Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Food = Love

I can’t think of a meal at Mama’s table without picturing both Mama and Papa being a part of it in some way. Every season provided different food memories. At this time of year, it would be mustard greens, collards greens, sweet potatoes, streak o’ lean, cornbread, and candied apples. Summertime provided its own goodies: fried chicken, field peas, fresh tomatoes, cantaloupe, homemade biscuits, and stewed corn. Papa participated in the feast with his own variations on a theme. Collard greens wouldn’t be complete unless he added hot pepper sauce. For Papa (and later for me), field peas needed a little bit of fresh hot pepper from the garden. Cantaloupe required lots of salt; cornbread needed lots of butter.

On the 4th of July, Papa and Mama worked together to make DELICIOUS homemade peach ice cream. Mama would sometimes make her famous Lemon B-B-Q chicken or barbeque ribs. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we all had our favorite “Mama food.” For years it was sweet potato casserole for me. I remember Robert’s request for mincemeat pie or coconut cake. I’m sure Laura and Mary had their favorites, too. Meanwhile, Papa worked tirelessly to make his annual Christmas ambrosia. On New Year’s Day, there was the unwavering tradition of black-eyed peas, rice, stewed tomatoes and Papa’s coleslaw.

Food just naturally makes me think of Mama. When I’m cooking, I want to call her to either ask for a recipe or tell her how good or bad things turned out. Seems like most occasions in our family revolved around food. For our birthdays, we got to choose what we wanted for the meal. Later, when we moved away, Mama would make sure she prepared something we liked when we came home.

One thing that gave me comfort was the way Mama and Papa worked together. If he didn’t help her cook, he helped with setting the table or with clean-up -- especially at times when there was a crowd.

This Thanksgiving we will celebrate without either of our parents. There will be a definite hole: food-wise and in our hearts. I’m sure, though, that table talk will include memories of wonderful meals gone by and I imagine that Mama and Papa will be joining us from where they are.

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