Recently my husband and I went out to check on our scuppernong grape vine to see if we could find any grapes ripe enough to eat. I ended up eating way too many grapes because the first ones of the season always seem to be the best of all.
It’s really nice to be able to walk right out your back door and be able to pick grapes right off the vine, but I couldn’t help but remember those bygone days spent under the grapevine at my grandparents’ house.
My granddaddy had his fixed up right. He had built an arbor with cedar posts and cedar rails on the top and the grapes would be hanging in clusters there among the green, yellow and brown leaves. You could walk right under it and pick grapes and eat them by the handful.
The grapes would vary from green to very ripe so you had to pick through them to get them the way you wanted yours. If you picked a green one, it was bitter tasting, but the ripe ones could be as sweet as honey. There would always be some that had fallen on the ground and sometimes bees or wasps would be around those, so you needed to watch your step if you were barefoot like some of us. I don’t even walk around the house these days without shoes, but back then my feet were tough because we all walked around in the summertime with no shoes. We’d get sandspurs in our feet and just stop, pull them out and then walk on like nothing had happened.
The first Sunday in October is Homecoming Day at the church where I grew up — Jones Springs United Methodist Church. Back in those days my extended family was really large. My grandparents had seven children, and then when you added in their spouses and kids, the total grew to 29 people. A lot of those usually ended up at my grandparents’ house after we left the church. A lot of us would then check out the grapevine even after eating all of that great food we had just had for lunch at the church. I mean, we had some great cooks who attended our church who brought homemade chocolate cake, chocolate pie, apple pie, coconut cake — and that’s just some of the great desserts we always had to choose from. Then there were all of those field peas fresh out of the field and into the pot; fried chicken, meat loaf; homemade potato salad and the list goes on and on.
I remember one particular time when the cousins were all eating grapes, when some of us happened to notice that Cousin David didn’t seem to be eating grapes the same way as everybody else. I finally asked him, “Exactly what are you spitting out?” He said, “I spit out the pulp and eat the seeds.” I said, “Yuck. Don’t you know that if you eat the seeds, grapes are gonna start growing out of your ears?” He said, “That’s okay. Then I’ll have my own grapes and won’t have to come eat Granddaddy’s.”
I don’t know even to this day whether he was pulling our leg or if he was serious, but it certainly made for some interesting conversation. I think we ended up all trying just the seeds; just the pulp and then the whole grape, including the hull. I actually used to like to eat the seeds and the pulp until someone told me the seeds were bad for you. As they say, “To each his own,” right?
I would love to be able to go back in time and have the chance to spend some time with all of my kinfolks like that again. When you’re young, you just take family for granted, but when you’re old and most of your family have gone on to their reward — that’s when you realize how important it is to spend time with them while they’re still around. It would be wonderful to hear all of that laughing and talking once again and taste one of Grandmother’s fried apple pies. I don’t know what she did to make them taste so good. I have her pan she cooked them in, but not the knowledge to make them come out tasting like she did.
Nowadays, I do have my own grapevine, but it’s just not the same as it was back in the day when there were 13 of us cousins — all spitting seeds at one another and having a friendly discussion about what part of the grape is actually the best to eat!
Azalea Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, and member of the Richmond and Anson County historical societies.