Humphrey, age 55

My earliest childhood memories of food are connected to my grandmothers and my grandparents’ homes. One of the things that lives on in my family today is the distinction between the two kinds of biscuits that my two grandmothers would cook.

My mother’s mother, who we called Big Mama, made these biscuits that are very fluffy. They’re sort of classic buttermilk biscuits, big and kind of golden yellow. My grandfather, Papa Tol, would make this stuff called honey butter, which to us was like the most exquisite dish imaginable. But what it really was was just butter and honey whipped together.

My dad’s mom, Nannie, made biscuits that were small, compact, hard, crunchy on the outside, probably half the size of Big Mama’s biscuits, but really kind of soft inside. When we were kids, we all, except for my dad, loved Big Mama’s biscuits. We just said — behind the grandmothers’ backs — those are the best biscuits.

But over time, the ones we actually talk about and think about and love are Nannie’s biscuits. When we have breakfast together now as a family, those are the biscuits that we’ll request. Nannie’s biscuits. It’s a funny thing that over the course of time all of our preference has shifted to biscuits that we actually didn’t like that much when we were kids.

We would go for holidays to Oklahoma. Big Mama and Papa Tol lived in Checotah, Oklahoma. They would put on these huge spreads, either fried chicken or roast beef or chicken-fried steak, and they would have mashed potatoes and cream gravy. Gravy was always a big deal in my family. So if we had fried chicken or chicken-fried steak, it would always be with cream gravy, which is just basically milk, flour, grease from the chicken or the steak, mixed together.

In my dad’s family they had red-eye gravy. My dad, for some odd reason, developed a real taste for Virginia country ham. Every year, around the holidays, he would order a Virginia country ham, which is this very salty kind of ham. My dad loved this ham, and off of that ham, for the breakfast, he would make red-eye gravy. And so red-eye gravy was the gravy of choice in his family.

My mother and father met as children in Odessa, Texas, which is far-west Texas, south of Midland. My dad’s family was from northern Arkansas. And my mother’s family was from Oklahoma. They had moved around. My mom was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, or Marysville, Kansas, one or the other. They were Oklahomans – Midwesterners more. My father’s family were southerners, in the sense that Arkansas’s really more of a southern state and Oklahoma and Kansas are more Midwestern. But they met in Odessa, Texas.

My grandmother and grandfather on my mother’s side were interesting people. They were all interesting people, really. My grandfather had worked for Montgomery Ward for many years. Before he lost that job, or left that job, I’m not sure which, my grandmother started a ladies’ dress shop in Clovis, New Mexico, one of the first ladies’ dress shops in Clovis to have fine dresses, haute couture for the upper-class women of Clovis. They then moved to Odessa and she opened the first dress shop of that kind in Odessa, and for all I know the first dress shop of its kind in West Texas. She would get all of her dresses in New York. She would go up to New York every so often and bring these dresses back down. And there’s a whole saga associated with that. She was an independent business woman whose husband worked for her and she raised three daughters, one of whom was my mother.

My father’s father was one of the founders of the West Texas oil industry. He was not an oilman, though. He basically launched a crane and rigging business which serviced the oil fields. The other three founders of the industry were actual oilmen, drillers, but my grandfather’s was basically a trucking business. He married a much younger woman. She was from a small Texas town. She had big, beautiful dark hair and was really a striking figure – a striking woman.

Those were the two sides of the family. They met in Odessa in the 1950s. The legendary account of the family is that even as a young boy, 12, 13, or 14, my father decided he was going to marry my mother and they dated on and off for several years and got married in 1962. Then I was born one year later in Austin, Texas, but I grew up in Dallas. There were three of us children. I was the eldest, my sister is the youngest, five years younger, and my brother is between us.

Food connected us

Food was always a huge, if not the largest, way that we all communicated. Food connected us to both of our families in different ways.

My father would talk about, when he was a kid, every Sunday his mother would serve fried chicken. That fried chicken was, as I understand it, cooked by the family’s maid, who was an African-American. And that was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, probably collard greens, although my dad now cannot stand greens. He says as a kid he could never understand why anybody would like collard greens. Mustard greens, I think, was the green of choice for that family.

