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My grandmothers were polar opposites. My maternal grandmother was the traditional one, a proper Southern Baptist farm wife. My paternal grandmother was, well, a little less proper. Divorced two or three times, she was a single mother who showed little interest in domesticity.  

During visits with my mother’s family, my brother and I could look forward to plenty of homemade food, including veggies from the garden and entrees from the livestock roaming the fields.

During visits with my father’s mother, we could count on a can of soup, a bottle of Coke and a bowl of sherbet.  If we were good, we got to flick the lighter for her endless lineup of cigarettes. 

She died when I was 18. Turns out a lifetime of Chesterfields wasn’t the best health plan. She died before we got a chance to know each other as adults, but I think we would have been great friends. 

If ever there was a food that should be an innocuous non-memory, it would be sherbet. I will forever associate it with my grandmother, however, because back then, it was exotic and rare, kind of like her. 

Thanks to the New York Times, I made a batch of tangerine sherbet recently, a venture that my grandmother would have found ludicrous. It was tastier than any store-bought sherbet that ever came out of her freezer, but it brought back the same bittersweet memories. 

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