A few years ago we lost Momma, and like most things, there were a lot of changes for the Bruce Boys. For years on Christmas Eve we would meet up at her house and every year, the menu would pretty much be the same, BBQ, plus all the fixings. Then the first Christmas after she left, we finally decided to change it up a little, steaks. Now we probably could have done it a few years earlier, but that’s what Mom liked, so I guess we didn’t mention it. Then on Christmas day we would have a turkey and dressing feast … but I’ll never forget, the last year she had fried chicken for supper, and we ate till we almost busted.
But like most families, there were always two or three places to be on Christmas Day, and you always have to eat. So a lot of times we ate, but to be honest by the time we got to her house us Boys weren’t really all that hungry. But it was Momma’s and she had worked for hours, and we really couldn’t let her down because this was her Christmas.
Then the first Christmas after she left came along, and I got to thinking there really wasn’t any place I had to be that day, except home. And as bad as it may seem, after we had opened the gifts, I guess it’s something that happens when you get older, but Christmas felt like it was over. Mel had mentioned cooking the full deal, but I got to thinking, just for us, that’s a bit much, so I told her I would just cook a purlow.
Now I have a problem, I can cook only one size purlow. It can feed five, or it can feed fifteen, depends on how many show up. And, if they aren’t all growing boys, probably twenty. But that’s too much for us, so I got on the phone to the rest of the family, and a few friends, “Hey I’m cooking a purlow, if you’re hungry come on over, we are having purlow, pickles, and light bread, and that’s it.”
The next thing I knew I had close to twenty head or more gathered around the house, at the table, at the bar, and some sitting on the floor. It kind of reminded me of when I was young, all Mom’s people would gather at either hers or Aunt Vera’s, before our families got so big and getting all of us together in one place kind of got impractical. But it just wasn’t family it was friends too. And like a couple people told me, “Thanks for having us, if you hadn’t called, we wouldn’t have had any place to go for Christmas.” We tend to forget about that sometimes, when we have so much food left over, how many people we could have invited, that might not have seemed like such a big deal to us, but the world to them.
Now what got me thinking about this column was a question I was asked the other day. A lady asked, ‘What is it about the people around here and purlow?” At first to be honest I was taken a little aback. Purlow, isn’t that the state food or something? Doesn’t every man over the age of twenty five have his own recipe, and the ones younger than twenty five are just waiting on their turn to show their skills at this Southern delicacy? But as I thought about it, that really didn’t answer her question.
As I got to thinking about my answer it finally dawned on me, it’s not so much what it is, but what it represents. It’s what the farmers used to cook for all the workers in the field after a long hard day. It’s what hunters have cooked for years after long hours in the woods together. In the mills and the factories, it was a hot meal that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to feed large groups. In years past, when money was hard to come by, when someone in the neighborhood passed, it fed whole families.
I figured it up one time; it costs me $20 bucks, tops, to fill a pot. Chicken, rice, a couple onions, and some sausage, and maybe a few other odds and ends, but what’s really in there? A pot full of love, and a hot meal … for all the folks gathered around it.
Where else can you get all that for twenty bucks?
P.S. Happy New Year Frankie Mae!
You can reach Robbin Bruce by e-mail at email@example.com.
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.
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