Friday, May 12, 2017

Foodie Friday: Mom's Kitchen

The latest issue of Southern Living features several of their editors talking about their mothers and the food produced in their childhood kitchens.  It was a really touching feature and really spoke to me. 

Food was - and is - central in every gathering in my family.  Holiday tables loaded with so much food that desserts were given a room of their own.  All you can eat catfish when my PawPaw had a good sell.  A fish fry or a barbecue on the Fourth.  Food.  It really does bring us all together.

There were many women in my life growing up -- my mom, grandmothers, aunts, friends of my parents, parents of my friends.  But four stand out to me the most: my mother, both my grandmothers, and my great grandmother.  And, today, I'm going to borrow a page from Southern Living and tell you a little about the foods they produced in the kitchens I grew up in.

My dad's mom, we called her Ma, was the one of these four women I spent the least amount of time with.  But it was very easy to think of the dishes that defined her.  She was a very vain woman and will probably turn over in her grave knowing I typed this but she was the type of woman who ordered in Thanksgiving dinner.  Meaning: "HEB cooks everything for you so I just went that route!"  She made me a chocolate pie every Thanksgiving or Christmas but even that isn't want I think of when my mind goes to her.  I think of two meals: scrambled eggs and grilled cheese/ tomato soup.  Her scrambled eggs were simply the best.  I've never had any other like them in my life.  So light and fluffy and so, so good.  I loved her scrambled eggs.

And she is also the one I think of when my mind wanders to grilled cheese and tomato soup. She and my grandfather owned a ceramic store (The Wishing Well) when I was young and I can remember being at their shop -- which also held an apartment -- and eating grilled cheese and tomato soup even if it wasn't snowing.  Ma wasn't much of a cook but she did know how to fix a mean grilled cheese!

Then there's my Granny.  She was a central figure in my formative years.  We probably saw her every single day - or close to it! - while I was growing up.  She was a tiny little lady, barely 5'0 tall if that and no more than 90 pounds soaking wet.   And she put lard in everything she made. Hand to heart, the woman made the best spaghetti and meatballs on the planet.  They were Chef Boyardee but she put a little bit of Jesus (LARD) in them and they were so good. 

That wasn't her signature dish, though, for she had so many of them.  Potato cakes.  Sugar cookies.  Fried pies.  Oscar potatoes (named after my cousin Storme's grandfather.)  Weenies and kraut.  BISCUITS.  My Granny's biscuits were, hands down, the best thing ever.  I would literally give anything - ANYTHING - to be able to taste one of those again.  They were amazing.

Then there are the two women who were in my life the most and this is where things get tricky.  Because there are the dishes they're both known for and the dishes I will always and forever remember them for.  And they're not the same.

For instance, Mawmaw makes the best banana pudding.  I love it.  My PawPaw loved it.  Also?  Her dirt cake.  I always loved it and she would mix it in a bucket from the dollar store and add in gummy worms and it was just so good and so cute.  Those are the things I should think of when I think of Mawmaw.

But I think of the farmer's breakfast she fixed my Pawpaw every morning.  Sausage and eggs and biscuits.  And how, once, when I was a senior in high school and told her I would make the biscuits for dinner and asked her where the can was and she looked like she wanted to beat me.

But what really makes me think "MawMaw" is cinnamon candy.

Cinnamon candy.

I was so sick in the hospital, just after I had J.  I was in CCU for several days then in a regular room, still not wanting to eat anything.  One day I mentioned I wanted cinnamon candy.  Mawmaw showed up and she showed up with CINNAMON CANDY.  Everything you could imagine.  Cinnamon disks and Fireballs and Hot Tamales and Red Hots and, oh my, all the cinnamon candy. 

Then there's my mom.  And there are so many things I should say.  My brother would say her ribs or blackberry pie (or is it cobbler?) or cheesecake.  So many people love her carrot cake.  And her Mexican lasagna.  And she revolutionized the way I cook canned green beans.

 But when I think of my mom and cooking, I think of one thing: "nachos."

You see, my dad was diagnosed with diabetes when I was in middle school and all fun eating went out the window.  Unless he was out of town.  And then we would have nachos.  My mom would make Rotel dip (Velveetta, rotel, can of nacho cheese soup, can of cheddar cheese soup.)  We would heat a can of Wolf band chili on the stove. And we would layer: chips, cheese dip, chili, shredded cheese.  And repeat.

And we loved it.

I STILL love it.

And it makes me realize . . . the recipes I sink so much time in to are not going to be what my children remember and what makes them think of me.

In fact, we had the conversation last week. 

"What's your favorite thing that I make?"

J - "Tatortot casserole!" (Got more than some Arkansassy in common with the Duggars!)
Girl Child - "Make our own pizza night!"
K1 - "Stromboli!"
K2- "Quesadillas with cheese!"

So who knows. Maybe one of these days my daughter will come home from college and I'll sprinkled shredded cheese on half a tortilla, fold it over, microwave it for 20 seconds and when I serve it to her with jarred salsa and she'll get the warm fuzzy feelings thinking "this came from my Mama's kitchen."

Cinnamon candy and dirt cake.


The little things.

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