Granny Smith taught me that pumpkin blossoms are edible. The notion of eating a big yellow flower seemed ridiculous to me at the age of nine, especially since there were so many bees that flew in and out of the flowers on the vines. The pumpkin patch was my section of the family garden. My step-father told me I could plant whatever I wanted on a patch of land that was not used in our garden. “It’s too soggy for anything good to grow here. I don’t care. Go ahead and plant those seeds there,” he said one June evening in 1977.I planted a handful of pumpkin seeds that were given to us by an old farmer- Mike Holden, who was almost 100 years old. Mike cultivated mammoth pumpkins. Years and years of picking all but one fruit from pumpkin vines resulted in an offspring of crop that often produced pumpkins that were more than 100 pounds. The seeds were in our garage for years, inside a glass mason jar. I was determined to see if I could grow a pumpkin as large as the ones Mike Holden was known for. Granny Smith came over to our house one afternoon while I was outside pulling the weeds from around my pumpkins. I showed her how long the vines had grown and neither of us could get over how many yellow flowers there were on those few pumpkin vines.“You know you can eat them.” “For real?”
“Yes, pick them in the morning before the bees come,” she said. “That’s when the flowers are fully open and when they taste best. Make them for breakfast,” she suggested.
I was as tall as she was at nine. How could eleven children—my aunts and uncles, come from such a small woman? She wasn’t my real grandmother. If she was, I probably would have been short too. She was just an extra grandma to me, similar to a piece of land that needed things planted on it. She came from my mother’s second marriage, but she taught me as much about life as my real grandparents.
“Dip them in scrambled eggs, roll them in crumbed saltine crackers and fry them in butter,” she suggested as if sharing a secret family recipe with a granddaughter.
I fried a few, following her secret country recipe. As a budding gay child, I loved the kitchen and cooking. Mom did not like it when I made a mess on the counter and stove, but she never told me that I was not permitted to cook.
“Just clean up your damn mess,” she’d say. Before my ‘inventions’ had the time to finish simmering or baking, Mom would scream—“Jesus Christ boy, you should have been a girl.” I’d brush off her comments, like removing the edges from burnt toast and continue with my cooking.
“Here mom, taste one.”
“Hey, that’s pretty good. It tastes like chicken. Show me how you made them.”
I refused to give away the tip and I kept Granny Smith’s secret recipe, until now.