Uncle Green was late so that meant all the Blue Gums would be late too. He was up from Alabama for 20 days with a $500 bill which never broke because nobody – nobody – had change and so he had to borrow whatever he needed until the time he could get to a store big enough to handle it. Mama and Aunt Millie looked at his big bill, then at each other, then at the sky that stretched overhead with precisely the infinite patience they had lost.
The fish were already awake, the potatoes were sliced and simmering next to the onions, and this whole tribal effort to have a day-long fish-and-cookout at Turkeyfoot Lake in honor of the eldest member of the Alabama wing of the family was beginning to draw Mama’s and Aunt Millie’s lips together in annoyance. For one thing, the Blue Gums (the Akron group of the family) thought Uncle Green belonged to them more than to us because they were more his age and remembered Alabama the way he did long before the migration North had begun: the first day the general store down home sold light-bread; the farm of 88 acres when it was prosperous and could feed 17 people year round; and other family reunions which were never ever called cook-outs in spite of the fact that they roasted corn and skewered fish over pine-cone fires on days just like this one. . . .
The day moved then into its splendid parts: a ham, fried-potatoes, scrambled-egg, breakfast in the morning air; fried fish and pan-cooked biscuits on the hind side of noon, and by the time Mama – who had never heard of Gerber’s – was grinding a piece of supper ham with her own teeth to slip into the baby’s mouth, and the Blue Gums had unveiled their incredible peach cobbler, the first stars were glittering through the blue light of Turkeyfoot Lake.
Were were all there, All of us, bound by something we could not name. Cooking, honey, cooking under the stars.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Toni Morrison's Family Reunion
Back in 1973, the New York Times got not-yet-famous novelist Toni Morrison to write them an essay on cooking out for a summer special. It was posted online a while ago, but I just discovered it, and it is wonderful. An excerpt: