As I awoke this New Year’s morning, my first thoughts turned to food and the traditional Southern New Year’s Day lunch or dinner of pork, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread. Why you might ask, would one immediately think of food on the first day of the new year? Well, my earliest recollections of life growing up in Belmont, North Carolina revolve around those delectable Southern dishes served up by my maternal and paternal grandmothers. From fried chicken on Sundays at my paternal grandmother Bagaw’s house to boiled pork with collard greens and cornbread at Granny and Granddaddy’s house, food has been the one constant in life that no matter the stress or circumstances can comfort you when life seems overwhelming.
My maternal grandparents, Granny and Grandaddy Killian, grew up during the hard times of the Great Depression, and both knew the value of a dollar or a dime whichever they had at that moment. But, their three girls never knew hunger because Granny and Grandaddy always had a garden that produced potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, lima beans, cucumbers, okra, and other assorted vegetables that were canned in the summer for use in the winter. Some of the best parts of my childhood were spent with Granny in her kitchen making tomato juice, sweet company pickles, or canning jellies and jams. The apple trees produced abundantly and Granny knew how to bake a perfect apple pie with a crust that melted in your mouth along with the sugary goodness that complemented the tangy bite of her homegrown apples.
In Granny’s kitchen, meats were relatively scarce and only consumed on special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day. Ham or chicken were the mainstays in Granny’s kitchen because you could raise them relatively cheaply during the Great Depression. Were those meals memorable because of the taste and flavor or because of the love that existed in that house and around the table? It was both the love that lived there and the food that Granny prepared and God blessed that made my childhood special.
From then until now, food has taken on a place of importance in everything I do because it has been around tables filled with the fellowship of family that I have learned lessons of character, love, and respect.
So, it is not just the food that I am enjoying whether at home or at a restaurant, it is the fellowship of family or friends that make the meal special.
Next time you partake of a meal with a friend or spend time around the family dinner table, reflect on the blessings that those people have brought to your life like love, understanding, and compassion through life’s ups and downs. You’ll be amazed how much better the meal will taste.
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