Old Times Best Forgotten
©2017 Hal Padgett
—This is all too real—
I helped a friend move yesterday. She can be neurotic on occasion (yesterday, for example) and often disorganized (yesterday, for ex-ample). But all personal frustration and inconvenience aside, I did manage to snatch from one of the trash heaps what at first glance had seemed a carelessly discarded treasure: Sook’s Cookbook: Memories & Traditional Receipts from the Deep South, by Marie Rudisill. (Receipt is pronounced “ruh-SEEP,” and means recipe.)
Surely it had been a gift from an insensitive ignoramus: my friend can’t cook, won’t cook, and couldn’t care less about learning to cook. That’s probably why it appeared untouched by human hands and free of splatter from sizzling lard.
My dirty thumb rifled through the book’s pristine pages in search of some of those Deep South memories. The search skidded to a halt on page 118: “Old Slave Dark Molasses Pie.” What the hell? If that whimsical reminder of the brutal institution of slavery wasn’t enough to steer decent folks clear of the dish, then the cup of sugar and three cups of molasses called for in the receipt damn well should’ve been.
But as I cradled Sook’s mini-enclave of culinary cruelty, my mind heard no ancestral calling to the hood and robe, or to whistle strains of “Dixie.” Neither did my fingers tear through the index in desperate search of moral balance in receipts like Reparations Remoulade. I calmly bookmarked some trans-racial pork receipts that caught my eye, then began to do what had been asked of me in the first place—work.
I was sweeping the floor in what had been the bedroom of my friend’s young adult son when a herd of dust bunnies, no doubt decades old, amassed at my feet. I considered calling out in taunting fashion to see if I should save any as milestones of her child’s life, but then reconsidered on the grounds that it was no time to complain to my friend about her shoddy housekeeping.
My decision proved both merciful and wise when a dust bunny the size of a Texas jackrabbit appeared. It looked as old and hideous as the Dred Scott Decision. What I did next was what any modern progressive Southerner would’ve done—I swept the thing into a garbage bag then tossed it, along with that damned cookbook and old times best forgotten.