Cooking For An Army

I cook for an army. I can’t help it, even when I try to save money and cook smaller meals, I end up cooking twice as much. I like to think it is bred in me, my Granny Thomas always cooked for an army, my mother does too, and here I am carrying on a tradition that’s dying faster than a fish out of water.

It’s all about health and portion control these days. And if anybody has seen me running up and down the football field taking pictures – I am good on health but not on portion control. In all seriousness, my family eats good and good food is always in great supply at my house. We don’t eat a lot of processed foods, macaroni and cheese is made with cheese that doesn’t come powdered in a box with noodles. Vegetables are rarely fried, unless we get a hankering for some fried squash, and the meat comes fresh from local markets and not in the frozen food section. I like local produce, local meat, I even prefer local milk (Borden is my pick) and I’m not a huge fan of frozen foods. It makes things easier and I’ll pop in a frozen pizza quick on a long night, but when it comes to cooking for my family, feeding my daughter and husband, I want home cooked meals just like my granny and my mom after her.

I was my Granny Thomas’ last baby, the last real baby that she got to help raise, the last one she truly got to put her mark on. My parents and me lived with her and across the yard from her until I was almost 8 years old. I remember as a child going into my Granny Thomas’ kitchen after school and her long kitchen table was filled from one to end to the other with home cooked food. Chicken, rice, potatoes and onions, peas, corn bread, and my person favorite fried squash. I loved fried squash so much and my granny loved me so much that she used to send my mom to my school with a bowl of hot fried squash to give me when she cooked it for lunch so I didn’t have to eat it cold. I’ll never forget that long table, the bowls and pans, the iron skillets all laid out filled to the brim with food, and Granny Thomas sitting at the end waiting for somebody to come make a plate, sit, eat and talk for a while.

I guess my Granny rubbed off on my mom because even though she didn’t have a long table filled with food, when my mom cooked, she cooked for an army, and still does. I remember growing up being 10 and 11 years old and when my dad came home from being away at work in New York, she would cook some of the finest southern meals a kid could ask for. Fried pork chops, tomato gravy, mashed potatoes, and the best collards lips have ever tasted would be laid out across the kitchen stove. Daddy was very popular and when he was home it was like a crowd always drew to him. His friends would come over, his little brother Nonnie was never far behind daddy, and they would line up in our house getting them a plate. Some you’d think had never seen so much food while it seemed others feared they would never see food again piling their plates higher and higher. But there was always enough, always plenty to go around, and always plenty left over.

When Dennis introduced me to his Granny Mary I wasn’t sure what to think. She seemed very nice and reminded me of somebody I used to know, even though I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Dennis was my first real relationship and meeting his family was also a first to me. Dennis’ Granny Mary was also very special because Dennis sun rose and set with her, she was his Granny, and the respect, pride and love he had for her is rarely seen anymore. I soon realized that Dennis’ Granny Mary was very special, just like my Granny Thomas, and my own mother. When she cooked, she cooked for an army. Casseroles, dumplings, cracklin bread, and yeast rolls for days – Mrs. Mary was old school and since my Granny Thomas had left us when I was younger, that good southern home cooking was very welcomed to my tummy. Like my Granny Thomas, Mrs. Mary had a table that she would spread her food across barely leaving room to seat and eat. The grandkids would pile in as if the smell of the food could reach them from miles away and as they’d walk through the door they’d see Mrs. Mary sitting their at the end of the table with a smile waiting for somebody to grab a plate, sit down, eat, and chat a while.

There is something special about a woman that can cook southern. There’s something special about a woman who wakes up and starts her day preparing to cook her family a huge supper. To cook the kind of meal that lasts from lunch to dinner because it’s so large. It’s not the talent or the ability to cook that makes these women special though, it’s their ability to give so much of themselves, so much of their day, of their energy, and of their time to bring a little bit of home and little bit of love to somebody else’s day. Whether it’s just filling an empty tummy or giving a listening ear, its giving themselves so freely and so unselfishly to show somebody an ounce of kindness. Those women are sadly dying everyday never being able to pass on their craft as the new generation of young women worry more about their waist then their heart. So I might have love handles but I’m very proud to be healthy and not really care about portion control.

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