I’ve always thought that my mother was a cross between Martha Stewart and Madea. Maybe Don Corleone in a caftan would be an adequate description. She has a desire to have things be nice and really could have been a fantastic wedding coordinator or party planner. She is also fiercely protective of her family, and will stop at nothing to intercept a perceived threat. I don’t really know if going to to the door with a shotgun is because we lived in rural Arkansas, or that she was willing to shoot someone for us. Either way, everyone survived our childhood and nobody went to prison. I count that as successful in our family.
Mother’s mother was a wonderful cook. Her mother was as well. All of them had the touch of being able to cook without a recipe. I always heard stories of how my great-grandmother could feed her family of nine children with nothing much more than what she gathered in the yard or garden. Although painfully poor, my mother relished her time with them.
Born in 1941 to a young mother and father who would soon become embroiled in the great battle that was World War II, Linda Waddell came into the world learning how to deal with adversity. Over the next 4 years of her life, she would be raised solo by her mother while her father was on the other side of the world, cleaning up the messes that were made after the bombings of Nagasaki, Japan.
After her father George returned from the war, he and his wife Louise added 3 more siblings to their family. Much of Linda’s early years were spent in a multi-generational household with both her parents and paternal grandparents. This afforded Linda the opportunity to learn some of her grandmother Emma’s wonderful cooking skills. Her grandfather George Sr. owned a butcher shop, and there she was able to learn all about the preparation of various animals. She often speaks of her paternal grandparents with the highest regard, and always remembers the way in which Emma kept a perfect household and George Sr. was known as a pillar of the local community.
But never does she speak with more fondness than when she talks about her maternal grandparents, Pete and Melindy Bowman. While she lived with her father’s parents and felt a lot of love and stability from their household, never was she happier than when she spent time in the Bowman’s tiny house on the Little River. The Bowman’s had 9 children, some of which were younger than Linda, which gave her the interesting experience of growing up with her aunts and some of her cousins like they were sisters. Due to the large number of children and Pete’s difficulty with holding a stable job, the Bowman’s often lived in relative poverty and had to learn to make do with whatever they had for food, clothing, and general necessities.
One thing that Linda has said on more than one occasion is that she can remember when she first equated food with love. That would be when she was with her beloved Mama Bowman, in the kitchen, watching her make a big pan of biscuits or cornbread. These were things that were cheap and relatively easy to make, and also easy to make in bulk, but it was one of the few ways that Melindy had of expressing her love and care for her ever-growing family. In that kitchen surrounded by scores of relatives and the smell of simple but delicious food, Linda learned the value of how a good meal could soothe your mind as well as your stomach. Linda also credits this time she spent at Mama Bowman’s with making her a “little fat girl,” but she is clearly more enamored with her memories of the food and love than she ever was concerned with her childhood figure.
As Linda grew into adulthood, she herself began to practice what she had been taught about love and nurturing when she started her own family with Dean Langdon. Married in 1962, Dean and Linda lived alone for several years before they added Dena in 1965, Terry in 1967, Scott in 1969, which she claims are the “most painful and horrific experiences” of her life, quickly followed by, “but I wouldn’t go back and change them for anything!” She then added what she refers to as a surprise in 1978 with Joy. She is a firm believer in not having children past 35, though she was 2 weeks away from 37 at the time she delivered Joy. (She again claims she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but you should still get all your childbirths out of the way before 35.) While working as a full time mom, and part time farmer with her husband, Linda became very well known in the community for her ability to organize events at school, church, and in the local Democratic party. (She was a big campaigner for Clinton in his early years but every since that unfortunate oval office incident she has since detached herself from Democratic campaigns)
During the late 1980’s Linda experienced a tumor on her thyroid gland which was treated with radiation. While this treated the tumor, it in effect made her sicker by causing her to develop lupus. After years of battling with countless doctors before getting a diagnosis, Linda joined the thousands of people who often suffer with this disease and are thought to have symptoms that are all in their head, or just symptoms of depression. She was given an unreal number of crazy remedies for this unknown disease, the least helpful of all being one that involved her drinking a six pack of beer daily while consuming a large dose of fish oil. According to her all it did was give her a hangover and make her burp a godawful fish taste but she persevered in finding help. After finally getting a real diagnosis in the mid 1990’s, Linda was able to get her symptoms under control enough to start to function at a somewhat more normal capacity again. By the time this had taken place, Linda had lost her beloved grandparents and her mother Louise, and her brother Paul. On the positive side, she had added grandchildren to her family, and now felt more like herself. Her signature creation in the kitchen is a red velvet cake. Never have I had anything by that name that compares. It is truly a masterpiece when completed. Thus, the name for this site and upcoming book.
Through all of these trials and hard times, Linda continued to care for her family and make sure that the always felt loved and supported by her. Now at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, she is still mothering and grandmothering her family with love and good food. In February of 2009 she also became a great-grandmother for the first time. She is already introducing baby Weston to good food by sneaking him things like cheesecake, because she claims that baby food he is being subjected to is sub-par. She has seen her children and grandchildren through college, marriage, divorce, love, heartbreak, and every other major life event they have been through. Her family loves and adores her dearly, and are thrilled to currently be working on a book that shares her life recipes with the rest of the world. Here is a little taste of one many recipes she has to share with the world.
Old Time Buttermilk Pie
- 1 c. sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 c. buttermilk
- 2T. butter
- 1/2 lemon, squeezed
- 3 egg whites for topping
Mix and pour into an unbaked pie shell all ingredients except egg whites. Bake until done @ 350° (when the center is set, or you can stick a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean.) This should be around 45 minutes. Remove and put the beaten egg whites on top. Return to oven and bake until brown.
I remember the first time I heard of this pie. My thought was, “Nasty!” Then I tried it and it isn’t bad at all. Nothing like the smell or taste of buttermilk at all in the pie. The ready made pie crust is a shortcut from the original recipe.