Searching for Satisfaction

Mealtime was the best part of the day when I was growing up. Mama always had delicious food on the table, and we knew to be seated before daddy so we could begin as soon as he sat down. We shared food three times a day every day. Saturday night was a special night, so we ate in the dining room. The fare was almost always steak cooked to perfection on the grill daddy built on our closed in back porch. The smell of charcoal drove the neighbors crazy during the winter, but daddy was determined to enjoy a very rare steak every Saturday night. He was in charge of the grill and the fare on Saturdays.

Sunday lunches were also eaten in the dining room. They were mama’s cooking at its very best. Pan-fried chicken with rice and gravy was my favorite meal, but I also loved her Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. Mama was the gravy master. The streets of heaven may be paved in gold, but the rivers and streams are definitely filled with her amazing gravy. Mama had a gravy for every meat. Deliciously rich brown gravy accompanied her roast beef, and I can taste it anytime I encounter a Parker House Roll.

All mama’s breads were homemade. She made biscuits, cornbread, and wonderful yeast bread each week, but her special homemade yeast rolls were for special occasions. Her Parker House Rolls would literally melt in my mouth. She put a slice of ice-cold butter inside each before baking ┬áthem to perfection. I could eat a dozen in a sitting. Food was mama’s way of expressing herself, and she expressed herself beautifully three times a day.

I awoke every morning to the aroma of her handiwork. Coffee was the first smell to come down the hallway from the kitchen, and bacon and/or sausage followed closely behind. I loved to guess what might be on the table. My favorite breakfast was a bacon and egg sandwich grilled in butter. I also loved sausage links and pancakes smothered in syrup and melted butter. Whatever we had, it was always great. I don’t remember ever eating anything I didn’t enjoy except when daddy was cooking seafood one Saturday night and made me eat an oyster. It went down my throat, but it didn’t stay in my stomach for long. Daddy didn’t force me to eat anything else after that.

Mealtime in my childhood home affected the way I look at food and the way I feel about eating alone. For the past twelve years, I’ve eaten many meals alone. It never has, and probably never will, feel right. I find myself munching and grazing as soon as I finish a meal. I know I’m searching for the satisfaction I got from those childhood meals, but it was not food alone that satisfied my cravings. The fellowship around the table is what made those times so filling. Mama’s food was amazing, but sitting down with my family and spending an hour eating and talking allowed the food to settle and satisfy.

We always had desert when everyone was finished. Mama brought coffee for herself and daddy, but we usually had a glass of cold milk with our delicious sweet treat. I left the table with a sweet sense of satisfaction that I don’t find when I eat alone. I have put on some extra pounds over the past year, and most the calories have come from searching for the satisfaction I felt when I sat at the table with my family. Things have changed drastically since the fifties and sixties, and it’s hard to get two people to find time to sit down for a meal. It’s important to take time at least once a week to sit together and share a meal with loved ones.

The little girls are in the habit of coming to my room for breakfast each morning, and I love having a little taste of that sweet table fellowship I remember from my childhood. The picture is from Leave it to Beaver. We certainly weren’t the Cleaver family, but we did feel a little like them three times a day ­čÖé

Photo Credit: ABC
Photo Credit: ABC

Grace and Gravy:)

Thanksgiving breakfast was wonderful, as always. The hum of fellowship provides beautiful background music for the food that brings a flood of memories and sweet comfort. Wayne’s gravy is as close to mama’s as it gets, so I feel her sweet presence at the gathering. There’s just something about gravy that reminds me of grace. All the elements in a meal may be wonderfully prepared, but gravy that makes the meal special. God’s grace, like that wonderful gravy, covers all He so generously provides and leaves me feeling loved in a very special way.

Anytime I have grits and gravy together, which isn’t nearly often enough, I think of Evelyn Tooley Hunt’s poem “Mama is a Sunrise.”

