Family Holiday Recipe Blog Share

This week I’m happy to participate in a blog share with Catherine Lanser. I met Catherine this summer in a Remember to Write! memoir workshop I taught in summer 2019. We agreed on the topic of Family Holiday Recipe, inspired by Dawn Roode’s post on her blog at Modern Heirloom Books.

My post about my first exposure to true “foodies” at an epic holiday dinner appears on her blog. Enjoy Catherine’s post below. It was fun to work on this writing challenge in tandem. If you are moved to write about it on your own blog, let me know in the comments, and I’ll share with Catherine. And if you’d like to submit a holiday family recipe to True Stories Well Told, please do! Guidelines here.

Instructions to the Past

by Catherine Lanser

My heritage lives in my stomach. It is the taste on my tongue when I close my eyes and picture the oval table where my mom and dad fed my eight siblings and me. My legacy is the weight of a heavy foam plate balanced on my lap while I sit cross-legged on the basement floor surrounded by more than 30 cousins. And while I am of big pots and doubled batches, the story of my familial food is told in two remarkably slim volumes.

My mom has given me two collections of family recipes. They mingle with the rest of my cookbooks and my own recipe clippings so that when I need, I can pull them off the shelf and taste my original palette. Though what I crave may change, I always have a place for these recipes, pulling them down when only a sample of the tried and true will do.

Recipes from Mom
I believe I received the spiral-bound issue first. It pictures a simple blue and white place setting on the front with the words, “Recipes from Mom,” printed on the plate. Each page holds a list of typed recipes starting with one page of appetizers and then eight pages of desserts. Following that there is a mixed page that includes my mom’s famous Butter Horns, Instant Potato Casserole, Egg Dressing for Potato Salad, Barbecue Sauce for Chicken or Spareribs, and Goulash.

The next page has four dinner recipes, followed by a page saucy flavors I would not recommend eating together including Best In The World Pickles, Rhubarb Jam, Spam Sandwiches, Barbecue, and Thousand Island Dressing. The final page has a recipe for Pizza Burgers which again calls for Spam.

I do not remember eating Spam. Since I was at the baby of the nine children, I am told I had it much better than my older siblings. They would say I never had to eat Spam as they did, but I don’t think that’s true.

Lanser Recipes
This volume is packaged in a slim blue binder. It must have come after the first book as the desktop publishing skills are quite advanced, with scrapbook designs that became popular as home computing advanced. There are two pictures on the cover, one of my dad pinning a corsage on my mom and another of my brothers and sisters and me at our parents’ 45thwedding anniversary mass.

This book takes a more archival approach to our food lineage. Recipes appear alongside photos of our family. There are scans of the original recipes written in both my mom and dad’s handwriting, which in many cases is faded or hard to read, next to a typed version of the recipe.

We learned the importance of keeping family recipes as many families do, after my dad suffered a stroke and became severely disabled, later dying. Some of my dad’s recipes, like his pickles, made it to the book on scraps of paper. Others, like his famous apple flat, were recreated by memory.

Like the other book, this book goes heavy on the desserts, starting with Poppy Seed Torte, a recipe that was served at family gatherings and funerals long before I was born. Alongside the recipe are pictures of relatives I never met and my parents welcoming people through the receiving line at their wedding.

Page two features what has become my mom’s featured dish: butter horns. This recipe starts with a yellowed Refrigerator Dough recipe from our church cookbook, and then continues on with instructions written of scraps of paper, finishing with this handwritten note from my mom: “Here’s the times of the year that I make butterhorns, Easter, Bake Sales, First Communion, All Family Celebrations, Christmas.”

As you can see, as her signature dish, butter horns are wrapped around our history as well. This pastry, which is rolled into horn shapes and filled with walnuts, cinnamon and sugar, and frosted with icing, is one I have never seen anywhere else. It is uniquely ours as are the stories and the table we eat it around. Protecting the recipe, along with the others in the book is imperative. Without it, it seems all that would be lost.

But whatever the recipe, the book is not good enough for the treasures it holds. It should be printed on fine paper and bound in leather. It tells the story of a family. And any family is made up of what they eat. Any family deserves a record of what they were made of. It’s part of family lore and instructions to recreating the moments that have shaped us.

© 2019 Catherine Lanser

Catherine Lanser writes about growing up as the baby of a family of nine. She is looking for a home for her memoir about how she found her place in her family, told through the lens of her brain tumor and her father’s stroke. She has published numerous essays. Learn more at www.catherinelanser.com 

 

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Danger Growing

By Sarah White

I wrote this in one of my memoir writing workshops in response to the prompt, “childhood danger.”

