Love on the Table by Beth Albright

Phyllis People 16 Comments

Written by Beth Albright

As a Southerner, I’ve always known that food and love are one and the same. My grandmothers both knew this secret and, as we do down South, passed that bit of magic down to future generations, the same as with our stories. Memories and shared recipes all get wrapped and tied with ribbon in faded, stained cookbooks. I am lucky enough to own one of these homemade treasures, and the pages literally spill over as all that love seeps from the binding. Food is at the very heart of all we do. From funerals to weddings, Easter to Christmas, and every football tailgate in between, we just know—food is the very soul of life here.

A Southern springtime sits onstage, awaiting the rise of the gray velvet curtain of winter, and like the orchestra below, bursts into sudden overture with a thrill. Blooming dogwoods that remind us of renewal dot the fragrant, lush landscape, framed by the scalloped edges of soft pink camellias and blanketed by the fresh air in the surprise afternoon rain-shower. In my childhood, spring arrived with the magnolia blossoms my grandmother set in bowls of water on the kitchen table and the divine fare of deviled eggs. Her ambrosia kept us joyful for the season of green and the new life that came with it.

Both of my grandmothers loved a springtime feast. There was no such thing as too much food, or too many guests for that matter. It’s part of our heritage to feed people, especially from our own backyard gardens. Secret recipes are truly all part of any family tapestry, but in my family, the idea of cooking skipped a generation: My sweet mother simply missed the food memo.

As my grandmothers would fill the table with perfectly buttered mashed potatoes, asparagus in homemade hollandaise, seven-layer salad, mouth-watering buttermilk biscuits, and, of course, the ambrosia, coconut cake, and banana pudding, my mother would arrive to the table with her “perfectly” blackened ham. Mother always said her oven never worked quite right, but what I grew to understand was that she was much more interested in the other things the beautiful Southern springtime brought—her chance to work in the yard, plant her flowers, and get her tiny hands dirty in the red soil.

She was most at home when she was helping things grow—from flowers to my brother and me, and all of our friends. We had the house that was everyone’s other home. We had the hangout house, because my mother welcomed everyone—maybe not with cupcakes fresh from the oven, but with her unconditional love. Love helps things grow just as much as the nourishment from the decadent food we share at the family table.

Mother always loved with the fierceness of a mama bear—she loved us with her late-night sewing, by doing homework with us, by listening to our prayers every single night. And that was food enough. Love enough.

Springtime brings a special life to things down South: life in the afternoon thunderstorms, life in the perfumed air, scented with every blossom known to man, life in the thick wet humidity that settles in with the evening sunsets, and life in the kitchens and dining rooms filled with laughter and love as we gather to welcome the season of renewal. It’s about food, joy, and family—and on some elegant dining room tables, the occasional burned ham, made with love from someone who nurtures in other ways.

What is your favorite memory of Spring?

Comments 16

  1. Beth, You are one of my FAVORITE people to go to for a pick me up always!!! Anytime I read your posts or accomplishments it make me smile!! You truly are an inspiration and I’m so proud to say your my friend! I’m praying for your mom and I hope I get to see you and hug your neck when you are back in Tuscaloosa. I LOVED THIS MEMORY YOU SHARED!!

  2. A new spring dress with puffed sleeves, an Easter bonnet of course, and Mary Jane Patent leather white shoes., and my brother in a beautiful little yellow suit complete with cap and short pants, is my favorite memory. We still have that suit by the way, and 3 of my dresses hang on a rack in my hallway on wonderful children’s hangers.

    My Mother, grandmother and Aunt all cooked a beautiful dinner which we usually ate at my Grandparents home, with our cousins. Of course we received Easter Baskets. Church was a must as it was every Sunday and sometimes the children would put on an Easter play. Then there were years where I was in the Children’s choir.

    Thank you so much Phyllis for the memories. I love holidays for the reminders, yet at the same time, I feel sad, because I want all of those people who have passed on to be back with me and sometimes want things the same. However one must move on and create new memories .

