In thinking about all the meals that I can remember having as a child, I narrowed it down to four prominent family members that provided me with such meals, my mommy, daddy, grandma, and granny. Immediately ruling out both of my grandmothers due to their long windedness and lack of technological use, it came down to my parents. I have to say, I really don’t remember much in terms of food from my younger years so I had to go straight to the source, my mother, and ask her who cooked more meals for me, and of no surprise to me she replied herself. Now, when I think about it I have to believe her on this one because I know that my father always worked the graveyard shifts when we all lived together, so I’m sure he probably didn’t have time to prepare a lot of my meals. So the last woman standing by a default of numbers takes to trophy of having cooked the most meals for me as a child and gets to be interviewed about it. Here goes nothing.
Q: Who taught you how to cook?
A: Both my maternal grandmother and mother taught me how to cook.
Q: How did you start cooking—what made you want to start?
A: I started cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen at the age of ten years. When I was younger I spent a lot more time with my grandmother than I did my own mother. I remember my grandmother always being in the kitchen preparing meals for the family and one day, though I don’t really remember which, I decided to start helping her. From then on out, I would always offer to help my grandmother with every meal she made. I started to learn a lot of techniques and recipes from her. Though our time together was short lived, she passed when I was sixteen; I have never forgotten the things she taught me. As I grew older, I added my grandmother’s techniques in with what I learned from my mother and that’s really it.
Q: Do you use family recipes or do you create your own dishes?
A: I continue to use my family’s recipes. Seeing as though they are a part of my family, being passed down from generation to generation, I consider them to be my own recipes. There are times when I add in something new, take something out, or follow the recipe word for word. It really just depends on what I like and if I think it need a personal touch.
Q: Did recipes change with relationships and/or marriages?
A: My relationship with your dad changed my recipes because he was raised adding sugar to everything.
Q: What sort of things did you eat when you were a kid?
A: The same type of soul food I prepare for my family. More often than not, the food is heavily seasoned and fried in vegetable oil. I guess it’s like the old saying, everything taste better fried.
Q: What is your favorite meal to make?
A: My favorite meal to make for my family consists of red beans, white rice, fried chicken and oven baked corn bread. I soak the dried red bean in a bowl of water over night. In the morning I season them up and throw them in the crock pot with a ham shank, more than likely left over from our holiday ham. Then I let the bean cook all day. I prepare the chicken by wasting it really good, seasoning it up, coating in an egg wash, tossing in it all purpose flour, and deep frying it. While the chicken is frying, I stick the corn meal mixture in the oven and start the rice.
Q: Is there a special dish that reminds you of me?
A: Not one exactly, because whenever I make a dessert I think of you, mommy’s honey-bunny.
Q: What were your goals regarding food for me prior to my birth, and how did they change?
A: When I found out I was pregnant with you I stopped drinking coffee and began to consume lots of milk because while carrying you I felt the need to take care of the love I had inside of me. And once I gave birth, I started back to drinking very strong coffee and eating fast food again.
Q: What were the trials of cooking for me (what I liked, funny moments, etc.)
A: You loved cheesecake from Nations Hamburgers. The funniest moment I experienced with you in the kitchen was trying to prepare a cake for your Dad’s birthday. It was fun, but boy was it messy.
Q: Do you wish you had the opportunity to cook more?
A: I do wish I had more time to cook for you when you come home from school on the weekend. I do not like the fact that you always have to purchase fast food and rarely have a home cooked meal. It’s just so hard for me to prepare anything taking care of Andre and Ashtin (my little cousins), grandma and pawpaw, working full time, and going to school at night. That’s why I have been preparing a lot more meals (red beans and greens) in the crock pot than I used to, so they can cook while I’m away and you can just serve yourself when you get hungry.
Q: Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?
A: I truly enjoy cooking. I just wish I had the energy to take care of the boys, do everything for grandma and pawpaw, attend school, work a full time job and still be able to cook for you on the weekends.
Q: How has your relationship with food changed over the years?
A: After finding out that I now have diabetes, I am much more aware of what I place in my body. I want to live a long healthy life and not leave you to worry about me not taking my disease seriously. I feel there are many people depending on me to stay healthy, so I try to eat more chicken, fruits, and vegetables so I can maintain my weight and not inject insulin into my body.
After doing this interview with my mommy, I discovered a new bond with her through food. We had very similar childhood experiences in that our cooking adventures began not our mothers but with older women in our family. While she cooked with her grandmother until her death, I cooked with my great-grandmother until her death. Even though, it wasn’t stated in her interview I truly believe that like myself, cooking is something she continues to do because it reminds her of the time spent with her grandmother. I also learned that my mother truly does have a passion for cooking and it saddens me that she doesn’t get the opportunity to fulfill her passion that often in her current stage in life. My hope is that she will be able to reconnect with foods the way that I am learning too.
The overall experience of conducting the interview was nothing new to me. I have done several interviews within my sociology minor in many different forms. For this interview in particular, I knew based on past experiences that I didn’t want to just record and then transcribe. So I tried to type as she spoke but it then I kept pausing the conversation and asking her to slow down and repeat everything a thousand times just to get one sentences down. I finally ended with having her type her answers as she said them, partly because she is much faster than I am and she could take more natural pauses. I think for the little amount of questions that we had it worked, but I just really can’t find the naturalness in conducting interviews. I feel like it almost just has to be a video recorded conversation that you just have to play live and edit if you have to so that you don’t stop the flow. Though, that probably still wouldn’t work for me. I guess I’m just not a fan of interviews altogether.