2021 has been an eventful year. From the loss of my 95 year old father to the birth of my first grandson, reminded me of the Maze song, Joy and Pain. Gratitude has been the recurring message that I will take into the New Year.
I will be forever grateful that my father lived 95 years and lived his life on his terms. He lived his early life on a cotton farm in Paris, Texas, as the youngest of 10 children. His parents, Julia and James Reese, moved from Wedowee, Alabama along with other families to Texas to find better economic opportunities and a safe environment to live and raise a family. Despite the violent history of Paris, Texas , my grandfather and uncles each purchased 100 acres of land where they grew, and harvested cotton along with cattle, pigs, chickens and vegetables.
He often spoke about his father slaughtering a hog on the coldest day of winter to place in the smokehouse and his favorite part of that day, fresh pig liver roasted on an open fire. On Saturdays, he and his father traveled into town to pick up the Chicago Defender and Pittsburg Courier and also, eat a hamburger. I also remember my Dad sitting in his rocking chair eating and enjoying a southern classic- a tall glass of buttermilk and cornbread. Each spoonful reminded him of his mother who prepared the dish with fresh buttermilk.
Like many other farming families of that time, my grandparents practiced regenerative agriculture before it was "newly discovered". Any food waste fed the compost pile or farm. animals. Canned vegetables, smoked meats and fresh fish provided food security throughout the year for my uncles and aunts.
But life on the farm was hard and not my father's passion; education and reading were. The study of history was the passion of my father and grandfather, and as soon as he was eligible, he left the farm to join the army. As a veteran, the GI bill helped him attend Wiley College as a student and then a faculty member. In 1963, he completed his Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern California. After completing his Ph. D, he returned to Texas and joined the faculty of Texas Southern University in Houston, Tx. ultimately became the chairman of the history department. After retirement, he taught part time at TSU while also enjoying his daily walks, and conversations with former colleagues.
It was his love of food that I will remember and miss. Sunday dinners with pan-roasted quail, or cornish hens, holiday meals with his oyster dressing, summer gatherings with barbecue ribs, chicken and sausage, and family gatherings where his gumbo in the yellow gumbo pot was the main course.
I will forever be grateful for his love, consistency, common sense,sound advice and compassion for others. For all that have lost a loved one , let their memory be a blessing and their recipes enjoyed and generously shared with the next generation.
All is well.
On the farm
Growing Healthy Families