Two Kitchens

Two Kitchens



My Mutha, Mary Lou, a grand dame of our town, the President of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and the past-President of the Magnolia Garden Club, and I were baking a chocolate sheet cake in the messy kitchen of our home, a big turn of the century home on a busy street in Vicksburg.


Because we had not even considered the appropriateness of cleaning the kitchen before we started the cake, the counters were completely filled with food and utensils from breakfast.  Much of the stuff on the counters were caked with leftover food from breakfast; a heavy cast iron skillet with hardened bacon grease on the stove, a crockery bowl with Bisquick pancake mix congealing in the sink, the butter dish with a leftover stick of butter softening by the minute as the heat rose on that summer morning in Mississippi.


Mutha turned to me when I complained of the lack of counter space and said, “Khaki, relax, just pull out the silverware drawer and put your cake pan on top of that open drawer if you need more counter space.”  I put the cookie sheet down inside the drawer and proceeded to grease and flour it in preparation for pouring the cake mix.  My Mutha was nothing if she was not the mother of invention, the lazy person’s guide to entertaining with her three easy steps to everything.  She always focused on the people and making them feel welcome in our home.  This was opposed to being concerned with having a clean and orderly household, a semi-sanitary kitchen, or even enough food to serve her guests.


Halfway into this cake baking event, Mutha pulled out the powder sugar canister from its perch in the over stuffed panty and realized that we needed two cups of confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar for the icing and we had none.  Not even one tablespoon in an empty bag in the bottom of the canister.


The metal canisters with the black tops that fit so snuggly a child could barely pry them open had been washed once or twice in my Mutha’s kitchen over the years that we had lived in that house but had not always been dried properly.  Certainly no attention had ever been given to the proper care and maintenance of the metal canisters in my Mutha’s kitchen.  Our maid, Lucille Scott, did her level best to hold that household together but even with all of her effort, the canisters got zero attention.


As a result, that morning, no one knew in advance that the canister was empty nor would we have wanted to use the last few tablespoons exposed in the bottom of that rusty canister, even if it had contained a bit of powdered sugar.


I knew instinctively what to do.  You see, I had formed by the age of six or seven, resilience and a level of innovativeness and competence, really a take charge attitude, which would have been the envy of a Marine Corp division.  Living with my Mutha, the Auntie Mame, of our little town, one learned to ‘dance’ with whatever occurred.


Without conferring with Mutha or even saying a word, I ran out the front door, down the sidewalk to our neighbor, Laura Gucherau’s driveway that ran parallel to our driveway, down her driveway and up her back steps to knock on her back door.


Without calling by telephone or even stopping to think, I routinely performed this drill.  Sometimes I knocked and asked for a tray of ice for more high balls.  Sometimes it was a stick of butter or a cup of sugar or any number of missing ingredients that were desperately needed to finish a meal or a boxed cake mix.


We always thought of Laura as first, always being at home and second, as always being willing and able to open the back door to receive me.  Most importantly, we perceived Laura to be happy to provide whatever ingredients were missing, even if I arrived twice in the same day or three or four times in the same week.


As I hit the back door that day and stepped into Laura’s ‘neat as a pin’ kitchen, Laura said, “Khaki, what in the world would they do over there without you?”




2 Responses to “Two Kitchens”

  1. Kathleen Shipe Says:


    I finally grabbed some time to read your entries. They are delightful! I get a sort of David Sedaris vibe from them, not only from the Southern connection, but also from the wry comments on the other members of your family, especially your parents. There are editing needs — a few misspellings and some needed or not needed commas, etc. But these are cosmetic and easily dealt with by an editor, I’m sure.

    I can relate, let me tell you. I came from a family of eight, plus parents. I am amazed that you are able to conjure up all the details, as my reaction to the chaos was to bury it somewhere and forget it. I have to consult with my brothers and sisters to remember anything. We were also Catholic and also supplied with endless numbers of relatives who came to visit or whom we visited. We lived in Chicago and then a small town nearby, Roselle. I’m sure there will be lots of old Catholic family members and Southerners who will relate to your tales.

    Keep it up! This is great!

    Kathy Shipe

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