“Rolling on the River”
My mother was a great cook. In the tradition of southern country cooking, she was a nurturer who loved to cook.
Mother grew up in the rural Deep South in the 1930s and ’40s. Her father had a big farm and hired quite a few seasonal field hands. My grandmother cooked enough at the mid-day meal every day of the week to feed the family, plus all the field hands. Mother was my grandmother’s right hand in the kitchen. That’s how Mother learned to cook.
Money was scarce in our household as my siblings and I grew up. Looking back, I realize that the budget for groceries was small. However, I didn’t know it at the time. In Mother’s hands, a few dollars could make a feast.
After high school I worked and used every form of financial assistance available to get my Bachelor’s degree. Mother worked in a non-union garment factory and helped me out as much as possible. I finally got my degree after five years of financial struggle.
Then I decided I wanted a Master’s degree, of all things. A Master’s degree for someone who was the first in the family to go to college?!? But I couldn’t figure out how to find the money.
To help me with expenses for graduate school, Mother turned to her greatest love. She courageously took a job as cook on a tugboat which pushed freight barges up and down the Mississippi River. She worked thirty days on and thirty days off. She had her own private sleeping quarters and bath on the boat.
She cooked three meals a day for a crew of nine men plus herself. For my mother, it was not work. It was pleasure. She could order any cooking supplies she wanted from the ship’s store. She had a huge walk-in pantry and even a walk-in freezer to store her groceries.
She loved to spoil the men on the crew with things like cooking breakfast eggs to order. Scrambled eggs for this one, fried over-easy for that one, fried over-well for the next. Apparently, not every cook on the river was as accommodating as Mother.
Every Friday was seafood night. Every Saturday was steak night. And every Sunday was fried chicken with all the Southern sides to go with it. Her crew absolutely loved her and gave her more appreciation and respect than she had ever known.
Working six months of the year, doing what she truly loved doing, she earned more money than she ever had in her life. She made plenty of money for her own needs AND was able to help pay my tuition and expenses so I could earn my Master’s degree. Looking back, her resilience and creativity amazes me.
After I finished my education, Mother retired from her adventure and married a wonderful man she met working on the river. He was the Chief Engineer for one of the barge companies. He didn’t marry her for her cooking. He married her for her generous loving spirit, her beauty, her intelligence, and her wonderful sense of humor. The good cooking was just a bonus.
Here is one of Mother’s recipes I found in her files after her death. I’m including it here just as it was written in her own handwriting. This is my favorite cake to this very day.
3 c. sifted flour
3 c. grated carrots
2 t. baking powder
4 eggs unbeaten
2 t. soda
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
2 c. sugar
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cloves
1 1/2c. salad oil
1/2 c. raisins
Sift together flour, b.p., soda, salt and spices. Combine sugar & oil in mixing bowl. Add carrots and blend. Add eggs & beat well after each egg. Add dry ingredients gradually & blend well. Add nuts and raisins and pour into layers or tube pan. Bake at about 350.
1 stick oleo or butter
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 box powdered sugar
Mix butter & cheese til soft. Add powdered sugar.
Grace Terry, MSW, is an intuitive life/grief coach, angel card reader, author, and conversationalist with souls on the other side. Her website is www.angelsabide.com