A portion of my childhood was spent in South Central Los Angeles. I was too young to know that it was rough around the edges.
Because I was the only girl in my family, I tucked myself under my mother’s hip. Where she went, I went. On this particular morning, she invited me along to walk to the donut store several blocks away.
Moments after we arrived, the other customers in the donut store began to murmur, gesturing to a woman outside. I did not know what was going on. All of a sudden this woman–she had to be six-feet tall, 220+ pounds–busted through the door, eyes full of havoc, hair erect. She snatched her robe closed and stomped her way to the counter bypassing everyone in line.
Nine-year-old me had the misfortune of being at the counter placing my order. Her eyes… and stomps… and energy… petrified me, and I wanted to run. When she made it to the counter, she slammed her fist down on the glass surface and hollered, “Somebody bettah take my fuckin’ order!!!!”
I jumped back.
My mother, without blinking, and at five-feet, two-inches tall on a goooood day, spoke firmly and clearly to me (and to this woman). “Don’t you move. She is not going to do anything to you. I. Swear. To. God.”
Now, see, when your mother says I swear to God…shit’s about to get real. And although I wanted to move…seriously, I wanted to run, I was more afraid of my mother’s tone than this gargantuan needing a morning sweet fix. So I stood and waited for my order to be completed. And so did everyone else in that store.
That day, my mother was 10-feet tall. When we left the donut shop, she glared at that woman. Glared! Like…I wish you woooould.
My little momma.
My mother had the toughest job of nurturing and tempering my own fire…and I truly get it from my momma. She knew I would need fire, because she knew women–especially black women–are sometimes not taken care of by the world.
She supported and looked out for other women, whether they were related by blood or not because that’s how she was raised. She was raised right. And that is how she raised me. She never understood women you celebrated not liking nor trusting …women. That statement did not make any sense whatsoever to her. How could a woman not like nor trust where she herself was created?
She told me I was pretty and that my complexion was perfect (I grew up when light skinned girls were the only truth, and I do not have light skin). She told me that I was smart and could learn anything. She had real talks with me about boys and pregnancy and heartaches…before I even wanted to talk about those things!
Le sigh, y’all.
She taught me how to protect and heal through energy. She taught me how to interpret my dreams. She taught me how to pray to God.
And one of the most brilliant things she ever ever ever taught me was…make sure I make my own money because I never want to be dependent on anybody… because people and things change.
When she passed, my fire drowned. I was weak. Literally…broken. And it’s taken to this year for me to get my fire back.
When I saw my brothers yesterday, I asked what they were going to be doing today (Mother’s Day is still rough…silently rough). They said nothing. I invited them over to my house for a meal. I did not tell them what I’d be making because this is probably our favorite dish that momma made.
Momma learned to make this simple dish at a restaurant where she worked. It wasn’t on the menu…it was for staff meal. Of course she used real meat and cheese, and I don’t. But it’s about the energy. Even plant based, this dish makes me and my brothers recall all the good of back then.
All the good and comfort that still is, really…because through food and memory and energy, my momma remains.
My Momma’s Potato Casserole
You will need a cast iron skillet–atleast 14-16 inches in diameter
- 7 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges, and placed in water
- 2 3/4 cups diced yellow onions
- 1/4 cup light olive oil
- one-14oz package of Gimme Lean “ground beef”
- 3 cups shredded cheese of choice (my momma used mild cheddar; I like Follow Your Heart vegan cheese mixed with Miyoko’s Aged English Sharp Farmhouse)
- 1 TBSP + 1 tsp seasoning salt (see recipe below)
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBSP sea salt
- 1 TBSP celery salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
Directions: Blend all the seasoning together and store in an airtight container…or a ziploc bag. Keep the extra you don’t use for this recipe for anything you like.
Directions for the Casserole
- Place your cast iron skillet over high heat and add your 1/4 cup of oil. Heat for 5 minutes.
- Add your onions and saute for 5 minutes or just until they begin to get some color on their edges.
- Add your potato wedges (make sure they have been patted dry with a towel before adding to the skillet), and saute for 8-10 minutes, stirring on an off for the entire time.
- Add your 1 TBSP + 1 tsp seasoning salt and 1 tsp pepper and stir.
- Dot small pieces (crumbles) of Gimme Lean all over the potatoes, and stir, allowing to cook for 5 minutes
- Add 1/2 cup of water to your potato mixture and turn the heat down to low-medium. Cover with foil or a lid to your pan. Keep covered for 10 unbothered minutes.
- Once the ten minutes have passed (yay!) uncover and stir, making sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the pan because the caramelized onions and potato starch is the. best. part. of. this. whole. dish…in my humble opinion.
- Add your shredded cheese and cover again, turning the heat off until the cheese has melted.
- Eat it fast. No need for parsley or anything…it doesn’t need a thing.