Rites of passages are the unique milestones that signal our transition from childhood into adulthood. Rites of passage can range from getting a driver license and registering to vote to graduating from high school.
In my opinion, one of the major rites of passage for a Black woman is being allowed to help prepare food for the holidays. If you are unstable, trifling or dirty, 9 times out of 10 you will never be allowed to “help” during the holidays or you may find that you are the one responsible for bringing the napkins every year.
For years my grandmother, aunt and mother handled the holiday meals. In high school my sister and I were in charge of the polishing of the silver and setting the table with its proper formal place settings.
I went to college and I was still only in charge of the cranberry sauce, which was fine because making the main dishes looked like too much work. I finished undergrad and was even doing some catering, as I really am a great cook, and I was STILL not called upon to help make the holiday meal although I was made CEO of “foil and freeze” duties after dinner.
Then about ten years ago I was summoned into the kitchen for the nasty task of cleaning the turkey. It is nasty because there are parts, horrible, bloody parts of a turkey that must be removed prior to cooking. So there I stood at the sink with my hand up the unholy end of the turkey – just glad that I was invited!
I listened to my mother guide me through what I should be feeling and removing. I had cleaned chickens before, but this “fresh” turkey, which could have fed the Packers’ starting line up, was more than a notion. It came straight from my grandmother’s friends’ farm which simply means it wasn’t as “prepared” as a store bought turkey.
I reached in and with my face tuned up like I had been eating lemons for hours, I began to pull out the guts, giblets and lizards or whatever they are called, and headed toward the garbage can.
My mother and grandmother were horrified that I would throw away what looked like it most certainly HAD to be trash! One of them told me, “That’s not trash, that’s where the flavor is.”
Now for those of you who have ever had the misfortune of upsetting an elderly Black woman while she is cooking you already know how the next hour went. I was walked though the middle passage, emancipation, the Great Depression, Jim crow, segregation and back to this present moment when we (meaning I) as a generation were so used to eating “high on the hog” (code for “spoiled”) that we didn’t even know how to use what the “other folks” thought was trash. Clearly I had shamed my race and taken us back about 10 years of hard fought progress.
Suffice it to say, I never made that mistake again. Indeed, between gravy and other sauces, they managed to take the lowly things that came out of that bird and make them fit for a king.
This week, when you look over your life and try to determine what is trash and what is treasure, remember that God is more than able to take what looks horrible and disgusting and smelly and mold it into something wonderful.
Do not get discouraged or discontent as you review 2010 and fail to see that God can use the roughest part of 2010 to make the best gravy for 2011. Be thankful and prepared for great things because your storms are not trash, it’s where the flavor is.
August 19, 2012 //
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