November 19th, 2003


Shades of Gray

I was at the grocery store the other night, doing light ($70) mid-week shopping, and they gave me a free 22-pound turkey. My family is going to be frying turkey this year for the first time, because it's quicker, better, and more 'Southern', I suppose. I was planning on making something for food this year (usually it's my mother and her mother cooking most of the food during the morning (Turkey, etc., crudites, and their famous meat pies), specifically my other grandmother's hot water cornbread. I think I'm going to make that and also pumpkin pie. I've never made a desert before that wasn't Betty Crocker-packaged, so I got a recipe out of my big book and modified it to be more dangerous. If I have time I think I'm going to make something else as well. I'd like to offer something else to the event than my usual obligatory blessing of the food (I always wonder if anyone appreciates the irony) and washing the 7 or 8 sinkfuls of dishes.

I was looking through some old rolls of film last night and found a roll, the only roll I know of, of my family just before and just after my Dad died. He died halfway through the roll and I was trying to glean differences in us before and after. The roll was black and white, so a pall was cast over the whole set, really. A couple of the pictures were of me shaving for the first time; I took the pictures to let my parents get a chance to see what they were too caught up in my Dad's illness at the time to appreciate. On the same roll was a shot of my sister shaving my father, one of the last times he ever shaved. I don't know if there's anything meaningful to be found in that coincidence; I didn't even notice it until now. I like black and white pictures; there's a kind of quiet respectfulness in photographing with them, like bowing your head when speaking to an elder or dimming the lights when someone is sleeping. I wish there were more than just the one roll, at least of there and of then.


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Monroe Cuisine

My Father's Mother's Hot Water Cornbread

4 x 3" heaping large soup spoonfuls Yellow Cornmeal
1 x teaspoon table salt
2 x cups boiling water
1 x tablespoon cooking oil

boil the water and keep it quickly boiling. That's the key; if it's not well boiling when you use it, you've cocked up the works and it's useless (I've tried rescuing it before and it doesn't work). Mix the cornmeal and salt in a medium sturdy bowl, and start the oil in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat. Add the boiling water slowly to the cornmeal while stirring it in quickly. You'll have to put it back on heat at least once, probably. Stir it all in, and then keep stirring until it's all homogenous and somewhat clumpy. Then, run your hands under a cold faucet and lightly shake off the water once, and grab out four to six balls of the cornmeal and quickly shape them into patties, and lay them on the oiled skillet. Rinse your hands between balls of cornmeal to avoid it sticking to you. Fry them until the color of molasses and then set them onto paper towels for a minute. Eat.