The Magazine

My wife loves this magazine, too. When we first married, we moved into an ratty apartment. She brought a box of hardback cookbooks with her. The magazine produces a yearly compilation of its recipes.

On my mother’s coffee table. A magazine. Always, this magazine. Ever since I can remember.

To her, it was the magazine of all magazines—second only to a Billy Graham newsletter. It sat beside her Bible, between a bowl of potpourri and an ashtray for company.

I have memories of her reading recipes. Hot chicken salad casserole was one such recipe. If you have never had hot chicken salad casserole, I’ll pray for you.

She had hundreds of back issues. They sat in the corner. Over the years, they collected dust bunnies that were roughly the size of Joe Namath.

Sometimes, she used these magazines to balance rickety tables. Other times, she rolled them up tightly to use as disciplinary devices on sass-mouths.

My wife loves this magazine, too. When we first married, we moved into a ratty apartment. She brought a box of hardback cookbooks with her—yearly compilations of the magazine’s recipes.

“Are those all yours?” I asked.

“Yeah, been collecting them since I was a kid, my parents give me a new cookbook every Christmas. It’s tradition.”

That’s when I knew I had married the right woman. The kind of woman who would never wear white after Labor Day because her mother would have strangled her with the cord from a kitchen mixer.

To the women in my life, it was more than a magazine. It was the secret to red velvet cake. It was a collection of house plans they daydreamed about. It was like Emily Post and Dale Earnhardt had given birth to a love child on Mama’s coffee table.

Every church lady revered it. Every elementary school teacher read it on lunch break.

And rumor had it—I shouldn’t be telling you this—that Michael Swanson’s mother, Miss Adeline, tattooed the famous ‘79-issue banana pudding recipe on a hidden region of her body.

You didn’t hear that from me.

But getting back to the Christmas cookbooks. When my wife’s father died, the yearly custom ended, and holidays were not the same.

That year was a bad one, all the way around. I had lost my job, we had no money. We were so poor we had to go to KFC just to lick other peoples’ fingers.

Things had always been tight for us, and it was my fault. I was a flunky. My wife could have married someone successful. Instead, she married a high-school dropout, a construction worker, and a bar musician.

It was a blue Christmas.

“I miss my daddy,” said my wife, sitting cross-legged before the tree.

“I know,” I said.

“So much.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I hate this feeling.”

“Me too.”

We exchanged only one gift that year. I opened mine first. I shredded the paper to find a portable CD player. It must have set her back a fortune. And it made me feel god-awful.

“I thought we agreed to only spend a few bucks,” I said.

“You love music, though.”

“That’s not the point, you spent more than me.”

“I want you to have it.”

Then, I handed her my cheap gift. She held it and I felt like a fool. She tore the paper. I saw big drops form on her eyes.

“That bad, huh?” I said.

“No, I love it.”

It was a five-and-dime photo album. Only it wasn’t filled with photos. Inside were recipes, cut from my mother’s hundreds of magazines which dated back to the seventies. I pasted each cut-out recipe onto a page. There must have been a million.

On the cover I wrote, “Jamie’s Cookbook.”

For supper that Christmas, my wife made hot chicken salad casserole. Then we fell asleep watching Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye tap dance their pants off. It turned out to be a nice holiday.

We’ve been married for a little while now. I’ve changed jobs nearly fifty times. Somehow, I managed to get my GED, then a college degree. And somehow, call it a divine joke, call it idiot’s luck, I became a writer.

And somehow, my wife is still beside me.

Just yesterday, I heard my wife shouting on the sidewalk. She had just visited the mailbox. She was hollering my name. “Come quick!” she said.

I thought something was wrong. In her hands was a magazine. The magazine.

“You’re never gonna believe it!” she yelled. Then she pointed to a page.

There it was. My name. In print. It was only a few kind words somebody wrote about my podcast. But there was no mistake about it. It was my name. Our name. The one I share with her.

