Seabell Thomas has seen thousands of raggedy, hungry LSU students stagger through her doors. And she has never turned them away just because they couldn’t afford a good meal. For decades, Momma has had neither mission statement nor business plan. She has a mandate from God. “You see over there?” she says, pointing across Chimes Street with a dangerous-looking spoon that just stirred sliced bell peppers into bubbling brown gravy. In her crosshairs is a scraggly, bearded, sandal-clad LSU student on his way to some class on Greek Mythological Dysfunction in Modern Times. “There are 25-thousand of them babies, and their momma ain’t here,” she says. “God told me years ago, that if they came to the Silver Moon, they should leave here after having had one good meal.” “I will do that for their mommas, and their mommas would do that for me.”
Years ago, I watched a now well-heeled woman return to ‘Momma’s Silver Moon Café’ and tearfully thank Seabell for feeding her years ago when she couldn’t feed herself.
These stories are lovingly woven in invisible ink across the pages of this book. The love poured into this work has been pressed hug-by-hug into the thousands who call her ‘Momma,” and yearn for her brand of home cooking.
To call these gems, ‘soul food’ would be a great disservice. Ox-tail soup, turkey necks and liver–the staples of soul food, are absent here. This is down-home, north Mississippi cooking. This is hearty stuff—Momma says it’s what field hands in Mississippi would eat. The idea is to sustain the body for a day’s work while feeding the soul for a lifetime. These recipes were sharpened on a crowded gas stove using pots with dented, blackened bottoms. Those same pots are used in her kitchen today where Momma holds court, always stirring, always adding spice, chatting up “her babies” from the doorway. Hand always on hip, always teaching, always loving.
When you serve these recipes, plan on a party in your mouth—Momma swears that her secrets reside in her spices. Like good Cajun food, it’s OK to be spicy as long as one does not commit the cardinal sin of being hot! The idea is to excite, not incinerate. The gumbo recipe alone should be locked away alongside the Colonel’s eleven herbs and spices.’
And now Momma presents you with her life’s journey—a story measured in delicious mileposts: red beans, white beans, and black eyed peas. Celebrities and ne’er do wells. All combine their journeys with hers. Over half a century of trial and error has produced these words and pictures—now bundled neatly for your enjoyment.
This work has been a long time coming, so get several copies for your progeny, as you may not see it’s like grace our world again.
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“The Gallumphing Gourmet”