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I’ve always been a picky eater. I’m sure I drove my poor mother crazy because I just didn’t eat a lot of things when I was a kid. Even now as an adult, I’m pretty plain Jane on stuff. For example – when I go to my aunt and uncle’s house for a meal, it still blows their mind that I’ll eat what they’ve cooked and they don’t have to cook spaghetti noodles with butter and Parmesan cheese (which, for the record, is a delicacy and I won’t hear otherwise). My pallet has matured, but my early years I was a headache when it came to food.

Except Ms. Judy’s chicken and rice

I could have lived on that stuff. I think for a time I did.

When I moved in with her at 16, it took a little bit of time to get used to each other. We had done this before, but this time it was more permanent. I inherited my grandmother’s stubbornness, and we would butt heads constantly. Eventually, we learned how to communicate with one another, but the first few months were tough. But the one thing we agreed on was her chicken and rice. She liked cooking it cause it was easy to make, and I could eat it every day.

When I moved out, the last meal she cooked for me was chicken and rice. When I would come home for visits, her chicken and rice was on the stove waiting for me. The first time I came home from Chattanooga, I came home and ate five full plates of her chicken and rice, to my grandma’s astonishment. “Honey – have you eaten lately?” She asked, mouth agape as her seemingly famished grandson devoured plate after plate of her chicken and rice. I assured her I had, but that day I was a bottomless pit.

I’ve tried my entire adult life to replicate her chicken and rice, and have failed every time. I had girlfriends try as well and they always came up short. I know what she did to make it, but when I try it’s never the same. I know it’s cliché to say it was made with love, but I truly think hers was.

My grandmother’s chicken and rice was a friendly reminder that I had a home; that I was home. Even as her dementia started to worsen, she somehow could make that chicken and rice.

And then one day, she couldn’t.

I don’t remember the exact date that I ate her famous meal the last time, but I wish I did. I wish I had taken my time enjoying not only the meal, but the conversation that went with it. I wish I had that moment in time back. I wish more than anything that I could sit with her and enjoy a good meal, a hearty conversation, and make my grandmother laugh one more time.

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