The taste of our memories

Published 7:26 pm Monday, May 13, 2024

By Lanell Downs Smith

My earliest memories taste like soul food. My mother, born and raised in the New Ebenezer community of northern Crenshaw County, put on the dog every weekend and we dined on syrup and biscuits for breakfast, home-grown vegetables and fried meat, for dinner (lunch) and leftovers for supper.

Even now, I can taste purple-hull peas cooked in the same pot with corn on the cob. The delicacy was always accompanied by fresh sliced tomatoes, sticky rice, fried pork chops, peach cobbler and hot cornbread with butter. I dream of them still and sometimes I find the time to make them for myself on a lazy Saturday.

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This time of the year brings back a flood of delicious memories. The Farmer’s Markets in Greenville, Luverne and Brantley are beginning to show off the early produce of local farmers and my mouth waters for Aunt Georgia Mae’s white peas season with just the right amount of bacon grease.

A few restaurants serve the stuff of my dreams. One, Deep Woods Restaurant in Hayneville, is on my route to cover news in the 45. I can never resist stopping by for the world’s best candied yams, rutabagas and cabbage. Today, they had peas, boiled with okra. The first bite took me home, to Momma’s dinner table.

Momma has been gone for two years and it has been a long time since her hands, crippled with arthritis, had cooked for me. But my memories still hold the delites she created: made-from-scratch banana pudding, strawberry cake and Millionaire Pie.

Our minds retain precious memories, complete with all the sites, sounds and aromas which made them precious. On Saturday, I let my granddaughter play with a jar of buttons, filled with the smells of Aunt Ruthie Mae’s house, and I was there again, admiring those buttons with the wonder of little-girl eyes.

I am really thankful that the sites, sounds and smells of our communities can revive memories and connect generations, past and present, by the taste of peas, the smell of buttons, the feeling of tall grass under our toes. I would be interested to learn what aspects of our communities bring back precious childhood memories.