Early on that Saturday morning, the phone had rung as I puzzled over the recently acquired digital camcorder, wondering why on earth I had purchased such a sophisticated one.
Easy, I told myself, is always better. Especially when dealing with George Jetson-like technology. But the call that came from that ring of the phone was not about anything new-fangled or technologically advanced. It was, instead, about something as old-fashioned and as comfortable as homemade biscuits and home-grown tomatoes.
"I'm afraid we're not going to have enough food." My sister, Louise, plunged into the reason for her call. I cradled the phone between my head and shoulder and continued to fiddle with the camera as she fretted.
Again, as we have done in the past, my sister and I were orchestrating a family reunion for Mama's large and sprawling family at Louise's house. Mama was one of eight children, so between the ones who are still living and the vast offspring that has sprung from their loins, there are a lot of us.
The reason for the specific get-together was to honor our Uncle Delbert on his recently passed 80th birthday, and to celebrate his upcoming 55th wedding anniversary with his wife, Kathleen. The week after Mama's death, our beloved Uncle Delbert had been diagnosed with lung cancer. And now on this day that my sister and I spoke by phone, he was somewhere in the fourth stage of his illness. He would die six weeks later.
We did a check list of all the food we had, plus others were bringing covered dishes. Louise had fried up an abundance of chicken, a huge pork loin was grilling, we had several dishes of vegetables between us, a refrigerator full of soft drinks and water, a few gallons of sweet tea and a large, tiered wedding cake.
"Well, just tell me what else you need," I said. "I could fry up a couple of big packages of okra. There's plenty in Mama's freezer."
"Okay," she agreed. "Do that and fix three quarts of green beans." She paused. "You know when it's at your house, you just worried that you won't have enough food for everybody."
Somewhere between the frying of the okra and the baking of an apple cobbler, Aunt Kathleen called.
"Let me tell you what I've got fixed." Then, the guest of honor, who had been told repeatedly not to prepare anything -- it was, after all, her special day -- ticked off eight dishes.
"I told you not to make anything," I reminded her.
"Oh, it's just a little bit and I enjoyed doing every minute of it."
In the world of Southern womanhood, too much food is never enough. I knew exactly what Louise and Aunt Kath were saying: You can't just feed your guests, you have to over feed them. They have to leave your house, feeling as if they can never eat another bite. And, then, if there is not enough left for another meal or two, then you simply did not cook enough. And that, in the world from which we come, is not acceptable.
Before the others arrived, Louise, Aunt Kath and I laid out the food on two eight-foot tables. As Louise arranged the hydrangeas, I stepped back and looked. "We've got enough food here to feed everyone, if no one brings anything else."
Oh, but bring it they did. Food poured in, cooked and delivered by some of the finest Southern cooks I've ever known, including Aunt Ozelle. We ate and ate and still didn't seem to put much of a dent in the bounty.
When it was all said and done, all had eaten and enjoyed, there was enough food left to feed another gathering of large appetites.
We had happily fixed more than enough food. Again.
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