My mom liked to cook any- and everything – pot roasts with onions and carrots; baked turkey with stuffing; baked ham with pineapple; fried pork chops, chicken, or fish; collard greens, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green beans, navy beans; potato salad; biscuits, yeast rolls; sweet potato, apple and lemon meringue pies; cakes, etc. Our house was almost always filled with the smells of foods cooking.
I grew up in a small town that was surrounded by vegetable and animal farms and orchards. On Saturdays, a little “old” (my childhood label) farm woman came into town to sell chickens and eggs from her farm. She was referred to as “The Chicken Lady” and was driven into town in a truck by a Black man who worked on her farm.
“The Chicken Lady” would come to our door to see what my mom might want and would then go back to her truck to get whatever my mom requested. She always came into the house with my mom’s order.
Every Saturday, after my mom paid The Chicken Lady, she would ask my mom, “What gut food you cook?” She had an accent. My mom would go into her kitchen with The Chicken Lady right behind her. My mom would recite what she was cooking or had cooked. The Chicken Lady would then tell my mom what she wanted. As my mom prepared the food package for The Chicken Lady, The Chicken Lady would say, “Could you gimb me some for my colored man, too, pleas?” “Of course,” my mom would answer. She was already fixing something for The Chicken Lady’s “colored man.”
Just before leaving, The Chicken Lady, while holding the bag of my mom’s food with one hand, touched my mom’s back affectionately with her other hand and said, “Tank you, vonderful lady,” just before exiting.
We never met the “colored man,” but we saw him either sitting behind the wheel or standing just outside the truck when getting my mom’s order together. But … I always remember how warm The Chicken Lady and my mom made me feel when they were together. It also made me feel good about this little old Jewish lady caring enough about her Black farm worker that she always wanted him to share in the enjoyment of my mom’s cooking.
Thanks for my mom’s cooking.
From her kitchen to our hearts.
Postscript: I am saddened by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her Jewishness and her humanitarianism meant a lot to me.