by C. Jeanette Tyson
to go out a limb and say many peopleís observance of July 4th revolved
around the grill. Mine did.
My family of friends was here. There were
chicken-basil-pesto sausages, turkey sausages marinated in a portobello
mushroom sauce, tuna topped with a pineapple-mango salsa. Mary brought a
fritatta to start; Lesley brought her fabulous potato salad featuring lots
of fresh dill; Cathy brought tomatoes and basil fresh from her garden, added
mozzarella and pepper and viola!
this in contrast to my own childhood July 4th celebrations which involved
hamburgers done well enough they couldíve been used to re-roof the house,
hence, lots of ketchup, Ruffles (they have ridges) and potato salad with
yellow mustard and pickle relish. As an extra added bonus: something you
never would have thought of suspended in Jello.
My mother was a lousy cook.
Oh dear. Now Iíve done it.
Iíve said something nasty about my mother. Where
I grew up, the guiding principle, the one that meant you would wear nice
clothes, marry a nice man, and go to heaven, was this: if you canít say
something nice about someone, donít say anything at all.
Now Iím not from around here. This was North
Carolina, where the second guiding principle was: leave no good, fresh
vegetable from the field unboiled to death.
I have a theory about how many fabulous Southern
women have been warped and thwarted by both these principles, but that, like
politics Ďround the grill, weíll save for later.
Where was I? Oh yes, if you canít say anything
Oh hell. Letís face it. For eighteen years my
motherís attitude toward me was "donít let the door hit you on the
way out." When that woman hit her knees at night, it was to pray for my
early-admissions acceptance into Carolina. Which she got.
Things became easier then, though she would still
pick up the other telephone and listen in on my conversations with my
father. And say things like "if youíre going to dress like that, donít
tell anyone you know me" or "canít you do something with that
hair?" (Now listen, all you shrinks with an extra hour in your
schedules, please donít call me. I mean really, is there enough time and
money in the world to figure out a mother/daughter thing?)
My father was the glue that held us all together.
Now that heís gone, I donít have a bad relationship with my mother. I
just donít have one at all.
I thought this might change when I had children.
That all things would rise and converge, that she would come back into my
life or we would somehow find common ground. This didnít happen.
Again, please donít call! Iím okay with this.
What I wouldnít be okay with, in any way, is
having the same thing happen with my daughter. My world would shrink, the
lights would go out; this ainít gonna happen!
But just to hedge my bets, Iím making cobbler.
Let me just tell you: My mother makes a very nice
Cobbler equals summer, equals Sundays around a
table groaning with fresh corn, sliced tomatoes and a pot roast with mashed
potatoes on the side. There were field peas, butterbeans or both; my dad
sliced onions on top and drenched them in vinegar. And after all this, if we
were very lucky, there was cobbler.
The beauty of this cobbler is in the dough. Itís
not like a biscuit or a cake, itís happy to play second fiddle to the
fruit. Yet it doesnít; the crunchy crust that forms around the edges and
bottom is the part weíd all fight for. Thereís enough sugar in this
cobbler-- consider the source now, yaíll-- to make your teeth hurt.
But we would beg my mother to make it, and when she
did, it was with the grace of an angel bestowing wings. Things were all
right, for a while, in our world.
My father told me once it was impossible to break
the bond between a mother and a son. (Great news for us mamas, not so good
for you girlfriends.) But I know enough womenís tales to know I have about
a fifty-fifty chance with my daughter.
In the meantime, on July 4th or for no occasion at
all, Iíll make this special dessert. One day Maddy can say "my mother
made a damn fine cobbler."
If she canít find anything else.
Nancyís Fine Peach
"Now this is enough for an eight-inch Pyrex dish. If youíve got more
fruit and a bigger dish, you have to use more, of course. So double
everything? No, not quite, not the milk at least, you just have to play with
it. You need a half cup milk, a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and two and
half cups of fruit. You want to put a little sugar in the fruit, too,
especially if itís blueberries. You mix the dry then add the milk. Then
melt three tablespoons of butter in the dish. Pour the batter in the dish.
Pour the fruit on top of the batter. Bake thirty minutes at 350 degrees.
What people really like is if you serve it right out of the oven."
"Basically, I boil red and white potatoes for 20 minutes in a touch of
salt and bay leaves. Cool the taters then pour in a bottle of Wishbone Italian
dressing and let them soak for 4-5 hours. Later add one large carton of low-fat sour
cream to half as much mayonnaise. Add chopped celery, green onion, two small
white onions, the juice of one lemon, and lots of chopped dill. I don't have
the exact quantities but you know, whatever works."
C. Jeanette Tyson is a freelance writer with twenty years in the
advertising business and nearly three years in the mothering business. Got a tip, suggestion, idea or feedback for A Little More on Your Plate?
Send it to Jeanette at: firstname.lastname@example.org