Seasoned with love

Published 4:50 am Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My cousins, siblings, and I ran in and out of the old farmhouse, screen door slamming as we whizzed by. My grandmother never seemed to notice the noise. Every now and again she would fetch a flyswatter or two and ask us if we wanted to take care of the pesky ones buzzing about.

She never scolded that I can remember. Mamaw seemed to understand the pent up energy of children and took everything in stride. When I think of her I can still see her faded blue eyes twinkling at the antics of her grandchildren.

“Mamaw, we’re hungry! Something sure smells good. How long before we eat?”

“Wash your hands, children. It’s almost ready. Come on in and find a seat.”

The smell of fried chicken and biscuits drifted through the open window of the dining room causing my mouth to water. I ran with the others to dutifully give my hands a quick wash before settling down for Sunday dinner. In reality, Mamaw cooked such large meals that every day seemed like a special treat.

Most of the food on the table came from the farm. Papaw and Mamaw raised vegetables of all kinds. Tomatoes fresh from the garden had a taste far better that anything bought in a store. They would almost melt in my mouth as I popped a shiny skinned red bauble in. The chicken on the platter had been scratching around the farmyard only hours before.

The plates of steaming apple fritters never failed to delight. The apple trees out by the barn along with my grandmother’s busy hands brought smiles of satisfaction to the hungry brood time after time. When I think of it, the menu never changed much, but in those days we never thought of wanting something different. We ate whatever my Mamaw cooked, and it was always fresh, hot, and seasoned with love.

Papaw asked the blessing before each meal. He was not long-winded or particularly eloquent. He just thanked the good Lord for our food and asked that it be blessed to nourish our bodies. My Papaw knew that God was in charge of all the things that brought a good crop. If the rain didn’t come at the right time an entire seasons work could be lost. This knowledge, I think, helped my grandfather to remember that all life is precious and a gift.

After our meal, the adults would settle down with coffee and speak in hushed tones. Some of the younger children settled in for a nap. Occasionally, I would nod off myself, but I tried and tried to keep my eyes open so I wouldn’t miss anything. After a few minutes, the older kids were off and running again. We usually didn’t slow down until the evening sky began to change colors and our parents called us in.

Weekends spent on my grandparents’ farm seemed perfect, and I wanted to recreate these special moments for my own children and grands. The problem is my precious ones live from one end of the country to the other. My plan of having my table filled with grandchildren looks different from what I imagined, but one thing is the same. Whether it’s my one grandchild who lives here at the kitchen bar with a peanut butter sandwich or my two when Aidan comes for a week in the summer, the food and conversation is seasoned with love.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at