Like Gravy Over Mashed Potatoes

2,960 miles.

That’s what the odometer on our silver SUV said when we arrived back home this week from an 11-day, 8-state trip from Michigan to Texas and back again.

It may possibly have been our last trek across the country to visit my (Jodi’s) aging Granny. She is soon selling her house and moving in with family members, which marks the close of a very meaningful chapter of my life.

I feel like I revisited all of my last 41 years on that trip. It was bittersweet, to say the least.

If you’ve never been to rural Texas, let me give you a flavor.

(But before I start with the storytelling, did you see this?)

Every town in Texas has some street or neighborhood named after the pecan. (That’s pronounced puh-KON for you northerners, not PEE-kon.) We saw signs for the Ole Sawdust Cafe and Buc-ee’s, a travel stop destination advertising beef jerky, brisket, and bathrooms.

On two-lane roads, drivers actually scoot over and drive on the shoulder to let faster moving folks pass them. (The highway department makes wider roads and keeps the shoulders cleaned off for this purpose.)

There’s a Dairy Queen (aka, Texas stop sign) in every small town, and fried catfish is a delicacy. You can order it by the half pound. (And we did.)

 

The stories are just as interesting.

We heard about how one cousin tried to teach her horse not to shy away from armadillos, and how she has to walk around her house at night with a flashlight to look for rattlesnakes before letting her dog outside.

And the time when my mom was growing up, a scorpion crawled onto her foot while she was talking on the phone in the living room. She simply flipped her shoe across the room and continued on with her conversation.

The cultural differences between the northern and southern states are vast.

Masking precautions generally declined as we traversed southward. We knew we’d arrived back in normal-ville when the only restrictions posted on the door of the Cowpokes gas station (yes, that’s its real name) read, No shirt, no shoes, no service. Those are the only safety standards that still need enforcing in Texas. (For the safety of your eyes, to be sure.)

And all of our friends and relatives had heard of our governor.

But in between the going and the coming, there were two powerful forces that emerged as prevailing uniting themes between the two cultures.

 

Food.

One of the most pronounced traits passed down through my mother’s family line is the love of southern comfort food, both the preparing and the eating.

The countertop full of meringue pies, pound cake, old-fashioned chocolate cake, and English toffee was always the first place we inspected upon arrival at Granny’s house. A meal of fried wild turkey breast, mashed potatoes and cream gravy, fried okra, and homemade ranch dressing with a few pieces of tossed salad underneath was beyond compare.

Granny could cook, and when I was old enough to realize it, I stood at her side asking questions and watching so I could replicate her work.

On this trip, a family get-together of about 20 people was planned around — surprise, surprise — food. Nothing at this meal was store bought except the hamburger buns and salad dressing. We enjoyed smoked brisket and pulled pork, potato salad, red beans, deviled eggs, a salad bar, and for dessert, brownies, ice cream, and cherry dump cake. All of it was homemade and enjoyed as a matter of course. This is the norm.

 

Food brings us together. Everyday.

The second standout force was communicated to me by my children as we pulled out of the driveway on our way home.

Mom, will we ever be able to come back here? asked my teary-eyed nine-year-old.

It made me ask myself, what was it that they loved so much about this place?

Granny’s house is not fancy. It sits on a half-dried up lake in a falling down neighborhood mostly inhabited by rocks and cactus. The plumbing is atrocious, the walls are paneled, and the square footage makes for less-than-ideal sleeping quarters.

Our itinerary was not grandiose.

We fished and swam and ate and played dominoes. That’s pretty much it.

I started writing this note as the kids sat outside laughing at Papaw’s homespun cowboy stories, and the ladies sat inside listening to political commentary on TV. The men were gone on their third run to the grocery store that week, and I tried to take in as much sensory stimulation as I could to sustain my memory for the years and miles ahead.

The rise and fall of the cicadas’ anthem, the hummingbirds darting from feeder to feeder, dirt dobbers floating and buzzing, the squeaky door announcing the arrival of a child or relative coming to see what was happening on the back patio, the emergence of a single renegade prickly pear cactus in Granny’s rock bed (a sure sign of the neglect happening during her absence), the ever-present sun’s shiny reflection on the lake below us, and rocks upon rocks upon rocks which could be hiding any number of biting or stinging creatures.

It was all very simple.

 

Simplicity.

In 2021, it turns out that food and simplicity still cure things.

It did for our family. After the year we’ve all been through, this brand of good food and simple living washed over us like … well, gravy over mashed potatoes.

Because sometimes the simple cure is the right one.

Coming in September: A monthly variety of local farm raised meat cuts delivered to your door

Our new monthly meat bundles offer a variety of seasonal meat cuts delivered to the Holland, Michigan area. New meats and cuts are featured each month, along with new recipes to help you plan your meals.

  • Spend less time grocery shopping: Each month you’ll receive a seasonally selected bundle of 11-15 pounds of local farm raised meat cuts, including local beef, Berkshire pork, pastured chicken, and pasture-raised lamb.
  • Ease the burden of meal planning: New meats and cuts are featured each month, plus new recipes to help you prepare what’s in your bundle.
  • Get out of the same old meal routine: Each month’s bundle includes 1-2 pounds of breakfast meat, 2 pounds of ground beef, plus a variety of different seasonal cuts to savor.

Click Here To Learn More

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