Monday, November 30, 2015


We had our little Thanksgiving gathering last night, postponed and consulted on and dithered about with three sets of us, with our first group having to make what my Daddy always called a “flying trip,” when a visit was short.  The GA bunch came last Sunday, spent thee nights---I had great daytimes to spend with the Kiddos, while their parents went house-hunting a couple of hours away (hooray!  Closest they’ve ever lived).  We all gathered for our suppers together, and had a wonderful time, but no chance of settling in to a real Thanksgiving dinner together.

So we settled on last night, for the few of us “in town,” and little did we know . . .    You know how I’ve always liked the combination of pink and orange, especially at Thanksgiving, when it’s time to bring out the special old cloth and those fabulous clunky pink Fostoria goblets?   Or just in general, enhancing my new kitchen with a few Fall items all around this room? 

Well.  The niceties of that certainly did NOT predict nor include having a big old ORANGE extension cord wound all across kitchen counter, behind the sink, and down to the coffee-and-Bose corner, because suddenly THAT plug gave up the ghost as well.   And there we were, with things out of place, and all that cooking going on, and suddenly it dawned:   Whatever breaker that plug was on must deal with the FURNACE, as well, for we were getting colder and colder, and no warming chuff of the igniting, nor the cheery hum of the faithful fan to distribute the warm air.   A call to “our” electrician whose month of delays occasioned the taking-down and desperate putting-back-up of the kitchen cabinets before the GA contingent arrived brought him immediately to the house while all the good dinner smells of sage and onion and sweet potatoes wafted through the rooms.   Verdict:  sump’n sump’n “outside line”   “Power Company” “they will be right here” as he called it in.

And they were, with the verdict that they’d put us on their schedule for today.  So, as he had checked and metered and called, we asked him twice to sit and eat with us, but he’d already eaten, so we wavered.   You can't just SIT DOWN TO THANKSGIVING with another person in the house, even though they've declined, and are working, can you?  It just seem so not right, somehow. And we'd waited DAYS to have the special time together.  So when he left almost three hours after our scheduled mid-afternoon repast, we got out all the hot dishes and Caro quickly cooked the broccoli, Sweetpea grabbed her little page of History of Thanksgiving in Color and Prose to read to us after the Blessing, and we sat down.

And even with all the delay and chafing at the probably-dried-out everything, the meal was absolutely perfect.   The dressing was moist and delicious inside its lovely golden top and bottom crust, the sweet potatoes sweet and rich, with the marshmallows gently melted atop, the pineapple casserole still creamy beneath the Ritz-crumbs-fried-in-butter topping, and the TURKEY---oh that Turkey---simply delicious and tender and moist and still nice and warm, through some magical alchemy of prayer and hope and gritted teeth at all the delays.   It was the weirdest, nicest thing---the wait seemed to have created some sort of strange bubble of peace and perfection after we sat down, and everything seemed even to taste better than usual.

The sublime Pecan-Wood-Smoked Turkey:


Caro’s stir-fry/steamed Broccoli in Mother's Vegetable-Bowl-to-match-her-china:

Sweet Potato Custard:

Gravy with boiled eggs:

Pineapple Casserole, sweet little nuggets in a rich cheese sauce with Butter-sizzled Ritz crumbs atop:

Devilled eggs, before the compote of Cranberry was set into place. Actually the plates were half-served when Chris mentioned it, and I heard a little whisper of “It’s probably in the Microwave,” (family joke about the One Missed Thing), as I got it out of the fridge.

Sweetpea’s Mama’s wonderful Pink Salad:

Dessert was a fabulous, moist Pumpkin Roulade with a Ginger cream cheese filling, a gift made by a friend of Caro’s.

What a day, memorable in all sorts of ways, and you certainly deserve a big Turkey Sandwich, with all the trimmings, if you’re still here.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Several years ago Thanksgiving

I’ve just been roaming around looking at Thanksgiving posts on friends’ blogs, and it was a wonderful thing to see---all the preparations and polishings and things chosen carefully for the cherish of them and the guests who would use them.  I blush to tell that I simply imagined all the family hustle-bustles, the warm redolences of sage and pie, the light and the clink of silver on plate, for we had our pot-roast dinner on trays at the TV.   What an odd feeling.   The wonderful aroma of that pan of cushion-tender beef-in-rich-gravy perfumed the house for several hours in the afternoon, and the corn pudding, the pot of shiny pearls of Calrose, the Waldorf salad, all took a small time in the kitchen to prepare, and we just simply WERE in our dim cocoon, for Caro was sleeping upstairs to go to work, and all the departure of our rowdy crowd the day before was still ringing in the house, somehow, with remnants of fruit and yogurts and pretzel crumbs in the kitchen. 

