My husband asked me a question today, " How did you get on this health kick if you were raised with Southern cooking....”? No one has ever asked me that before and I had to think about it for a moment. Now my mom always tells people that she did not know how to cook when she got married, which I am still trying to figure out how that was the case. You see my mother was raised as an only child by my grandmother who was also an only child. My grandmother LOVED to eat and cook, and the story goes that my mother didn't like to eat at all. So much so that she had to be forced to go to the corner lunch shop counter and drink an egg cream every day (if you know what an egg cream is then you're telling your age right there ). Matter of fact, she would get in trouble if she didn't show up for that egg cream! Legend also say that she would try and sneak her cat her food from the table but would often get caught because her cat insisted on licking his whiskers and paws after the fine meal which was a sure give away. I guess I inherited her disinterest in food, because I wasn't much on eating as a pass time growing up either. Not having much junk food in our home didn't spark much curiosity about food either. Truthfully, I was in my 20's before I'd ever even had a Twinkie (turns out I wasn't missing much
). As far as my mother's role in my food journey, I never knew she supposedly couldn't cook. I remember homemade spaghetti, tuna casseroles, succotash, and egg creams for Sunday breakfast. I heard stories of the trial and errors of homemade birthday cake debacles. But there was always food on the table, and no one went starving. Actually, besides a few TV dinners and pot pies here and there my mother's influence would have to be credited for my love of gardening and eating food grown straight from the soil. You see after my dad moved us out of the city to the suburbs of Philadelphia my mom had me and my brother planting and harvesting from her garden as soon as we could pull a weed. There were tomatoes, cucumbers, and string beans which she pickled. There were bell peppers and even corn, which was no easy task to grow in our 12' x 24' garden wired vegetable patch. My mother would can and pickle whatever she could get her hands on! She never fried anything, but I never realized maybe that was because she did not know how. I do remember a jar of pickled pigs’ feet in the corner of the kitchen on the floor and a pot of chitterlings cooking, every now and then. My grandmother was in charge of the big holidays, so that's where you'd find the greens with ham hocks, black eyed peas with fat back, and a pot of neck bones. She loved to bake rum cakes from scratch (which my college dorm mates really appreciated!) and pineapple upside down cakes. She could make a kitchen light up with aromas! But, if I'm honest, all these different selections of foods never impressed me. Food was just not that important to me. Though what I didn't realize at the time was that I was being imprinted. I was being conditioned that food comes from the ground and not out of a box and that making your own dishes to feed your family was LOVE. This was SOUL FOOD. By the time I got to college at Tuskegee and finally got in my apartment, I was well on my way to converting from ham hocks to smoked turkey legs. I remember growing tomatoes off my window air conditioner unit while I was a student in medical school, living in the Towers at Meharry. When I raised my own children, it was easy to fall back on what I knew, and my children helped me plant and harvest our gardens. Hopefully, one day I will be eating at their tables and watching my grandchildren eat the food that they planted and harvested with their own hands.
So, the moral of this story is, "Train up a child in the way he(she) should go and when he (she) is old he(she) will not depart from it.". Thanks Mom!