The informant remembers his Grandma saying the phrase–“that’s food that’ll stick to your ribs.” This phrase was used to refer to good, hearty food–food that wouldn’t leave you hungry an hour later. This metaphor refers to a meal full of meat and starches, eggs and bacon and steak. The informant says his Grandma got this phrase from her mother, who grew up in the Depression. The informant added his Grandma was very thin and sick a lot as a child, so the Grandma’s was always trying to get her to eat more food–food that’ll “stick to your ribs.”
The informant also added that his Grandma’s mother was a big, big woman. The informant believes this phrase was used a lot and passed on by his Grandma’s mother because she grew up in the Depression, when food was scarce.
I agree with this deduction. I’d also add that “stick to your ribs” also has a literal meaning. If the food sticks to your ribs, it’ll prevent you from becoming very skinny–and being so skinny that people can see your ribs.
Annotation: The phrase “stick to your ribs” appears on many cooking websites, often for a hearty meal. One example is this “5 Stick To Your Ribs Soups from Around the Country” page–a webpage detailing hearty and manly soups: http://artofmanliness.com/2010/11/02/5-stick-to-your-ribs-soups-from-around-the-country/