We’ll gather with our few local Lovies on Sunday, when everyone’s schedule allows us the day.  There’s an enormous turkey in the fridge for Chris to put on the grill for a few hours, and most of the other necessaries for a small family dinner in the house.   We’ll gather and be thankful again. I always say that the holidays begin when you put together the Thanksgiving dressing.

And I’ll have the so-familiar moment once again, of these decades of Thanksgiving and Christmas preparation, of the MOMENT:

There’s something so just itself and so nostalgic about leaning over that big bowl of crumbled cornbread, minced onion and celery, fresh-ground black pepper and a little shake of poultry seasoning or several crumbled curls of sage, and inhaling that unmistakable aroma combination.  That humble, homey scent of brown crusty bread and onion and garden sage is a centuries-old memory-scent for Southern women, I think, carried on from sparse black skillet to Pyrex to le Creuset, with the meaning and taste intact for all the intervening years.

Then there will be the laying of the table, the setting out and arranging, for a celebration small but of great import---the thankfulness for all our blessings, and for those gathered with us and the ones far away, but always in our hearts. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015


For those of you who took yesterday’s post to mean we’re all catch-as-catch-can with the kitchen for Thanksgiving and a week of Grands for a visit---be not dismayed.   The kitchen is its shining self, with everything back in  place on the walls, cabinets re-filled, canisters and utensils in their new homes, and good scents emanating from that direction this minute.   It's just that we took DOWN some of them a month ago for some work, then gave up and put them back up because five of the chillun will be here tonight, to spend the week.

The only thing was a late-discovered electrical thing which precludes running washer and dryer at the same time as any other appliance or plug on that one breaker.   So the thing to do was take down one new cabinet and the huge microwave shelf, so as to get at the breaker box.   The dear guys came and removed those way back in October so the electrician could come at any time, and the contents have been strewn across both breakfast and dining tables, with the two cabinets scrumped beneath the big table.  No big thing in the scheme of, but disheartening to think I was going to get it all done Halloween, then the NEXT Saturday for sure, and then by this Monday, we just decided to heck with it, had the men come replace cabinets, and told the electrician NEVER MIND til after Christmas.   Not in capitals, but by then, I was quite of a mind to shout.

So we’re perking along.   Top picture is the completed kitchen. 
The corner with the big old homemade shelf, with Mammaw's big Homer Laughlins on top:

I love the ombre line of sugars, most with vanilla beans inside:

The gaudy group of utensils, in an old crocky pitcher and a modern stand.


And if I had the picture I just took of Chris, out valiantly scraping the inches of snow off the windows after we got caught in a white, downy blizzard of what looked like enormous cornflakes, wet and clumpy, when we came out of the grocery store, I'd be posting that one, too.   It brights me most of all.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Apropos of nothing, really, but sort of stream-of-consciousness (but in my scattery mind, it’s usually a whizbang mishmash of ten thousand thoughts, whirling past those second-base-synapses napping on post and too late to capture).

I haven’t been posting much, for after all the froofraw of the kitchen clutter and mutter and chaos, after the shining-white and pink were finally established in all their crisp glory, and the last pink spatula parked upright in the old crockery pitcher, an electrical problem came to light, as it were, so we’ve had to have that worked on (appointments for estimates, appointments for measuring, appointments for the doing of the job, plus an appointment with the two kind young men who come and TAKE DOWN said cabinets so the wire-guy can do his work, and then three consecutive cancelled appointments to actually DO the wiring, with cabinets and contents scattered about on tables and floors for three weeks)---after all THAT, with time for five of our Lovies to arrive for Thanksgiving week, we finally got the original putter-upper guys to re-attach cabinets and we’ll start again after Christmas.

I swear, there’s been enough WHINE around here to overflow the Loire region and Napa, all at once.   When that thought hit me this morning, I thought immediately of DEAR Tom T. Hall and his watermelon wine, and felt better.

If you’ve never heard him sing, please DO.  Takes me back, takes me Out Of, and fills my heart

Sunday, November 15, 2015


 We stand, we support, we grieve.

Aujourd'hui, nous sommes tous les Parisiens.

