It’s beginning to smell, taste a lot like Christmas

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Even after their children and grandchildren are grown and on their own, most mothers and grandmothers know what those children and grandchildren want to eat when they come to visit during the holidays.

Last week, my mother called, asking me what I would like to eat during my Christmas visit (which begins Thursday and ends Monday). My list had been ready for about a week or so. Careful thought had gone into developing that list.

The following items were on that list:

  • Sausage balls. They are a must for munching on while watching football bowl games, the 24-hour marathon of airings of “A Christmas Story” and checking the Weather Channel to see, if by some minute chance, a white Christmas is in store for eastern North Carolina.
  • Cracklin’ bread. If I have to explain cracklin’ bread to you, then you ain’t from around here. Cracklin’ bread, for the most part, is cornbread that is infused with pieces of what most people would call pork rind before said pork skin is deep fried and puffs up into pork rinds.
  • Chili. You’ll probably say your mama makes the best chili in the world. ’Taint so. Your mama makes the second-best chili in the world. My mama makes the best chili in the world; just ask the rest of her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.

When the family lived on Camp Pendleton between Los Angeles and San Diego in the early 1960s, we visited Tijuana, Mexico, a couple of times. I am convinced my mother bought a secret chili recipe during one of those excursions. I think I tried to persuade her to trade Donna, my baby sister at the time, for recipes for frijoles charros and elote.

  • Spaghetti. OK, it’s more about the sauce than the pasta. Again, you’ll say your mama makes the best spaghetti sauce in the world. Again, ’taint so. I would invite you over to mama’s house one night between Thursday and Monday to sample mama’s spaghetti sauce, but that would result in less spaghetti sauce for my pasta.

There will be no leftover spaghetti sauce. What’s left on my plate or in the pot will be sopped up with garlic bread.

  • Chicken and pastry. Many chickens have willfully and gladly jumped in the pot with the pastry and seasonings when my mother makes chicken and pastry. They consider it a privilege to commit “poultry-cide” so those of us at mama’s table are able to get our bellies full of liquid warmth that all but requires those who partake of it to take a nap.

The one common ingredient (this is a clever use of words, just in case you don’t recognize it as such) among these foods is that their aromas will tempt you before their tastes satisfy you. Mama’s house will be filled with aromas as these dishes bake, bubble or simmer. That’s half of the fun of waiting for these dishes to make their way to the table.

Mama had anticipated my list. What did you expect? That’s what mothers do. I doubt Santa Claus could have done a better job of figuring out what I desired for the upcoming holiday feasts.

Now, if Lisa, one of my nieces, comes through with a carrot cake, I’ll be set for this weekend.

Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. If Santa thinks he’s going to get his hands on some of those sausage balls, he better think again. He can have all the cookies he wants, but no sausage balls.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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