Friday, February 12, 2010

Mama’s stories: scrambled fish

A sleepover at my mother’s Provisions Living studio apartment in Hattiesburg included shared laughter about family stories. Here is one of my favorites:

The year was around 1945. Mother (actually, she wouldn’t be a mother for another couple years) had just returned from Monterrey, CA, where she and Daddy lived for several months before the U.S. Army shipped him out to fight in the South Pacific. She was living with family, my father’s brother James and his wife Edna. She shared a room with their daughter Nelda. Nelda, Mother and Aunt Edna all had jobs.

“I worked at the USO-YWCA as a secretary,” Mother recalled. “Edna worked at Blue Ribbon Bakery, and I don’t remember where Nelda worked.” Nelda got off work at 4 p.m., Mother at 5, and Aunt Edna at 6. That sequence of quitting times was significant. Aunt Edna was an exceptional cook. Both Nelda and Mother were learning to cook, and shared good-natured teasing about their failures and successes.

On this particular day, Uncle James had gone fishing with friends and invited the man and his wife home for a fish fry featuring their catch of the day.

“When I got home James, the couple and Nelda were already at the table eating,” Mother said. “Edna was teaching us a lot of things about cooking. She had always fried fish just so, crisp. But these were turned over so many times while they were frying that they had come all to pieces. I assumed that Nelda had fried the fish. I sat down and asked ‘What are we eating -- scrambled fish?’

“Nelda kicked me under the table and said ‘I fried the potatoes.’ I knew then that the wife had fried the fish. ‘I like scrambled fish,’ I announced. Nelda giggled. The more I said the worse it got,” Mother continued. “I learned a lesson not to comment on food.”

Even though I wasn’t born when that enlightenment about food commentary occurred, the “I-like-scrambled-fish” statement became standard shorthand in our family. Any time one of us found ourselves digging an embarrassing hole ever deeper trying to correct a conversational misstep, the “digger” or his or her audience would pronounce with dramatic flourish, “I like scrambled fish.”

1 comment:

maddie/cadesmimi said...

That's a good one! I love the stories of the good old days. Blessings, Kathy