Dan and I moved to Kirkwood about six weeks ago. Our house came with two stray cats, tomato plants and morning glories, and across-the-street neighbors who run a car repair shop from their house. Our street boasts a plaque declaring “The Battle of Atlanta began here,” near which throngs of high school students doing their best Kanye West and Rhianna impressions catch the bus to and from school each morning. Kirkwood is a perfect example of the tensions and juxtapositions of living in Atlanta: on one corner is a bright, shiny new store selling $30 plastic mugs, cutesy yard art, and sandwiches made fresh with name-brand meats and cheese; opposite is a local minute-mart in an old brick building, the original fifties-style sign faded but holding above the barred windows, advertising lotto tickets, money orders, candy bars, and sodas.
I love it here.
We’ve been exploring on walks in the newly crisp fall air. Yesterday we checked out Spades Kountry Kookin’ in the “downtown” area of Kirkwood and decided to stop for lunch. Spades is open for three meals a day, seven days a week and serves Southern food cafeteria-style. I love sharing this kind of food with my Israeli-Californian-Buffalonian partner. He loves it, too. I had the veggie plate:
It was delicious – I was surprised at how good it was. There are a lot of restaurants calling themselves “country” or “Southern” out there, serving a lot of bad food: oversalted, undersalted, drowning in butter (or – eegads! – margarine), overcooked, made from unappealing processed ingredients. But Spades’ food is quite to the contrary – fresh, well-seasoned, made with high-quality ingredients and not drowned in butter, thus not too heavy. It reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking – except, as I told Dan, “Mimi never made macaroni and cheese.” Famous last words.
Thinking of Mimi’s cooking, I ticked through the recipes I wanted to try to recreate: Devil’s food cake with sea-foam frosting, ice box cookies, cornbread sticks… Mimi is still with us, but the high heyday of her cooking is probably done. Everything she makes is still wonderful – it’s just simpler and she often has help. I wondered if other family members would remember dishes I had forgotten that they couldn’t wait to taste again. Lo and behold, from my mom: macaroni and cheese. Apparently Mimi did make it once upon a time and, no surprise, it was so good that its memory has survived these many decades.
This brings us to The Mimi Project. Here on the blog, Rach and I will attempt to recreate the wonderful recipes that, to my mind, are our most valuable family heirlooms. This will be a recurring series and we’ll let you know when that’s what we’re up to (not that you’d have much trouble figuring it out). The recipe requests we collected ended up being not just for Mimi’s cooking, but also recipes of Aunt NoNo, Uncle Doe, and our beloved Granddaddy, all of whom are no longer with us.
We have our work cut out for us:
- Mimi’s Birthday Cake
- Mimi’s Ice-box Cookies
- NoNo’s Divinity
- Mimi’s Cornbread Sticks
- Mimi’s Chicken and Dumplings
- Mimi’s Cornbread Stuffing with Giblet Gravy
- Mimi’s Chicken Salad
- Mimi’s Black Bean Soup
- Mimi’s Vegetable Soup
- Mimi’s Crab Dip
- Granddaddy’s Pepper Vinegar
- Mimi’s Cake with Lemon Cheese (Nick’s birthday cake)
- Mimi’s Macaroni and Cheese
- Mimi’s Home-Grown-and-Canned Green Bean Salad with Purple Onion and Italian Dressing
- Granddaddy’s Cheese Crackers
- Granddaddy’s Pecans
- Granddaddy’s Chicken with Lemon, Butter and Worcestershire
- Mimi’s Pimiento Cheese
- NoNo’s Blackberry (or Quince or Grape) Jelly
- Doe’s Fried Eggplant
- Doe’s (and Grandmother Wheeler’s) Thin Cornbread
Here’s Mimi on the porch at a recent family reunion with Theresa and Maggie:
And here’s to The Mimi Project.