Grandma’s Horseradish

Remember the town I told you about that I grew up in?  (In case you don’t, just type “Bath” in the Search bar and you’ll read about it.)  Remember the story of watching the volunteer firefighters at my Grandparents’ house?  They were my Dad’s parents and lived about a mile away from us.  My Mom, my brother and I would often walk or ride our bikes up to their house.  We did that a lot through the summer months.

They had a small garden in the back of their yard and grew a variety of things–one of them being horseradish.  Now, if you’ve never had horseradish before, it is a preferred taste.  Horseradish is actually a root that has no smell to it until it’s cut open.  Once that’s done,  however, you’d better be wearing a gas mask, because the aroma will burn the hairs right out of your nose as it makes its way into your sinuses.  It’s a great way to clear your nasal passages if you’re fighting a cold!  But it has to be homemade to work like that (the sissy stuff that you find in the store next to the ketchup is hardly worth calling “horseradish”).

I have never particularly cared for the taste of this decadent condiment, but my Dad absolutely loved it–but only my Grandma’s homemade stash.  This stuff was so strong that you could stand on the other side of the kitchen with your eyes closed and simply let your olfactory senses warn you that they are being assaulted by a jar of this burnin’-hunk-a-somethin’ that someone has had the gall to open on the other side of the room.  My Dad would eat this straight out of the jar, a big smile on his face as his nose would begin to run like a sieve.  He lived for late summer when the time for making homemade horseradish was nigh upon us.  More like nigh upon my Grandma, who didn’t seem a bit bothered by the overwhelming aroma that always emitted from her kitchen when making it.

We always steered clear of their place for a few days when we knew she was in the middle of this annual assault on the senses.  But that didn’t always work.  One day, the three of us decided we’d walk/ride up to Grandma and Grandpa’s house unannounced–beautiful day, nice breeze, perfect for being outdoors, right?  When we got up there, though, we found out that she was in the middle of making a batch of this homemade horsey-sauce.  My Mom told us both to stay outside (because the aroma was so strong in the kitchen that she figured it would drive us right back out anyway), so we rode our bikes around in the driveway.  It wasn’t but a few minutes later that we heard a very strange and unnerving sound emanate from Grandma’s kitchen.  It was something between a whoop! and a scream and it was coming from Mom!  We came off our bikes at a full run and bolted into Grandma’s kitchen, only to see Mom standing at the counter, her hands up to her nose and tears in her squeezed-shut eyes as she stood there laughing.  For some reason known only to herself and God, she thought she would take the top off of one of the jars of horseradish and take a whiff.  To the best of my knowledge, she only did that once.  It was at that moment that I vowed I would never touch a jar of that Dad-beloved, nasal-hating sauce in my life!