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Growing up in the deep south, in the Delta in particular, food was such an integral part of life. My earliest memories are all food related, and center mostly around my grandmother’s kitchen. My great grandmother (Bigmamma) lived with my grandparents and shared the kitchen with my grandmother (Nanny).
Each one had their own stove, so there was always a lot of food coming out of that kitchen. Nanny and Big Mamma laid out a spread for breakfast every morning like you’ve never seen – coffee, orange juice, biscuits, toast (slathered in butter and baked until crunchy), bacon, sausage, country ham, grits, redeye gravy, eggs, homemade jelly, and in the summer, fresh sliced tomatoes right out of the garden, fresh peaches with cream, and strawberries. My favorite memory of breakfast at my grandparents’ house is Granddaddy letting me sit in his lap and drink his coffee. Of course, it was more milk and sugar than anything else; but I thought I was so grown up.
It was a tradition for all the business men in Drew, which was a thriving town back then, to come by and have breakfast with “Miss Callie” (Bigmamma). I remember mornings where cars filled the driveway and were parked out on the highway there were so many people there. After everybody cleared out, breakfast was cleaned up and Nanny and Big Mamma started on dinner. It was just as big a spread as breakfast; and in the Delta, we called it dinner. (We had breakfast, dinner, and supper; those are the same meals everybody else calls breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) Dinner was for the family, and was my favorite time of the day. There were always fresh vegetables in summer, and vegetables from the freezer (not the freezer section of the grocery store that, but vegetables that all the women in the house had all sat out under the shade trees shelling, blanching, and putting in the freezer during the summer) all winter. There was always cornbread, potatoes, and meat. My favorite days were the ones Nanny made homemade potato chips. They were so good! Hers were thick cut and fried perfectly golden, crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside. I looked forward to going to Nanny’s for dinner every day and cried for weeks when I started first grade and couldn’t go anymore.
Supper was always at home. Mama had a pretty steady rotation of dishes – country fried steak, salmon croquettes, pot roast, meatloaf, fried chicken, baked chicken, catfish, crappie – always served with mashed potatoes, potato salad, a layered potato and onion casserole, or rice along with plenty of fresh vegetables like butter beans, peas, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried corn (Mama’s name for it; it was actually just corn that had been cut off the cob and cooked down with its own juice, a little water, salt, pepper, and butter), cucumber, tomatoes, fried squash. It was always great when anybody we knew went down to the coast and brought us back a cooler full of fresh shrimp. Mama just boiled them with some Zatarain’s, and it was one of the best things ever!
All this has gotten me thinking about supper tonight. I think a nice, big shrimp boil sounds like just the thing!
Recipes for food mentioned in the story: