Saturday, March 06, 2004

Come Home, Come Home

I am achin' for a peek at a hillside with some daffodils pushin' through the litter of old leaves - oak, maple and larch. Planted there by a forgotten mountain woman to brighten up the yard outside a common cabin. Maybe a redbud sort of hintin' that it plans to burst forth in bloom 'fore you know it.

Down a holler there is a sorry ol' dog just waitin' to lay on a porch just in time for me or you to pass. He'll raise his head to watch me as if to say, "where y'all been for so long?" Folks are sittin' on them porches even now, practicin' for warmer weather...comin' out with coats on to breathe deep the mountain air and clear the dusty winter from their lungs.

Cousin, if you listen close an' be right quiet you'll hear the sound of an axe splittin' some kindlin' up by the creek an' the soft steady currr, ruck, ruck cluck of a couple chickens as they peck at the warming earth. There, did you hear that? That was the sound of an ol' wood screen door slappin' at the door jam as someone goes out the back door to wander to the barn an' look over tractors ready for plowin'.

Look to the sky an' see the birds already comin' home to the hills, bellies full from their winter vacations. They are carryin' on somethin' awful, meetin' an' greetin' ol' friends an' neighbors.

Smell deep an' you'll catch the hint of coal fires an' hickory burnin' slow in fire grates. Maybe, if you're right lucky your ol' nose will catch a hint of chicken fryin' or beans simmerin' slow from over to Beloved. I reckon that Grandma's House Restaurant is plum' full 'bout now an' ever' time the door opens the smell of home sneaks out to tease an' call you home.

Look in the creek as you dream an see them crawdaddys snappin' out Morse code, spellin' your secret mountain name. The minners swim this way an' that, don't look too awful long cause they'll hypnotize you an' you'll never want to leave.

Now, I reckon your poor ol' shoes are covered with that yeller mud from down home. don't kick it off or rub the sides of 'em in the high grass. Be right careful and when y'all get home let that mud dry. Take it off them shoes real careful like an' put it in a little ol' bottle. Put it away in a special place.

When you get homesick for the hills an hollers, take that bottle out an' smell that sweet earth. Roll it around in your hands and close your eyes. Hold it tight, cousins 'cause it is in your blood already. Blood to earth, them mountains call you home. Blood to earth, you hear the secret songs of the sassafras as it waves in the wind, high on the hillside. Blood to earth, you hear the heart of the mountain cry out to your heart.

Come home, come home, come home

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Grandma's House Restaurant

I don’t reckon you have heard, but me and my cousin Peanut went into business together back in the fall. It ain’t much, but if you drive into the middle of town and stop at what used to be Lucinda Pigg’s old house – you know the one, white with all the gingerbread trim all over and the big ol’ wrap around porch – anyway, stop in there and see us.

Y’see, we have started up a restaurant we call “Grandma’s House”. It is home cookin’ at it’s finest. We started talkin’ about it back last year an’ just went for it when the realtor, Joshua White, put the ol’ Pigg place up for sale. Lots o’ folks laugh at that name an' think we made it up, but Mrs. Pigg’s Grandma gave the land that Oneida Institute was built on.

When you come in the door a music box plays a few lines of “Over the river and through the woods”. We searched and searched to find old dinette sets from the 50s for folks to sit at. There is three rooms with three or four dinettes in each room. ‘Course, we have a counter for one at a time an’ folks wantin’ to get in an’ out fast. Family pictures line the walls an’ in the winter we have a wood cookin’ stove goin’ all the time for a little warmth an’ for heatin’ the coffee pot till someone wants a little more coffee. Most days there is a big ol’ pot of beans simmerin’ there an' you can dip your own an' grab some cornbread.

We hired Emma Sams, May Stevens and Elizabeth Collins to wait on folks. They wear dresses an’ aprons just like our Grandmas used to wear. They have nets on their ol’ heads an’ Emma chomps on her gum cause she thinks waitresses should do that. They say stuff like, “Tell Grandma what y’all want” an’ all. Yep, it sure is corny, but folks seem to like it right well.

Sister Sally Arnett does all the cookin’ along with Miss Bess. It is family style. You order your main dish separate an’ the rest comes to your table in big bowls for sharin’. You can always get soup beans an’ cornbread. Most days you can get fried baloney or fried ham sandwiches as well.

Monday is meat loaf or chicken an’ dumplin’s night, Tuesday is fried chicken or pot roast, Wednesday is steak fry night’. Bout all of Beloved is in Grandma’s House before or after church an’ choir practice on Wednesday night. Thursday is fried chicken, chicken pot pie, country ham or fried pork chops. Friday night is all you can eat fish fry. There is the best fried walleye or lake perch you ever eat that night with hand rolled hush puppies an’ hand chopped slaw. Saturday all day we have fried baloney AND fried green tomater sandwiches. Miss Bess slices Parmesan cheese right thin on the top just before it is done fryin’. Put that on some home made bread an’ your tongue will ‘bout beat your face to death getting’ to that! They will have burgoo on the wood stove you can dish up yourself an’ biscuits right there in the hot box. Real butter an’ molasses make that a real meal.

Sunday begins on Saturday for Uncle Jimmy Arnett as he starts the barbecue pit an’ keeps it smokin’ with apple, cherry an’ hickory wood all weekend. He smokes some beef brisket, pork loin, chicken halves an’ plenty of ribs long an’ slow. He has hand ground pork sausage from Uncle Billy Gilbert he smokes a little before Miss Bess fries it for Sunday Brunch – along with eggs any style, sausage gravy, biscuits so light they tie strings to them to keep ‘em off the ceiling an’ on your plate. Grits, bacon, red eye gravy, hot fruit an’ a ton of other stuff that will make you groan when you see it comin’ to your table.

Family style means green beans cooked slow with ham, pinto beans, greens, stewed tomaters, fried okra, mashed, fried, boiled new, home fried or baked potatoes, three or four types of corn, includin’ corn on the cob all year round. Your choice of breads, jams, jellies, molasses an’ always real butter.

When you push away from the table, we want you to know you been to Grandma’s House” to eat. Y’all come an’ bring an appetite. Tell May I sent you an’ she’ll give you one of her mason jars with the best sweet tea in the south…on the house.