  3. Your story brought back many memories of springtime. Going home to England in April and May is my favorite thing to do. I love the abundance of lilacs and the opportunity to have tea in the lovely gardens of my cousins. I especially remember a visit as a little girl when the allysm were blooming on the walkway to the front door of my auntie’s home. Now as an adult, whenever I smell it blooming, I am transported back to that lovely garden path and the memories of a glorious childhood.
    I love the watercolor painting – do you know who was the artist?

  4. I have wonderful memories of Easter and spring.Church in new outfits anda good Easter lunch.Family around always made it fun.

  5. I have never thought about a favorite Spring memory until you asked that question. It would be the year my husband and I bought a “fixer upper” little cottage on a small lake in Michigan. My dear, sweet Mama had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was unable to physically help, but she loved being there to see the progress. She would sit for hours in a lawn chair and keep me company while I stood on a ladder painting the outside. She passed away the following year, but not before my sister and I got to spend a very special weekend at the finished cottage making memories with her. By the way, she make the best burnt peanut butter cookies ❤️.

  6. I still make my Grandmother’s recipe for apple pancakes that she brought with her from Austria when she came to this country in the early part of the 20th century. Friends always ask for more when I make them.

    My Mother’s recipes are in a leather bound book my father bought her in the 1950’s. On the outside, embossed in gold lettering is “A Collection of Mother’s Favorite Recipes”, and my name in the corner. My mother wrote all of her – and our – favorites in it, and now that she is gone, I can read those recipes and still smell the delicious scent of her kitchen.

  7. My favorite memory of Spring is going shopping with the family and purchasing shoes and a new Spring outfit.

  8. My favorite memory is when my mother allowed me to go barefoot. I always wanted to stop wearing shoes on the first Spring like day but she knew better that the earth was still cold. Going without shoes was a real problem when the new Easter shoes that had she bought to go with the dress she had sewed didn’t fit so well. I remember the first Easter I was made to wear a pair of stockings, with seams that required a garter belt to hold them up. Not my favorite memory.

  9. What a beautiful piece of writing! You vividly described my memories so well! Thank you for that in this lovely spring time season we’re having now.

    I was very blessed with a mother who was the personification of a Southern woman. My mother could lay out a dinner table that had no rival, but she called it supper. Everything was perfectly cooked and presented and melted in your mouth. The vegetables, while not from her own garden, were fresh from local farmers. She sewed my clothes to perfection because I was so small and petite sizes had not come into the marketplace at that time and I could only shop in the little girls department for so long. Even when I was in college I received care packages filled with homemade cookies and sandies as well as perfectly fitting skirts and dresses for my practice teaching in the spring. Mom had a green thumb unlike any I’ve ever known as well as keeping a sparkling clean and well organized home without us feeling as if we were living in a museum or on a magazine page . She welcomed all my friends who wanted those freshly baked cookies out of the oven as well as her ear. She always knew what was going on with my teenage friends far more than me, and not from gossip but from their own mouths!

    The only thing that you said that wasn’t my mother was the fact that she never worked from recipes. It was always from her memory of what her own mother taught her and so I have no recipes from her that I can hold. I wish I did, since she is now in the land of dementia where we can no longer reach her. While I weep as I write this I wouldn’t give anything for the wonderful memories that you invoked. Thank you!

  10. My mom’s cookbook is so treasured and we too gathered around at Easter for specific menus.My snowdrops and crocus have bloomed ,trees are budding so maybe Spring may choose to show herself!

  11. Lovely watercolour at the introduction of your post! For me Spring begins with hope – hope that the cold weather will soon be over and green goodies will begin popping up. This is marked by the arrival of snowdrops in my garden. While it’s still winter I anxiously begin going outside each morning to see if any snowdrops are peeking through the soil. Eventually to my relief I’ll note the first snowdrop, and finally, count winter as closing when they’ve come into bloom and other bulbs are soon following!

  12. My favorite memory of spring is the daffodils along the picket fence budding and blooming. Walking through our woods and loving all the Spring Beauties and Violets blooming. How a spring thunderstorm brought the gray and navy blue clouds scudding across the sky and how sweet the air smelled afterwards. Nature at it’s best!

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