Pastor Bob sat on the porch with Frannie Sue as she shelled peas. He enjoyed visiting members of his congregation on Sunday afternoons. He asked about Momma. Frannie Sue told him Momma was fine and taking her Sunday afternoon nap. That might be true, but there was no way Frannie Sue was going to invite Momma outside and watch her fuss over the Pastor. They talked for a while about the weather and various church programs. Pastor Bob said again how much he looked forward to having Crowder peas and okra for supper with Frannie Sue and Momma after church. It had been many years since he had Crowder peas. His own dear Momma died when he was twenty and he had fond memories of her southern cooking. He drove off about a half-hour later. Momma watched from the window the whole time, increasingly upset because Frannie Sue looked so bedraggled sitting there on the porch shelling peas. Something told Momma to hold back her presence, and she never came out onto the porch while Pastor Bob was visiting.

Frannie Sue finished shelling the peas. She threw the pods into the compost pile out back, and then came inside to wash the peas and put them into a large pot of water. She washed the okra and sliced it up into the pot, along with onions. She decided she would serve the luscious tomatoes on the side, in thick slices and covered with mayonnaise. She got everything ready, including the cornbread, and set it aside to start cooking later.

Momma came into the kitchen wanting to know why pots and pans were clanging. Frannie Sue told Momma that Pastor Bob was coming over after church for a dishful of Crowder peas and okra.

Momma was aghast. “You can’t serve him Crowder peas and okra, girl,” she shouted. “I have a beautiful roast beef that we can put into the oven. You must serve a meal befitting a clergyman. We’ll have baked Idaho potatoes au gratin, green beans almandine, and lemon meringue pie for dessert. And I will have to start cleaning up this place and help you pick out something suitable to wear for a Sunday night supper.” Momma was getting very excited at the thought of the new Pastor coming for supper.

“Momma, the house is spotless. It’s always spotless. And we will have my Crowder peas and okra for supper. I’m planning to serve watermelon for dessert,” Frannie Sue shot back. “I think Pastor Bob will enjoy a real down-home southern meal, not one of those extra-fancy recipes from your Southern Living magazine. He comes from plain, simple folk, Momma. He’s really looking forward to Crowder peas and okra. And I will wear my new jeans and denim shirt, nothing fancy. If it makes you happy, I’ll wear Grandma Ethel’s pearl necklace.” Momma fidgeted and felt hopelessly uncomfortable. It was sacrilegious to think of her Momma’s pearls being worn with a denim outfit. She also had a hard time imagining the dignified young pastor eating watermelon at the table. What would he do with the seeds? She would have to provide a small side dish where he could discreetly place the watermelon seeds. Oh, this was all wrong! Frannie Sue didn’t know anything about proper Southern manners and dignity.

“We’ll use the good china and silverware, and the lace tablecloth Aunt Betty left us,” Momma persisted. She was determined to show this Pastor that her family came from excellent Southern stock.

“No, we’ll eat outside on the back porch,” Frannie Sue continued. “We’ll use the everyday dishes. They’re practically new and don’t have any chips or cracks. And we’ll use those pretty glasses I got at Wal-Mart’s with the shiny blue dots painted on. Now stop fussing, Momma, and relax. I know what I’m doing. I’m going to take a short nap, and then I’ll start cooking. The peas can finish off nicely in a slow oven while we are at church.” Momma stayed silent, hoping and praying that Frannie Sue would wake up from her nap with have more sensible ideas.

While Frannie Sue rested in her room, reading the latest issue of Country Living magazine, Momma was busy making some changes around the house. She moved Frannie Sue’s collection of “dollar store” ceramics toward the back of the shelves in the living room. She placed her own precious collection of Blue Willow porcelain toward the front. She replaced the cheap candlesticks on the mantle with the silverplated ones she received on her 25th wedding anniversary. The Country Living magazines on the coffee table were placed at the bottom of a pile of Sunday School books and two Bibles. Momma was offended by the commonplace front pages of Country Living magazine. September’s issue was all orange and black, with straw centerpieces, pumpkins and sunflowers prominently displayed. How common! How unrefined! She removed the tattered patchwork quilt that Frannie Sue kept draped over the rocking chair and replaced it with the lovely sage green velvet and satin afghan she purchased from Belk’s. Momma hoped that Frannie Sue wouldn’t notice the small but strategic changes she had made.

Frannie Sue finished her nap by 4:00 and immediately started working on the Crowder peas and okra. Everything was simmering nicely, so she went outside to clear off the table on the back porch and set everything in place. She never noticed the changes Momma had made. She was dressed and ready for evening services by 5:30. Looking in the mirror, she thought she appeared very charming in her jeans, sandals and denim shirt. Grandma Ethel’s pearls added just the right touch. After placing the Crowder peas and okra in the oven to keep warm, she and Momma left for church.

 

By Frannie (Frannie516@comcast.net)


 


 

 

 

 




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