Suppertime

When I was an English major at Methodist College, I took a class on Southern Literature. It was probably my favorite lit class. And on the very first day, our professor—a recent transplant from Atlanta—asked us to describe the traits that make something or someone distinctively Southern. I wish I could find that list, but I can tell you that a huge part of it was food-related.

Sweet tea, pralines, fried chicken, watermelon, country ham, biscuits, and red-eye gravy…

I’ve been sharing with you about the life lessons I’ve learned by growing up country, but I’d fail at my task if I ignored this lesson…

We feed those whom we love.

I learned this lesson from our friends The Farleys. They never had children, but they spent their lives on the farm where Mr. Jack had been born. And when I was a child, it was a novelty to leave our little country neighborhood and go to their house, about 3 miles out in the country. At five and six years old, I loved to follow Mrs. Eva as she went into the henhouse and gathered the brown eggs from the nests. Until then, I had only seen the cold, white eggs that came from cartons in the store. But when we moved to their town, we started eating warm, brown eggs. What a change!

For the whole fourteen years I knew Mrs. Eva (she passed in ’97) she hobbled around on a cane. But I never walked into her kitchen—any time of day or night—that there wasn’t something on the stove. And lunch or supper with them on any given day was a buffet. They didn’t just have one meat, one vegetable, and a starch. They would have two or three meats and six or seven vegetables. And sweet tea that was almost like syrup. And skillet cornbread.

Some of y’all see my picture and wonder how I got to be so very healthy… Now you know.

Mrs. Eva never expected me to work when I was in her kitchen, but because I love to cook, I would always try to help. She gave me lots of practice snapping beans and shelling peas. And you may recall from my poem Harvesting Silver Queen about the summer days I spent sitting on the ground under the tailgate of Mr. Jack’s pickup truck, silking corn, which she taught me how to do.

Mr. Jack and Mrs. Eva weren’t wealthy folks, but I never saw them turn away anybody in need. And some of my favorite childhood memories were cold nights that Mr. Jack would cook and invite practically the whole county. He would roast oysters, cook pigs, deep-fat-fry quail—sometimes all at once. For days, Mr. Jack and Mrs. Eva would prepare and cook. Friends, family, church members would come. And local firemen, EMTs, and deputies would come in their uniforms to take their turns at the tables.

It would be easy to look at that from the outside and think that it was all about food. But it was about way more than that. It was about love and serving and community. It was about knowing each other and taking care of each other. And about just enjoying being together…

One of my favorite scriptures is the passage in John 14 where Jesus tells his friends that He is going to prepare a place for them so that one day, they can all be together, blessing God and enjoying one another. I’ve heard it said that in Heaven, we’ll have spiritual bodies and won’t need food. That the Marriage Supper of the Lamb referred to in Revelation isn’t going to be a literal meal, but just a time of celebration. And I’m okay with that, because I know that the important part isn’t the meal that’s shared…

Last December, Daddy and I made a day trip down to the Farleys’ house. Mr. Jack is now in his mid-80s and is sharing his life with another sweet lady, Mrs. Doris, who God sent after Mrs. Eva passed away. And on this particular day, Mr. Jack was really wanting some homemade banana pudding and a homemade pecan pie. But Mrs. Doris had been unwell and wasn’t up to baking. And so I stood in that kitchen where God had taught me so many lessons about love and with Mrs. Doris keeping me company, I made them a homemade banana pudding and a homemade pecan pie. When I finished putting the meringue on top of the pudding, I could almost feel Mrs. Eva there with me. I think she would’ve been proud of me for learning that the important thing isn’t the food. It’s the caring, the sharing, and the love.

And that’s another lesson I learned down on the farm…

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. “I think she would’ve been proud of me for learning that the important thing isn’t the food. It’s the caring, the sharing, and the love.”

    What a wonderful lesson, Sarah. Food is a comfort, and what you did was a perfect gesture, done out of love!

