Monday, February 9, 2009

Cornbread

I just had lunch today with my grandparents. There really is something to be said for having a meal of nothing but vegetables--stewed tomatoes, blackeyed peas with chunks of bacon, squash and potatoes pan fried in a touch of butter and three pieces of cornbread with a glass of milk. It's underscores a beautiful simplicity you just can't find in a restaurant.

I realize today that I go there to listen to stories. I answer questions when they come or toss in my own addition to a conversation, but mostly it's just to hear them relive their lives. I love it when I see a flash of emotion come across my grandmother's face as she relates tales of an old villain from when she first moved to Louisiana. I love to hear about the rumors circulated over thirty years ago about so-and-so's bad run-in with the mob, or hear for the forth time why they call my birth place "Bloody Tangipahoa." That's actually my favorite--to hear a repeated story. It shows that it either is important to them, or there has been something recent that has summoned the experience back to the present. I also hang on every word to see if the story will deviate at all from previous tellings. Most of the time it doesn't, but I wonder if it's because there's a spouse always present to correct the details.

People out west don't understand cornbread. They bake it sweet so it comes out more like a cake, forcing the sweetness on everybody. In the south, we bake it plain, and then it's up to everybody else to add butter or molases or honey as they like.

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