MS Roots

November 24, 2011

The Thanksgiving of he Woman Who Made the Cakes

Filed under: Uncategorized — by tmailhes @ 12:15 am
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Each Thanksgiving  Eve, my mother and great-aunts would crowd into the kitchen and begin baking.  They made cakes, pies and cornbread for dressing.  My brothers and I would crowded at the counter with a spoon waiting to lick a mixing bowl.  Thanksgiving was always a great meal prepared by great cooks.  

Then there was the Thanksgiving that Cousin Alma came to visit.  I don’t yet know the exact relationship of Alma Hathorn to my grandmother and her sisters.  She was called “cousin” and she lived in Prentiss, MS.  For some reason that I don’t remember, Cousin Alma came to our house in Jackson, MS for Thanksgiving.  

In sharp contrast to my grandmother, she was a quiet woman who smiled without showing any teeth.  My grandma had a loud rolling laugh!  She was sharp-tongued and sharp-witted. I remember that my grandmother talked and Cousin Alma mostly nodded assent.  If Cousin Alma disagreed, she would shake her head and say, “Now, Thelma”.

Also in sharp contrast to my grandmother, Cousin Alma could cook.  She was famous at Mt. Carmel Church for her jelly cake.  This was a sponge cake with a jelly filling.  She rolled the cake into a log and spread homemade icing over it.  It was the most delicious non-chocolate dessert I’ve ever had.  She made this for our Thanksgiving.  She also made an egg custard which has set the bar for all egg custards that my brother, Stacy, has ever eaten.  That year, she taught my mother how to make red velvet cake and we were all in heaven.

My father can never remember her name, but routinely he mentions “that woman who made the cakes that year”.  I will remember Cousin Alma always.  The sweet quiet woman who was such a fabulous baker that she impressed a family for over 30 years.

May 12, 2011

Wednesdays and Barbecue

Each Wednesday, barbecue is served in the cafeteria at work. I have worked there for five years and the Barbecue Wednesday has been in existence for the last three. Today it made me laugh.

I thought about the first family cookout that my husband ever attended with me in Prentiss, MS. Cookouts were nothing special for the Hathorns. We had random cookouts for anywhere from 20 to 50 cousins, aunts and uncles all the time. The men grilled and the women made potato salad, egg salad, green salad, cornbread, baked beans and the desserts. Only water and tea (sweetened of course) were served around the table. There was usually a tree with a cooler under it that held the beer. That was just the way dinner was served in the summer.

I told my newlywed husband that we were going to Prentiss, MS to visit my grandmother and that most likely there would be a cookout. He looked worried. The idea of an interracial couple in a small town in Mississippi didn’t make him feel all warm inside. I told him that he was being ridiculous. The whole trip to Mississippi, he kept asking if everyone in my family knew that he was White and that they were cool with that. I kept saying yes, but he didn’t believe me.

The day of the cookout, my family welcomed him with open arms. He looked a little more comfortable as the day got started but kept his seat next to me and my grandma. My cousin yelled, “Food’s ready, y’all” and a rush of people gathered around the food table with plates. A cousin said to Paul, “Baby, we made you gumbo. It’s not the best, but I think it’s all right.” He thanked her politely, but didn’t move from his seat.

My grandma leaned over to me and whispered, “Get Paul a plate.” I then turned to Paul and said, “Get your plate.” And for the first time since I was a very small child my grandmother pinched me under the table – hard! She whispered again, “Don’t embarrass me. Get Paul a plate.”

Well, with those instructions, what could I do? I got food for Paul and my grandma and myself. My grandma smiled and Paul grinned. I mouthed “Never again” and he laughed. We still talk about that day almost 16 years later when I was disciplined by my grandma as 22 year old married woman.

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