Friday, February 8, 2013

Covered Dish Pot Luck Casserole Surprise

Everyone has a love language.  For some, it's random acts of kindness.  For others, it's a hug and a kiss.  And for Southern women, it's supper in a Tupperware with our names written on the bottom in Sharpie.

I can't think of a celebration, tragedy, family holiday or neighborhood gathering of any kind that does not involve food.  My memories of childhood can be bookmarked by homemade chicken and dumplings, fried mullet, collard greens and pound cake.  On my mother's side, all events involved miles of tables filled with food, as evidenced in the photo below.

Look how cute I am.

In those days, everything was homemade from scratch.  One simply did not show up with a store-bought pie.  Not only would you shame The Aunts with your lack of cooking know-how, but you were clearly stating that you didn't love the family enough to try.  Our matriarchs lived on the same street and did that type of cooking every day.  If they went to a restaurant in their small town, it was to the Women's Club or somewhere that served food just like theirs.  Aunt Leona hadn't even tried pizza until age 90.

So how did food become equal to love?  I know, for me, it's sometimes the only thing I can do to help a loved one.  A death in the family?  Let me bring you dinner.  Going through chemotherapy?  I'll be by at 6:00 with soup.  Bunion surgery?  That calls for barbecue.

Because if our mouths are filled with food, then we don't have to admit our helplessness, that we don't know what to say or do.  It feeds our need to fix a problem, even though deep down we know we can't.  And because the meal is not just food, but an expression of love, it has to be perfect.  That is why --- and I can say this now because enough people have passed since the above photo ---- I order out.

It's not that I can't cook.  I can.  I pull out the big guns on the holidays, and spend hours on casseroles that invoke the days of old.  BUT, I am a one-trick pony the rest of the year, and my kids take bets on how many nights each week they'll be served chicken with rice with beans. Or that Dad is cooking.

The reason I turn to Super Suppers Family Style Gourmet To Go is directly tied to The Aunts' disdain for such things.  Failure is not an option, the stakes are high, and everyone is watching.  So, rather than falter, I'm going with the winning horse and take my trot in champion's row. 

In the beginning, it was a secret.  I would buy cookies at the store and then put them on my own plate, and when people asked for the recipe, I said I would try to find it.  But as I got older, I learned to be OK with my truth, that while pie baking and sock darning skills bubbled up in my gene pool like a geyser, they clearly skipped over me and splashed down onto the next generation.  My 10-year-old son is a better baker than me, and yet, I can still sleep at night. 

Food brings people together, and better yet, it keeps us at the table.  Doesn't matter how it gets there, and just like a secret, it's much more delicious when shared.

Until next time, keep crowin' and learn to speak Take-Out!

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