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        by C. Jeanette Tyson


     Iím willing 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!

All 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 niceÖ
     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.
     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 Cobbler
"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."

Lesleyís Fabulous Potato Salad
"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: foodie@austinmama.com


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