Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Food Tells It All

Now, I read the other day that only a true Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who’s got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. If the neighbor’s woes are a real crisis, they also know to send over a large batch of banana pudding! Of course our friends in times of bereavement or stress are SOL if they are waiting on the hot fried chicken from our household, seeing that I don't fry chicken, but I do serve up a nice ham and fresh (tiny) butter beans. As for the bananna pudding, I'll put mine up against anyone else's, thank you very much.

But there is always the issue of how high regard you hold the distressed family. And, it's all in the food. This is especially true when there is a death and friends start bringing food to the house. Now you might think that the food is to feed the grieving family. And, it does serve that purpose. However, it has always been my theory that the primary motive behind sending food to the family was, one, we're all southern and that's what you do, but really it's our way of letting everyone know what we think of the family - like a secret code.

If you send a cake, then you think well of the family, as long as the cake is home made, and whole. Sending slices on a tray, just says "this is what we had left over - enjoy." And, sending a store bought cake says one of two things, either you don't think much of the family or you're not from here and don't know no better. A basket of bread, shows you are being polite like your Mama talk you, but that's about it. A loaf of white bread is just an insult to the family.

Home made salad means a lot, especially if it is  chicken salad. Of course, if you use dark meat, folks will talk about you for weeks. (Every one from a nice family knows better than that.) But, the highest compliment is bringing a platter of meat. Sending a ham, a  fried chicken, or platter of BBQ shows that this was 'show 'nugh someone you thought a lot about'. Posthumously, you have arrived when the neighbors start bringing meat. 

Now, the church ladies have a book back in the kitchen where they write down every dish that everyone brings to the family. You can rest assured that when folks come and drop their food off, their eyes are going to glance over that list to see who brought what. "Potato salad. Can you believe that Sally Jane just brought potato salad. I thought their families were pretty close." "Well, look here. Margaret brought ham. Just who do you think she is fooling? You know she never forgave Sam for his little indiscretions."  "But, that was twenty years ago?" "She said he broke up her brother's marriage." "Can you believe Linda Sue brought a cake? A bet you a dime she bought it at the Piggly Wiggly?" "Well, maybe this time she put it in her own container." "I don't know. Her mama was a Jenkins. She may not know any better. Bless her heart."



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