My grandfather was a restaurant cook and my grandmother came from a long line of women who could cook anything, deliciously. When my mother toddled into the kitchen for instructions in the culinary arts, she was quickly shooed away. When it became apparent she would excel academically, my grandparents said "honey, just leave the cooking to us."
After four years at an institution of higher learning, my mother graduated with honors and married. Much to her chagrin, she did not have a clue about what to do in the kitchen. Her first meal, and many after, were complete disasters.
Hence, early in my life, she determined that I would learn to cook. Everyone got in on the act, including my grandmother, who let me work beside her wearing a pint-size apron and standing on her red vinyl and chrome step stool.
My grandmother had many favorite family recipes which she typed onto 3 x 5 cards. Yes, I said typed, front and back, perfectly. Imagine! One in particular became an all time family favorite, which was made for every special occasion ~ Golden Eyed Fried Rice. We never knew why the "eyed" was included in the name, but it was.
When I was 11 years old, Grammie Vi inducted me into the hallowed halls, teaching me to make her famous rice, step by step, emphasizing all the important details that made the rice so delicious.
One night soon after that lesson we were going to have a dinner party at our house, quite uncharacteristic for my mother. It was a group of young bachelors who taught school with her. Mom decided I should make Grammie Vi's famous rice among other things. My high-spirited mother told these men they were in for a tremendously wonderful home cooked treat from the hands of her mini marvel chef, creating suspense and drama even before the evening began.
Bringing along the treasured 3 x 5 card, mom and I shopped for all the right ingredients. When we couldn't find the roasted red pimentos called for in the recipe my adventuresome mother said, "Let's just get these roasted red peppers."
"No problem, they're a lot alike," I thought with all the experience of my 11 years.
Per Grammie Vi's instructions, the night before the dinner party, I cooked the white rice, in water tinted with yellow food coloring to make it golden, and left it spread out thin on sheets of tin foil to dry overnight. Grammie Vi said this step made the rice taste so much better (and it does), so I always diligently followed her advice.
The next evening, I chopped the green onions into bite size pieces, including some of the tops (as instructed by Grammie), set out the garlic powder, the onion powder, the MSG (yes, we've learned since it is a "no no."), the soy sauce, and the chicken broth.
I then whisked several raw eggs as though for scrambling, but cooked them as Grammie had showed me – leave them flat in the skillet as though for an omelette, raise the edges with a spatula, and allow the uncooked part to flow underneath. This step by ste process creates a thin layer of cooked egg. After removing the layer from the skillet, I chopped it into bite size pieces.
Time to put my creation together. Measuring out the proper amount of oil into a large cooking pot, I set the stove to medium hot, placed the rice in the pot, and fried it until "heated through." Carefully I added the chicken broth, the spices, and the soy sauce, always stirring, then allowed the mixture to cook on medium until "flavored throughout."
Next, green onions were added and the egg bites carefully "folded in" so as not to "squash" them. Time for the crowning touch, roasted red "pimentos" (aka red roasted peppers that night) "stirred in carefully, spreading throughout the mixture."
Chatting and relaxed, everyone came to the table. Grace was said, dishes of food were passed, and with great anticipation, the famous rice creation was tasted. All around the table, eyes grew big and watery. No one wanted to hurt the mini marvel chef. However, the problem soon became apparent, the peppers were hot, really hot. Gasping and choking, the bachelors fiercely drank from their iced tea glasses.
Looking grave, my mother said, "Oh dear, I think we picked the wrong substitute." The ice broke, everyone laughed, and the rice was retired to the kitchen.
Although Grammie Vi's 3 x 5 card is dog eared and yellowed with age, I refer to it still whenever I make Golden Eyed Fried Rice for our family gatherings. I carefully follow Grammie's advice which includes spreading the cooked rice out to dry the night before. I have learned to substitute lemon pepper and seasoned salt for the MSG.
However, I have never again substituted roasted red peppers for roasted red pimentos. After all, my mother might not be around to deflect the blame away from me.