JOURNAL: Wise Words from A Black Mother (Cooking and Your History)
Give light and people will find the way. -Ella Baker
My Momma and I have an amazing relationship. We’re close and always have been, and I’ve never once forgotten how much of a blessing she’s been in my life. Ya’ll, this woman is that DEAL! Not only that, but my maternal Grand-momma – she was just as kind hearted and loving as her daughter. My paternal Grandmother was also an amazing cook, though slightly more rigid :> Blessed I tell you – I’ve been blessed.
Can I just say daaaamn – these women could COOK (sorry for the curse-word Momma- it was necessary!). I’m talking whole foot inserted into meals kinda cooking – greens, mac n cheese, corn bread, roast with onions and potatoes, green beans, fried chicken, grilled veggies, corn on the cobb, bbq, black eyes peas…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. These were pull-a-family-together, mouth watering, from-the-heart type of meals! And as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to rely more and more on my Momma’s recipes – not because I haven’t learned anything myself, but because I want to KEEP MY HISTORY IN ME. And to do that, I have to understand who’s come before me. I have to understand what my Grand-momma taught my Momma, and why… Cooking is not just COOKING when you learn from your Mother – its generations upon generations of women guiding her fingers to prepare food for her family.
I want to be taught recipes and share laughter and smiles and sing music with my mother and LEARN things that I can share with my own children in the future. I want her to hand-write the recipes that she gives me (that I place in my special family recipe box) because I want to be able to remember her beautiful script and the love she put into our meals. These moments are what makes me a Bennett. These moments are what I want to share with my own children. These moments will always make me appreciate the woman I am, because of the outstanding women that came before me. (Not gonna lie – I just teared up a bit righting that. I’m a punk – I know. Don’t judge me.)
Why am I thinking of all of this? My Momma just emailed me some recipes (in a fix she emails, because she lives in St. Louis and I’m in Chicago). She added some of her thought’s to the end. Just another reason I love her:
I hope this helps my budding chef. A lot of what I’ve learned about cooking is through trial and error and experimentation. A lot of the dishes cooked today (including the above) were not cooked by my mother or on the menu for the African American family. My potato soup recipe is a take-off from one I learned from your grandmother Bennett, who modified it from what she learned from a woman/family for whom she worked to earn a living. She was what was called a “domestic” in the older days, who cooked, cleaned, did laundry and babysat her employer’s children.
Your grandmother Perry was a domestic in the past. She took care of the household for a white couple who lived in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, on Lindell Blvd. and N Kingshighway. They were rich to be able to live there. She caught the bus to work.
Food is a common denominator for all peoples. No one can live without it and most people thoroughly enjoy it. I understand why you want my recipes. My mother (and Mrs. Bennett) contributed to my ability to cook a decent meal. There are many recipes that have been lost because our ancestors left this physical world without an opportunity or the interest of their offspring to record their creativity and resourcefulness in providing tasteful, healthy sustenance. If you are persistent in your desire to learn what I know about food preparation, it may not result in acclaim but will preserve something important about what, how and why we eat and enjoy the food that we do.
I love you more than you know.
How does your family share their history?