Miz Florrie’s 99th Birthday, Or In Which I Learn Soul Cooking

Miz Florrie’s daughter Rose called me two weeks ago to remind me that her mama’s birthday was on February 2, and that there was a par-tay to be had on Saturday, February 4, 2012, at noon.

The last party that I went to at Miz Florrie’s was back in July, 2011, right before Sugar bought the grooming business and I became sweat equity.  Rose had told me the party was on July 4th, but when we showed up, she said the party had been two days before on July 2.  Something about the 2nd and the 4th of the month gets switcharooed in that family.  But it hardly mattered that we were two days too late, there was still food available.  Most of us probably can’t fathom that kind of cooking on that grand a scale.  At least I know I can’t, but that was before I met Rose.

It gets even more amazing than that.  Rose cooks from scratch. 

So now the stage is set for a birthday extravaganza for Miz Florrie’s 99th.  I had told Rose that I’d be late because I had to work that day until noon, and secretly I knew that there would be food still available.  I was a bit concerned when I got to Miz Florrie’s house, and there was only one car there – Rose’s car.  I thought I’d slipped into a Twilight Zone episode and mixed up the 2nd and the 4th of the month thing.

When I rang the doorbell, Rose called for me to come in and said that they were just talking about me, although my ears had not been burning.  Rose was in the kitchen with Rachel, who once went with Rose’s son Kenny, and Rose said that Kenny letting Rachel go was the biggest mistake he ever made, and when I saw Rachel in action in the kitchen, I knew why.  Also, in the kitchen was teen-aged Eula, who was Rose’s oldest brother’s youngest daughter, plus a girl of about 7 or 8, whose name I have already forgotten. 

I got there about 1:30 PM, and they had been working in the kitchen since 10 AM.  Rose had done cooking and domestic type work for many years, and should actually be retired, but when someone needs for her to help, like eldercare or babysitting, Rose is there.  Rachel has cooked in restaurants and grocery store kitchens, plus catering and domestic work, her whole life, and I watched her open two institutional-sized cans of green beans with a butcher knife.  I am in awe of her skills.  Rachel and Rose are the stuff, and pretty soon Eula and Little Bit will be able to take over in the kitchen.  Rose anticipated that the meal would not be ready before 4 PM, because there was still serious chopping and mixing and preparation to be done.

Miz Florrie was in her bedroom, dressed up in anticipation of the big day of the family coming.  I visited with her a bit, and she said that she’d be out in the living room soon so I went back to the kitchen.  I watched Rachel cut bell peppers into impossible small pieces using only a small knife and no cutting board.  We sat at the table and Rose cut onions for what she called a “vej-a-bull” salad.  On the table, there were several cans of tuna, several bottles of barbeque sauce, a bowl of raw chicken parts, several cans of evaporated milk, a bowl of hard-boiled eggs, and other assorted boxes and bowls, including a box of band-aids. 

Rachel directed Eula on how many cups of milk to make the pudding for an elaborate dish called a “Punch Bowl”, that was actually made in not one, but two – you guessed it – punch bowls, made up of layers of sliced yellow sheet cake (yup, homemade, baked in a catering-style aluminum foil pan), pudding, bananas, strawberries, and whipped topping.  I was beginning to believe that we were going to be eating dessert, a rice dish, and some chicken, when Rachel opened the oven door.

Inside the oven were two more aluminum foil pans covered with aluminum foil.  The one on the top shelf had a picnic ham, garnished with pineapple slices and cherries, and the bottom pan was full of ribs.  The ribs were just that, ribs in the pan covered with aluminum foil, and the juices were cooked out of them, bubbling hot, and Rachel exclaimed that she was not going to pour out the juices, because that would be perfect to take home and make some collard greens, and she worried that she would have to pour them down the drain.  She commanded Rose to hand her some hand towels, and she pulled the pan out of the oven, commanded Rose to close the oven door, and then she maneuvered the pan and poured the juices into the rice pot, then commanded Rose to open the oven door, and slid the pan of ribs back into the oven without losing a drop of juice or a single rib. 

Rose continued to work on her vegetable salad, and then her potato salad, and another rice dish using jasmine rice.  Rachel started another pot cooking with the green beans and some meat for seasoning, and then she made a masterpiece of a macaroni and cheese dish.  She took yet another aluminum foil pan, filled it with cooked macaroni, still steaming hot, sprinkled three packages of shredded cheese over it, poured three or four cans of evaporated milk over that, and poured several beaten eggs over everything, covered it with more aluminum foil, and slid it into the oven, along with another aluminum foil-covered pan filled with chicken parts. 

I was in awe.  I make spaghetti in a small electric cooking pot made by Procter Silex, and pour ready-made Newman’s spaghetti sauce over it and call it done. 

There were still the bottles of barbeque sauce on the table but Rachel wasn’t having it.  She was going to make her own.  I headed to the local store to get mustard, ketchup, and a bag of ice.  When I got back, she mixed the mustard and ketchup and vinegar and a bit of brown sugar, and tasted, and mixed, and added, and mixed, and tasted, until she was satisfied. 

The birthday girl was sitting in the living room, just beaming and enjoying the day.

When Rachel asked Miz Florrie what she was doing, she replied, "just chillin'." Note her rhinestone-embellished rose-colored glasses. The epitome of chill. Also note the inkpen secured in her braid. The woman loves to keep an inkpen handy.

 Those ladies in the kitchen continued working until everything was done, somehow magically all at once.

Barbeque ribs.

Barbeque chicken.

Baked ham.

Hopping John (a great recipe here, although Rachel used some kind of small red pea/bean.)

Jasmine rice with seasonings.

“Vegetable” salad, with macaroni, peppers, onions, tuna, and hard-boiled eggs, and mayo-based dressing.

Baked macaroni and cheese.

Potato salad.

Green beans seasoned with pork.

Punch-bowl dessert.

Sweet tea and lemonade.

Rose works her magic.

Rachel works her magic.

 
And the birthday girl works her magic…
 
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7 Responses to “Miz Florrie’s 99th Birthday, Or In Which I Learn Soul Cooking”

  1. Sharon Says:

    I am now thoroughly hungry.

    Like

  2. Kariann Says:

    I love Miz Florrie! What a special day to be included in on Ruth!

    Like

  3. sheldon e.miller Says:

    I LOVE YOU MOMA,THIS YOUR GRAND SON. ITS CRAZY HOW I WAS BORN ON FEBUARY 2,19
    81 THE SAME DAY AS MY GRANDMOTHER FLORRIE MILLER OF GARNETT S.C THAT YOU ALL SEE SITTING ON THE SOFA,YUP I TURN 31 AND MY GRANDMOMA TURNED 99 GOD BLESS MORE TO COME

    Like

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