GINNA PARSONS: Bittersweet memories of Mama



Fourteen years ago today, my mother lost her battle with breast cancer. She was 72 years old and just a little more than a year into retirement.It hardly seemed fair then. It hardly seems fair now.

Mama died two days after my 37th birthday and the week before Mother’s Day that year. It was rough, but as everyone who has lost someone knows, it does get easier with time.

Not easy. Just easier.

My mother was a wonderful Southern cook and I would like to say I grew up in the kitchen by her side, but that would be a lie. Truth is, Mama didn’t want my sister and me in the kitchen with her when she cooked. She said we made her nervous.

But she was quick to enlist our help when the table needed setting or clearing, or the dishes needed to be done or food needed to be put away. When I left home for college, I couldn’t tell you how to cook rice or make gravy or roast a chicken, but I could find the perfect piece of Tupperware to put leftovers in.

My mother worked 40-plus hours a week in an office, but she still came home every evening and put supper on the table. And I don’t mean Hamburger Helper (although we did have that now and again). She’d make fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and butterbeans, or meatloaf with macaroni and cheese and English peas.

She cooked comfort food, the kind that sticks to your ribs (and hips).

On the weekends, she made desserts – one special one for Sunday’s meal and one to eat on during the week, like cookies, brownies or a pound cake.

I think that’s one of the things I miss the most – the Sunday desserts. I don’t even particularly like sweets now, but I’d eat an entire pound cake in one sitting if she were here to make me one again.

Here’s Mama’s pound cake recipe. She got it from Willie Mae Godwin, who was one of four women who all got their hair done every Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Beauty Bazaar in Dothan, Ala., where I grew up.

Willie Mae Godwin’s Pound Cake

2 sticks butter

2 heaping tablespoons Crisco

234 cups sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

6 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cream butter, Crisco and sugar. Add 2 cups of flour and beat, then eggs, then remaining 1 cup of flour, vanilla, sour cream and lemon juice. Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Cook at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.

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