All of my childhood summers were spent with my grandparents in the rural south. It was during those long hot days and soft warm nights that I learned to appreciate that food was not just something that made its way to the table from packages brought home from the grocery store. Whether it was digging worms for bait, unearthing potatoes, or removing the fuzzy outer husks from walnut shells, I learned that actual labor, sometimes fun, usually not so much, lay behind all of the food I ate. Today it's impossible for me to cook without adding two extra components: childhood and love.
Shelling peas on the front porch as the sun went down, trying to be as invisible as possible so I could listen to my aunties gossip and not be banished with the dreaded "this is grown folks talk". Pulling ears of corn in the hot sun, under the critical eye my stern grandfather who never missed an opportunity to point out the value of "working for your food" and being self-sufficient. Sunday dinner with all the cousins eyeing each other to see who would be awarded a coveted "corner piece" of sheet cake. Even today I cannot crack an egg without smiling and remembering how proud I was when I made my first omelet - and my grandfather proclaimed it "the prettiest thing" he'd ever seen.
I think those childhood summers are the reasons why is breakfast is still my favorite meal. It conjures memories of laying on the pullout sofa with three or four cousins in the "front room" and listening to my grandparents quietly talk in their bedroom. Inevitably, the last thing my grandfather would say was "Well, Miss Irene, what's for breakfast in the morning?" and I'd fall asleep to the quiet, slow voice of my grandmother "I think I'm going to teach the girls to make drop biscuits, and we have those blackberries I canned last week...."