 

We slept in cribs with slats that could trap our heads, springs and latches that could pinch our fingers.

The pill bottles in our houses did not have child-proof caps.

We rode in cars without seat belts, slept carelessly tossed across luggage behind the back seats of station wagons. Some of us stood between our daddy’s legs and spun the giant wheel. Those big cars piloted like boats.

Our playgrounds were paved in asphalt and pea-gravel. The  equipment was metal and big. If we fell from the jungle gyms and swings and slides or flew off the merry-go-rounds, we got bloody.

We went trick-or-treating in flammable costumes. We ate whatever was given us, including apples and home-made treats.

We rode our bicycles without helmets. We put on roller skates without padding our elbows and knees. We rolled all over town and no one kidnapped us.

As we reached our teens, we turned toward danger like flowers toward the sun. We confused “intense” with “good.”

We put things in our mouths we didn’t know where they’d been. We went spirit-traveling out to edges we couldn’t describe when we got back. On the good trips we held each other’s hands amid spiraling stars. On the bad trips we held each other’s hair back as we puked.

We had sex with people we’d barely met. Sometimes seeds were planted and we had barely-legal abortions. We held onto each other then, too.

Through danger we grew with feigned nonchalance toward adulthood. We were rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

© 2019 Sarah White

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Love Arrives

By Suzy Beal

This is the 16th episode of a travel memoir that is unfolding, one chapter each month, here on True Stories Well Told. Stay tuned for more of the adventure as teenage Suzy’s family moves to Europe, builds a sailboat, and takes up life on the high seas circa 1961. Click here to read the earlier episodes.

Notes from Mom’s letters to her sister Margaret – July 14, 1962

Young Tommy has a shop featuring Majorican paintings, ceramics, crystal and wood carvings. Has done well enough, but keeps branching out.  Just published a little paper ostensibly to give out information for tourists, but it seems to be filled mainly with advertising.  He’s also doing a bit of wheeling and dealing in real estate.

Hank has just arrived in England aboard the yacht “Trenchemere” skippered by one of England’s top sailing men.  We met him when we were in Puerto Andraitx.  In May he asked if Henry would like to sail up with him, learning to sail on the way.  Of course, Hank jumped at the chance, and spent several weeks working with him, getting the boat ready. Yoiks, this kid has a chance of meeting all kinds of people. The skipper, Bobby Somerset, is the brother to a Lord, and several of his friends in England, Lord this and Lord that have invited Hank to stay with them.  There are also some people from Scotland whom we met here who have asked him to visit. We had several letters from him in Gibraltar, where they were for several days, and he has apparently had a grand time sailing.

Suzy, too is managing to keep busy.  Goes to work at 8AM at a little pension, serving breakfast till eleven.  Then she goes and works in a beauty shop till seven in the evening.  With the wage scale here, she’s not exactly getting rich, but it means clothes and spending money, anyway.

Carl sold one of his paintings to an American who is here waiting for his boat to be finished.  He thinks Carl should be having art instruction and has offered to have Carl live with them in Madrid and go to school.  We’re not quite ready to give him up and feel that he’s not yet ready for formal instruction.

The little guys spend all day down on the beach and in the water, when they aren’t riding around on their bicycles.  It’s certainly an ideal place from their point of view.  And not the least of the attractions is the fact that the ice cream men come by twice a day, so we always get hit at one time or another. But, luckily, the cones are measured according to how much the child is clutching in his grubby little paw. 1 peseta, 2 pesetas, etc. A five peseta (about 8 cents) cone is a luxury indulged in by only the most affluent. With 23 children in our house and the one next door, you may be sure the ice cream man is always stopped by one watchful child or another.

One good result of this venture has been that the girls are taking an interest in cooking, which they didn’t ever seem to have time for at home.  They have been preparing dinner in the evenings for us and doing a bit of baking.  Jan just brought in a big platter full of donuts.

 

Standing in front of the mirror in my bedroom, while getting ready for work, I brush my hair.  Who is this person looking back at me?  I don’t feel like an American, do I look like a Spanish girl?  I want to look Spanish, so I put my hair up in a moño (twist).  I want to speak the language without an accent, and I want to fit in. How can I do it?  My jobs require my speaking Spanish, a little French and English as I work with the tourists.  I want them to think I’m a Spanish girl.

