Earlier I posted about my maternal grandmother, who is over 90. Some of you asked what my maternal grandmother eats. She's never eaten a particularly special diet, but I called her to clarify. Grandma A grew up during the Depression with many siblings in Eureka, Illinois. She moved to New York City and then during the war she moved to DC to work on something classified. Later she moved to Florida, then to Georgia, and now she lives in a retirement community back in Eureka. When we visited her as children she always had good snacks: shortbread, bowls of nuts, jello, yogurt, and fruit were some I remember. Here is a short interview with her, roughly transcribed:
What did you eat growing up?
Mostly fruits and vegetables from my father's garden, which mother also canned for the winter. We drank raw milk and cooked with butter. Mother liked to bake pies and make fudge. We ate the chickens we raised and sometimes had beef from the local butcher. Occasionally we had some canned salmon. Margarine was sold in ugly white blocks with yellow coloring you had to mix in. We tried it once and never bought it again.
Did you or any of your siblings have dental problems? Crooked teeth? Wisdom teeth removed?
No. But my brother Paul overate sweets. You could buy them in town and we also made some at home. He lost all his teeth when he was about 20 and was obese later in life. But no one else had that problem.
How do you think your diet differs from what modern children are fed?
People eat too many prepared foods and too much. They also don't walk enough. There is a trend towards making things easier and people don't cook from scratch anymore.
What did you feed my mother and her siblings?
Grandpa and I were "health nuts." We didn't buy prepared foods, read labels, and I cooked from scratch.
Did you cook much meat?
No, I never cooked much. I don't really like cooking meat. (my mom's reaction: "but, but, but, we did eat meat when I was growing up, mostly beef, cheaper cuts, almost never chicken, no bacon, had ham at Easter, but ate beef in stews, etc. several times a week...guess Grandma has forgotten cooking beef stew, lasagna, etc. And antipasto salad every night with dinner!").
Mom always complained that grandpa made them eat "weird stuff"?
No, most of our food was normal. Well, one thing they didn't like was seafood stew called bouillabaisse. Grandpa sometimes ate traditional Japanese food for breakfast, but nobody else wanted that. Grandpa was very thrifty and we sometimes ate canned fish too.
So what do you eat now?
Well, it's very strange. But growing up I had some constipation issues and when I got older I read that eating fruit in the morning would fix that, so I've eaten that ever since. Your mother has told me this is not a good breakfast. I enjoy whatever fruit is in season, as well as four prunes. I really like coffee and drink two cups a day with a splash of milk. I don't drink much milk, but I enjoy cottage cheese. Your mom was reading that paleo book (Robb Wolf's) and told me that dairy might cause weight gain though...I recently lost some weight by trimming portions and eating fewer sweets.
For lunch I often eat coffee yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and egg salad. When I enjoy a sandwich I use an English muffin or only one slice of bread. I like peanut butter mixed with a dash of Hellman's mayo and yogurt on an English muffin.
For dinner I have two vegetables. Tonight I had acorn squash and green beans. I also had a tomato salad and some cottage cheese.
Do you eat out?
Not much. When I moved back to Eureka my friends and I would eat pie at Busy Corner, but I stopped because I gained weight. I only eat pie when I am at someone's home now and they made it themselves.
Why are you so healthy?
Many people in my retirement commmunity have many health problems, but I don't. I never go to the doctor or have any aches or pains. Maybe they don't eat well or walk enough. I walk every day.
What are you favorite foods?
Fruits and vegetables. And ice cream, but I try not to eat that too much. Hey, I've been enjoying shelled peanuts a lot lately and your mom said legumes aren't that good for you, are those healthy?
Err, well I think true nuts are healthier, but if they work for you and you enjoy them, don't give them up!
Yes, but real nuts are quite expensive and I like shelling peanuts.
When I was a kid you used to keep real shelled nuts in a bowl on your coffee table...
Oh, well maybe I'll do that again!
Thanks for the interview grandma!
Overall my grandmother's diet is very interesting. It's very low in calories...could calorie restriction account for her succcess? Good upbringing? Good genes? I know if I ate that way I don't think my system would work very well (the coffee in particularly would make me INSANE), but maybe I got that from my dad. Both my sister and I had braces and wisdom teeth removed...
YES, other grandma, I will interview you if you want! I will also hopefully have an interview with a 99-year old relative soon.