We hugged for almost five minutes, and one of us might have cried a little. But I promise it wasn’t me. Later that night, she made the best hot chicken salad casserole you have ever tasted.

The women in my life mean everything to me.

My mother is going to freak.

44 comments

  1. Carol Heidbreder - May 29, 2019 6:52 am

    Sweet nod to the ladies in your life. Not just one but two that will feed you hot chicken salad casserole, and cheer you on every step of the way! Doesnt get any better than that! And by the way, all us southern girls know exactly to which magazine you are referring. Have my own collection! 😏

    Reply
  2. Cathi Russell - May 29, 2019 8:37 am

    Yep, never throw an issue away and stopped getting the hardback cookbooks every year because I ran put of room in my kitchen!!! Thanks Sean, I needed that smile this morning! (And it’s good but hot anything doesn’t sound appealing in this heat!)

    Reply
  3. Lisbeth Garecht - May 29, 2019 9:30 am

    What magazine??

    Reply
  4. GaryD - May 29, 2019 9:45 am

    “Southern Living” magazine ?

    Reply
    • Lisbeth Garecht - May 29, 2019 11:04 am

      Thanks!

      Reply
    • Virginia Branson - May 29, 2019 12:20 pm

      HAD to be Southern Living. If National Geographic doesn’t have recipes.

      Reply
  5. Jean - May 29, 2019 9:50 am

    I knew the moment I read the first line…it had to be southern living. We all love them…cookbooks and all. They are the go to for cooking help. That was a wonderful gift you gave your sweet wife. I think you both picked winners!!

    Reply
  6. Cynthia Harmon - May 29, 2019 10:24 am

    My daughter has a subscription to Southern Living. She’s a great cook. Also you were in Al.com last week. It was exciting to see you get the attention you deserve.

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth - May 29, 2019 10:24 am

    I saw the write up about you. Dang fantastic!!! Congrats, making The Magazine is no easy feat!

    Which hot chicken salad recipe? If you’re going to reference recipes, then you should include the recipe.

    By the way, The Magazine has the best ever pimento cheese recipe.

    Reply
  8. Keloth Anne - May 29, 2019 10:29 am

    It is wonderful how you love and appreciate the women in your life ♥️
    I’ve always heard behind every successful man there are two women—-his wife and his Mother and you have them both!!!
    Would love you to share the hot chicken salad recipe.
    Thanks for another great writing 😍😍

    Reply
  9. LeAnne - May 29, 2019 10:54 am

    Congratulations!! Way to go! I love that magazine too. (And, by the way, what a sweet Christmas gift you gave her.)

    Reply
  10. Robert Chiles - May 29, 2019 10:55 am

    My wife makes the triple-layer chocolate cheesecake from the 1989 book about three times a year. Takes her all day. Fabulous. We’ve got her mother’s funeral in about a week and a half and all the family will be gathering. Cheesecake!

    Reply
    • Dru - May 31, 2019 3:36 am

      That is an AMAZING cheesecake! My late mother in law made it for friends’ luncheons, especially colleagues who taught with her in the local two-year college. The best cranberry salad, the best pork chop/tomato/onion/rice casserole, the best chicken with wild rice casserole is in the MAGAZINE, too. And little quiches with crepes for shells. Good times! Congratulations, Sean! What took them so long?

      Reply
  11. Nell Thomas - May 29, 2019 11:36 am

    I’m sure that was a great moment for both of you- seeing your name in print in the magazine.
    There probably has been and will be more to come. Well deserved by both Mr. and Mrs. Sean Dietrich. CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES!

    Reply
  12. Clara Martin - May 29, 2019 11:39 am

    I just renewed my subscription to the magazine yesterday for 3 more years and I don’t even cook anymore! Too much trouble for one person, but I love looking at the pages every month when it comes. I still have an old Rich’s department store box that my Mom and Dad cut down to size one Christmas to hold my annual recipe book and every year I always made a big deal about “wondering” what could be in that box. They are both gone now, but I still have the books and the box. . . Enjoy your articles every day and I recently saw your name in my magazine!

