My Grandma’s Movie Night Tradition Involves Two Out-of-the-Box Treats That I Make for My Family Today

published Jan 1, 2022
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It’s 1995 and I’m back at my grandparents’ ranch-style house in Florida, sitting in front of the T.V. with mounds of pillows stacked around me like a fluffy little fort. My grandparents raised me as a kid, and though I no longer lived with them, I often found myself hoofing over there for slumber parties, even though I was much too old for it. (Are you ever too old to spend time with grandparents?) Part of the draw was my grandparents’ movie nights, a tradition we maintained since I was a tiny kiddo. They were the simplest and yet most fun weekend activities for me — ones I remember to this day, now that I have my own movie-loving kiddo. 

While my grandmother made treats in the kitchen, my grandfather would haul out a giant bedsheet to spread on the carpeted floor in front of the television. I’d make myself a makeshift bed out of pillows and floor cushions, and wait for my favorite part of the night — Grandma’s treats. 

Credit: Thao Thai

A comforting, warm drink that’s not hot cocoa

First comes the mugs of warm sweetened condensed milk — yes, you heard right. Instead of serving hot chocolate on cold nights, my family has always mixed up warm condensed milk for a sweet yet delicate indulgence. The drink involves only two ingredients: hot water and sweetened condensed milk. You mix a heaping tablespoon of the gloopy, delectable milk with about 6 oz. of hot water. Stir and sip yourself into sleepy oblivion. (Insomniacs, this also works great for that terrible 2 a.m. witching hour!) If you’re feeling fancy, you could also add a bit of cinnamon or vanilla. Warm sweetened condensed milk is a blank slate for whatever flavors call your name. 

Credit: Sara Tane

The easiest cinnamon toast ever

Then, Grandma slides me a plate of cinnamon toast. Equal parts simple and satisfying. It’s made with fresh baguette, sliced thinly and slathered with good-quality butter. Then, she mixes cinnamon and sugar together into a delicious, gritty blend and sprinkles it all on top of the baguette. The bread gets toasted for 2-3 minutes, just enough to melt the butter and cinnamon-sugar mixture together. And that’s it. 

Toast and warm milk in hand, my grandparents and I settle in for whatever’s playing. My grandparents rest on either side of me on the huge bedsheet. If it’s really chilly out, we may bring the space heater closer, and hunt for the quilts they keep neatly folded in the closet. Sometimes, we forget the movie is playing and chat about their favorite stories; or, I grab a chapter book out of my overnight bag and read quietly while they sit next to me. Because really, movie night has never been about the movie or even what we’re doing together. It’s about another kind of warmth entirely. 

These movie nights — and Grandma’s easy treats — are a reminder in this season of excess that some of the best things come from small traditions. The ones that take little money and effort, but come from a whole, heaping lifetime of love.