her as “Granny”.  For those not fortunate enough to meet her, hopefully they knew her through her cookbooks.  Granny enjoyed a life of cooking and sharing recipes. She learned how to cook from her Mother and continued cooking for many years.  She had hundreds of cookbooks and copied, created and typed recipes with her typewriter. All of her cookbooks were packed with notes, suggestions, alternate versions of a recipe and new creations. She had a true love of cooking. She operated a family style restaurant, “Granny’s Kitchen”, and later spent many years catering local events and special occasions in the Tazewell, Virginia area.  She is best known for her collection of recipes compiled into three cookbooks, “Granny’s Kitchen”, “Holiday Treats From Granny's Kitchen”, and “From Granny’s Apron Pocket”. What started as a hobby turned into quite an enterprise, with her having sold close to 50,000 books by word of mouth advertising.  Her books have been featured in “Best of the Best from Virginia” cookbooks, “Goose Berry Patch” Cookbooks, “Virginia's Hall of Fame” and her books are known around the country.  Her cookbooks are valued in every kitchen they occupy and most probably have worn pages that show signs of cooking wear. There will be a splatter here or there, a drop of this or that, because of the frequent use.  She had a recipe for everything it seems and always a helpful hint.  She enjoyed cooking and always had a smile and something tasty to share.

Granny passed away at age 91 in January of 2012. She will be greatly missed by family and friends.  Her memory will continue on every time someone pulls out one of the trusted books and creates a tasty dish for family and friends.

- Caryn Neel Bushong (Granddaughter)

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From a Kitchen in Bedford, VA

"Your recipes have brought many warm smiles to my table.  Everybody always asks me for my "secrets" to my cooking.....and I always respond by syaing it starts with a menu/plan and great recipes!  Your cookbook(s) have both; I have especially enjoyed your menu selection and personal comments throughout your book.  Thank you for the generous amount of time and energy you have given to share your "secrets" with so many families.  I have become a better cook/planner of meals because of your talents in sharing your knowledge and skills." More Seals of Approval

Granny's Wise Words

  1. Give for the joy of giving.  If you only give to get---you are not giving, you are trading.

  2. Protect muffin tins by filling the unused cups with water to prevent scorching.

  3. To ensure uniformly sized muffins (or cupcakes), use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter from mixing bowl to muffin tins.

  4. Do not store crisp and soft cookies together.  Store soft cookies n tightly covered containers---crisp cookies in loosley-covered containers.

  5. Need a dessert in a hurry---warm a donut; split and fill with ice cream.  Top with Carmel Sauce (p. 397 of Granny's Kitchen.)