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Emma Lee Sperling ‘Gigi’ at the Taylor Shop, 
Downtown Dallas, Texas 1945

Dedicated to my Grandparents

‘Eat with Gigi’ is dedicated to my grandmother, Emma Lee Chenault Sperling, born in Rowlett, Texas on May 11, 1905. We all called her Gigi. She was a strong, savvy Texas woman with lots of spunk. She could walk into anyone’s kitchen and whip up something from nothing for everyone to enjoy. She kept to the basics and yet everything was mouthwatering good. Today, I regret that I don’t have her exact chicken and dumplings recipe, her Thanksgiving dressing and so many others. But I will always remember their exact tastes and I will never forget her. Growing up everyone said that I was just like her. Today I’m proud, that everyone calls me Gigi.

August Sperling at his City Garage and Grocery Store, Rowlett, Texas 1920

The spirits portion goes to my grandfather, August Nicholas Sperling, born August 6, 1899 in Texas. He was a large, tall, distinguished man with a gentle soul. His family came from Germany and he would even lapse into German when he got mad.

When I would spend long weekends at their home, he would take me everywhere. One trip we always made and that I remember particularly well was the ride in the front seat to the local liquor store. I remember the dark, hardwood floors that would greet us as we walked through the old wood doors, rows of bottles lined the walls up to the top of the ceiling. I still remember that distinct wonderful smell of liquor in the air as we walked through the store.

Me outside my grandparents home. Dallas, Texas – May 1957

One foot through the door, the old man behind the counter already knew what my grandfather wanted – one quart bottle of his favorite whiskey. Placing it into a paper sack, the clerk had it ready for him before we got to the counter. Seeing that I was admiring the Cokes in the ice cold cooler box, he would say “Go on, pick ya out something.” Walking out the door with a cold pop as the water from the bottle would drip down my leg, I was definitely a happy camper.

Me and Gigi! Rockwall Lake, Texas – May 25, 1957

Climbing back into their car, a 1955 (same age as me!) red and white Chevrolet Bel Air with seats covered in a decorative plastic, I would stand in the middle of the front bench with my arm over the seats the entire ride home. During the hot summers, the design from the plastic covers would make an impression on the back of my legs that I can still picture today. At night when I had a tough time sleeping, Gigi would give me a shot glass with a little whiskey and honey. Now that was some good sleeping!