My mother’s side of the family in Oklahoma, they just served up everything that you can imagine in a country, small-town kitchen. My grandmother, Big Mama, canned pickled okra, dill pickle chips, dill pickles, all kinds of jams and preserves, plum jelly, apple butter, apricot butter. They had a country house and right beside that country house was an apricot tree, maybe several, that were groaning with apricots. When the apricots would ripen in the summer she would pluck them and she made apricot fried pies, which were the most delicious pies maybe I’ve ever had in my life.

They were hunters. At one of my earliest meals, I remember my eyes popping open and I thought this is the most delicious thing. It was a meal of duck. My grandmother and grandfather talked about this until the end of their lives. My grandfather and my uncle went out hunting and bagged several ducks and they brought them home and Big Mama cooked up those ducks and made a giblet gravy. My brother and I were little boys at the time. I probably was about 7 years old and my brother was 5. I can remember still sitting at that table and just eating so much duck. I could not stop eating it. It was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.

Up until that point I probably wasn’t aware of how lucky I was to be born into a family where everyone loved delicious food. It was just the wallpaper of my life, but that duck was something I had never eaten before. It was probably very gamey. They were killed with shotguns and there were little bits of shot inside the duck so you’d have to spit out little bits of shot. But we just ate and ate and ate. My grandmother said she had never seen anything like it, how much we loved that duck. It was surprising to her because she knew we’d never eaten it before.

They had a vegetable garden that produced all during the growing season. There were peppers in there, and broccoli, tomatoes, there was a row of corn. There were beans. My grandmother would cook out of that garden. There was yellow squash, there was okra. We would go out and pick a lot of that. So that was one side of her kitchen. My grandfather had what he called Vi-eena sausages, Vienna sausages out of a can, and for a snack he would put them on saltine crackers and put tabasco sauce on top. He would have that sometimes for lunch, sometimes for a snack.

That was the world of my parents’ kitchens, which shaped completely the kitchen of my mother. My mother was the cook. She loved to cook. She cooked the daily meal. Breakfast and dinner, Mom would cook for us. We always ate dinner together in the evenings. When my sister became old enough the three of us would eat breakfast together. When we were in school we always had hot breakfasts of bacon and eggs and toast. When she cooked bacon she always saved the bacon grease. There was a silver can and inside was all this bacon grease. I still keep bacon grease in my refrigerator because of that. I don’t cook nearly as much bacon but when I do I pour it into that jar and I use it for various dishes. Mom never really brought my brother or me into the kitchen. I think she taught my sister a lot. It was a classic division based on gender.

Dad would make chitlins every so often

Dad loved chitlins. Chitlins is something that we grew up with. Dad would make them every so often. He would basically take a big bag or bucket of these raw intestines. At the time I’m not sure we really understood what chitlins were but we should have known because the smell was horrendous. It would smell all across the neighborhood. He would pour these intestines into the fat in the deep fryer and the smell of manure would just flow out of that pot. I later figured out through my sister that this is really a great African-American dish. My dad grew up eating a lot of that food in Arkansas because the cook in the family was the family maid. And so he would eat chitlins and pork snout. We had pig nose and pig knuckles occasionally at our table with tabasco sauce or hot sauce on it. The funny thing was that the smell and the dish actually seemed to separate in your mind as you ate that dish. Once you put them in your mouth they were basically like little deep-fried potato chips except they were moist inside and they were delicious particularly with some hot sauce on top. I remember loving to eat those, but kind of having to get past the fact that they smelled so bad until I could get one in my mouth when the flavor of the chitlin would overwhelm the smell.

Another thing I remember hearing about from my mother’s family was in the same vein. My aunt married a West Texas rancher and they always talked about mountain oysters – bull testicles. During a particular part of the season, I think it was roundup, they would get all these bulls together and castrate the bulls and then for meals out on the range they would throw these testicles in the fire. That was basically a lot of protein and that would be an actual meal. Every now and then – never at my mother’s table but probably when we went to visit my aunt and uncle – we would have those. Or we would talk about them. They’re in my head as a meal when I did eat the mountain oysters.

My father was a real meat and potatoes guy. He really liked to have a meat, potatoes, maybe carrots or broccoli or Le Sueur green peas out of the can. Meals would include pork chops on the bone — thin pork chops not the thick center-cut ones. We would have corned beef and boiled potatoes every now and then. Chicken, baked chicken. My mom would cut up the chicken and basically put pepper, salt, and dill on it. That chicken dish was a regular. There was a broccoli rice-casserole which we would have every so often. When we were kids that casserole would come up a lot. I think it was part of the weekly rotation. Now the only time we ever eat is on Thanksgiving. It has now become a standard dish of our Thanksgiving meal that my sister makes because it was her favorite dish.

