I can count on one hand the few things Mama has made for me to eat.
Once, she made a homemade deep-dish pizza that by some sort of happenstance turned out to be good.
I am not even sure if she was trying to make a pizza or what she was making, but it was actually tasty.
“What’s that?” my grandfather asked, peering into the pan.
“It’s a pizza.”
“Who made it?”
He gave me a sideways glance and pursed his lips.
“It’s good,” I assured him.
“But your mother made it?”
I nodded. He wasn’t so sure, but he noticed I was eating it, so he bravely tried some.
“Dang, that is good,” he declared.
Of course, that was the only time she made it that way. The next attempt, I am not sure what she did, but it was a colossal mess and wasn’t fit to eat. It was so bad, it made Granny angry.
She made a cheese ball to take to some function that actually turned out okay, but we didn’t get to eat any of it.
All we know is that no injuries or illnesses were reported.
There is a mysterious cake that she swears she made for me once. I have no recollection of this cake, but she insists she made one and I thought it was delicious.
I tell her I didn’t have a very discernible palate as a kid, and if I ate it, it may have just been the fact that it was a pile of sugar.
A crockpot expanded her cooking repertoire, which she still talks about to this day. What can I say, other than she did make a few decent roasts in that thing over a decade.
She once made spaghetti for one of my friends that was edible but somehow over the years, that capability waned.
When she tried making it for Lamar several years ago, he ate it -- but only because he was famished.
“What did she do to those noodles?” he whispered when she walked out of the room.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I don’t eat her cooking.”
“You let me!” he exclaimed in a whisper.
“Dude, you took your chances. You should’ve known if I wasn’t eating, it wasn’t safe. Read the room.”
Maybe I was lacking empathy, but I knew better than to eat what she prepared.
She means well. She does.
She thinks she’s making something tasty and delicious. She watches all of her cooking shows and gets excited when she finds the ingredients in the store.
There’s just a huge disconnect between what she sees, wants to make, and what she actually creates.
“Your mama would starve to death if it wasn’t for me,” Granny stated matter-of-factly one day when I was small. This statement made a serious impression on me that I carried this truth with me into my teen years. Mama once wanted to buy a house of her own for me and her and I threw a total and unprecedented hissy fit. Who would feed me? I wanted to know. I would surely starve to death if Granny wasn’t there to cook for me.
“She does the drive-thru good,” my young self protested.
“That ain’t real food,” Granny said. “Trust me. Your mama didn’t care about cooking. Didn’t want to learn how to get around in a kitchen. I don’t know what’s wrong with her.”
Granny told me all of this while I stood in the kitchen chair, my tiny hands patting out biscuits and placing them on the pan. I loved helping Granny cook and learning all the tips and tricks she used to make things so delicious.
Mama, however, didn’t want to learn those things.
Instead, she insisted she knew how to cook and was quite good at it.
The same woman who once dry boiled a pot when trying to make a hot dog.
“Do you want me to fix something for y’all?” she will ask when we are going to see her, and I promptly tell her no.
“I’m a good cook,” she insists.
“We’ll be fine,” I tell her. “Or we can go pick up lunch for all of us.”
“I can cook.”
“I can. What do y’all want?”
I sigh. I evade her questions and insistence by telling her my food allergies may flare and I’d be better off not eating if I am going to be on the road.
She’s been trying lately. Trying being the operative word. I got her some frozen pasta, telling her to drop the ravioli in for just a few minutes after the water boils. She said they were nasty and tasteless lumps.
She tried to make some kind of chicken something -- it was horrible. I told her to not even give it to the cats.
Even a roast she put in the oven turned out horrible. Not sure what happened to her crockpot but the era of the tasty roasts is over.
“I can’t cook,” she wailed.
It’s been a long time coming, but at least she finally admitted it.