The recipe called for a lot of “1’s”: 1 lb. beans, 1 lg onion, 1 bell pepper, and so forth. My trusting mother left me in the kitchen with her instructions, to make my first pot of red beans all alone. She reappeared about an hour later, apparently pleased that in the process of “frying down” the meat, I’d managed to avoid completely smoking out the kitchen. She looked in the, pot, stirred it up tasted a bit of the liquid and instructed me to chop another, smaller onion and she added a little more garlic. Responding to my quizzical expression, she said, “Baking is a science. Cooking is an art. In art, there’s always room for a little lagniappe.” My first pot of beans was a huge success, and I actually became the cook of the family.
My mother and her two good friends, Virgie and Shirley adopted an unspoken child care circle, where one of them always managed to be stay at home moms, caring for the broods of others. Shirley was the one most often in the position of caregiver, charged with no less than seven children at a time. Food was carefully watched over, as it always had to be made to stretched to accommodate the masses. One glass of Kool Aid with lunch, another with dinner if we were still there that late; everything else was water. One day I was having a particularly off day, and Aunt Shirley called me back into the kitchen after everyone else had been sent outside to play. She extended an extra glass of Kool Aid to me, saying, “Child, there’s a time for rules, and there’s a time for lagniappe, so drink this and don’t tell anybody.”
Such were the lessons of my upbringing. A lot of life is following your routine, but when a little extra is needed, you shouldn’t balk at it. Embrace it as normal. There’s no such thing as not having time for another cup of coffee, or an extra moment for a hug. If you don’t have the time to hear someone’s answer when you ask, “Girl, how you been?!” then you’re doing life all wrong. We’re all living in these times of lean, where money is tight, credit won’t get it, and our day to day living is strenuous. I don’t think that we should completely abandon looking for those stray moments, where “just a tad more” marks the difference between existing and living; functional and fabulous.
Now that I’m in charge of molding young minds, I teach them the importance of snatching little extras here and there, making all the difference in having a good day and a great one.