    Reply
    • Bobbie - May 29, 2019 11:58 am

      Oh Clara! You must be an Atlanta girl. Rich’s was THE place back in the day. We would take our children every Christmas to ride ‘the Pink Pig!’ The highlight of the season. And remember the tea room? What was the name of it? The Magnolia Room? Those were the good ole days, we just didn’t know it!
      I knew too when I first started reading, it had to be Southern Living. I was one of the first subscribers…my. Best recipes are from its pages, and would sit for the longest dreaming over the house plans.
      Was soooo excited to see your name Sean, and to learn you had a podcast. I found it right away on my app.
      Yes, you ARE a writer! And a really good one. So glad you’re getting the recognition you deserve. I would’ve cried too had I received such a sweet Christmas gift. A true Southern gentlemen ❤️
      God bless you.

      Reply
  13. Heidi - May 29, 2019 12:04 pm

    I’ve never lived in the South but have subscribed to that magazine for years,..every recipe and article is 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼!!!!!!! Congrats!!

    Reply
  14. James - May 29, 2019 12:30 pm

    I would have guesses Taste of Homes. Lots of great recipes.

    Reply
  15. Connie Havard Ryland - May 29, 2019 12:31 pm

    It’s hard to make me cry and smile at the same time, but you do it nearly every day. What a sweet story. Like most of the women who already commented, I have a collection of the cookbooks. My kids think I’m crazy. Stopped buying the magazine because I couldn’t bear to throw them away but I buy the cookbooks when I can find them. I love the way you love the women in your life. Congratulations on making it to the magazine. You are wonderful and deserve every good thing. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  16. Minnie Tate Bourque - May 29, 2019 12:35 pm

    Love that magazine and, I, too, have all the hardcover annual collections. I must remember to put them in my will! I’m going to go look for that hot chicken salas recipe right now!
    Merry Christmas, Sean and Jamie!

    Reply
  17. Debbie Britt - May 29, 2019 12:42 pm

    You are a gem!! The little things are the best!

    Reply
  18. Patricia A Schmaltz - May 29, 2019 12:58 pm

    Sean, you should know (probably don’t so that’s why I’m telling you!) that I LOVE to read your posts/blog/whatever you call it. So many of my friends do too, and they live everywhere, not just in NWFL. Keep up the great work! THANK YOU for brightening my day, which is already pretty nice this time of year!

    Reply
  19. Shelton A. - May 29, 2019 1:11 pm

    Great story…full of love and happy times even in the worst of times. What’s the magazine?!?

    Reply
  20. Ella Herlihy - May 29, 2019 1:20 pm

    Not sure what or why, but sometimes words hit you just right – and the tears drip out without being called. That was today. I love my family, miss my daddy – and the Christmas gifts he always picked out with such care and love. I used to publish cookbooks before i retired to be a mom, so I always love a good recipe. Southern LIving is always full of them. You are gifted, and I am so glad you choose to bless others by sharing your gift. Lewis Grizzard could make you laugh till you cried. But you can make me cry till I laugh. Now that’s talent.

    Reply
  21. Ellen - May 29, 2019 2:19 pm

    I love how you LOVE your precious Jamie !!

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  22. Judy Myers - May 29, 2019 3:32 pm

    This one hits home in so many ways. Thank you Sean

    Reply
  23. Jack Darnell - May 29, 2019 3:35 pm

    I am not a magazine type of guy. I receive one magazine monthly. Mostly I don’t look at it, and just replace last month’s copy with the new. I receive it at no cost because I am a lifetime member of an organization. I am sure there must be one recipe in it, but I ain’t sure. BUT I am sure it is not your mother’s magazine.
    BUT what a thrill to see your name in a national maga.
    Sherry and jack, looking for THE magazine! (Warm here in NC)

    Reply
  24. Jimpa - May 29, 2019 3:39 pm

    What I want to know is how you got your mother to let you cut up all her back issues for Jamie’s Cookbook!

