I miss my mother’s cooking. Mom was a great cook. She baked cakes and pies for sale during my pre-teen years, and I always got to help. She taught me to measure dry and wet ingredients and how to mix both by hand and with an electric mixer. One of my favorite things about making cakes was that I always got to lick the bowls and beaters. Mom was nice enough to turn off the mixer before I licked the beaters most of the time.
I think that early training is why I love to cook now. I even enjoy going grocery shopping, something else I did with her on our weekly shopping trips to Augusta. We delivered eggs to Winn Dixie and A&P stores and did our shopping at them. We didn’t have to buy a lot since our farm supplied so many of our needs.
We had 11,000 laying hens so eggs were very plentiful, and milk came directly from our cows. A huge garden in the summer provided all kinds of vegetables including corn, tomatoes, okra, peppers, potatoes, string and butter beans, peas, rutabagas, turnips, onions, collard greens and asparagus. Fruit trees and vines gave us figs, pears, apples and scuppernongs.
Big pecan trees in the yard gave us all the nuts we wanted and lots to sell, too. And for a special treat we would labor to pick the meat from walnuts from a tree on the edge of the field.
Mom and dad spent hours picking vegetables and fruit and mom cooked and canned all summer. We had a huge pantry filled with jars of everything the garden and fruit trees provided. More went into the freezer.
Every summer dad could tell the exact day we should pull the corn and we would get up early that morning and fill the bed of the pickup with ears of golden corn. Back at the house we would shuck and silk it and mom would put up bag after bag of cut corn. I usually got to cut it with a tool I slid the ear down and a blade cut it off in to piles in a big bowl.
We found that we could blanch whole ears of shucked and silted corn, wrap each ear in tin foil and freeze it. It was almost as good during the winter as it had been fresh. Dad would fire up his fish cooker, fill the pot with water and blanch dozens of ears at one time.
Mom could turn fresh and frozen food into fantastic meals. Nothing was real fancy. Almost all vegetables were cooked with fatback and meat was baked or fried. We always had a bunch of frozen hens from our layers that had layed out, and we raised pigs for pork. We even raised a few calves for meat.
During hunting season there was always dove, quail, squirrels and rabbits to supplement our meat. And we always had fish in the freezer. There were no deer back then in our area but most of the red meat I eat now is venison.
Although I love to cook and don’t really think of it as work, I found out how much work it can be last week. I decided to cook a turkey on my Primo grill and make dressing, giblet gravy and green bean casserole to go with it.
Holidays meant piles of food for a week. Not only did we have baked hen and dressing, there was always ham, sausage, meat balls and all kinds of vegetables. And when we went to family’s houses we carried lots of food and everyone there brought their favorites. I especially loved Aunt Zelma’s deviled eggs.
My turkey turned out just right and my dressing, although edible, was nothing like mom’s. I never seem to get enough giblet gravy, so I made a huge pot, buying extra gizzards and hearts to go in it since that makes the gravy to me.
The gravy turned out good although it was my first try. But, although I had boiled five eggs the night before and got out the egg slicer, I forgot to put them in. The gravy was even better the next night when I heated it back up, added some more broth and the eggs.
Although I cooked only four dishes it was a lot of work, and I really appreciate the work mom did to make a dozen different things, all turning out perfect and right on time.
I still want certain things together since that was the way it was growing up. With baked ham I want string beans and potato salad. A Boston Butt demands turnip greens, rutabaga, peas, cut corn, tomatoes and corn bread. BBQ chicken is like ham, with those side dishes. Chicken fried cube venison is eaten with mashed potatoes and English peas. And pepper, onion and tomato venison steaks go with fried cabbage, rice and corn bread.
Mom could fry great chicken, as does my mother-in-law Marv, but I gave up after a few attempts years ago. Mine never turns out right. Since we had fried chicken every Sunday I miss it but get my fill at bass club meetings at Bryans Buffet. Its not mom’s but its not bad.
With everything but baking mom just cooked without measuring ingredients. I can’t do that. I need a recipe to follow for most things but do usually wing it a little, adding something or leaving out something depending on past experiences.
Linda is a great cook but since I enjoy it and she does not I do most of the cooking at my house. We hardly every go out to eat since I like my own cooking too much. But fried scallops are my favorite seafood and both Sixth Street Pier and Fishtales have good ones, so that is where we go for a treat.
Tomorrow is a feast day for many of us. I hope you have your favorite foods, cooked by you and loved ones, and enjoy it and the fellowship during this special time of year.