I’m in love. Juan shows me how he feels. Even though we can’t tell each other many things, I know when he reaches for my hand or puts his arm around me he feels the same way. My Spanish is getting better, and he tries to learn words in English. We laugh. Dancing is our favorite pastime. We can be close without raising eyebrows.

The blood rushed to my cheeks as he advanced with his hand out for a dance.

He enclosed me in an embrace. I suddenly forgot how to dance and stepped on his toes.  What could I say? No words came. He pulled me closer, I thought, to help me get back my footing, but I knew differently. No words only movements. The music was fast, but we weren’t keeping up, we didn’t care. With our hands together and his strong grip on my back, I wanted the music to last forever.  No words, only a smile and a leaning of his head to touch mine. An aroma of soap and his smooth skin on my cheek. No words, only being. Amor.

I worked at a pension, which was a small hotel that served breakfast for no added charge. It had twelve rooms for guests and they hired me to prepare the breakfasts. The continental fare included fresh croissants, hard rolls, coffee or tea, jams, and fresh fruit. I didn’t have to make the croissants or rolls. We purchased those from the local bakery. The part I liked best was making perfect butter balls by scraping a small curved knife across the butter. I served these with the croissants and rolls.

After cleaning up the breakfast room, I went to the peluqueria (hair salon) to work in the afternoons. Catalina’s oldest daughter, Antonia, owned the hair salon, and she gave me a job learning to wash hair and doing manicures.  It was an education in European styling for me. There were French, German, English, Danish, and Spanish women, all vacationing in Puerto during the summers. They made appointments to have their hair done, and I saw how each nationality preferred to wear their hair. I learned how to “tease” hair and make it into moños or puffed-up styles with short hair. I watched the young ladies put on their makeup before leaving the shop. I was learning how to wear makeup for the first time.

Summer stretched into fall and the tourists left. Puerto returned to the quiet little coastal town we now called home.

Antonia’s Peluqueria beauty shop. Antonia is second from right.

 

The weather changed and began to get colder.  Once the tourists left, we had the local club and bars to ourselves and we made the most of it. There was dancing every weekend at Brisas Bar, evenings of playing cards and watching “Bonanza” on the television at El Circulo. We didn’t have a TV or even know anyone who did, but the club had one we could watch in the evenings. There were fifteen to twenty of us ranging in age from twelve to twenty who met there in the evenings. We always went out in groups and never just as a couple because the Spanish girls needed chaperones. I guess I was lucky, because Mom always considered my brothers as chaperones for me.

© 2019 Suzy Beal

Suzy Beal, an occasional contributor to True Stories Well Told, has been writing her life story and personal essays for years. In 2016 Suzy began studying with Sheila Bender at writingitreal.com.  Watch for new chapters of her travel memoir to be posted! Please leave comments for Suzy on this post.

 

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Debt, Repaid

By Howard Tanzman

 

I had just returned from my father’s funeral when the landline phone rang.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Are you Howard and is your mother’s name, Pauline?” the caller asked.

“Yes. And who is this?”

“I’m your cousin,” he replied. 

I didn’t know of any cousins on my mother’s side.

It was forty years after my mother died, and I now found out that she had six cousins I never knew existed. I don’t know why my mother had no relationship with them.  One of the cousins found me through Ancestry.com. He had everything, a complete history of my mother’s extended family, more than I knew.

My maternal grandfather

I learned these cousins were very close to Mom’s parents, my maternal grandparents. The six of them were born in Minsk. Sometime during World War I, maybe during the Russian Revolution, their mother died. Their father then left for America, leaving the six behind. Did he abandon them or plan on bringing them over later once he became a citizen? They don’t know. But what they do know is that their uncle, my maternal grandfather, brought the six of them to America.

It was the 1920s when immigration was difficult. It took time and money for my grandfather to get them here, and he did. They always remembered that. My new-found cousin sent me everything, including ship manifests from their voyage to America.

I met a few of the new-found cousins, technically second cousins, a year later at the unveiling of my father’s monument stone. I wasn’t sure what to say to relations I had never met. I filled in for them a few pieces of the missing family tree, mainly the name of my siblings’ spouses and children. We now exchange annual holiday greetings and are Facebook friends. 

Aunt Fannie

My mother was the youngest of five children. In some strange quirk of fate, the oldest, Aunt Fannie, outlived all of her younger siblings. By the 1980s, she was all alone. Her husband had died. She had no children.

