When I was coming of age, I used to experiment in the kitchen. I watched as both my grandmother, who were born and raised in the south, cooked these large elaborate meals for their families. I would sit in the kitchen and watch everything they did not know that there was so much more going on behind the scenes that I never realized.
One day my paternal grandmother told me to make the cornbread for dinner. I as shocked because she never really asked us to do anything around the kitchen, so this request was out of the ordinary. I begin to clutter the countertop with bowls, cornmeal, eggs, measuring cups, anything else that I thought I would need to make a pan of cornbread.
I began to measure and stir and prepare and work and my grandmother came into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. She looked around and I am not sure what she was thinking but I thought I was on target. I told her I was making the cornbread. she wanted to know why all the measuring cups and everything was in the kitchen. I was a little confused but nonetheless I continued with my mixing and stirring and preparation. My grandmother shook her head and left the room.
When the pan of cornbread was ready I was proud. My grandmother, God rest her soul, had allowed me to do something to assist her in the kitchen. I was excited and I just knew this would be the best cornbread she had ever ate. When I went to cut into the cornbread it was as hard as the cast iron skillet I had cooked it in. My heart sank. My grandmother just look at me and she sat down and she said make it again. I told her I had followed the directions, I did everything I was supposed to do, I just simply couldn’t make cornbread.
She said put all those measuring cups and shit in the sink. She then reminded me, you know the ingredients. You have seen me to this hundreds of times. Now just make the cornbread. I doubted myself, but this time unlike the first try she was there with me. She told me you know what it is supposed to look like, you know if it looks right before you put it in the oven. I followed her instructions and most importantly I followed my instinct.
The next pan of cornbread was great. 1000 times better than the first try. I learned in that moment that importance of feeling the love when you cook. That was the moment that it clicked for me. I learned that day in that kitchen why both my grandmothers spent hours at a hot stove or over a sink preparing and slicing and cutting or chopping or cleaning and cooking. I understand now that it was the love that they places in each and every dish that made the food so good, so tasty and so comforting.
When I cook now I know that if I am not in the mood, don’t cook. The food will be horrible, even if it’s something I cook all the time. I know that when I cook with love, the food is good. I can tell the difference even if no one else can. It is when you cook with feeling that you get the SOUL FOOD, because you leave a little of your soul in each meal. I am thankful to my grandmother for teaching me that I should put a little of my self in each and every meal I prepare. Thanks Granny!