Granny was a young widow with five children during the end of the Great Depression and the beginning of WWII. Grandpa died young from renal failure, now treatable. In order to raise her children, four girls and one son sacrifices for an already poor home had to be made. Those sacrifices were displayed by the condition of shoes and hand me down clothing, lack of indoor plumbing and appliances. Everything was done by hand. Material goods were there, they may not have always looked the best but Granny did what she could.
To put food on the table there were not many choices except hard backbreaking work. She and all of the children worked the cotton fields until their fingers bled. They pulled tobacco worms and picked & prepared the tobacco for curing. There was not much else; factories were at capacity, not hiring and granny did not qualify for white collar work. Her neighbors did what they could and through it all they got through maybe going hungry she and all of the children survived the time.
For the family there were not many choices for food. Poor folk food is all that they could afford and that included very little meat. Lots of collard greens, field peas, corn and corn meal, water biscuits just to name a few. Side meat, bacon, ham or any other pork product was stretched out; it was rarely affordable. Chickens running around the yard were available but beef was sparse. Granny’s day has passed yet the meals prepared then remain a staple of southern culture and no longer are stigmatized as poor folk food or cattle fodder.
In the South the quite unassuming life with watermelon on a hot Saturday afternoon and fishin’ in the neighbor’s pond, barefoot and without a care. Each day filled with family and friends is still the same. The hot, heavy laden air and the cry of cicadas anticipate an early evening storm that seems to seep as steam from wal-marts parking lot. Even as the cars move their way through the lot there is no movement of air; blessing in disguise, it would just make you sweat.
Towns are well worn with time and the weariness of hard work. Take a minute, stop in a small town that has been laid aside as cattle fodder by the cities nearby, Capitalism removed their livelihood with no care. Dairy bars with a real soda jerk, soul food, and store front fish fry can still be discovered in these treasured places. Old men sit in rocking Lift Chairs on the porch of their business thinking of days long gone by; chatting and gossiping like the town busy bee. Kids are barefoot, they walked through the woods for a Sat. Afternoon’s soda and Ice cream. Memories remain in these places and it is those memories that keep these towns for dying with them.
Sunday Church Pot Luck is the event. The women of the church plan ahead, make lists of dishes and make sure the bulletin has declared its coming as well as announced by the minister on Sunday Mornings. Parishioners have to have time to prepare, up town to the market, bringing out Sunday’s finest and beginning to remind family that don’t attend that Jesus has a plate for them. Seems this takes about 4 weeks. Think that’s enough. Having set the stage, the women can move on to the tasks at hand.
Saturday night the men set up Lift Chairs and tables in no respective order. The ladies don’t complain, they want in done their way anyway. No Sunday Service for these Gals today (almost a sin) they are much too busy. As the covered dishes and desserts trickle in the women strategically place each dish and finish setting up drink service. Sweet Tea is the beverage of choice in the South. The ladies provide un-sweet for those that need to watch their sugar. Coffee and other various sodas fill the bill (Cheerwine, Mellow Yellow and other sodas not found here on the left coast). Finished, they look with southern pride at the feast set for God’s people and the fact that they were able to serve.
Southern Gentility proceeds the crowd of parishioners as they make their way into the church; each aware that there is more than enough to eat. Hungrily they eye with anticipation at each table in hope that the dish they love will be there to satisfy that growl in their middle. Are Miss Tib’s Dumplings here? What about Mrs. McNeil’s chocolate pie. Funny how short memories are the forget that each dish is faithfully placed in practically the same place on the table. The smell of fresh sweet corn and field peas: fried chicken and B.B.Q, don’t forget the turnip salad, embraces with love those at the banquet.
They’ve lined up, the minister bless