Letter to the Editor (From Gram)

Mar 9, 2020 | by Hawnuh Lee

envelope illustration

I’m lucky enough to still correspond with my grandmother, Helen. She’s a dang, dear woman living in rural Iowa, making cookies and cakes for sale well into her 80’s. She’s gracious beyond measure and grew up during the depression – nothing in her home was ever wasted. Gram is the OG Closed Loop Cook! She’s also the fastest letter writer I’ve ever penned. Truly amazing is this gal and I loved her latest mail. I wanted to share this particular letter with y’all because it puts everything I’m doing with this project into perspective. Nothing on Closed Loop Cooking is new news. Preserving, canning, making use of scraps, these were things done out of necessity and only fell out of favor as convenient cooking / prepping methods came into popularity in the late 50’s.

There’s so much to learn from these decade-tried culinary practices. Self-sufficiency, sourcing local, and building community. I shared this project with my grandmother (specifically my Tender Lovin’ Chickpeas recipe) and am grateful to share her response:

What a nice surprise to receive your beautiful letter. Good for you for helping to save our precious Earth. Not using so many “throwaways” was the way I was raised. The only tin cans we had was at special occasions when we had canned pineapple in something – also, we had gallon cans from sorghum or molasses. If we ever got small cans they were saved to start plants. The gallon cans were our lunch buckets for school lunches. They weren’t very fancy! Yes, my mom always used soda in her beans. All our beans were dried from our gardens. We canned all our vegetables in glass jars. Canning was work. Vegetables in (glass jars) had to be boiled, 3 hours of rolling boil. Corn, meat, and heavy veggies had to be under rolling boil for 4 hours. It took a lot of wood, cobs, etc. to keep a boiler full or jars boiling that long. There was no electricity, gas, or fuel. Picking up stuff to burn was the kids’ job.

handwritten letter from grandma

And this great tidbit:

Kris (my cousin) is coming Sept 14 to enter a lasagna soup contest at Clay County Fair.
Love you!
Thanks for recipes and good thoughts. 

handwritten signoff from grandma

This letter is so special. Sending all of you good recipes and thoughts as well as we keep making progress towards a closed loop kitchen!

Stay hungry,
Hawnuh Lee
Closed Loop Cooking


10 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor (From Gram)”

  1. I wrote letters with my grandma and great-grandma for years and years and years. My great-grandma died at 106 but always had a thing to say about the changing seasons, from the flowers blooming outside her room to the turning autumn leaves. She taught me so much about gratitude and appreciating the beauty around you. How special you and your gram still correspond!

  2. What an amazing letter! I really enjoyed reading your gram’s insight into how she grew up. I’ve been working on transcribing my grandmother’s recipes as I think of them whenever I’m in Germany visiting or having a skype call with her. She just has so many tricks that aren’t in the recipes and books she’s given me.

  3. This blog reminds me of how much I am missing as I let the world get away from me. Delightful. Thank you for sharing.


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