  2. Okay, you just made me miss my grandma so much. We had most major holidays (and some minor ones) at her house and she cooked everything. We would stay all day and into the night (eating all day, of course), laughing, kids playing, watching football, or whatever else. It was such a welcoming place for everyone- people from their church always came too… Ah, good memories… :)

  3. Wonderful story. I can smell pecan pie.
    You make the people come alive so well.

    Food is a form of love. If so, I am well loved.
    Have a great Thanksgiving ,filled with love in all of it’s forms.
    God’s blessing on us all…travel safely KC

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Bridget, it was a little nerve-wracking to bake for Mr. Jack because he was used to eating the baking of VERY experienced bakers (Mrs. Eva mostly). But evidently, my ‘nana puddin’ and pecan pie passed muster because I didn’t hear any complaints! :o)

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, I miss my Grandma, too. But that’s another blog post… 😉 I’m glad I sparked some good memories for you!

    Kristi, thanks for your sweet words. You have a GREAT Thanksgiving!

  6. By the way, you forgot one of the greatest joys of that setting–Mr. Jack had no concept of time, so you never got in a hurry. You worked til the work was done and then you ate and rested. The world we live in today is so fast-paced–huryy,hurry,hurry! I think Jack knew waht it meant to “be still and know that I am God.” Though godliness as some might observe was not his strong suit, he had a heart that told you, like Our Heavenly Father, he cared for you. I miss being around him on a regular basis and sharing some of the things that were important to that life in the country. Thanks for reminding me about those days and what I so often miss.

  7. I understand… Potato Puddin’ Pie was ours too. With the home made biscuits, yes with pure lard, and buttermilk.. And it didn’t kill us….Thats that the pie crust was made of too.. I miss those time.. With mama and Aunt Mag.. See my Grandmother died when I was 12 so, Aunt Mag and Mama taught me.. Although, as I told my cousin today.. I still feel sure that Aunt Mag left something out,cause even though its good there is just that little “something” missing.. Gotta ask her about that one day when I get to heaven.. LOL.. thanks for sharin”.. That was a good one sister Sarah…..

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Papa Bear, I was thinkin’ that this year when we make our day trip, maybe we can do the cookin’ beforehand so that we can spend our time there restin’… But it’s just a thought. :-)

    Barbara, I also forgot to list grits and collards and fat back or streak-of-fat-streak-of-lean and chicken bog or chicken and pastry or chicken and dumplings (dependin’ on who was makin’ it and what they called it). And my cousin Jimmy’s 100 proof eggnog that she makes with Wild Turkey that’s so thick that you have to eat it with a spoon instead of drinkin’ it…

  9. Hi Sarah,
    I have to say that was a sweet reminder of how our influence doesn’t always come from a Bible study, but often times, life lessons are learned best when we are living epistles for others to read.
    Great blog post!
    Eternally His,
    Stephanie Shott
    Phil 3:7-14

  10. Yes, sarah…. it is the serving and caring that makes all the difference…whether it is southern, japanese, mexican, italian or any other food. It is the lessons we learn from others and the times that are shared with family and friends. Vaya con Dios. :)

  11. I like a lot of the foods on your list, and I am from up North. What does that mean?
    You are right. It’s not the food, but the memories and bonding shared during the preparation and eating of the food.

  12. Stephanie Mathis says:

    My little Sarah also enjoys playing with chickens and picking up warm BROWN eggs when we visit Dave and Sandy, our friends from Pleasant Hill UMC in Pfafftown, NC (right outside Winston Salem). Dave has had to reprimand Sarah about chasing their goats, though. LOL!

  13. My grandma was such an amazing cook. Man I miss her cooking. She and grandfather lived in Alabama, and you’re so right about southern folks feeding those they love and care about. Everything was from scratch back then and there weren’t a lot of short cuts so when someone cooked for you, they truly labored out of love.

  14. Yeah I wondered about the collards, but it was your story.. LOL.. Now the 100 Proof Egg Nog….. hum…..:)

  15. Sarah Salter says:

    Stephanie S. – Thank you for visiting and for commenting! I completely agree! :-)

    Liz – Dios te bendiga y Gracias para sus palabras.

    Helen – You are so culturally adaptable! Would you like to go to Africa with me some time and have fresh roasted wild boar? It’s sorta like Eastern NC-style barbecue, only gamey-er. :-)

    Stephanie M., Sharon, & Everyone – Thanks for your comments! Have a GREAT Thanksgiving!

    And Barbara, how could I forget the collards?! Oh, yeah, I DON’T EAT ‘EM!

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