My mom cooked a meal that is very much from her mother and her childhood which is pinto beans with ham hock, and a salad. I don’t recall a lot of salad when I was a kid. Vegetables I recall from my grandmother’s garden were fried okra, sliced squash probably cooked in a pan, sweet carrots, boiled broccoli, and the peas. Le Sueur green peas were the most significant green vegetable of my childhood.

What Mom would try every so often was to make casseroles. They would meet with total rejection by everyone at the table because to us that was “fancy food.” We didn’t like it. Dad and all the kids would say, we don’t want fancy food. We’re talking about tuna casserole here. Once she introduced chicken Kiev. It was a rare example of a fancy food that we all kind of liked. A piece of rolled pan-fried chicken and inside was butter that would explode out the chicken when you cut into it. That was one that worked. It was a special dish.

We didn’t eat a lot of seafood when we were kids. The one fish that we might eat would be at my grandparents and that would be fried catfish. My grandmother loved it. If we would go fishing in Oklahoma we might bring home a bunch of catfish and she would fry that up. My grandfather and my brother would go fishing a lot and they would being back catfish, maybe a bass, and she would fry that up.

Every year on my birthday I asked for oysters on the half shell. I think it’s because when I was very little, maybe 7 or 8 years old, my father took me to a raw bar in downtown Dallas. My dad was a lawyer and near his office was a raw bar. I’d never seen anything like it. I didn’t grow up in New Orleans or on the East Coast so the whole idea of a raw bar was one that was strange to me. But he took me to the raw bar and I had oysters and I loved them. And so every year on my birthday, as a special treat, I would get oysters on the half shell as my main course and then my mom would make a cherry cheesecake, my favorite dessert. It was a big undertaking, cheese cake topped with sour cream, topped with cherries. It was out of this world.

My dad’s great dish — which he still makes and just made for Thanksgiving — was cherry pie. It’s interesting to me that cherries were a big deal for me because it’s not like up here in New England, or like the northern part of the Midwest or the Pacific Northwest. I don’t remember ever seeing a cherry tree until I was in Germany in my 20s, an actual cherry tree groaning with fresh, bright red cherries. So my father’s cherry pie was made with canned sour cherries, and my mother’s cherry cheesecake was made with canned sour cherries as well. For some reason I had this love of cherries and oysters. The oysters I would eat, they were Gulf oysters. That is the only oyster I knew about for years. It seems strange to me that I would have this real passion for oysters and cherries, which are not typically associated with Texas cuisine.

Sunday lunch, Sunday dinner

We also loved to go out. Every Sunday night.

Mom would have a big Sunday lunch fixed. We would go to church. My dad would not go to church, but he would go out and get doughnuts from a place called Lone Star Doughnuts. And we’d come back he would have a couple of boxes, chocolate glazed, various kinds of doughnuts, some jelly filled. Mom would cook a big Sunday lunch, which was really kind of a version of what my dad had grown up with in Arkansas. It was almost always fried chicken, mashed potatoes with cream gravy, Big Mama’s recipe for biscuits, maybe the broccoli-rice casserole, and some other things. That would be the centerpiece. Then for dessert we would have, sometimes on special occasions, coconut cream pie. Coconut cream pie was my dad’s favorite dessert, and as far as I know it still is.

But for dinner on Sunday nights — because Mom had already made a big meal and she didn’t want to cook — we would go to a Tex-Mex restaurant called Los Vaqueros. It was a Tex-Mex restaurant in the Dominguez family. Pete Dominguez was the great patriarch of Tex-Mex food in Dallas. There was a place called Casa Dominguez. The waitress’s name was Josie. I probably got served Tex-Mex meals by her for fifteen or twenty years, from the time I was about 7 to the time I was in my late 20s, and maybe even beyond. It could be the last time I was served a meal by Josie was 30 years after the first meal she served to me. She recognized us and she asked all about us when we’d see her.

Now this sort of seems mundane because it’s everywhere, but we would have chips and salsa, corn tortillas with butter and salsa, nachos, beans and cheese, and I would always get the cheese enchiladas. With a fried chalupa or beef tacos. It was a little bit like they say Jewish families on Sunday nights will go to get Chinese food. We would go to get Tex-Mex at Los Vaqueros. We knew everybody in the restaurant. It was a community thing. Everybody cooked their big meal for Sunday lunch, and so for dinner everybody ended up at a Tex-Mex restaurant. To this day, that’s the Mexican food that I love. It shaped me.

