Yellow Daisy Chick Chat


nikki giovanni

Food Memory: A Series (3rd Post)

And… it’s food memory time again! [stadium roars with cheers!]

I feel like it’s so southern of me to blog about food memory. And yet, it’s a universal tie to one’s culture, so if you replaced my southern food items with other cultural foods, it could be anyone. So in actuality, it’s just human to talk about food memory. I initially felt that way because many southerners, including myself, believe we have the BEST foods:  fried chicken, cornbread, chopped pork barbecue, fried okra, peach cobbler, summer-homegrown-sliced tomatoes! The list goes on and on, but I imagine we could all argue that our childhood food, no matter where it came from, was the best.

Paschal’s Fried Chicken (photo by AJC)

I have noticed a strong similarity between Italians and southern Americans in their love of good food and a love of sitting around a table with food and family. That extremely unscientific observation comes from many hours of watching The Food Network, as I don’t actually know any Italians. I do have a friend who is half Italian/half southern and I’ve told him many times that his family reunion spread must be amazeballs. Truth is, it’s not just Italians and southerners. Food provides us all with a connection to our culture, our past, our present, and to one another.

I had an Indian friend in middle school. His name was Ashish Chaudhari and everyone loved him. I remember working on a group project at his house and his mom made chicken tandoori. It was spicy and delicious and different, and super exotic for a teenaged girl growing up in South Carolina. Later, when I had Indian food as an adult, I remembered his sweet mama making that dish and what a cool guy and friend he was. I’ve lost touch with him but it’s a food memory that connects us, even though we are from different backgrounds and have moved on to other towns and lives.

Chicken Tandoori (photo by

Now that I’m a mom, I wonder what his mother was thinking when a bunch of knuckle headed teenagers came over and she served us food from her homeland. Were we polite? Surely we were, we were southerners!! 🙂 I hope so. Were we grateful? We did not see that interaction as an adult would see it. And, it was the 80s and there was no Food Network, no internet, no organic section in the grocery store. No Nikki Haley. India may as well have been another planet. As an adult, I know now that food is an awesome way to introduce someone to another culture. So kudos to Mrs. Chaudhari! And may we all learn by her example.

What would you serve guests from another country or culture to introduce them to your culture? I’m not sure. Would I go fancy or more rustic? As an American, so many of our dishes come from other cultures already: pasta, tacos, pad thai. As a southerner, well, there are so many options! Although… I don’t even fry my own chicken…I buy it. [gasp!] We usually grill it or roast it now, anyway, but fried chicken reigns supreme, taste-wise. I do make my own cornbread and it is real and it is bomb. It’s my grandmother’s recipe and it’s made in an iron skillet, so yeah, I would definitely serve that. I also make my own fried okra — my other grandmother’s recipe — so I’d serve that, although I oven fry it now. Fresh vegetables are super southern, so I’d do that; maybe green beans and a squash casserole? Definitely summer-homegrown-sliced tomatoes! For dessert: either a caramel cake, or a lemon pie, or peach something, or pound cake. Or maybe all of the above, it’s a culture exchange for goodness sake! And to wash it all down, a big ass pitcher of not-too-sweet tea. With lemon and mint.

sweet tea

I hope my hypothetical guests would enjoy it and would feel welcome. I hope they would fill their bellies and souls with the goodness that I’ve been fortunate enough to have since birth. I hope we would laugh and tell stories around a table, and learn from one another. And afterward, I hope that they would invite me to their home for a meal.

To close, I love this food memory poem by Nikki Giovanni:

Knoxville, Tennessee

I always like summer
you can eat fresh corn
From daddy’s garden
And okra
And greens
And cabbage
And lots of
And buttermilk
And homemade ice-cream
At the church picnic
And listen to
Gospel music
At the church
And go to the mountains with
Your grandmother
And go barefooted
And be warm
All the time
Not only when you go to bed
And sleep

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other,


p.s. I totally forgot about mac and cheese. Sigh.

Middle-Aged College Student Goes Back to School, Again

So I get it; summer’s over. As of tomorrow, it is officially fall. If you haven’t accepted it yet, you better get over it. Fall is here, whether you like it or not.

I’m back in school, for the third year. It was supposed to be two years, but I couldn’t handle more than two classes at a time, so it’s gonna be three years instead. Going back to school this past week was the hardest it’s been yet. Just ask my family. My poor, sweet, undeserving family. I definitely had a harder time than my kids, and I have an almost 13 year old. I for sure drank more wine last week than they did. Or, at least, I better have!!


Part of my reluctance involved the fact that I have two poetry classes, and I am not a poet. Although I love to write a good limerick now and then, true poetry is so hard on  my middle aged brain. It’s just not really my thing. I’m a prose girl (see above blog.)

My first day of class was totally cliche: late to class; called on at random within 5 minutes of late arrival; asked to introduce myself (first); forced to sit in a circle (ugh); forced to learn everyone’s names in the class (what?); forced to fill out questionnaire about self and asked “why are you taking this class”, which I left blank; also asked to name 5 contemporary poets (Nikki Giovanni only one I knew, because I had seen her book in Barnes and Noble recently.) And last but not least, forced to memorize “The Road Not Taken” for the next class. Sigh. Yes, it was like that.

Those of you who haven’t been back to school in middle age are currently thanking your lucky stars and congratulating yourself on your wisdom to stay in the work world, despite its horrors. After beating myself up a bit, I came home and had a come-to-Jesus-talk with myself. I said, ‘Self, you’ve got 29 more classes to get through, so you must put the wine/whine bottle down and put on your Big Girl panties.”


On the day between classes, I spent the entire morning on email and phone, trying to figure out how to log in to my class assignments. Which led me to thinking that perhaps they should hire someone to run a new department: Middle-Aged-Student Affairs. They have a new system/log in procedure, which I was unable to discuss with my dorm mates and sorority sisters, because I AM 42 YEARS OLD! So, my newly devised morning study schedule went down the toilet the very first study day as I sat on hold for someone half my age to help me log on. Really super for the middle aged ego!


Before you stop reading this and enter a severe depression, my second day of school went much more smoothly. My classes were actually interesting; my classmates were lovely, participatory, and smart; my professors were less scary; my memorized poem went decently, if not perfectly; and I knew we had a holiday coming! What a fantastic time for a holiday.

I was able to enjoy a few days of vacation with my family, and afterwards, as I tackled my homework, I felt oddly peaceful. And no wine was even involved! After working for several hours, the time flew. When I took a break, I realized that I was actually enjoying myself again. Poetry is much more inspiring than I first thought. It’s like a puzzle that you have to try to figure out, and I love a word puzzle. I remembered my love of layered meanings and writing that is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I felt ready to blog again, so that says a lot.

So, maybe this poetry thing won’t be so bad after all. I still am a long way from writing it, but studying it might help more than I realized. Read Robert Frost’s “A Road Not Taken” and you’ll be surprised that it doesn’t mean what you think it means. I mean, really read it, and then read it again. Are you confused at what road he’s taking? That’s what he meant. Pretty smart and cool, I think.


Today I feel back in the saddle again, on this Labor Day. I didn’t mind working today at all. When you are doing something you enjoy, it’s not work. But to do my kind of work, you have to unplug and get away from it all in order to find that creative, inspired place away from distractions. So on this Labor Day, I wish the same for all of you: to unplug and take a break from your day-to-day grind in order to find what inspires you — you might even be surprised at what you find!


Take care of yourselves and each other,



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