Food and gatherings go together, and they will always be among my favorite things. Eating is a way of life in the South, you know – it’s a heritage from way back. My family always celebrated every major holiday with a big dinner. The tables were full of steaming bowls of mashed “taters”, green beans, potato salad, macaroni and cheese…. I’m getting hungry just writing this! Skillets of crunchy cornbread and pans of big brown rolls were part of the bounty along with the turkey and ham. There’s one thing about it — we never went hungry.
Then there were the church dinners — oh my. Casseroles of every kind and big, heavily iced, homemade cakes filled the folding tables that lined the fellowship hall. If the church was small, the men would set up tables along narrow hallways. There was just enough room to squeeze through once you’d filled your white paper plate with a sample of everything. Somebody always brought candied yams and deviled eggs, no matter the season. And, if you didn’t at least get a taste of everything somebody’s feelings would be hurt.
One food related story comes from quite a few years back when I was about six or seven, and involved a sandwich made with green beans and light bread. My family didn’t go on many big vacations. Usually it consisted of a day trip down to the Smoky Mountains, stopping by the side of the road to eat whatever my mother packed for our lunch that day. Lots of people parked on the side of the road and ate on the car hood back then. If we did that today somebody would probably toss a couple dollars at us out of pity. We were living the high life!
So, one summer we decided to go to Cherokee (NC) and stay a couple of days at a small wayside motel with some of the family. It was the kind of motel where you could pull right up to the front door of your room. I think they were called motor inns. Since restaurants weren’t as plentiful then as they are now, my mom and her sister fixed boxes of food to take with us. I think there was probably a grill out front if we wanted something different. We had plenty to eat and lots of fun on our little vacation. Soon it was time to pack everything up and head back home. I took my place riding in the back car seat with my cousins and our moms (cars were really big back then) when the curvy roads started getting to me. Thank goodness for leftovers and quick thinking! They stopped and made me a green bean sandwich. Then I got to sit in the front seat with my dad and my uncle. I didn’t get sick again the rest of the trip.