Stick to the Basics


“Stick to the basics, Mom. Just stick to the basics.”

Those are the wise words spoken by my son a few years ago when I had gone a little overboard experimenting with soup recipes for a Christmas meal. Not content with chicken noodle and beef vegetable, I added navy bean soup AND potato soup. Before I finally got the four soups and several bread/meats/spreads on the table, I was beside myself with tense aggravation. I could hardly enjoy the laughter and good will around me.

I vowed never to be so foolish again.

I kept that promise until yesterday when my husband’s mother, children, in-laws, and grandchildren came over for the annual Christmas celebration. We’ve done this event often enough to be able to predict everyone’s contribution, so I decided to mix it up a bit. I had attended a “beachie Christmas” party last week and was longing to duplicate the yummy shrimp and grits that Carol and Randy served.

How hard could it be, right? Carol directed me to Pat Conroy’s shrimp and grits recipe, and while I saw dozens of recipes online, Conroy’s wasn’t among them.

I went into Books A Million in search of his cookbook, but the Sandhills BAM had sold their last copy that morning. Undeterred, I browsed through some cookbooks until I found one with an easy recipe for Shrimp and Grits. So far, so good.

About 4:30 yesterday afternoon, things began to go downhill when I tried to sauté garlic and green onions in one skillet and fry bacon in another. Don’t ask. I think I misread something. Let’s just cut through all of the drama and say that I botched the dish. The grits were lumpy, and somehow I’d missed the directions about the shrimp and sauce being in one pot and the grits in another. Everything ended up together in one giant pot.

When he heard of the near fiasco, Kacey the chef said, “I don’t understand. Wasn’t there a recipe?”

“Yes, and I did a pretty good job of following the first four steps.”

Kacey read the recipe and good-naturedly reminded me that I needed to follow the directions in order. “No skipping around or leaving out,” he said.

Fortunately for me, Kelly and Angie, my step daughters-in-law are angels. Without laughing or teasing, they simply began making a roux to go on top of the shrimp and grits. Before they did, however, Kelly had to make a Food Lion run to get the necessary ingredients. Again, no teasing or complaining.

An hour later, we were all sampling the shrimp and grits, broiled tomatoes, buttered bread, and a cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. Dessert was especially good, Jenny’s brownies and Angie’s chocolate trifle. The main dish was “okay,” just okay. It’s not one I plan to try again any time soon.

As the evening went on, I remembered that it’s being together that’s important. Little Charlie fell and hurt his nose, the blood splotching his shirt and Kelly’s. Kacey and Big Charlie animatedly discussed religion, Otis gave a nice talk about missing family members, and the kids all liked their gifts. The little girls modeled their scarves before leaving, and Little Charlie took several “interesting” pictures with his new camera. Cooper walked around checking things out, and sweet baby Daniel slept through much of the evening.

I think a good time was had by all. Honestly, I’m a little distressed about that gummy concoction in my fridge. Just thinking about it makes me more determined not to go overboard later this week when my children cruise into town. I’m sticking to the basics.


Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

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