Barbecue was huge

Barbecue was huge in my upbringing. I wish that I could tell when I had my first barbecue sandwich out. I say this because in my adulthood I love barbecue. I smoke barbecue myself. My brother owned a barbecue restaurant and he taught me how to smoke the meat. I don’t have specific memories of my dad smoking brisket, but that’s the key meat that I smoke. Ribs and brisket. Mom would bake a brisket, that was a pretty common meal for us, but smoked brisket is not something that I can remember having at home. We would go out for that.

There was the most famous barbecue joint called Sonny Bryan’s. It wasn’t a restaurant, it was a dive. It was like a little wood shack with wood stacked on one side. It was over near a bunch of medical buildings in a neighborhood where there were no other real businesses that I can remember. It was not like any other joint I went into, Tex-Mex or hamburger places. The Tex-Mex places were sit-down restaurants. And it wasn’t a drive-through, like a hamburger place. It was special. We would go to get this chopped or sliced beef sandwich. Merle Haggard was in there one time, Robert Duvall was in there once when we were there. It was a real destination.

But, at one point my dad made clear to me that barbecue wasn’t that good in Dallas. Sonny Bryan’s was the best in Dallas but Texas had this incredible barbecue tradition and there was this place that he had gone when he was in law school in Austin, in a little town called Lockhart. That place was called Crites, spelled K-r-e-u-z. Kreuz, he said, was the best barbecue he’d ever eaten. As I got older I understood that everybody thought that Kreuz was the greatest barbecue in Texas. Kreuz was the mecca for Texas barbecue.

One day – I must have been in high school – my father took me to Kreuz. It was like no restaurant I’d ever seen. You entered through the back, and you came in where the smoker was. There was a huge fire of burning logs, post oak, a kind of tree I’d never heard of or seen. The post oak fire would be burning below these big brick pits, and underneath those pits, set off the fire but getting smoke, were these racks full of brisket, prime rib, sausages and hot links, and ribs. They would open up these metal lids and out would come this meat. Then you would walk out of the pit and into the main body of the restaurant where you would buy your bread, your cheese, your onion, your jalapeno, your pickle, your avocado sauce if you wanted it, and your drink. You would sit down in this long, long hall with group tables with paper towels on top of them.

The meat that you would get was in butcher paper. That was the first time I ever saw anything served on butcher paper. They would wrap it up for you. You would take your butcher paper with your meat, buy whatever else you needed, and you would open up that butcher paper and the smell of that meat was just so intoxicating! And then you would put it yourself onto the bread. They never made sandwiches. You made the sandwich. That was one of the great formative experiences of my life. I fell in love with that cuisine. From that moment on I was a barbecue fanatic. I don’t think my father had any idea how crazy I would get about barbecue. He loves barbecue too, we all love it, but for him it was just something he grew up with. But for me the jump from a really good barbecue sandwich to that kind of transcendent dish almost defined love of food for me. I suddenly realized this is something beyond anything I’ve ever had.

There was a local barbecue joint in our neighborhood called Peggy’s Barbecue. When I was a junior and senior in high school, I worked on my high school newspaper, I was co-editor, and we could go off campus because we had to turn in our pages to the printer. We would stop back on our way at Peggy’s Barbecue. Peggy served great brisket sandwiches and fried onion rings. So barbecue was always there, but there was this moment of understanding that my father really gave to me with that trip to Kreuz.

The other part of our upbringing were the hamburgers and cheeseburgers and the hamburger drive-throughs. Growing up in West Texas my parents had their drive-throughs. Theirs was a sort of classic 60s childhood, the cliché that we think of from movies like American Graffiti. But I’m not sure that as kids they had the same feeling about hamburgers and cheeseburgers at those places as we did growing up in Dallas.

By the time we were kids in Dallas there were McDonald’s and other chain restaurants and a kind of standardized food culture. But the burger places that we loved felt like holdovers from another era. The oldest was called The Prince of Hamburgers, and there was another called Keller’s. Their hamburgers were amazing. Jack’s Burger Shack put celery salt on the burger and on the french fries. That was the extent of the innovation but it was utterly delicious. I grew up loving hamburgers and cheeseburgers as something special and distinct in these particular places. We would have hamburgers and hot dogs at home. Mom would cook them for dinner some nights. That’s an example of the kind of meat and potatoes meal that my dad loved and we all loved. He might grill the hamburgers or she would fry them up in a pan. But these hamburgers at these legendary places were a big deal. My parents would take us, and it was a special treat. There was a novelty to it, going back in time. It was a little bit like sharing a piece of their childhoods with them.

