This poignant tale (reprinted here with permission from the Author, (Stephanie Ray Brown) gives the perfect definition of what loving food is really all about.
“Are you sure they taste all right?” I asked my husband Terry as he took his third bite of my scalloped potatoes.
As he put the lid on the casserole, he told me once more that they were just fine. As a new bride, I was having trouble with my husband’s choice of words. Fine can mean so many things. Like fine to eat or fine if you are not comparing it to my mother’s. His vague statement did little to reassure this new bride if the potatoes were worth eating.
But as my husband honked the car horn, I knew that was my signal that we must be on our way. So with sweating hand—not from the heat of the casserole, but from nerves—and a racing heart, I was off to our first potluck dinner. This was our first, not only as husband and wife, but also at our new church in the city. And, since it was in the city, I thought scalloped would be better to take than just plain mashed potatoes.
When we got to the basement, I hoped that I could sneak my casserole in. But no such luck! One elderly man wanted to check out what was in my pot, as he teasingly told us he only eats food when he knows what it is, as well as who made it. Then there were the ladies with their laundry baskets of food. Many of them carrying their beautiful baked goods in the prettiest baskets I had ever seen. I was so embarrassed that I only brought the potatoes, as well as a pitcher of lemonade in a recycled milk jug.
Feeling a little uncomfortable because I didn’t bring very much and not knowing a soul besides my new husband, I joined the back of the line that had formed quickly after the preacher gave the blessing. I found myself wondering if we’d ever fit in this city church of 220 members. That may not seem like many people, but my home congregation had a membership of 20—and that was on a good Sunday. I had also been among family.
Homesick and hungry, I waited in line.
As I got closer to the food, I noticed most people were getting food from one silver pot. Curious, I lifted the silver lid to find navy beans and memories of home. Surrounding the pan were little bowls of sweet onion (my mom’s favorite), homemade tomato relish (like my Granny made), and wedges of cornbread (just like my mom had showed me how to make for my first 4-H project.) But as I glanced down in that big pan, there was only a small amount of beans left. Did I dare do what I wanted and scrape the pan clean? Or should I be polite like my mom had raised me and leave the last bite for someone else? She must have read my mind, because the owner of the pot smiled at me and scraped that last bit of beans in my bowl.
“Hi! I’m Ruth. Sure nice of you to come tonight and for helping me get rid of that last bit of beans. Now I can go wash it!” as she took her pot to the kitchen.
As I ate that bowl of beans and cornbread with sweet onion and homemade tomato relish, many of the church’s members stopped by and introduced themselves. But instead of feeling uncomfortable, I was at ease. Isn’t it amazing what our favorite comfort food can do? As my husband packed the empty casserole dish back in the car, he smiled at me as he said, “Told you everything would be fine.” This time I knew what fine did mean. Not only had my scalloped potatoes been fine, but this new church was going to be just fine too. It may be a church in a city, but it was full of fine people who had down home menus as well as manners.
Especially a lady named Ruth and her pot of beans.
Stephanie Ray Brown – Savvysdad@aol.com
_In February 2006, clamdigger wrote to nanaellen.com to say:
“On bad days my Nana would be baking a green apple pie. When all the dough was made and put either for crust or topping there would be some pieces left over. Nana would re-roll the dough in a flat sheet and then cut it into long strips. Then she would sprinkle cinnamon and white sugar over these strips. Then she would roll them up and cut off the odd ends. She would put them in the oven with the pie. Of course they being the smaller of the two it did not take long for them to be done. I always got these special treats before my Grampa got a piece of the pie. They are the fondest memories of my Nana outside of rain I cherish the most.
Thank you for letting me tell you my most cherished memory of my Nana.”