Thursday, November 12, 2015


Seven years ago today---the first post on LAWN TEA, and such a hodge-podge and flurry since.

Mostly, my posts are in the old days and old ways, with visits to older kinfolks, years of family gatherings, church suppers and small-town showers and weddings and funeral feasts and other celebrations.  They seem to have sealed my voice into a time and place that is mostly memory,  mostly centered around kitchen and table, and all about Family.

My roots are firmly planted in that good black Mississippi gumbo; the old homeplace is still there, with the pear trees from which I just made a dozen jars of preserves, the pecan orchard planted by my two sons and their Great-Grandfather when they were young, lining up the checker-board of infant trees with string in modern mimic of their generations-ago ancestors plotting the surrounding fields.

Southern Cooking IS what it IS, a rich parade of homemade, homegrown, home-canned, home-tested fare, with great steps out into the store-bought world in the last few decades. Rattly blue boxes of Lipton soup and Campbell's Cream-a stand side-by-side with blue ribbon chow-chows and jars of Grandma's spiced canned peaches on the storeroom shelves. Recipes are gleaned from Southern Living, Taste of Home, The Food Network; from little church booklets, word of mouth, and under the hairdryer, and are prepared with the fervor of a priest offering a sacrifice. Recipes have NAMES---Sock-It-To-Me, Sawdust Salad, Nevvah-Fail Poundcake, Miz Prysock's Dressing and Aint Maggie’s Lane Cake written right on the card and proudly passed on to the numerous cookbook committees churning out those little spiral-bound tomes.    Ladies who whisper the title, Better than Sex Cake hesitate not at all to write it as the caption on their contribution to the latest edition.   

I’ve already posted about trips, parties,  turkey frying, squirrels I have known, abysmal cooks and absolutely wonderful ones who could bake a cake with the dust from a flourbag, an egg, and the paper off a Parkay stick. I've told about wedding repasts, kitchen paraphernalia passed down through the years, how I learned to cook several things, and from whom. I'm sure there's an endless flood of other kitchen and food-related stories in there somewhere, but it needs a nudge now and then.

Maw's Marvelous FRIES,  Mother's Smothered Squash, and Kim's Scalloped Tomatoes.

We’ve taken food from seed to table for more years than I can remember, working in that hot Delta sun to hoe the rows, keep the plants safe from predator, bug and errant livestock; we squatted, the children and I, in the bean-rows with the heat beating down, picking for as long as the stories of knights and fairies and ogres held out.   Then the hot Summer nights of sitting with busy, shelling hands, the pea-rattle into pan echoing beetle-thump against screen.  The washing and steam-blanching and cooling, the final reward of filled freezer boxes and bags lined up on the counter in the wee hours of another morning, as the sun waited to blast another day beneath our eyelids. 

Canning and preserving and freezing were as much a part of my life as breathing, the steamy kitchen redolent of spicy pickling brine or the rich, fruity aroma of bubbling jam, the tunck of jarlids sounding the ching of money-in-the-bank as our efforts filled the pantry, boxes, all the space beneath beds, the attic stairs.   I couldn’t figure how ANYONE could cook straight out of the grocery store.

The title I chose for this blog was to be GATHERINGS---the reaping, the laying by, the assembling of parts and foodstuffs and books and music and friends, and most of all---Family.   There are small gatherings and large ones, the acquiring of great stores, and the togetherness of two, with all the permutations of all those bits and pieces and souls brought together.

As the bees gather their golden harvest, 
so we gather in for the cold days to come, gathering together to store up the warmth and shine to see us through times apart.   We smile and quote a Grandmother’s sweet conversations, the little one’s baby stories and soft, making-conversation questions, our grown-ups’ silly stories and wry wit, my Dad’s old Southernisms, my Mammaw’s recipes and family lore.  As we part, we quote GrandDaddy:  Pray lots and drive careful.

And I write what I KNOW, what I’ve done 
for most of the years of my life, and it’s centered around cooking for, caring for, and being with family and friends---gathering them around our table is a time of great joy.   The occasions always occasion food and its gathering and preparation, so that is what I talk about.   Little moments which are bits of all that are not incidental, but a vital part of all that I have become and all that I want to portray and practice.  Family and friends, and gathering in others who may become one or both---that’s what makes me happy. 

Making THEM happy.


NanaDiana said...

What a wonderful, wonderful post. It is so nice to weave your memories into posts full of food and family and just plain fun. Our family is the same-bound together by traditions of certain foods at certain times.
We don't grow our own food -although I did all my growing up years. I married a city boy that wouldn't know a seed from a pumpkin seed unless he saw the packet. I admire that you do what you do.
I hope you have a wonderful night- xo Diana

L. D. said...

It is a great blog and I appreciate your time that you spend preparing, preserving and enjoy food. It is satisfying to travel through blog land as we progress through life.

Susie said...

All that planting, hoeing , canning and cooking....are you Amish?? LOL. Love those hard working people. I tell you I admire your stamina...I would have made a lousy pioneer...we would have starved. No, I guess I could have done if I had to...but I can say at this time...I am never going to learn to can...too much work for this old lady now. I always loved seeing my aunt's canned foods on her shelves...she was so good at it...cooked so well and from scratch. Loved seeing your old iron skillets. Blessings, xoxo,Susie

Ang Specht said...

Well, I'm so glad you chose to blog here and I got to "meet" you. I love reading all your posts. :) You always put a smile on my face.

Chronica Domus said...

What a joy it was to read this beautifully written post. "I write what I know, what I've done", and yes it shows for you have well and truly found you voice here, an authentic voice and a caring one too. Your fortunate readers are happy to have found you, even the recent ones such as myself, a mere fledgling in the Blogosphere, unlike yourself. Congratulations on your Magnificent Seven.

Jeanne said...

Good late morning Rachel. I am so glad my post was a change up for a smile today. There is so much to be sad about after the Paris attack. Surly we must be able to stop this insidious blight of our world. Hopefully, the world will work together after this wake up call to end these terrorist attacks.

Congratulations on seven years of your wonderful 'Lawn Tea' Blog. You have delighted us all with your down home stories and revealing your feelings of how home grown food and cooking through the ages for your family and friends makes the strongest family bond ever. Our growing up years mimic yours in so many ways. Shelling peas under the shade of a tree, digging potatoes from the good earth, stringing beans and making preserves to get us through the winter. Making butter and cottage cheese and tons of homemade pies. (my dad's favorite dessert) I can't forget the quart of tadpoles that squirmed all over the country kitchen floor because we dropped it showing it to our mom. Gardens, cooking everything homemade, family and friends by the dozens sitting around our table and making home made ice cream every Sunday after Church and our Sunday dinner. Your endless memories of life and sharing them is just why I love you too my dear sister friend.

We need to count our blessings every day.

bj said...

Ahhh, another wonderful post. So many times, it is my "other life" that I write about...that life when I was a small child...and I try to add any and every thing I can remember...I do this as a journal for my family. I am the last of my mom and dad are long gone...all my aunts and uncles...I have cousins scattered so I try to add anything family memories for them as well.
Congrats on your 7 yrs of blogging....

Beverly said...

Congratulations on seven years of gathering. You have gathered my heart to yours. Your memories and words speak to my heart. Although I was raised in the city, I think of my family with each word you share. I have been told stories of how they lived, and those stories are similar to yours. You allow me to visualize, to hear, to smell all of your experiences. I am eternally grateful.♥

Kim S. said...

The word ‘evocative’ was created for your writing, my dear. You are one of the very few writers who force me to s l o w d o w n when I’m reading – to savor every bit.