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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


A Memphis visit to see kinfolks was usually about a monthly thing with us when I was growing up---Daddy’s three sisters and one brother had moved up there when they each married, and I had ten cousins somewhere in my age range.

AuntCilla’s house was the most visited, with its silky green walls and graceful small living room furniture, and the elegant meals served at the shining dining table.    Aunt Ossie’s house I don’t remember at all, though I’m sure we might have gone over some, but since Uncle Doc was usually a bit under-the-bottle and dozing in his undershorts on Sunday afternoons, that vision has totally eclipsed any memory of their home itself.  Aunt Ossie and cousin Rina usually came to wherever we were.

Uncle Earl and AuntBillie were the most loving, affectionate couple to each other that I’ve ever seen before or since, and they and their four children seemed to be a little island all to themselves, content in their own company.   Though we were always warmly welcomed at their house, I don’t remember ever having seen them anywhere but their house and ours.  

My Aunt Meggie was very ill by the time I reached my teens, so we “went by” on every Memphis visit, just to see her for a bit.    I remember her as such a sweet woman, easily shrugging off her rowdy, wrestly boys, all shouts and elbows and dusty-butt shorts, as she squinted up through the wavy thread of Kool smoke drifting toward the ceiling.   They had lived down the street from us for a short time before moving away, and I think she must have been terminal in all the Memphis Memory I have of her.  But they’d visited us from time to time, pouring out of one rattly old car or another, and I so well remember the time that my Mother almost had a stroke when she saw her emerge from the car in white short-shorts, holding a bottle of Pabst---right there in our front yard.  Mother rushed off the porch, grabbed her in a big pretend hug, and hustled her into the house before the neighbors could see such a “tacky” sight, right out there before everybody.   I thought she was gorgeous, with her peroxide blonde hair and Sandra-Dee figure, and to me, she was way Kewl.

 Her Memphis house was a compact little thing, with a small, foot-stomped dirt yard like so many of the old home-places back where we lived---the dearth of lawns in some neighborhoods attested to the great numbers of children romping and stomping down any blade of grass.  The house felt as if all the furniture in the hard-used place had been made of old Venetian blinds, rattly and loose.   The four tube-armed lawn chairs with the woven nylon webbing were brought in and out from yard to living room, as the crowd ebbed and flowed.  I can still see the thin ropes of sinewy arm muscles of my five cousins, as they answered the call for chairs or fans or to run to the market for ice.

Also in the living room with her narrow hospital bed was a small yellow-ivoried TV---one of those deep-bodied Jetson things like ET’s head, set onto one of the several TV trays with the elongated roosters in tans and browns.   They served as side tables and ashtray stands, and dining table itself, for all I know, for we never ate there.  The trays also made a neat high-sided little arena for racetracks or pick-up sticks, if we could “keep it down” in deference to grown—up conversations and Aunt Maggie’s rest.

One Sunday we dropped by later in the day, having had dinner with Aunt Cilla and Uncle Jeb, and I remember so well the heat of that yard, that tiny, stifling house, the scratchy yellow nylonny stiffness of the dress I wore, and the anticipation shared with Cousin Bonnie Gail---the only girl besides ME in that house---that ELVIS was going to be on Ed Sullivan in less than an hour and pleasepleaseplease let Daddy not say it’s time to go home before he sings pleasepleaseplease.

And so we waited, with the hour ticking on---we both even went into “her room”---a bed beneath an alcove, with a curtain on a string stretched over the entrance, and primped up a little bit, putting on fresh lipstick and running her hairbrush the length of our long ponytails, and dabbing a little of her Cotillion on our wrists.   Well, it was ELVIS.

We all stood around the adults in the sling-chairs, ticking the clock down, and then---the show, the commercials, the audience screaming, the introduction.   And at that minute, Uncle Ev rose up, grabbed tray, TV and all, and turned it so it was facing Aunt Meggie’s bed, and only she could see it.   “She needs to see her boyfriend,” he said, as he sat back down.

And so we listened, watching her dulled face and sleepy smile as she watched for that last time.  And you know, that momentary dismay brought a realization of the REAL of things—the fleetingness of things and the temporary of them and the knowing of how insignificant were our little teenage wants in face of that life in its final flickering.

Oddly enough, just a short time later, my friend Linnette’s Mom took us to Tupelo to see The RealThing, but that MOMENT of revelation in that hot, close little house remains as vivid a memory as the vital young man in his black velvet shirt.