Category Archives: Foods

Day 8: Fridays and Fishsticks

When I was in the fourth grade, my street was redistricted to another school.  Lockheed-Georgia was booming and lots of people were moving there.  What resulted was a real need for more schools.  That doesn’t seem so terrible actually. But it was for me.  I went to first grade in one school. That was the one with the garter teacher! Second and third grade was spent in a school far away from my neighborhood. In fact, the bus drove past two other schools to get there. The school was new and all I remember was it rained a lot and it was so muddy. Yuck! In fourth grade, a new school was opened only a mile from my house and I was transferred there. I was glad to be closer to home. I was tired of going somewhere different every year.  Elementary schools went through the eighth grade so I felt certain I would be at the new place a few years. Yay!

Being so close also meant that I could go home for lunch.  That was so terrific.  Kids whose homes backed up to the new school could just walk home for lunch. My mom would come and get me and we would have lunch together and I loved that.

Things rocked along pretty good for a few years and then I entered the glorious seventh grade.  You see, seventh and eighth graders had special privileges.  If you had really good grades, your teacher could nominate you as a lunchroom aide. You were allowed to leave class and actually work in the lunchroom for two hours a day!  And generally you would work once a week at that job.  You wiped tables. We had a milk machine that dispensed milk into glasses. Younger students were unable to manage this activity and hold their plate. So the aide would fill the glasses of milk for the younger children and would take them to their table.  That was pretty cool to me.  I hate to think what the state department would say now about child labor! And classroom instructional regulations! Oh well.

The principal of the school actually took up the money every day. Yes. Every day! He sat behind this little wooden table with a cash box and he would take your money and give change.  You could also purchase a weekly ticket and he would punch it to show it had been used.  The principal had a wooden leg so when he sat down, he released a lever that allowed his leg to bend a little.  I had never known anyone with a wooden leg so I always carefully watched him. Sometimes, his pant leg would come up a little and you could actually see the wood.  It was amazing and scary.  He walked with a cane and never smiled. He never chatted with children.  He was scary.

Fridays were my favorite day to work in the lunchroom.  First of all, they always had fish sticks for lunch.  My mom was not a big lover of fish sticks so we never had them at my house. I had to wait for Fridays.  In those days, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays so schools everywhere had fish.  Our lunchroom produced crispy sticks and gave you tartar sauce. I was in heaven. Yum.  To go with those sticks we had whipped potatoes. And on Fridays, the milkman delivered chocolate milk. It was a real treat.  Usually they would run out before the seventh and eighth grade arrived, so we frequently were unable to have chocolate milk. But by working there, the lunchroom ladies would “save” us some.  And by this, I mean a large glass. Yum again.  Fridays meant we had homemade rolls.  They were heavenly.  Working meant we could have two of them.  Ahhh.  And we always got extra dessert.  Food could not be kept over the weekend. So the helpers always had a big pig out time.

So what did I miss by being out of class?  Nothing.  That’s right-nothing.  What did I learn by working in the lunchroom? Lots. I learned that it is important to take care of your own space at the table. In other words, you are responsible for cleaning up after yourself even when someone was assigned the job of wiping tables.  I learned the importance of smiling at people and being friendly.  I learned that thank you was a BIG word.  And I learned about helping others. So-all in all-I learned a lot and today I am a better person for those days I spent in the lunchroom.

Day 6: Moonpies and Flashlights-The only way to read!

When you are a child and like to read, you will go to any length to be able to read when adults think you should be doing something else.  And I was a B.I.G. reader!  Between new Nancy Drew books and old Nancy Drew books and the public library and the school library and the church library, I was pretty set.  But then as I grew older, I had other responsibilities at home that took me from what I felt was my sole responsibility-reading.  During summer when school was out, I wanted to eat breakfast while reading, sit on the porch and read until lunch. Read during lunch. Read all afternoon-etc. You get the picture. During the school year, it was a little easier to squeeze in some extra reading because you could always claim it  was “about school”! Chores were a lot less because you had responsibilities like homework, practicing the piano, going to Girl Scouts and of course, church activities like Girls Auxiliary.  It was also easier to grab extra reading time during class.  Most of our school books were large. I could just open the book to the correct page and then put my library book inside the cover.  Ta-dah! The perfect solution for me!  All I had to do was keep up with where the teacher was.  It was a great solution for me.  So now all I needed was a solution for those golden days of summer.

