I threw out a question on social media this week, in anticipation of Mother’s Day.
I remember when everyone wore either a red flower or a white one to church on Mother’s Day— red to honor your mother if she were still living and white to honor her memory if she had passed. I wore a white rose in my lapel to church two Mother’s Days ago and people looked at me like I had two heads. I guess that tradition has gone the way of sitting up with the dead and pulling off the road for funeral processions.
But I digress. We were talking about the question I asked my Facebook friends. “For those of you whose mothers are no longer with us, what’s the one meal you wish she could cook for you again?”
Oh, the answers I got.
We fry things in the South, and the postings naturally ran heavy toward fried foods with fried chicken being far and away the No. 1 answer — this out of over 300 responses, understand. Many of my friends were erroneously convinced that their mother’s fried chicken was the best in the world, but I know for a fact that Tommie Huckaby’s was. She fixed it for me on every special occasion, and as long as she was alive I never left on a journey of more than 300 miles without her handing me a shoebox full of the delectable treat to take with me — in case I got hungry.
Folks didn’t stop at the entrées. Most named the full meal. Mine was fried chicken, silver queen corn off the cob, fried okra, field peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, with biscuits and corn bread. Yes, I said biscuits AND cornbread. The biscuits because they go well with the gravy that accompanies the mashed potatoes and cornbread to sop up the pot liquor from the peas. Yes. I was spoiled as a child.
And this was not a special occasion meal — this could be Thursday night supper — prepared by my mama after she worked eight hours over a stand of looms in the Osprey Mill.
Cubed steak was my sister’s meal of choice, and second favorite over all responses, and a litany of vegetables went along. The aforementioned creamed corn — and you’d be amazed at the number of people who specified silver queen, as I did— fried okra, green beans, rice and gravy, squash casserole, sweet potatoes ... and on and on and on. Every item elicited teardrops and precious memories.
Some of my friends were apparently blessed with mothers who baked. Mine did not. But reading about blackberry cobblers and coconut cream pies and German chocolate cakes made me wish that she had.
Mary Anne Carroll Gordon wrote, “Mama just cooked everything so good!” I knew her mama and was blessed to have eaten her food and Mary Anne was right. She did.
LaTrelle Atha Cawthon, whose mother Dawn is very much among the living, posted “Back when Mama cooked she made great meatloaf.”
I’m guessing that after this appears in print there will be homemade meatloaf in LaTrelle’s immediate future.
The whole exercise made me wonder which of my lovely wife Lisa’s meals my own kids will look back on fondly one day. She does do wonderful things with cubed steak. Her lasagna is fit to eat as well. I have heard my children say more than once that the thing that separates meals at our house from meals at other family’s homes are the vegetables and sides, so maybe that will be what they long for.
I recently asked my grandson, Sir Henley the Adorable, about his favorite meal his mama fixed for him, and without batting an eye, or thinking it to be a strange response, he said Chick-fil-A — so who knows what the next generation will mention when they wax nostalgic on Mother’s Day.
I do know this. It wouldn’t matter to those of us who are without our mothers if the meal were cold peas mixed with flour and fried in bacon grease (one of my own mama’s specialties) or turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. The vast majority of us would like just one more opportunity to be with the one person we knew who loved us unconditionally, just because we were theirs.
If you have your mother, don’t take her for granted. Once again I mimic Bear Bryant, the only football coach in America to have an animal named after him. Call your mama. I wish I could call mine.
Happy Mother’s Day.