Today I start cooking . . . and I start writing about cooking. My first recipe: Western Omelet. My first ingredient: Butter! I’m liking this project better all the time. My first cookbook to crack open is one that can’t be bought in stores. Neither paper nor hardback, this recipe collection is contained in a gray ring binder with a label that came from a home computer: The Bass Family and Friends Cookbook, 2006 edition. I am deeply grateful to my cousins, Hazel Trawick and Diane Trawick Taylor for offering the time, love and effort to put this collection together.
In the flow of time, it is interesting to see which names will last; which ones will come to identify a family for generations. In our case, that name is Bass. My grandmother’s name before her marriage was Mattie Amelia Bass. My father’s mother, she had 14 siblings most of whom had children and grandchildren. Many of these bear different names now, but deep down we all know who we really are.
There are many occasions when we Basses dust off our hidden name, but one comes at the same event every year. The Singing. On the first Sunday in June each year, Shady Hill Free Will Baptist Church has its homecoming. Shady Hill sits on an unpaved road just south of Carolina, Alabama. Its homecoming is accompanied by a Sacred Harp Singing that has been held at the same time every year for at least as long as I have been in the world.
Growing up I didn’t do much of the singing, but I never knew the event by any other name. Still, there is more to it than that. There is The Praying. There is The Fellowshipping, as friends and relatives come together after being apart since the previous June. And most important, there is The Eating . . . also known as Lunch. Like many churches of its era, Shady Hill has two long cement tables in the back of the church. They are now covered though they were not when I was a child. By noon these tables will be filled with casseroles, fried chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, pecan pies, fried apple tarts and a host of other delectables both urban and rural. If you aren’t feeling hungry yet, check your pulse.
The creamed corn will likely have been grown by the person bringing it. The pecans we have for dessert come from trees in nearby backyards. And if KFC is getting to be a common source of fried chicken, there are still plenty of cakes made with eggs that were laid within walking distance of both home and church. This is my family – extended, mind you, they’re not all Basses – but they are mine by default nonetheless. We choose to celebrate both our kin and our Creator in song and in food.
I wish I could say that whenever I go to The Singing I recognize all my relatives at once, that I can walk up and throw my arms around them with no introductions necessary. Instead, I have to constantly whisper in my Dad’s ear to ask who is this relative or that. There are many whom I fail to recognize on site, or if I know their faces I couldn’t pull their names from the files deep in my mind if you gave me a week. But they are mine and I love them.
These people love each other and they love their God. They show it by bringing the most sumptuous dishes their kitchens can produce. Through this act of feasting together our ties are renewed for another year, until we meet again in holy fellowship and song.
Cooking for someone, feeding them, is like pronouncing a blessing. It expresses a desire for the very best and healthiest for another, and it takes steps to make that wish a reality. How do we love? Just south of Carolina, Alabama we do it by bringing food. But the food, however splendid, is only a token of something much more sacred: the hallowed bonds formed between friends and kin in the presence of the One who makes them possible.
The omelet was marvelous. Since it is against my religion to have ketchup with eggs (seriously, I think it’s in the Book of Discipline), I used some homemade salsa I had frozen. Many thanks to Cousin Greg Wade and family for submitting the recipe. I probably need to get to know them better.
Tablespoons butter 6 large eggs
¼ c. finely chopped green bell pepper ¾ c. chopped cooked ham
1/3 c. finely chopped onions ¾ c. milk
¾ t. salt dash pepper
In skillet melt butter. Beat eggs and whisk in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into hot skillet. Cook, stirring to cook evenly. Turn and cook other side. Serve while still somewhat moist and creamy. Cook in smaller batches for Western sandwiches. Serve with ketchup.