I was a Girl Scout and went to day camp every summer. I loved camp.  And the most exciting part was the overnight camp-out at the end of the session.  Well, I had to have a few extra items at the camp-out. One of those items was a flashlight. I had never had my own flashlight so I had to  play around with it one night.  Oh my goodness.  It provided just the right amount of light. Not too much. Not too little.  Then T.H.E. idea came to me.  Why not use my flashlight to extend my reading time in the evening? Hmmm.  That sounded pretty good to me.  But wait! What if someone-like my mother-saw me.  That would not be good.  I might lose my flashlight. I decided it was worth the risk.  I hid my flashlight under the covers of my bed and tried it that night.  I heard my parents go to bed and knew it was the time to give this idea a test drive.  Success!  I could use my pillow to form a slight tent and then read with my flashlight under the tent. And I could read as long as I W.A.N.T.E.D! Yay!

My extra reading time was wonderful except for one thing.  After reading for another hour or so, I would be a little hungry.  And I couldn’t get up because my parents would hear and come and check on me.  Hmm.  What could I do for food? My favorite reading snack was a big dill pickle.  I couldn’t do that. They were wet and drippy. Ah-moonpies. They were cheap. They were yummy. They were individually wrapped. And my mom bought a big box every week.  She thought they were good snacks.  So I would sneak into the kitchen and snag a moonpie whenever I could. Then I would hide it in the covers on my bed. Since it was my responsibility to make my bed, it was no big deal.    Problem solved!  I could read all night if I wanted.  I could snack and no one would be the wiser.  Success!

My father did notice that my flashlight seemed to use a lot of batteries that summer.  I wonder why!

Day 5: Still crazy after all these years!

I was born in a very interesting small town in Georgia.  I knew from a very early age that the mere mention of the name brought laughter to all ages.  The town was not “funny” at all. In fact, it was a former capital of Georgia.  It was a typical southern town.  It had a main boulevard which was gorgeous. Streets surrounding the main drag were lovely with divided lanes and enormous trees.  All kinds of houses lined the streets.  There were one and two story homes with wide porches and rockers.  Children could walk to school if you lived in town.  Many of the people who lived in town worked for the largest employer or for companies that provided services to this employer.  There was a state college for women (yes-just women) and it was a well-respected college. In the “old” days, it was GSCW or Georgia State College for Women. In addition, Georgia Military College was there. So you are now saying-What is the big deal about the name?

Well, it was Milledgeville, Georgia.  And the state insane asylum was located there. Yikes! As an elementary student in Marietta, I H.A.T.E.D to tell people where I was born.  If I said Milledgeville, people-especially other children, would make some remark about how crazy I was.  In fact, another word for insane asylum was the word Milledgeville.  Period.  So early on, I searched for a way to avoid mentioning my birthplace so I would not have to deal with the insults.  Then I found the perfect answer. I would tell people that I was born in Baldwin County. This statement was absolutely true. But since most children and even some adults suffered from a basic knowledge of Georgia geography,  I was safe! No more jokes! No more laughs!

The fact that people laughed about Milledgeville made me sad. Not angry. Just sad.  It was a lovely town filled with gracious people. I had a number of relatives who lived there.  They had beautiful Southern names like Mary Claire and Rosa and Ruth Ann.  My Aunt Rosa was the queen of watermelon pickles.  Every summertime meal had a dish of her special  pickles.  My parents finally limited the number of times I could ask for another one.  Hydrangea and gardenia bushes surrounded their homes,  There was a jug of sweet tea in the frig always.  I loved to visit and listen to their conversations about various relatives and neighbors. I volunteered to dry dishes because it put me in the kitchen where the women talked about everything. They solved every problem in the world. I was always quiet so they would forget I was there. I would even dry dishes twice just to be a part of the sisterhood. It was amazing!

