I was raised by my grandparents from the time I was born. And inevitably, whenever I wanted to follow any fad or found my way into mischief, my grandma always used to say, “What would the neighbors think?” She was always concerned with what other people might think of me… which translated into if they thought I was bad, they would in turn think she was bad for raising me wrong. So my entire childhood was spent worrying about the “imaginary audience.” In fact, my book What Would the Neighbors Think? is based so closely on my childhood that I couldn’t even think of a better name for the protagonist’s grandmother than my own grandma’s name, Grandma Toby.
Besides being a character in my book, Grandma Toby is an actual character. She’s funny and stubborn, proud and silly. She also has a thick Southern accent which is just amusing in and of itself. I love her very much, but as a kid, I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate her nearly enough. I’m ashamed to admit that I was too worried that she might embarrass me to fully appreciate her uniqueness.
When I was a kid, I was a picky eater. One of the foods that my grandma made that I loved was egg and olive salad sandwiches. (But in Toby’s “Southernness” she didn’t call it an “egg and olive salad sandwich.” She’d say in her twangy drawl, “You want some egg ‘n olive?” and you were just supposed to know that it was, in fact, a variation of a mayonnaise-based salad, and it was indeed going to be served on sandwich bread.) But none of my friends had ever heard of egg and olive salad sandwiches. If they were at my house and Grandma Toby made our lunch and asked if they wanted that, they’d inevitably ask, “What’s that? Is it egg salad?”
It was not. It was quite different. Of course, egg salad has mustard, and sometimes paprika and celery, or even sweet pickle relish or red onions. But Grandma’s sandwiches were different. I was sure she’d invented them because no one in the world knew what they were, and if that was the case, that made me different for liking them. So, when that happened, I was so embarrassed and completely mortified!
In case you don’t remember, when you’re a kid, anything that makes you different gives other kids a reason to pick on you. And I already had a long list of things that made me different: My grandparents raised me, but all my friends lived with their parents. I went to private school when all the other kids in my neighborhood went to public school. All my friends’ moms drove, but my grandma didn’t drive, so we walked a lot or took the bus or a taxi. Sometimes, I got sent to school in a taxi which made me want to crawl in a hole and die of humiliation. And I was painfully shy. As such, I got picked on a lot by other kids who always had tons of nosey questions and comments that I had to deflect.
Since Grandma had already “programmed” me to worry about what other people would think, when she asked if my guests wanted “some egg ‘n olive,” I was sure she wanted me dead and that was just another nail in my coffin. As an adult, though, I have learned not to worry so much what other people think. I’ve also learned that egg and olive salad was quite popular with the older generation. It was actually well known back in the day, and my grandma did not actually invent it.
So in honor of my Grandma Toby, today I will eat “some egg ‘n olive” for lunch. And today, in an attempt to try to make up for ever making my grandma feel bad for embarrassing me when I was a kid, I broadcast over the Internet to the entire world, that I love my grandma, and I love egg and olive salad sandwiches! Thank you, Grandma Toby!
Want the recipe? It’s easy… Boil and peel 12 eggs, and chop them finely in a food processor; Drain a 6 oz. jar of green olives and chop them coarsely in a food processor; Mix well with 1 cup of mayonnaise. Add more mayonnaise to taste; Spread on bread, and add salt or pepper if desired.