She was slight. Elderly. She had an old kitchen that was lit up with smells and colors.
There is no place better than the humble kitchen of an American woman. If there is, I wouldn’t care to know about it. The linoleum floor. The enamel table with chipped edges. The stove with the stubborn oven door. Brillo pads in the sink.
And Lord, the smells. I could live and die in a good kitchen.
She was dusting her counters with flour on the day I interviewed her. She covered those countertops in snow, the way our ancestors have been doing ever since they deboarded the ark.
She wore one of those aprons that looks more like a cobbler’s apron. Two pockets. Floral print. She kneaded dough with frail hands. If you are ever lucky enough to see an elderly woman take out her aggression on a lump of lifeless dough, you are lucky enough.
When I visited her little kitchen I was on a long drive from Atlanta to Birmingham. Her son asked me
to visit. I only had thirty minutes to spare.
The reason she told me to come was because she wanted to make one of my favorite casseroles, one she remembered that I mentioned in my books a few times.
I don’t even know what the casserole is called. I’m not sure it even has a proper name. It has little diced potatoes, mountains of cheese, and—this is the crucial part—Kellogg's Corn Flakes on top.
When I was a kid, there was a lady in our church named Miss Patty who made this casserole for every get-together. As an adult, I have yet to find it again. I guess it’s an outdated church casserole now. It’s probably not stylish for modern women to put cornflakes on top piles of cheese anymore.
She made more than just casseroles. She cooked for local funerals, baby showers, anniversaries. And if…