“Mama Is a Sunrise”
by Evelyn Tooley Hunt

When she comes slip-footing through the door,
she kindles us
like lump coal lighted,
and we wake up glowing.
She puts a spark even in Papa’s eyes
and turns out all our darkness.

When she comes sweet-talking in the room,
she warms us
like grits and gravy,
and we rise up shining.
Even at nighttime Mama is a sunrise
that promises tomorrow and tomorrow.

I cannot read that poem without thinking of Mary Sue. Mama warmed me like grits and gravy every morning, and I thought of her today as I ate food lovingly prepared by those willing to get up a early and serve others. It’s what love is all about, and love is at the heart of grace and good gravy!

I don’t know or care if the streets of heaven are paved with gold, but I’m thinking the lakes are most likely filled with mama’s gravy. Grace and gravy have a lot in common, so I believe the connection can be made without offending any theologians. I know God would agree because He knows how gravy prepared with love makes a meal very special. He also knows His grace makes love special and warms my heart even more than mama’s grits and gravy:)

What Is It About Cooking?

Whether I’m mindlessly kneading dough or trying a new recipe, cooking is great therapy for me. Writing is cathartic, and I love the cleansing it offers my heart but cooking excites my soul. Cooking brings me closer to the food I eat and to those with whom I share it. I think that’s what makes cooking such a joy for me. Now, if I could only get that same feeling from cleaning up. I did have a friend who told me about his parents doing dishes together after the evening meal. It was a special time that always ended with a dance. That is the most beautiful expression of love I’ve ever heard:)

My mama was an amazing cook, and food was always a source of sweet comfort in our home. We ate at very specific times, and we were all gathered at the table waiting when daddy came home each evening. Daddy finished work at five, came straight home, washed his hands, and expected the food and us to be ready when he sat down. No matter how simple the fare, it was always delicious. I believe mama could make cardboard taste great.

Grandmother Banning spent several months out of the year with us, and she always drank a big glass of water with her meals. She believed in drinking lots of water, and she believed in the power of beets. Every time we had them, she would try to convert my sister Linda who said beets tasted like dirt and wouldn’t eat them. I loved them, ate them heartily, and preached their goodness right along with Grandmother. I still think of Lilly Belle when I have beets, and that’s very often:)

Eating together is a wonderful way to connect, and conversation complements all food. I love eating with Mylah and Lillyann because we have the sweetest talks at the table. Lillyann loves to talk; I can’t imagine where she might get that trait:) Mylah jumps right in and tries to follow along. Lillyann and I both noted that she understands all we say; she just can’t find the words to interact yet. It won’t be long before she will be the one doing most of the talking, and I look forward to hearing all she has to say. ┬áThere’s nothing that blesses me more than fixing food for them and watching them enjoy it. I know just how mama felt about that. I especially love it when Lillyann feeds Mylah, and they love it too. That’s what I call a bless-bless situation.

Mama loved cooking and prepared something special for every meal. I woke each morning to the sweet smells of a wonderful breakfast. That’s a perfect way to start the day, and I didn’t realize how very fortunate I was to have something prepared with love each morning until I left for college. I missed mama’s morning magic and still do. Families don’t get together to eat as they used to, and that’s a shame. There’s a lot to be said for gathering together around the table, and I believe we lose something special as we grab here and go there. I know it causes me to eat more and enjoy it less, and I’m sure others experience the same.

Cooking is creating. I don’t cook as much as mama did, but I do cook when I have time. I made some very simple pumpkin muffins from my Old Salem cookbook yesterday. They were just right and got me in the mood for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin is something I use seasonally and so is turkey. I’m not sure why because I love both. I suppose I’m not the only one who neglects them the rest of the year. Maybe that’s what makes Thanksgiving such a special time.

Cooking brings a flood of wonderful memories that touch my heart and lift my spirit. I miss mama, but I feel her presence each time I make bread or share something I’ve made with others. I thank God for all the love mama gave me, but I especially thank Him for the sweet meals she so lovingly prepared and shared with me. I learned from mama that love is the secret ingredient when it comes to cooking:)

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