She was poor, elderly, living in a deteriorating urban neighborhood. My father, perhaps too hurt by my mother’s death, did not have any contact with her. My wife and I wrote occasional letters to Aunt Fannie; we could have and should have done more. But we were busy with our lives, marriage, career, children.

However, Aunt Fannie was not abandoned. I learned that out of gratitude to their uncle– my maternal grandfather–the cousins took care of his oldest daughter, my Aunt Fannie, for the rest of her life. Debt, repaid.

© 2019 Howard Tanzman

Howard Tanzman is a retired I/T professional living in Chicago, Illinois. He travels the country visiting Presidential Museums and Baseball Stadiums; you can read about his trips at https://www.parkspresidentsandparks.com/

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A Very Fair Trade

By Howard Bowman

I remember the exact moment. It occurred on the South Branch of the Oconto River a few miles south of Chute Pond in Northeastern Wisconsin. I was pushing 70 at the time. He was on the long side of 40. He casts a fly beautifully I thought, watching from above on the path paralleling the stream below.

NOT Howard and his son fishing–this image appears in the Badger Sportsman March 10, 2014. http://www.badgersportsman.com/issues/back/2014-issues/2014-02/2017-01-03-brook-trout

Then I amended my thought: He can cast better than me. How many years have I taken my son fishing leading to this moment? Given his age and mine, what occurred in this reversal was precisely right, exactly as it should be. There is a progression in the nature of things that we cannot and—most of the time—would not choose to alter.

I added yet a further amendment my thought: On a good day, when my arthritis is not acting up, I can still cast that well or better, but those days are becoming fewer and fewer. In my prime I enjoyed being referred to as a “fish whisperer.” But that was “back in the day.”

Casting a fly is no small matter. Finding the right place from which to cast without alerting the fish. Keeping one’s balance on slippery rocks in a strong current. Anticipating how the fly will drift over where the trout is feeding. Choosing the correct fly. Managing the line, particularly in the back-cast phase of presentation. The athleticism of getting to the right place through the brush and marsh between the road and the stream. Having the grit to endure all manner of biting insects as well as being cold and wet. All these things, and more, go into a good cast.

My son has now mastered these things. Now it’s time for me to fish less and take more ease on logs by the side of the stream and observe. There is a sweetness to this new state of affairs. Rather than parent and teacher, I can just be friend and fishing companion. We are now fellow pilgrims treading in sacred places, for such is what trout streams are.

A couple of years earlier, I had a hint of what was coming. This earlier misadventure is chronicled as “The old man takes a header in the Brule.” The Brule in question is the Bois Brule, one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful rivers, a little east of Superior. This river is a “Mecca” for trout anglers throughout the Midwest and beyond.

The documentation of this event, published in the Fox Valley (Wisconsin) Trout Unlimited newsletter, describes me as a tired old man walking through strong current back to the Forest Ranger Station near Route 2 in the town of Brule. I was feeling proud of my catch from three quarters of a mile up-stream. Thinking to myself, Yup, the old man still has it, I took a head-first plunge into the icy Brule—drenching myself, my equipment, flies and not least my proud, dignified self-image as “Dean” of the trout stream.

The reader will recall the adage, “Pride goeth before a fall…” It seems that the last foothold before getting out of the stream hides a log. It further seems that perhaps someone (could it have been one of the rangers?) strategically placed it in this spot because there is a straight line-of-sight between the window of the ranger station high above and the Brule River below. While engaged in their paperwork, this arrangement could allow the rangers to find some amusement by watching hapless old men who forget the log is there.

It also seems, that this old man’s son caught a “knock your socks off” trophy Brown Trout the next day, making my catch pale in comparison.

As I walked back into camp, looking like nothing so much as a drenched “river rat,” I had no recourse except to report to my friends what had happened. It was a pretty sure thing that there were witnesses—and all could see my clothes, inside-out waders, fly-boxes and fishing vest set out to dry by the campfire. Better to just be preemptive.

But I digress, as old men too often do.

Since the moment of reversal on the South Branch of the Oconto River, I have learned several things of inestimable value from both my son and daughter: how to make a cook stove out of a discarded can in the woods, how to tie a soft hackle fly, how to start a campfire in cold rain, how to engage adversity and live bravely, how to find morel mushrooms in the Wisconsin spring, how to be generous, how to dance with abandon (OK, I really don’t have this one down), how to be in the moments we are given.

All in all, it seems a very fair trade to this old man.

