How do we find the ingredients? We simply open our eyes and look around us. We take the materials that are at hand, right in front of us, and prepare the best meal possible.Instructions to the Cook
Pappy was a narcissist. My pipe smoking architect grandfather had good reason to walk the egocentric path, the only child of an older professional couple (lawyer and teacher). He was raised in South Mississippi, not far removed from a time when folks claimed territory in unclaimed territory .
Robert Benton McKnight was gifted in many categories having survived the Great Depression as a part time cartoonist and engineer. I knew him in the nineteen fifties and sixties as a popular designer of commercial buildings and high end residences in North Mississippi.
He was handsome and dapper and beautifully turned out each and every day. And he was brimming with well-researched ideas. In a lifetime, he curated a massive collection of cars, condiments, pipe smoking accoutrements, tools, knives, and guns. He had a penchant for moonshine whiskey.
The Sunday dinner table at noon was his pulpit. I found his authority enchanting. He once said “I believe that houses will become smaller, but their details more refined.” His proclamation stuck to me like wood glue, but overtime appeared to be stunningly untrue.
These days it has occurred to me by way of life experience that he did have a point. A recent field trip to Mississippi for the funeral of a long time friend’s mother ignited this revelation. I trailed through many an interior in route and had reason to reconsider Pappy’s words.
On the way to Jackson, I eased through Memphis. Friends had completed a new home and it was a stunner. The wide open spaces were impressive, but it was the way my friend toured me around her new residence and generously bestowed the challenging particulars of construction that won me over.
And there was more; she set my place at the table for a delicious breakfast and ushered me onward with the blessing of iced french market coffee to go that will forever place their home in my mind’s eye as a sanctorium.
And then I drove to Jackson and my daughter’s home – The Kellums. She was wrangling 2 under 2 and gave voice to the unnecessary apology that the house was a-rye. Even so, she is a kind person and found time to make sure that I was heard and warmly tucked in…heaven.
The next day, I slipped into the back row of the historic Galloway Methodist Church. The sanctuary’s surfaces gleamed with a spit shine polish. And there was a massive choir to accentuate the meaningful scripture that interpreted Edwina McDuffie Goodman’s life. A vibe swept the room to make everyone reconsider their agendas.
But just the same, it was the technicolor tears in her granddaughter Mitchell’s eyes at service end that brought Edwina into vivid view.
All these thoughts animated a reoccurring dream that I had after my mother’s death in which I open the front door and she, from the back of the house, says “heyyyyy”. And as I move through the light filled rooms in pursuit of her, a house blooming with cooking smells and interesting landscapes, that I get it. Because the more I seek her, not to find her, the more the sparkly details gifted by her spirit begin to dim.
And now I know that the gift of home is offered only in the presence of a soul that reigns with an open heart. Because really, without a certain hospitable human, the home can never be all that it can be.
Like Pappy said, “details more refined.” Maybe he spoke of molding, appliances, and state of the art specifics, but my sojourn channeled thoughtfully tended spaces, good food, and personal attention.
Pappy was ahead of his time and now because of Sunday lunch, his pontification is my education. Refinement by way of human – thank you, R.B.
A refined detail: the edamame. Oh so easy for those last minute guests. Spend your time on personal attention!
16 ounces frozen shelled edamames (thaw for 1 hour in strainer)
2 teaspoons extra olive oil
1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper and/or alternative seasoning
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Run warm water over thawed edamames and spread and pat over a towel.
Toss edamames with olive oil and seasoning.
Spread and roast on cookie sheet for 30 minutes…stir every 10 minutes.
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