Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mama’s Home Cookin’

This week I was talking with a friend about the things from back in the day that we miss the most. After a little discussion, he said that what he missed the most was his Mom’s cooking. Wow, that struck a chord with me! I realized that I missed my Mom’s cooking almost more than anything else from back in the day too. I think that is true for almost everyone.

During my formative years, Mom, like most of my friends’ mothers was a “stay at home mom.” Weekday mornings, she was up before the rest of us hustling and bustling around the kitchen as the rest of the family got dressed and ready for work or school. Pretty soon you could smell the coffee brewing and bread toasting as she prepared breakfast. Usually that was cereal and milk, toast and orange juice. On cold mornings, the cereal was sometimes warm or replaced by hot oatmeal. The kids were all seated around the small kitchen table while our parents stood by the kitchen counter with their cups of coffee and toast. Breakfast chatter consisted of finding out what was going to happen at work and school. Then it was off to brush our teeth, gather our schoolbooks and out we went. About the same time, Dad was starting up the car and beginning his drive downtown to work. Weekend breakfasts were always special; with bacon or sausage served with eggs and grits, pancakes or waffles, orange juice and milk. Yummy!

During my grade school years, my brother and I used to ride our bikes to school, at lease for the first few years. Then we got “too cool” for our bikes and walked to school instead. When I started high school, the walk was a short one, to the end of the block and the bus stop to catch the city bus ride crosstown to school. I remember that cafeteria food at school just never seemed to taste as good as Mama’s cooking at home.

Mid afternoons, we would all come rushing back into the house and, of course; Mom was ready with a light afternoon snack. Sometimes that was peanut butter and crackers but other times it was something that she made especially for us. One of my favorites was a concoction of Rice Krispies, melted marshmallows, and margarine dubbed Rice Krispies treats. I think she got the recipe from the side of the box. I especially liked them when she added chocolate chips to them. Yummy! Mom used to make our own popsicles by sticking Popsicle sticks into ice cube trays filled with Kool-Aid mixed double strength. Somehow they tasted better than store-bought popsicles. I guess the love she added found its way to our taste buds.

Usually about the time we were munching down on our afternoon snacks, which were always limited in size so that we didn’t spoil our appetites for dinner, the kitchen was beginning to fill with the wonderful smell of dinner cooking on the stove or in the oven. There was no microwave back in those days so we had a long time for our mouths to begin watering. We were not allowed to hang around the kitchen though. We were shooed out the door to play for a while then into our bedrooms to do our homework. It seemed that as the years went by, the shooing was more to the homework than to the play. Eventually there was so much homework to do that play time in the afternoon was limited and we would begin our homework on the dining room table just about the time that dinner really started to smell good. I can tell you that nothing whet the appetite as good as working that algebra problem in a room filled with the smell of good old home cooking.

Finally, Dad would come home just before 6 and we knew that it was time to clear the table of our schoolbooks and set the table for dinner. No sooner were the plates stacked in front of my father’s chair and the silverware and glasses distributed around the table, then out came Mom carrying steaming plates of beef, fish or chicken along with an assortment of rice or potatoes and an array of vegetables that could be beans, peas, carrots, yams, squash, cabbage, tomatoes or black eyes peas on any given day. Sometimes there would be a casserole. It was always fresh and delicious. These days, they call it “Meat and Three” but we called it dinner and there is nothing in the world today that can match it. Oh MY!

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