Holiday Memories


When the holidays come round, my family and I turn to Truman Capote’s memories of childhood in The Thanksgiving Visitor and A Christmas Memory. The stories’ disarming simplicity and wistfulness capture a way of life, and people, long gone yet vividly alive through memory.

I have always loved Capote’s descriptions of food in these stories. With Thanksgiving upon us, I took a preview peek at Capote’s description (in The Thanksgiving Visitor) of a typical Alabama breakfast in his 1930s household:

Breakfast was our principal meal; midday dinner, except on Sundays, and supper were casual menus, often composed of leftovers from the morning. These breakfasts, served promptly at 5:30 A.M., were regular stomach swellers. To the present day I retain a nostalgic hunger for those cockcrow repasts of ham and fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried catfish, fried squirrel (in season), fried eggs, hominy grits with gravy, black-eyed peas, collards with collard liquor and cornbread to mush it in, biscuits, pound cake, pancakes and molasses, honey in the comb, homemade jams and jellies, sweet milk, buttermilk, coffee chicory-flavored and hot as Hades.

[The Thanksgiving Visitor. New York: Random House, 1967.]

I happened to discover a few years ago, while reading a farewell piece to renowned Southern chef Edna Lewis in the Dining section of the  New York Times, that after Capote moved to New York he became a habitue of Cafe Nicholson, where Lewis cooked and which she co-owned with Johnny Nicholson on the Upper East Side of the city. Originally from Virginia, Lewis was able to fill Capote’s “nostalgic hunger” for Southern cooking, especially with her famous buttermilk biscuits. Give her recipe a try. I’ve made it for years (the recipe matches that of my maternal great grandmother, who was a Southerner), and I can vouch that it’s easy and quick. (The biscuits are the supreme comfort food and are just as good, maybe better?, the next day toasted in the oven and slathered with butter and jam.)

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving brings at least one really good stomach sweller your way! And don’t forget to check in next week for more from TFCB.

[cover image above:Wikipedia]