(and cornbread dressing)
by Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson
The chairperson called the Foodaholics Anonymous meeting to order while some of us surreptitiously licked the powdered sugar from our fingers and others tried to hide the citrus reamers and garlic peelers they’d picked up at the new gourmet gadget store on the way to the Baptist church fellowship hall. A holiday was approaching so an emergency meeting was scheduled to shore up our resolve to avoid the pitfalls of family gatherings that center around food.
“Let’s take our seats now,” Chairwoman Spratt yelled. “Now!”
We slowly made our way to the semi-circle of chairs arranged so as to avoid having to gaze at the new Viking range I had spied in the kitchen. Ingenius! I chose a seat on the far left that afforded a pretty good view if I lowered my lids and forced my eyes to the right as far as they would go. I want that stove, I thought. I also noticed that “Old Lady” Ormond sat directly opposite me on the right side. She, too, had her lids lowered; I knew what she was doing. She’s staring at my stove!
Ms. Spratt introduced the guest speaker, Mr. Spratt, who was tall and thin. Mr. Spratt was well known around town as levelheaded and conservative in conduct and thought. He avoided all extremes. Mr. Spratt ate no fat, no carbs, no processed foods, very little sodium and drank water by the gallon. He worked out four days a week, walked forty miles a week, grew his own micro-greens (organically) and avoided dairy products like the plague. No one liked him.
“Living a long and healthy life is quite simple,” Mr. Spratt began. I zoned out to mentally plan the holiday meal for thirty. Now that’s simple, I thought.
“Pssst. Lonnye Sue!”
I looked up but no one was leaning in from either side of me. Everyone seemed to be engrossed in the chart Mr. Spratt was using to explain the national debt – no, wait – that was a chart of his wife’s monthly spending habits from The Pampered Chef and Cooks.com before he so graciously took over the shopping to give Margaret time to take the yoga class and water aerobics.
“Pssssssssssttt! In here! Lonnye Sue, in here!”
Slowly I lowered my lids and skewed my eyes toward the kitchen. There it was . . . the Viking range . . . waving a brand new, spotless oven rack and grinning from knob to shiny knob.
“Do you have any idea what I could do for you during the holidays?” it asked.
I quickly looked around. Nope, nobody but me and the range having this little conversation.
I raised one eyebrow.
“Oh, right. Okay, left for yes, right for no. That’ll be our code,” it suggested. “How many are coming for dinner? Thirty? So that’s a twenty-pound turkey and all the trimmings, right?”
I raised my left eyebrow.
“We can do it, girl! You and me. I can cook every single casserole at one time. Just look at this space in here!” The oven door opened to reveal a cavern deep enough for all four casseroles I was planning. I almost swooned at the thought.
“Say, are you planning the sweet potato and the pecan pies again? What about those recipes for pumpkin cheesecake and apple tarts you downloaded yesterday? Yeah, I know about them. I noticed the copies sticking out of your purse when you walked through the door. Don’t raise both eyebrows, girl! I don’t have any idea what that means.”
I stared, or at least tried to stare. It’s hard to see clearly after twisting one’s eyes as far to the side as they will twist for more than two minutes. But I think it was a double-oven range with a, gasp, salamander on top. Lord! Right here in the church kitchen, too!
My real concern was whether I could finish the turkey while I cooked the six-quart roasting pan filled with Mama’s dressing. I adjusted my posture to get a better look.
“Yes, we can, girlfriend. Look at the size of this thing. You can put a turkey and two pans of dressing in here at the same time.”
I felt faint. I needed some air. I needed that stove!
A smattering of applause brought me back to the fellowship hall. Members were milling around saying things like, "We can do this if we just take it one day at a time" and "Call me if you get the urge to puree anything; I’ll come right over."
I smiled at a few folks and wandered over toward the pass-through between the kitchen and the hall. There it was in all its glory . . . a new Kenmore, single-oven, gas range snuggled up against the old one with a wooden shelf spanning the width of the two. They looked . . . embarrassed. They should have been.
I’m going to have to cook everything in shifts again this year. Darn!
Mama’s Cornbread Dressing
1 – 9x13 pan of cornbread
5 – cans chicken broth
6 – slices white bread
6 – eggs, beaten
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 – cup chopped celery
1 – can cream of chicken soup
1/2 stick melted butter
3 – tsps. rubbed sage
1 – tsp salt
2 – tsps black pepper
Mix all ingredients in order and stir well. Pour into 14x91/2x21/2 baking pan. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until desired consistency. Uncover and bake for fifteen minutes or until top is golden brown.
Associate editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson grew up in the Mississippi Delta, but now calls North Carolina home. She’s an English teacher (one of THOSE), and she loves to share her stories.
Write Lonnye Sue at Deltamiss2002
To read more of Lonnye Sue’s tales at USADS, visit these links:
Fessin’ Up Is Hard To Do
Mamaw And The Night Visitors
Hail To The Chief Drive In Movie
Lila's Moment of Shame
The Name Game - Southern style
For more, click on the USADEEPSOUTH Articles Page.
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