In Dallas there were Cajun restaurants that were of a completely different order than the Tex-Mex joints or the barbecue joints. And places like the Old Spaghetti Warehouse, which was a big cavernous place where you could get spaghetti and pizza. A kid’s place, you went there for birthdays. It may have been a chain. And there was Campesi’s, the Egyptian – an old-school Italian dive. It’s probably the only place I ever had real Italian food when I was a kid. The legend about the place – which is still around – is that it was the mafia hangout for the Marcello crime family. That’s where I would go to get oysters on the half shell as I got older. My folks would have red sauce Italian food. That was really the only Italian food I had for years. There was a restaurant called Old Warsaw, which was the continental cuisine place. If my dad was going to take my mom out for a wonderful French meal, that would be Old Warsaw. I don’t remember we as kids ever going there. That was the grown-up place.

There was Gennie’s Bishop Grill in Oak Cliff, South Dallas. Oak Cliff is now being gentrified and is changing dramatically. Dallas is now integrating as a whole city in a way it didn’t in my childhood. Oak Cliff was African-American and Hispanic. White, Anglo folks lived in North Dallas and East Dallas and the Hispanic population was concentrated in West Dallas. So Dallas was a very racially segregated city. Not legally, but everyone understood that certain people lived in certain parts of that city. Because Gennie’s Bishop Grill was in South Dallas we would rarely go down there ‘cause it wasn’t our part of town. It was a Black part of town and we were white. But I think we went one time, and it was a really special deal because we were venturing into a part that wasn’t our part of Dallas.

The experience of eating together almost defined us as a family because the kids were all kind of different from each other, and back then kids and parents lived in really different worlds. But we would all get together for that food. To this day when we talk about our childhood, food will often be a central theme. A lot of the food we enjoy together is that food. Every year when I go home to Dallas, for whatever holiday, I will take my parents for a huge barbecue meal. They know the first thing I want to eat, always, as soon as I get off the airplane, is Tex Mex. We will go to someplace that is connected to the old places. We went to Casita Dominguez this year right when we got off the airplane. It’s the last of the Dominguez family restaurants and it’s directly related to Los Vaqueros and the other places we would go.

My childhood food was limited to a few cuisines

I ate certain things for most of my childhood and I didn’t deviate beyond that. That’s why oysters on the half shell stick out. Most of my food was either Southern comfort food, Tex Mex, or barbecue. You can throw in steaks and hamburgers and cheeseburgers and that kind of classic American fare, which isn’t exactly Southern, more Western comfort food.

I never had Chinese food. I know there were Chinese restaurants in Dallas at the time, I just don’t remember ever eating in one. It was not a cuisine that we ever had.

I don’t know that I ever had boiled or grilled fish until I was maybe out of college. I never saw the ocean until I was about 14 or 15, and that was in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. That’s the first time I can ever remember eating fried seafood. The fish that I ate as a child was almost always fresh fish. In East Texas we were part of a fishing lodge called Ferndale. At Ferndale all the meals would always be served at specific times and if you missed those times you were out of luck. Lunch was at 12:30 and dinner was at 5:30, and they would serve meat and potatoes type dishes. That’s where we ate fried catfish, fried crappie, fried brim, on a regular basis, probably on Friday nights. In addition to the fish the best hush puppies I’ve ever eaten. Mom never cooked hush puppies at home. But fried shrimp, fried clams, fried oysters, lobster . . . I don’t like lobster to this day, and maybe it’s because I never had lobster. The first time I can remember eating lobster was in 2001. I must have had it before that, it must have been served to me at some fancy restaurant sometime, but that’s the first time I remember having it. I definitely never had a lobster roll until I was in my 40s. I never had boiled cod. Seafood was really off my map until I was out of college.

The first sushi I ever had, I was in my 20s in Dallas and a friend of mine who was an investment banker in Dallas took me to my first sushi restaurant and ordered an omakase. The idea of raw fish at that point was truly repugnant to me. Utterly alien to me. I love it now. My wife introduced it to me and I started to love sushi in the 90s.

