Monday, November 10, 2014

A Glimpse into my Young Life via Recollections of my Mother

Tonight, we attended an event planned by one of our PWOC leaders.  It was billed as a night of "Soul Food."  What is soul food to an American?  It could range from the traditions thought to be attributed to our African American families, or Cajun food from the Louisiana section of our country, or it could be southern food or who knows what else?  This night happened to be southern traditions, so the menu consisted of such items as fried chicken, pulled pork, chicken and dumplings, greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, an array of desserts, and sweet tea (plus so many other ethnic dishes).  One of my friends came up to tell me bye as we were leaving, and she asked if I had made the peach cobbler.  I laughed and told her "yes, but if my mother had known that I made an easy"--you know, one of those where you mix equal amounts of flour, sugar and milk and then pour the fruit and juice out of the can on top of it and stick it in the oven--"peach cobbler and passed it off as southern soul food, she would have not been impressed!"

My mother was a wonderful cook!  That was not her only awesome attribute, but she was such an accomplished creator of good, wholesome and tasty food that I grew up in her shadow and have always felt a bit inferior when it comes to cooking.   She could whip up a meal (make a horrendous mess with about every pot and pan and dish in the kitchen dirtied), put it on the table family style, and be gracious enough to make everyone feel so valued.  I grew up eating meat, veggies, bread, dessert and drinking sweet tea every evening.  If she didn't have a dessert like Coca Cola cake, fruit cocktail cake, pecan pie, etc., she would open a Jiffy yellow cake mix and make a single layer cake and pour a hot chocolate sauce that she made "from scratch" over it!  That hot cake with hot chocolate sauce surely was at the inception of my lifelong chocolate addiction.  She did all of this after she had worked a full day in a local garment factory!  We always ate dinner about the time that the evening news came on, so my dad insisted that we only talk during commercials so he could hear the news, but my mom and I would make faces and laugh quietly while my dad would shake his head in condemnation and really was so aggravated that he could have spit nails!  I am chuckling now as I remember those times around our family table each evening.

A couple of funny cooking stories come to mind as I remember my mom in the kitchen.  Every Sunday, almost, we drove to church 20 miles from our home, and the preacher at that church usually was a Free Will Baptist Bible College student who just drove from Nashville to preach at our little country church Sunday morning and Sunday evening.  That meant that he and his family, if he were married, had to eat somewhere and as he was a student and as our church had little to no money, my mother considered it her responsibility to prepare food for our family and for that of the preacher.  I always thought that that college student preacher got a good deal out of that since it included my mom's cooking!  Anyway, Sunday mornings were very hectic cooking, packing it all in the car, and arriving at church to lead the singing and teach Sunday School classes and anything else that needed to be done.  One Sunday night, we returned home, we carried the dishes into the house, my mom began washing them, and I heard her say, "Well, who put this spoon in here?" and I could just hear her howling with laughter!  My dad and I went into the kitchen to find my mom with a obviously dirty spoon in her hand wrapped up in a paper towel with the refrigerator door standing open!  In all of the racing around that morning, she had wrapped the spoon and put it in the frig with no rhyme or reason and all she could do at this time was stand, albeit doubled over, laughing so hard that her eyes disappeared into slits with tears rolling down her face!  We joined her!  (In case you are wondering, she had her full brain capacity at death).

The other story that I remember is that she decided to make teacakes.  She did this one Friday night (thank goodness), and she used a recipe that she had never used before.  They were simple "cake like" cookies with this wonderful vanilla induced aroma and taste.  The only problem was that it was somewhat like the event when Jesus took the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, blessed them and broke them and fed the crowd of 5,000+ women and children. . .well, my mom made teacakes until almost 11:00 that night and filled every container that she could find in our vast kitchen that had a lid.  Needless to say, we ate teacakes until we were sick of them.  We laughed about that for years, but she never made those teacakes ever again during her short 62 years of life!