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[Homeword] Fresh Jelly Cake is a Good Reason for Company

Mawmaw always kept the Sabbath. Going to church and having an attitude of worship on Sundays was passed from generation to generation in her family. It was a priority. The chores for that day were put on hold or were given minimal attention.

Sunday’s lunch simmered on the stove each Saturday. Mawmaw planned ahead purchasing needed groceries at the A&P store off Main Street. The roast cooked slowly in a black skillet for hours while she snapped fresh green beans and made her creamy potato salad. She placed canned beets and sliced onion in foil-covered dishes and set them in the refrigerator. All that was left to do Sunday after church was warming a few things and making fresh biscuits.

Mawmaw baked Sunday’s dessert earlier in the week. She believed her cakes tasted even better if they “rested” for a time. My grandfather’s favorite sweet was her jelly cake. My grandmother coated her thin layered, vanilla flavored cake with a pint of that year’s mayhaw jelly. Mayhaws are native to the south, especially Louisiana and east Texas. They grow in the moist soil in river and creek bottoms and near bayous. The fruit ripens in the spring and is quickly made into sweet, rosy-pink jelly to be savored all year.

At my grandparents’ house, we did not eat dessert right after Sunday lunch. First the dishes were rinsed and stacked. The leftovers were covered and left on the stove or placed back into the refrigerator.

The ritual taking of a Sunday afternoon nap came next. When I was a boy visiting my grandparents in the summer, everyone found a “resting place” after the noon meal– alongside my grandfather in his big four-poster bed, in the guest room, or with a favorite pillow on the sofa in the living room. Mawmaw issued a final “hush” and the house grew silent except for the window air conditioner’s hum.

Almost to the minute, an hour later, Mawmaw rose, freshened up and tucked any loose hairs of her tightly circled bun atop her head. She whispered for Pawpaw to rise and reminded him that company would begin arriving soon.

Sunday afternoons at my grandparents’ house, after naps, company came to visit – new neighbors, old friends from nearby communities, and family members stopped by for freshly brewed coffee, sweet tea and dessert.

Small dessert dishes rimmed with dainty painted flowers sat out on the counter. The slightly tarnished everyday silver stood at attention beside a stack of napkins nearby. Purple melamine coffee cups rested at the stove near the small container of fresh milk and the sugar bowl. All was ready.

Warm greetings followed the first knock as Mawmaw welcomed folks into the living room. Chatter and discussions