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Families pass on holiday traditions from plate to plate
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Eula Mae Adams makes cornbread at her home in Flowery Branch. - photo by Tom Reed

The most vivid memories Eula Mae Hanes Adams, 82, has of growing up on a farm eight miles outside Gainesville are of her big, loving family and having plenty of food.

"We grew most everything we ate: Fruit, vegetables and meat," said Adams, of Flowery Branch. "Papa (Carl Hanes) had cows, hogs and chickens, so we always had fresh eggs and milk. Our (corn) meal we had ground for us. We did buy white flour from the store, although we had coarse, brown flour."

Born in 1926 and raised during the Great Depression - along with two sisters and two brothers - Adams' mother, Lucy Mae Floyd Hanes, cooked all of the family's food at the homestead off Candler Road, cooking on a wood-burning stove with no gauges.

Despite the hardships, her mother always cooked up wonderful smells and hearty memories that Adams carries to this day, keeping her mother's tradition alive through food.

Many families have recipes, especially around the holidays, that they use year in and year out. Some may not even know where the recipe started or where that particular method of making gravy originated. Nevertheless, come Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, that special dish is on the table, keeping old memories warm.

"Mama never used recipes, cooking by feel," Adams said. "She baked hen and dressing for the holiday meals with lots of vegetables like beans, potatoes and corn."

Other food traditions she learned from her mother - and enjoys today - came from convenience. Others were inspired by the family garden.

"We would have buttermilk and cornbread for supper on cold, winter nights because that was easy to eat sitting around the fire," Adams said. "In the summer, Mama would make roasting ear corn soup for breakfast, using some of the first, tender ears of corn from our garden.

"Served with slices of fresh cantaloupe, it was a tasty breakfast for the whole family."

Adams' grandfather, George Jackson Hanes, was a local landowner and farmer who grew cotton and had a cotton gin. Hanes served as a Hall County Commissioner in the early 1900s and was chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners from 1921 to 1924.

He died in May of 1926, the year Adams was born. "Grandpa Hanes" had 12 children: Eight by his first wife, Mary Caroline Deaton, and four by his second wife, Margie Dunagan. "Mrs. Margie," who was a widow when she married George Hanes, also had two children from her first marriage.

Members of the George Hanes clan produced a family heirloom book earlier this year. "A Taste of Tradition" celebrates 50 years of faith, family and food that come together every year at the Hanes reunion.

Adams said she now cooks roasting ear corn soup any time of the day, not just for breakfast - and she still eats buttermilk with cornbread whenever she gets a craving for it.

Although, Adams said she has changed her method of cooking biscuits over the years.

"Mama made biscuits with lard, white flour and buttermilk and what we called Hanes gravy," which was pan gravy with meat drippings added to milk or water and flour. "Now we use canola oil instead of drippings."

Ruth Holliday of Sautee has one cherished recipe for chocolate or vanilla pound cake she got from her mother-in-law, Sallie Hanes Holliday (who was a sister of Carl Hanes and aunt to Eula Mae Adams).

Sallie Holliday, or "Mama Sallie," called the cake her favorite one to bake, Holliday said.

"We have savored this special delicacy for over 45 years," Holliday said. "Thank goodness we have that recipe. Everyone likes it."

But not every holiday food tradition involves a recipe. Sometimes, it's about how the food is served.

At the end of each meal, Adams said, her father would say to his wife, "Mae, what's behind the door?"

Dessert was often a freshly made cake, Adams said, and her mother had to go back to the kitchen to get it.

"The icing would usually be vanilla or chocolate, made from cocoa," Adams said. "Years later, all of the grandchildren still remember hearing Papa say, ‘Mae, what's behind that door?' before dessert."

Lynda Holmes, a Flowery Branch resident, is the daughter of Eula Mae Adams and the granddaughter of Lucy Mae Hanes.