© 2019 Howard Bowman

My spouse and I enjoy the “Madison scene” and learning how to creatively write through
workshops like Sarah White’s “Flash Memoirs.” Our location also enables me to enjoy
the nearby famed Southwest Wisconsin “Driftless” area trout streams. In the years leading up to retirement, I taught philosophy courses at Mt. Mary and other Milwaukee area
universities.

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A Love Story

By Ellen Magee

Thirteen years ago, during the Willy Street Fair, I was collecting signatures on a petition standing on the corner of Willy Street and Ingersoll Street.  My son’s childhood karate teacher, Master Fields, walked over and said, “Weeell, hello! Where have you been keeping yourself?” He walked over close, and put his arm around me for a sensual hug.  Master Fields is an attractive, muscular African-American man.  His skin is a radiant mahogany and he puts a lot into his dress; always a hat, jewelry, a cane and ethnic touches.

A typical scene at the Willy Street Fair, any year

Hugging him, I flashed back to first meeting Master Fields.  My six-year-old son Max and I entered Fields Self Defense School. At that time it was a storefront near the corner of Few and Willy Street.  Master Fields was very welcoming to Max and, it seemed, almost as eager to meet me. I filled out the registration form and paid his dues. I was still rebounding from a painful divorce and had recently moved to that neighborhood. Master Fields noticed our address was nearby and I soon found myself receiving visits from Master Fields, (Guy). He came over usually when Max was at his dad’s and always late at night.  We became sexual, but more important to me, I found I could express my fear and grief about my family situation and being single again, to this sensitive, kind, and patient man.  He was able to comfort me through many tearful nights.

I knew that Guy had been seeing quite a bit of Max’s after-school teacher and that she was involved at the karate studio as well.  At first I overlooked this because my emotional needs were being met.  But it wasn’t long before I could not tolerate knowing I was sharing this special man with someone else.  There was a tearful breakup and no further evening visits.

Almost twenty years later, at the Willy Street Fair, Guy’s obvious joy and excitement about seeing me stirred up the old feelings. I had always loved him and wanted a relationship with him. I just needed him to be monogamous. These feelings reminded me of the second attempt at a relationship I had made with Guy.

About five years after our first breakup, I invited Guy back into my life. He had just started teaching at Memorial High School and his karate school had relocated only a couple of blocks from our home at that time. He was as attractive as ever and seemed more confident, having a good teaching job. I had been dating during that time but found myself comparing subsequent partners with Guy. No one measured up–not even close.  I thought we might try it again. Late night visits resumed. He said he was “staying with a family helping the mother with her kids”.

One day I received a phone message from Guy. He was all excited about closing on a house. I never responded. I was furious. My hopes of a wedding, a monogamous marriage, and home together were shattered. I had not been part of his plan- only an afterthought.  I was in the process of moving across town, and refused any further contact.

 

Now here Guy was, at the Fair, after all those years, trying to pick me up again, wanting me to come for dinner in his home. Against my better judgement, I accepted his invitation.  His house was roomy but definitely had not had a woman’s touch for a long while. It was his dark man-cave. He made a masterful stir-fry dinner and as soon as we got up from the table, his hands began to clearly signal his intentions.

“Wait right there!” I said, raising my hands to push him away. “Don’t even touch me unless  you are willing to be monogamous and marry me. I have always loved you, but I want it all or nothing.” He sat, looking surprised. “Wow!  That’s a lot to think about!”

I left, feeling sad because I expected that to be the end of it. I also felt proud that I was finally successful in communicating my wishes and my boundaries. I didn’t think much about Guy for the next couple of weeks. Then he asked if we could talk, and said he would agree to marry me. “I’m getting to the age I feel ready to settle down,” he said. I was shocked but overjoyed.

 

That was thirteen years ago. We had been on-again off-again for twenty years before we got married in 2007.  We are both sharing “his” house now. There were quite a few years before it would feel like “our home”. There are still days there are too many guitars and amps cluttering up the living room, but I have recently carved out a “room of my own”, where I can sit in a clutter-free space and not be disturbed. We just celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary in June, 2019, and all indications are that we are going to make it work this time.

© 2019 Ellen Magee

This photo of my husband, Guy and me is a fairly recent one with our dog, Snowball, (on the left).  We were married 12 years ago after a 20-year courtship.  We are both animal lovers and Guy usually carries a couple of dog biscuits in his pockets just in case. 

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The Things We Carried — To the Southern Foodways Alliance Fall Symposium

By Sarah White

With apologies to Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carrieda Vietnam war novel/memoir that I was reading while on this jaunt. Bold sentences are lifted from his opening pages and used as writing prompts.

