Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweet, Southern' Cookin' & the Young'uns It Starves

Kitchen - January 2010

Many people have the misconception that Southern women are unintelligent, submissive creatures that live for no reason other than to cook, clean, and please their man. As one of these gentle, Southern creatures, I feel compelled to address this. Honey, you couldn’t be further from the truth! Oh, we like doing those things, but that ain’t what butters our biscuits. We love helping other people, particularly those down on their luck. You let us find out about someone with sickness or a death in the family, and within 24 hours, they’ll have enough pound cakes and chicken casseroles to feed a third world country.

We cook and clean for our families, and will do the same for anybody else if they just ask. I’d much rather cook for somebody else than for my family. That’s probably because I have four of the pickiest eaters on God’s green earth living under my roof. My husband won’t eat fruits or vegetables, except for potatoes. Bubby is getting a little better, but it’s entirely out of fear, not appreciation for a hot meal. Rae-rae hasn’t eaten a hot meal from our table since 2008, and well, Emma is terrified of Jell-O. 

It’s a shame because I really enjoy cooking. Not as much as I enjoy eating, but pretty close. I come from a long line of good cooks, and I hope Emma will carry on the tradition. My momma can put Paula Deen and her stick of butter to shame any day of the week. My granny was the best cook in the universe, and her momma was a local celebrity for her restaurants and cooking. My other grandma is an awesome cook, too. If anything ever happens to her, I reckon I’ll be payin’ homage to her from the corner booth of the Waffle House, cause it just ain’t Thanksgiving unless everybody’s at Meemaw’s house.

But I guess none of us are perfect. Momma’s kitchen has a 20-year old mayonnaise stain on the ceiling. (Don’t ask.) Her momma cooked meals that would’ve had Jesus arriving fashionably late to the Last Supper with a full belly, but for some reason, she could not remember to take the coffee grounds out of the coffee maker before making the tea in it. Those of us related by blood would suffer in silence so we wouldn’t make her feel bad, but my dear old daddy, the son-in-law, spoke up every time. I can hear it now. “Kathy, this tea’s got a little whang to it.” I’m not saying he did it for enjoyment, but I don’t think it was coffee grounds that put that mischievous gleam in his eye. But that’s alright. She was a good Christian woman. She would apologize, fix everybody something else to drink, and go about her business. I don’t think she minded his pointing out. I know if I had a favorite son-in-law, I would give him pink dress shirts and turquoise ties for Christmas every year. Well played, Little Granny, well played.

But my children complain before they even find out what we’re having. “Dinner time, kiddos. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs. Wash your hands and come on!” Most children would be happy to have spaghetti and meatballs, right? I’m not that out of touch with reality, am I? I fix it for my kids, and do you know how they respond? “C’mon, Bubby, let’s get this over with.” Seriously, ya’ll? For pete’s sake, I ain't fixin’ turnip greens and liverwurst every night!

Apparently, my children have either been told that A) refusing to eat is the way to your mother’s heart, B) it’s ok, Dad will take you to Mickey D’s later, or C) women like to be insulted. I cannot win when it comes to the dinner table. We used to make them sit at the table until they tried their dinner, but we changed that after Rae-Rae, who has a most bothersome case of narcolepsy, aspirated in a mess of soup beans, and Bubby passed out face first in a bowl of chicken noodle soup. If he hadn’t been wearing his Spiderman goggles and snorkel at dinner, I shudder to think what might’ve happened. 

The next phase we went through was the ‘you don’t have to eat what I fix, but you’re not getting anything but fruit or a peanut butter sandwich till morning.’ Hard to fight a battle over that, right? Wrong again. During the steak and gravy rebellion of ’08, Rae-rae refused to eat anything that wasn’t room temperature.  I eventually quit fixing him regular food and resorted to giving him apple slices for dinner. Well, an apple a day may keep his doctor a way, but it made my hair turn gray and brought my shrink here to stay. One night, as he sat there picking at his apples, I asked him in my sweet mother voice if he was enjoying his dinner. The horned minion sitting at my kitchen bar just glared at me, and said “These apples ain’t even good.” You’re welcome, my dear son. Keep it up, and if we ever get enough stuff to bother writing a will, you will so be left out of it. 

Last night, I fixed a pork roast with cinnamon apples, stewed cabbage, and macaroni and cheese. Kids ain't gonna eat vegetables if you don't make them gag on them on a regular basis, right? I honestly wasn't sure what to do with the cabbage, so I texted one of my best friends and asked her. I'd seen jokes about farting and cabbage and other bothersome things, and somehow her name had gotten thrown in the mix. HEY CABBAGE HEAD...HOW DO I COOK CABBAGE?  She told me to boil it, slap a bunch of butter on it and douse it with salt and pepper. Okay, I can handle that. So, I get dinner on the table, and call the kids in there. Rae-Rae makes it to the doorway before his face falls. You see, every night, he's all grins and giggles until he says that we're not having peanut butter and jelly, and then he looks like a Jehovah's Witness at an abandoned house. He eats the whole-grain macaroni, since I'm a health-conscious parent, and I tell him he ain't gettin' up until he tries the pork. He takes a bite...and doesn't gag! I've won the gold, y'all! It must've been the best pork ever 'cuz when Emzilla wouldn't eat hers, Rae-Rae spoke up and said, "Emma, try it. It's kinda decent." They didn't eat the cabbage, but I don't blame them. It tasted like buttery, salty feet. Oh, bless their finicky eatin’, pea-pickin’ little hearts.

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