Gettin’ mama’s goat

Published 11:00 pm Friday, November 9, 2012

Mama was real pa’ticlar about what she ate.

She just about wouldn’t eat anything that she didn’t cook or hadn’t had a hand in cooking.

Sometimes, if she knew who cooked it, she would eat it but, most of the time, if she knew who cooked it, she wasn’t about to eat it.

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Aunt Florene was the best cook you ever saw but Mama wouldn’t eat anything she cooked because she dipped snuff.

What I never could figure out about that was that Mugi, Mama’s mama, dipped snuff, too. I guess that’s why Mama looked like a string bean in all those old pictures of her. She probably didn’t eat her own mama’s cooking.

Because Mama was so pa’ticlar about what she ate, I could count on my thumbs the number of times we went to a café to eat. “You don’t know who’s doing the cooking,” Mama would say.

But every now and then, our grandmother, Mommie, would take us all to Montgomery to buy some new clothes. I didn’t want any new clothes because, to get them, you had to try them on. All the sales ladies would want you to come out of the dressing room so they could see how “pretty” you looked.

I could see. I did not look pretty in a frilly ol’ dress. The sales ladies just said I did so Mommie would buy the dress. Then, I’d have to wear it to church so God and everybody could see me in it.

But, what was so good about going to Montgomery was that we got to go to Morrison’s Cafeteria where ladies in hairnets asked you want you wanted and whatever you said you wanted, they gave you.

Mommie said for us not to let our eyes be bigger than our stomachs. My cousin Jimmy said his stomach was a lot bigger than his eyes and said, “Yes ma’am” to everything. He and Mama both said “Yes, ma’am” to what looked like rabbit food in a bowl but Mama called it a “salad.”

She got a “salad” because nobody had to cook it and she took the chance that whoever put the salad in the bowl had washed their hands. Mama got a piece of light bread and a piece of chicken. She ate the bread but picked at the chicken like she did everything she put on her plate at the family reunions. She knew who cooked all that food and wasn’t about to eat a bite of it.

We went to Morrison’s Cafeteria as soon as we got to Montgomery so we could get in before the crowd got there. Then, we spent the afternoon trying on clothes and shoes. Getting new shoes was fun because you got to put on the shoes and stick you foot in a machine where you could see the bones in your feet and how much “room” you had in the shoes. “Room” was very important because you had to grow into your new shoes.

By late afternoon, we’d gotten outfitted and we headed home which was a long, long journey on the curvy, two-lane 231 Highway.

By the time we got to Oscar’s café, we were anxious to get out and stretch our legs.

Mommie said we could go in and get barbecue sandwiches to take home for our supper.

Mama didn’t want a barbecue sandwich. She wasn’t sure what Oscar had barbecued. There didn’t seem to be as many cats running around as she had remembered.

One day Daddy turned the tables on Mama. That’s what he called it. I called it playing a trick on her.

Daddy was a big meat eater and sometimes he would bring home a package of meat from the City Market that Mr. Belcher had wrapped in white paper with a slick inside.

That’s how he brought home the steak for Mama to cook for dinner. Daddy did love country fried steak and mashed potatoes and gravy. And it was mighty good if I do say so.

After we’d all eaten about as much as we could hold, Daddy asked how we liked the steak.

Even Mama said it was good but, then she had cooked it herself.

“Well, then pass me that last piece of goat meat,” Daddy said, trying not to grin.

That was the last time Mama ever ate a piece of meat of unidentifiable origin … and the first and last time that Daddy ever got Mama’s goat.