Language of food is timeless

By Olivia Fowler
Good food ranks pretty highly on the ladder of importance to many people. My family is among that group. As a whole, we enjoy food in an almost recreational way. Although we surely aren’t the only family who respect good food and recall special meals and dishes fondly, I’ve lately begun to think the love of good food is a legacy passed from one generation to the next.
The reason behind these thoughts can be found in a book I just finished reading titled “At Home” by Bill Bryson.

Early in the book, Bryson recounts the story of an English clergyman named James Woodforde, who was born in the 18th century and died in the 19th. Woodforde wrote detailed descriptions of almost every meal he ate during that period. Even his last entry on the day he died includes a description of what foods he ate that day.

We have at home a letter from our great-grandfather Thomas to his wife Lilly, written while she was visiting family in Wilmington.
In the letter, he talks about how the cotton crop is coming along, gives a description of his health and gives an account of a neighbor who brought by a turtle as a gift.

Great Grandpapa wrote, “I was eating breakfast when I was called out to receive a turtle brought by our neighbor. We had turtle stew for supper. It was grand and oh how we feasted.”
An old letter written by Grandmama when she was a young wife and mother describes Sister Liv’s dinner of fresh fish and how delicious it was. She also noted the recipe for homemade ketchup and copied it carefully in her elegant handwriting.

Mama could describe in detail every truly outstanding meal she’d ever eaten in her life, and my brother Matt was no different. When his work took him around the country he’d often call and tell us about some new dish he’d eaten and what he thought was in it.

There is nothing like the feeling you get after preparing a meal for a gathering. Good food mixed with congenial company at the table is a wonderful combination and an important part of almost any get together.

Certain dishes bring places, people and celebrations instantly to mind.

I never smell chicken frying without thinking of Grandmama wrapped in her Goose Girl flour apron standing at the stove taking those golden brown and crispy pieces of chicken out of the frying pan.

A glass of Christmas eggnog makes me listen for the sound of Uncle Walter thumping down the hall with his walking stick. He was always in charge of eggnog preparations.

The smell of chocolate in the kitchen brings Mama back to life with her boundless energy, rapid-fire footsteps and ability to bring excitement into the kitchen and into life. She made the best fudge I’ve ever eaten.

As long as we have their recipes and their stories, the generations preceding us do not die. I treasure Grandmama’s surviving cookbook with her notes written in the margins and comments about the recipes with any changes noted for improvement.
I hope when my bones are making dust some cook yet to be born will be studying these recipes with an awareness of the family thread binding us together.