Grandma Shirley’s Sunday Sit-Down

By Sierra and Terrence Laster

On most Saturday nights my grandmother cooks Sunday dinner.  She usually has a lot of pots cooking on the stove and a pan in the oven so everything is ready to be eaten after everyone comes home from church.

Grandma Shirley, who we call Ma’Ma, is a minister at First Pilgrim Baptist Church. Ma’Ma is a small woman with this commanding presence. Ma’Ma is strong–she’s been through a lot and taken care of the whole family, but she runs a tight ship when she fixes the food. When she serves the food she’s dressed in church clothes and when we come to the table we have to have our hands washed and must pray before we eat.

Ma’Ma has been a minister for years. She cooks every meal the night before because we have a very big family. On Sundays she goes to the church she’s been going since she was a young woman and cooks there, too. Ma’Ma is short, but that has nothing to do with her personality. Ma’Ma is honest, loving and  hardworking. She learned everything she knows from her mom, Momma Dear, who is my great grandmother.

The first thing I notice at the table is the smell; it always smells like chopped onions, freshly made gravy, and hard work.

When I walk into the kitchen on Sunday for that amazing meal, I can see that my grandmother looks tired. It just makes me feel happy because I know my grandmother had such a hard time making it the day before.

The best dish Ma’Ma makes is red beans, they have a home-cooked taste. You can just tell she makes them from scratch. My cousin Kayla, who doesn’t eat red beans, will eat Ma’Ma’s red beans.

Ma’Ma prays that everybody receives blessings and sometimes she says specific names. her menu changes with the seasons, like during the holidays in the fall and winter she cooks gumbo and dressing and in the spring and summer she cooks potato salad and red beans.

See, with our grandmother, cooking is the way to pull your family together and get reacquainted with one another once more after lost time.

Her favorite dish to make is her gumbo. Momma Dear started teaching my great grandmother how to make gumbo when she was 8 years old, and once Momma Dear passed, Ma’Ma made her gumbo a family tradition. My family loves her cooking, but me, personally, though I love it to– I feel happy just seeing that smile on her face in the kitchen.

We don’t know what the future holds for our grandmother, but we always will love her. I just want people to know about her cooking, she does so many amazing things for people. This story is basically a tribute to her cooking because once she’s gone we’ll never taste food the same again.

Sierra and Terrence Laster are students at the Youth Empowerment Project.