Momma used to say, “Ya’ll stay out of the kitchen till suppers ready.” And this holiday season I tasted lots of cookin, made by a lot of different hands, that created goodness from their kitchens. Many friends brought us their own food creations and we loved um all….and could feel the love.

Mrs Barbra Williams....I spent many a day and nite in her kitchen...everyone was welcome there

Sonny Ross brought me a slow, smoked Boston Butt, one of 20 something he had cooked with each butt basted with the love FOR the folks he planned to go give them to. I was one of the lucky few who enjoyed Sonny’s gift. Sonny had the misfortune, some years back, of hitting a pine tree while riding a motorcycle and it all but killed him. So, Sonny lives with some brain damage that limits his overall mobility but not his heart… nor his brain.

You gotta know Sonny to love him and thank God I know him. Sonny wears a smile and he loves to cook. It’s his work of art and passion so Sonny’s time at the smoker (his kitchen) – just him and them Boston butts, made his gift special. Thanks Sonny.

This year Diana cooked in the kitchen, sometimes with grands and daughters, other times we were told to “stay out, it’s nearly ready, I’m just waitin on the asparagus casserole.” So we stayed out, while the house filled with the smell of green beans slow cooking, country ham skillet frying and bread baking, turkey breast sizzling, honey ham steamin, tater salad waitin with deviled eggs and home pickled hot garlic bread and butter pickles… and we had to stay out of the kitchen till she got it ready. It was her gift to us, done and made with her planning and hands, and we loved it. (Before Christmas, she asked me and each child what we wanted her to make. Christen wanted cinnamon rolls, Ashley wanted ham, and Nick wanted sloppy joes. I wanted boiled custard and pound cake.)

Enzi and Silas with their Mama Christen in "the kitchen".

I was special and I was one of the 16 that got to see and experience her creation from the kitchen… and the heart. She loved that we loved it and to top it all off, she cooked Mama Vera’s, handed down to Momma’s recipe, handed down to Diana, slow cooked boiled custard and pound cake – just like I wanted.

To cook good boiled custard, you must stand over it, stirring nearly constantly, slowly keeping the egg rich mixture of pure love from sticking and clumping and scorching, until it “coats the spoon”. This is not an amount of minutes but rather a thickness just before being too thin. That’s when it first coats the spoon completely. Thank you Diana, for opening your kitchen and cooking with and for us all this Christmas, and not to belittle any gift I received this Christmas Time, I loved this one, your cookin, most of all. From your whole family, we thank you again… and give you this hug.

At Mama Rita’s, the kitchen was where it was happening, just as it was happening in the kitchen at the Williams in Milan, and at Mrs. Barbour’s and Robert’s house, and even at ole Mike Perry’s house, as we talked about and looked at his big ass smoker; he knew I’d love it and I did. I gave him a bag chair and he gave me a 1959 TN license plate and we shared a shot or two of “Fireball” and at the Barbour’s, we shared a few cordials and homemade stuff was sittin all around. We laughed and I departed after a cup of cappuccino and hugs.

Me and my long time friend Mike Perry. He's a guy that discovered the simple life and lives it - way out in the country in a little place called Cedar Grove.

Mrs Barbara Williams - I have many fond memories of her, Dr Phil and their happy family.

Joe and Herbert Williams and me in Miss Barbara's kitchen - Milan, TN

The next kitchen I visited was the Williams’ and Barb’s grown grand kids were making Santa caps from strawberries and whipped cream and the kitchen was as far as I need to go. “If it ain’t happening in the kitchen, it just ain’t happening.” They stirred around, readying to go to church together and I was just making them and me late, as I had a “eattin” at 6:30 at Mama Rita’s to get to, so off I went, passing every chance to stop and get that special little something for Diana’s Christmas that I love to do, and was Savannah’s own Chalfont fashionably on time – not first, but not last.

There I went straight to the kitchen to see dips and sandwich stuff, and Costa Rican slaw, squash casserole and avocado and tomato stuff and I tried this and that and it was so good. And since nobody told me to stay out of the kitchen, I sat down there with a grand and grazed. I was hungry and if somebody came in the kitchen, I’d stick my hand held morsel of goodness in the grand’s mouth… “baby’s hungry” …. Just sayin…. I finally got told to get out of the kitchen till so and so gets here. So I got a piece of ham and went outside to hide and eat it with a cig in my hand as a smoke screen. “That was some good ham and stuff.”

Our youngest grand, Silas. I had to feed that baby!

Yes it was good!

Sittin' in the Kitchen at Mama Rita's.

Then to the house on the hill and a fire in the fire place and way too much goings on to describe, but I sat, not talking much… just letting the kids do their own thing for their kids and I thought over my day as I sipped boiled custard and ate pound cake… and I knew once again, “I got the biggest and the most”…. Just like the year before and the year before that… and so it goes when Christmas Eve is one’s favorite day of the year. Christmas Day…. I sleep walk through it: eating Ashley’s cookies, country ham from Steve and Lu, banana nut bread made by Christen, Lady Di’s cinnamon rolls.

My Momma could cook and she taught me a lot and left me recipes and cookbooks. And sometimes as a kid I would sit down at the drop-leaf maple kitchen table and watch Momma cook. And I’d ask her one question after another… and none of um were about cooking. The kitchen was Momma’s “office” and she did some of her greatest works right there. She schooled us and listened to us and turned chicken into 30 different dinners all the while.

Now I suggest to you, “stay out of the kitchen” and let the master cook up their dish, their way. And I see love, when I watch a kitchen teeming with artists of food…. And I bask in the love of it all. I love to watch um work and marvel in the love I feel when I eat their cookin.

I hope ya’ll feel the love somebody’s cooking up for you right now… and if you don’t feel that love, start cooking something up for someone else and you will.

Happy New Year ya’ll. And remember Momma said, “Let it coat the spoon.” Good things take time…. “How much time?” you might ask. Well not knowing your setup and how long you been stirring the pot, all I can say is “keep on stirring till it coats the spoon.” You’ll think, “this is never gonna turn out right,” but if you stand over it and watch it and stir it, and check the spoon, one of these times, when you’ve stirred til your about to give up, you’ll check the spoon… and it will be perfectly coated and recognized as so.

Next big cookin is New Year’s Day. Blackeyed Peas and Hog’s Jowl. Oh yeah! I love it.