Eat Like Mama Bessie

  • How to eat like your great grandmother, be healthier, and feel great!

  • A historian’s journey into the eating habits of our ancestors



Mama (pronounced maw maw) Bessie was my great grandmother. She was born Elizabeth Gwilliams in 1903, West Virginia. She eloped with my great granddad Ira Holliday when she was just 17. The story was almost legendary when I heard about it as a child. Apparently they ran away on the train, traveling to Kentucky where the legal age to get married was 17. They stayed married until his death in 1977. Mama was tall for her generation, standing at 5’7” and thin. She never had a “job”, but instead put in full time hours as a wife and mother, raising 3 sons and 1 daughter (my grandmother). Eventually she became a grandmother and great grandmother.


She cooked from scratch, that was the only way there was to cook when she was a young mother, mixing everything by hand. She raised her own chickens (and would even pay my dad for the eggs when he collected them for her!) When I became a young mother myself I began to become increasingly interested in her life. I wanted to know how women of her generation did it. How did they cook, clean, and take care of their families.


I know it was “harder” they lacked the modern convenience appliances that we rely on, medicine wasn’t what it is today, and not as much was known about disease and the transfer of germs. It’s not that I want to change places with her, but I would like to learn the good parts, the parts that made her life healthier (in some ways) than mine and incorporate them into my life. The food she ate and prepared for her family was naturally organic and whole. If there is any area of Mama’s life that I should be emulating it's how she cooked and what she ate. The idea to eat like her, to bring more natural, organic, and whole foods into my family’s diet is the basis of this blog series. It’s a journey I’ve been on for the past 5 years.



It’s slowly taken hold, and I want to continue perfecting it. In this blog series I hope to teach you what the American diet looked 100 years ago. I want to help you understand why it changed so much and why that wasn’t a good thing. Finally, I want to give you suggestions that may help you change your diet and learn to eat like your great grandmother.


Topics for the series:


Chemicals- if great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food- don’t eat it

Eat seasonally

Lots of Veggies

Organic, grassfed, free range animal products

Very limited sugar and hydrogenated oils

Wheat- what’s the deal and why it’s not the wheat great grandma ate

Recipes