I bake when I’m homesick.
And especially when I’m missing people I wish I could still see or talk to. My grandmothers both made cornbread so well that I would put in special requests. Good with a glass of tea, a fried chicken thigh, a mess of collard and mustard greens and plenty of butter. Or tonight: a baked pork chop, butter beans simmered in okra and slivers of salted tomato and cucumber.
I find my way back to them in the flavors and aromas they lived with and used to show love every day. Nothing fancy. And often using leftovers: a ham bone saved from a Sunday supper, a thump of bacon drippings, a sliced tomato from the yard. But served with flair on their best linen and tableware, and you felt their care in each mouthful.
If I bake or cook something for you, I care about you. Or I know you are experiencing and feeling something I have felt acutely: Loss, and longing. And so I feed you to fill that emptiness, even temporarily.
Next week: seafood gumbo.