    Reply
  25. Sue - May 29, 2019 4:08 pm

    Saw the article about you and was so happy for that recognition from such a beloved magazine. I have been a subscriber since the early 70s. Can’t wait for your new book! 👍🏻

    Reply
  26. Bob Mosley - May 29, 2019 4:55 pm

    Please let an old coot like me have a copy of that Hot Chicken Salad Caserole receipt.

    Reply
  27. Bob Mosley - May 29, 2019 4:58 pm

    A do it yourself receipt would be nice.

    Reply
  28. Barbara Knight - May 29, 2019 5:02 pm

    That just warms a Southern girl’s heart! I love your posts, they always fill my heart! Why, I do believe you have arrived! All the best to you and yours, you make us feel like they are ours too!

    Reply
  29. Mandy Franklin - May 29, 2019 5:57 pm

    I know the one!! I love it and have followed it for years. I am a born and bred Southern gal, so it goes without saying!!! I collect cookbooks. Used to get ALL of the Christmas books and passed them down to my daughter who loves anything Christmas! Thank you Sean. This blessed me!

    Reply
  30. Linda Moon - May 29, 2019 9:02 pm

    I am proud to have already seen your name in that Magazine of Magazines. Yep, us women in our men’s lives deserve to be meant, and I’m glad to hear your own mother will freak!! I do believe YOU mean a lot to those two women – your wife and your mother. You’ve no doubt made them both proud as peacocks!

    Reply
  31. Linda Bates - May 30, 2019 1:26 am

    I love what Sean writes. I often share with his blogs with friends and family when something moves me.
    But this one comes to the top of the list.
    Thank you for writing this, Sean.

    Reply
  32. Melanie - May 30, 2019 2:05 am

    What high praise! Looks like I’d better get a subscription to Southern Living 🙂

    Reply
  33. Kerry - May 30, 2019 1:31 pm

    I used to get all of my former mother-in-law’s issues and she gave me a ton of the cookbooks too. Then I started getting my own copies ❤️

    Reply
  34. Linda Allen - May 30, 2019 4:26 pm

    Such a great column! You have a gift! And I look forward to my email every day with your latest. And I love the magazine also!

    Reply
  35. Kathy Amos - May 30, 2019 8:11 pm

    Happiness is a Sean Dietrich column and a good Hot Chicken Salad meal – with tomatoes, and canteloupe, and a blackberry cobbler for dessert. Thanks, Sean, for the memories.

    Reply
  36. Edna B. - June 1, 2019 1:00 pm

    You got the best of the best, Sean. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  37. kathleenivy - June 3, 2019 5:52 pm

    Congratulations Sean! So glad the Magazine recognized you! I am a Colorado girl, so know very little about the Magazine. Thank you for expanding my world a bit. Now I need to go and look for that Hot chicken salad casserole.

    Reply
    • Denise - June 7, 2019 12:50 pm

      Subscribe! You will be an honorary southerner in no time. Also look for the yearly books, they are awesome.

      Reply
  38. Barbara - June 6, 2019 3:55 pm

    I know Jamie cherishes that cookbook you made her. I started reading Southern Living when it was in the back of the Progressive Farmer magazine my dad received. The only magazine I still subscribe to and my mom can’t wait for hers to arrive each month. Even through dementia she remembers how great it is. I saw your name in my last issue. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments! Look forward to your posts every day!

    Reply
  39. Denise - June 7, 2019 12:48 pm

    Great story. And have you ever tried their Hummingbird cake? Amazing. I make it once or twice a year. We gain about 5 lbs but who cares. It’s true southern comfort food. Delicious.

    Reply

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