Mocha and I were having an online discussion about vegetables and it jogged my memory. It made me think back to a simpler time in my life, the time when I learned to love vegetables. I often tell people that I eat all kinds of vegetables, and it is true. Here's why.
Mama Carrie was one of my great aunts, like all the venerable elderly ladies of her time, she had many skills. Among them were cooking, sewing, and my favorite skill that she had was her green thumb. She grew the freshest vegetables in her garden. She canned and preserved much of what she grew, and shared it with our family.
This was back in the nineteen sixties, when I was in elementary school down in Louisiana. To a small boy like me, she was a magician. She made tasty things come out of the soil. Everyday after school I made a bee line to her shotgun house, she provided child care for me, my brother and sister. And feed us many times from her harvest.
Her garden took up most of her large plot of land. It was in the back of her small house in an area that was several times larger then the space taken up by the house. It was surrounded by chicken wire to keep animals out, and to act as a support for her plants. It was a neat and orderly place, a place of calm and peace, with straight rows and wooden poles driven into the ground supporting and labeling the plants.
In her garden she grew, peas, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, okra, corn, squash, onions, turnips, collard greens, and a few other veggies I am sure that I am forgetting. She also had a large fig tree. She would pick me up and put me in the tree, and say, "boy get that big fat fig there." The fig preserves that she made went well with the biscuits that she baked. And she sometimes also grew watermelons.
When ever I eat corn today I am reminded of her corn. It was so good, fresh and sweet, she would cut the kernels off the cob and make her version of whole kernel corn. It has been a long time since I have had corn as sweet as hers. Some times she would let me eat it right off the stalk.
Another one of my favorites was her okra, she cooked it so many different ways. I think I love okra so much because I grew up eating it in all the wonderful ways that she cooked it. I love it stewed and also fried (I'm getting hungry just writing this). I seem to remember that she added it to many dishes, and of course she put it in her Gumbo. Okra is one of those vegetables that adds body and firmness to soups and other dishes.
My mind also wonders back to the vibrant colors of the different vegetables that she grew and cooked. The greens, the reds, and yellows. I remember her standing over her sink washing turnip greens. She would first bring them to boil with a ham hock, and then slow cook them so that they were very tender, and at the same time make a large pan of golden corn bread. Usually her plates had a couple of vegetables on it, a green one and a yellow one.
I was too young to fully understand what a wonderful gift Mama Carrie gave me, by exposing me to her garden and teaching me to appreciate and love vegetables. I never got to tell her how much I loved her and the work she did. She passed away when I was in junior high school or so, I pray that God will bless her soul and let her tend his vegetable garden in heaven.