The first time I ever had great Italian food was when I drove north with a friend from New Jersey at Easter. I was a freshman in college. We drove from North Carolina up to New York City, and on our way, probably in southern Jersey, we came across this Italian restaurant with red neon. We went in there and that was literally like Dorothy in Oz. My sense of Italian food at that point was basically pizza and Spaghetti-Os. I had this red sauce Italian dish of manicotti and I just thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever eaten – this is Italian food?

My first Chinese food was on that trip. We went down to Chinatown and I probably had the barbecue pork or the barbecue duck, ‘cause that stuff was hanging in the window. I’d never seen barbecue duck hanging in a window – that was a completely new experience.

Even though my childhood food was limited to a few cuisines, my family loved food. It was really important that the food be delicious. I would almost say sustenance was secondary to just the passionate love for the food that we were eating, whatever it was. So I think that made me kind of an omnivore. I really have not met a cuisine that I can’t enjoy. Because enjoyment of food, the pleasure of food made it possible for me to imagine that almost any cuisine could be something amazing and delicious. When I found Italian, found Chinese, I found things I absolutely passionately love about those cuisines. My first French meal was the same way, and on and on, Thai and Japanese in the 80s. I found things to love in all those cuisines because I just enjoy so much the experience of eating food. I think that does come from my childhood because it was always important that we loved the food. I think that my parents loved to introduce us to foods that they had loved as children, both in the home and at restaurants.

“Old Faithful”

Here are a couple of examples of foods that have endured through time to this day. The key one is Wick Fowler’s chili. It is in a box – it’s not a canned chili. It is a group of packets of spices, and then you add tomato sauce and water and ground beef. All you have to do to the beef is brown it. My mom would serve that in two ways. One was a dish that she called “Old Faithful,” a dish that she will still serve today. Basically it’s a bed of Fritos and on top of that is Wick Fowler’s chili and on top of that is cheese, onions, jalapeno peppers, and that whatever anyone else wants to put on top of that. The other way she would serve it was just as chili, and then my dad would crumble saltine crackers into it, and we’d put cheese on it. That was a staple of our kitchen.

It’s one of those things that has remained in my life to this day. The first dish that I ever cooked for a girlfriend was with Fowler’s chili. It’s the first dish I cooked for my wife. It’s the first dish I cooked for anybody. It’s the first dish that I ever learned to cook. I didn’t stand by my mom and learn to cook from her in the kitchen. I basically figured out how to make that recipe that she made. In Texas you tend to make chili without beans. My mom claims that she made that chili with beans. I make it with pinto beans, never with kidney beans, which is an abomination. If you’re going to make chili with beans it’s got to be pintos. I make that for my wife and son because they like their chili with beans. While I don’t make Old Faithful, I will crumble Fritos into my chili as the crunchy element.

There’s another example of something directly from my childhood that just recently came up. At this recent Thanksgiving meal we all sat down for a dinner that my mom made before Thanksgiving. It was pinto beans and ham hock and cornbread and salad. And she’d also bought some cold buttermilk. My son and my niece and nephew watched in horror as my brother and sister and I poured the buttermilk into our glasses, then crumbled up the cornbread into the buttermilk, then we crumbled onions that my mother had sliced into the buttermilk, and then we sprinkled salt and pepper in on top of that. We drank that as our drink at the meal. My nephew and my son were both asking, “What is that? What are you doing? That’s weird!” It looked like we were literally being bad children at the table, crumbling our bread into our drink. I love that to this day. All those flavors make sense to me. I think it was my grandfather, Papa Tol’s, invention. I have this feeling that that is a meal that you would make at the end of a long workday. It’s sort of like there’s bread, it’s easy, and everything is in that drink. My son took one taste and just said, “I don’t think so.” My wife did not even bother to drink it.

That’s something that goes back to my earliest memories of childhood. It’s a rarity – I’ve never done that at home. It just happened that Mom had all the ingredients. When she served the buttermilk she knew exactly what would happen. She did not serve the buttermilk just so we’d all drink cold buttermilk. She served the cold buttermilk with the cornbread, and the onion, because she knew that we would immediately do that thing. It’s funny to see us all, without talking to each other. Nobody said, “hey, remember how we did this?” No, simultaneously each one of the siblings started to crumble up their cornbread, put the onion in there, and salt and pepper that buttermilk. It was like sense memory just came to control all of us.

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