I was thinking….pondering actually, on my drive to work one day last week about my first memories of food.
Actually tasting and savoring bites and picking out flavors savory and sweet.
I had to purposely remember and suddenly the memories came flooding back…..
When I was an infant, my mom and dad hired the sweet older lady who lived next door to us, to watch me so that she could go back to work, after her maternity leave,as a teacher. Jewel was her name and later, when I learned to utter words, I would call her Mrs. Michael. She lived next door to us with her husband, Mr. Marvin and her 2 adult daughters, Nora and Brenda. I don’t remember Mr. Michael’s face so much but a vivid picture of the bib of his overalls with a pack of chewing gum poking out of the pocket remains plastered in my memory. He would later pass on while I was still a wee one but I have a vivid memory of sitting on his lap and staring at that pack of gum tucked away in the pocket of his denim overalls.
Nora and Brenda were such sweet gals…..I loved how they played and cared for me and I especially liked watching them put up their mom’s hair in braids and wrap them around her head. And on occasion, I remember Mrs. Michael letting me brush her long salt & peppery silky fine hair……oh, how I loved brushing her hair. Mrs. Michael was a very petite lady. I remember her voice and lovingly serving me biscuits and gravy and so many delicious meals at her home while I stayed with her. My little sister, Reeda, came along when I was 18 months old and we spent our days with the Michaels while our parents worked. As we grew older, I remember eating fresh peas she made us but not before we had helped her and Nora and Brenda snap and hull them…..green beans, snap peas…..it was fun. The sound the peas made when they landed in an empty metal bowl and how that sound would change as the pile of peas below it would grow in number. Ping….ping….thunk….. And after we had finished, our reward was a bottle of Pepsi Cola and a Little Debbie Raisin Creme Pie. I would always pick the raisins off the top of my Creme Pie and place them back in the wrapper and in the trash. It was the loveliest of snacks for a little girl like me.
And then some of her meals……I remember biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs and green beans and pinto beans and cornbread. Even as I write, I can recall the smells of each and see the table we sat at and the good times we shared, gathered around her table. That small house and the furniture in it….the people who lived there that I loved dearly….that loved me back unconditionally. It was a good season of life.
Today, those first, early memories I have of food and the tastes and smells surrounding them are still with me. It has allowed me to remember and look back fondly on days in my early early childhood and realize where my calling and passion began. It was in a small house in Alabama, with a special little lady named Jewel, and her 2 daughters, Nora and Brenda. It was real and altogether a lovely start to my love of food and fellowship and gathering around the table to share meals with others. I’m all grown up now and to this day, I still play with my food.