My beloved is in Texas; returned to the place of family, sweet tea and barbecue. In honour of her travels (without me!) I’ve been re-reading Michael Lee West’s Consuming Passions: A Food Obsessed Life. It’s a wonderful book, an easy-to-read memoir of family and food in the South.
For the most part, the stories centre around the women in West’s life—sisters and mothers, eccentric aunts and grandmas—those who held life and family together at the stove. I love it because it’s well written and funny, but even more because it resonates with my own experience of food and family in rural Texas. It’s a world of its own.
A few quotes over the next week
Why, recipes were like kinfolk. Mimi’s mashed potato salad reminded me of a pale, plump cousin who avoided heat and sunlight, yet she always smelled of wild onions; Tempe’s pecan tassies were sublime and nutty—very much like Tempe’s daughters; and Myrble’s lemon cake was like a flirtatious tart, one the menfolk couldn’t resist.
At one funeral, Aunt Hettie pulled me aside and said, “This is a shame! What a loss!.” I thought she was speaking of the relative we were there to bury, the gorgeous aunt who had left a well nigh perfect husband to run off with a rough-edged millionaire.
“She’s taken her gingerbread recipe to the grave,” Aunt Hettie moaned. Then she turned to me, “Men could not resist that dish. And your own grandmother took her biscuits with her, too.”
“No, she didn’t!” cried Mama. “I know it by heart.” “You better write it down,” warned Aunt Tempe. “Young people don’t know how to make scratch biscuits. They just pop open a can.”
“Food is dying art,” said Tempe. “At least in this family. We’re burying our best recipes.”