Since many of my relatives worked at Central State Hospital (the official name),I also got to visit there.  In those days, the hospital had dorms and single nurses could live there. My Nannie had a fabulous room. Large, airy, windows looking out at ancient magnolias. Ahh,  it was restful.  Everyone in the three story dorm knew everyone else. They had their own community.  I also visited some of the wards.  That was interesting when the big metal door thunked shut.  I think children are more understanding of some things-like women with mental problems.  The ones that my Nannie worked with were sweet as pie. They were great gardeners and had a huge flower and vegetable garden.  They loved to take my hand and show me every flower they had grown.  I learned so much from them. I was never afraid.

When we would go down to pick Nannie up for a visit, she would have a shoebox with sandwiches for lunch in the car.  I learned to have an appreciation for pineapple sandwiches. Yum! And her homemade pimento sandwiches were fabulous. Sometimes we would eat first on benches under the trees on the state grounds.  It was so peaceful. Sometimes, she would ride the bus to Atlanta and we would go pick her up at the bus station in Atlanta.  As I grew older, my parents would let me ride the Greyhound bus down to see her.  It was an exciting  trip for me. All alone. Traveling halfway down the state. WOW! I thought I was so grown-up!

Milledgeville still has the state hospital.  The college is still there but with a new name.  Many streets are still divided by trees.  Antebellum homes are restored and in use.  A visitor can still see the former state capital which by the way has underground tunnels for safety sake.  And at Bible study a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was born in Milledgeville and one of the ladies said-“I visited the women’s section of the state hospital when I was in college”.

So I guess I am still crazy after all these years!

Day 1: My Love Affair with Okra

Hey ya’ll!  I am from the South (duh)!  I live in the part of the South where the word Sou-th is actually two complete and separate syllables.  It gently “rolls” off your tongue like honey from a jar.  And in the Sou-th where I live, okra is a B.I.G. deal!  First of all, who would expect that such a gangly plant could produce such gorgeous flowers? And who would have expected that such luscious food could grow on the prickly stem? God made a masterpiece when he made okra. It is manna from Heaven!

okra plant

First of all, I have to say that two people in my life started my love affair with okra. The first was my Nannie. I was lucky enough to have a Nannie that was pure country. When she visited-which was always during the vegetable canning season-she first introduced me to okra. Boiled okra. I know that some of you are saying “yuck yuck”. Well, let me tell you that once she sat me down with the small, tender okra pods that were gently boiled and paired it with fresh butterpeas, creamed fresh corn and a BIG slice of mater (tomato for you Yankees), I was hooked!

The other person who helped to intensify my addiction was the lady across the street from us. She was a sweetie. Her husband worked nights so she always cooked a big lunch and they ate mid-afternoon. Well as I was playing jacks (a summer favorite) on my screened front porch or reading, the most delicious odor would float right out her kitchen window and straight to my nose. I could not figure out what she was cooking. So one day I decided to stop by and see if her daughter was at home. I knew she wasn’t there! And Mrs. H invited me into her kitchen. When you went visiting at dinner time, you always talked in the kitchen while you sat on the kitchen stool and sipped sweet tea with lemon. Right before me was a big, black cast iron skillet filled with this wonderful little brown tidbits. It was fried okra. She was a QUEEN of fried okra. That seasoned skillet made every morsel crispy and flavorful. Then she offered me some on one of her Blue Willow plates and I was totally hooked. I swooned with each bite. Oh my! Then she began to call across the street when she had okra for lunch. From her front porch she would call–“Honey come on over, I have a little plate for you” And I would run and ask my momma and then head across for the best okra in the world. Thank you Mrs. H and Nannie for introducing me to okra!

fried okra

I have to confess that I am an okra purist.  The season is short and I must enjoy every okra opportunity.  Now the purist rules.  Okra is fresh from the garden. It is never frozen.  Okra is coated with buttermilk and real corn meal-not that mix stuff with flour in it.  The last rule is it is F.R.I.E.D. in a black cast iron skillet in oil. Period.

And yes, honey, we are having fried okra again tonight!