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Food and Ancestors

256. Food and Ancestors

There are certain foods that speak to me of ancestors—and more particularly my Mother. Chicken salad and sticky buns were the only things I ever ordered at Blocks Tearoom in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mother and I went there often for lunch and I never even had to look at a menu. A year after Mother’s death, my daughter Debbie and I drove to Indianapolis to see the newly placed gravestone. The day we arrived we met two of the women who had worked with Mother at the Indfiana Bell Telephone Company for lunch. They asked, “Where would you like to go?” I quickly said, “To Blocks Tearoom.” Marian said, “Oh Blocks isn’t there any more.” I said, “You mean like it doesn’t exist?” And I felt my anticipation for chicken salad and sticky buns disappearing.

I have very few memories of my Father’s parents but one persists and it involves the preparation of food. Grandma Freeman rolled out the dough for dumplings on her kitchen table. She cut them into squares and it was my job to carefully peel them off the table (and keep a semblance of the square shape) and hand them to her to drop into the boiling broth. The result eventually was chicken and dumplings and no other recipe has matched my memory of the taste.

And then there are oatmeal cookies. It’s the only one of these memories that I still make. It’s Mama’s recipe and even as they bake in the oven, a feeling of Mama rises. Each time I intend to be moderate in my consumption of them. And each time I fail. It is as if I want to fill myself up with the essence of this Mother of mine—her love and her adoration of me, her only child.

Chicken salad and sticky buns, chicken and dumplings, and oatmeal cookies—food passed on by the ancestors.

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