Soleil Ho, restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, carried a laptop full of work to stay current on while away from her post, plans to catch up with her former partner in the podcast Racist Sandwich, and hopes of meeting up with friends. She also carried my phone number in her cellphone, because I’d offered her a ride from the airport to Oxford Mississippi, where this group was about to convene.

Kiese Laymon carried trepidation about what he would say to a group he anticipated would consist of mainly white, privileged foodies, for whom he would give the opening keynote from the porch of Rowan Oaks, William Faulkner’s home. Faulkner had been no friend to black people, he knew. A few sentences into his speech he looked up suddenly, took note of an elaborate chandelier hanging among the mini-lights strung around the side lawn. “A chandelier, really?” He then took off on an impassioned call for change that people would be talking about for the rest of the symposium. Unfortunately Soleil and I arrived late and missed it.

We did arrive just in time to take seats as Bill Briand, executive chef at Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama scooped creamy oyster stew into our bowls, accompanied by spinach salad with creole-mustard vinaigrette and root beer-roasted sweet potatoes. The executive director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, John T. Edge, actually slid into the empty seat next to me. “I like to sit with people I’m not acquainted with,” he said. John T. carried good intentions, a warm heart, and the double moniker that southern custom allows.

What had Chef Bill and his crew carried, to prepare this delicious meal from a field kitchen set up on the side lawn of Rowan Oaks? What had the other chefs who served us breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next 48 hours schlepped? Had they carried knife-rolls in their luggage, gallons of zip-lock bags full of herbs and spices? Had they drop-shipped foodstuffs from their provisioners? Were they carrying worries about whether the quality of what arrived would be a match for the expectations carried by the attendees?

What had Maneet Chauhan, the Punjabi pride of Nashville, packed to create a four-course meal and plate it in stacked tiffins, which were ours to carry home? What did she carry with her to create roasted sweet potato chaat, collard green and black-eyed pea curry, and pumpkin cheesecake gulab jamun?

The things we carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were raincoats and umbrellas for the predicted heavy rain, shawls or sweaters for the chilly meeting hall, remedies for hangovers and indigestion from three days of chef-spotlighted meals and three nights of open bar. Some carried iPads, some a notebook. Those presenting carried the tools of their trade—this one a memoir marked up with sticky-noted pages for his reading, that one fears about A/V fiascos and a thumb drive loaded with his documentary film, that other one a sheaf of nametags on lanyards she would hand out to her oral history theater troupe Higher Ground when they arrived from Harlan, Kentucky. The arts were woven into the Symposium along with the serious inquiries into topics related to the Symposium’s theme of “Food Is Work.”

They were called foodies. Some left behind kitchens, others computers. Some left behind piles of work as cookbook authors, food writers, and critics. Some left behind ivory towers full of papers to write or grade. Grad students hoped to find a seat at the table of food studies. Professors climbed down from their lofty perches to speak in dense academese. Here, food wasn’t just food, it was  “contextualization of the narrative of southern food culture.”

What we carried varied by mission. Some of us were hoping to make connections and carried business cards eager to exchange. Some carried books they hoped to sell. I carried hopes that, as I talked about my Glory Foods book with everyone I met, someone would say, “I was just speaking with an agent who would love that, let me introduce you.”

Some carried nothing but the expectation of a good time. The jesters at this court were a pair of women from Charlotte who had been given tickets due to a foodie friend’s last-minute change of plans. The two wandered from talk to meal to performance, dazed by the heady blend of friendliness and eccentricity. We were all, even I, a poor wayfaring stranger from far outside this world, carrying intent to do what bright, curious people gather to do: learn, connect,  and enjoy.

 

I had a very good time. Every conversation started with “where are you from” and “what brought you here.” I enjoyed the reaction whenever I said “I’m writing a book on Glory Foods” and they replied, “I know Glory!” Enough people mentioned they had read my article on the start-up company’s first run at canning Glory’s greens in the summer issue of the association’s magazine to make me feel like I belonged. It was a glorious victory lap to mark the last dying ripple of my Big MFA Adventure.

My imagined scene with the introduction to an agent never happened, but enough connecting did happen to leave me optimistic that, with follow-through, my investment will be repaid. Now, join me in visualizing the scene, someday a few years from now, when I return with my co-author Dan Charna. We’ll be carrying  marked-up copies of our newly published book, ready for reading.

© 2019 Sarah White

 

 

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