My mama has said that she failed me. She taught my older brother and sister how to cook and clean, taught them the value of hard work, but she believes that she dropped the ball with me. Teaching a young child to cook, letting her come alongside as things are cut and boiled and sautéed, takes time, attention, patience. When I was the right age for learning those things, not yet five years old, something big happened in our family. My little sister came into the world early, amidst a sea of questions, via C-section. The surgery was to ensure that no undue pressure was placed on the recently discovered enlarged head of the baby, who was born with hydrocephalus. My mama and daddy were not sure about anything, including whether or not that sweet baby would live.
(Mama, baby Abby, and me)
Mama was born and bred Cajun. Her small town in southwest Louisiana could barely contain the effervescent, extravagant persona of her father, who spent his life working hard and feeding people. I can scarcely remember a night at my grandparents’ house that did not involve a crowd as recipients of their hospitality and generosity—often my grandmother's shrimp and crayfish or the steaks that my grandfather grilled to perfection. Cajun though she was, my mama didn’t like grits, but she made them for my daddy, just like his mama made them–not too runny, no lumps, with some salt and pepper and a pat of butter on a regular day, or garlic and shredded cheddar on special occasions.
Mama became a servant. My baby sister Abby lived, but she needed (and still needs) extra help and attention—therapies and personal care and an advocate who understands her, even though she doesn’t speak. My mother is responsible for her every day, along with hundreds of hours caring for grandchildren and elderly parents and friends who need her compassion, her listening ear, her words of wisdom, and sometimes her expertise as an RN.
When my mama says she failed me by not teaching me to cook, I look back on the legacy she lived out in front of me. Maybe she didn’t have time to let me scramble the eggs because she was helping my sister. Maybe I wasn’t the one to knead the bread because she was preparing to open her home in the same way that her parents did, and maybe someone was refreshed or renewed or encouraged around our table. Maybe I didn’t get a lesson on constructing the perfect lasagna because she was at the bedside of someone we loved. I’ll take that legacy any day.
When I was newly married, with no clue how to make dinner for my husband, I called my mama. She drove the 40 minutes to my apartment, got out the Bisquick and a pot for making chicken and broth. That night my husband had steaming chicken and dumplings in his bowl, and we’ve muddled through every night since then, for nearly ten years. I’m glad you gave to others in front of me, Mom, over and over. That wasn’t failing me at all.
Sarah Goodrich is mom to four children in Frankfort, Kentucky.
1/2 c. grits (not instant)
3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. milk
1/3 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
Preheat oven to 325 F. and spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray.
Cook grits according directions on the box.
When done, add butter, cheese, garlic, and milk.
Warm over medium heat, stirring until ingredients are combined.
Remove pot from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.
Whisk eggs with salt and pepper, and add to warm grits mixture.
Stir everything until combined and pour into baking dish.
Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until beginning to brown on top.