As a curious eight year old, I am sure I was more a pest than a helper as she prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner for a family of eight. Her lessons were a labor of love. Something about cooking fascinated her and she fed that fascination. She nurtured my gift. I watched her all week and then Saturday was my turn: Practice Day. Step by step, I learned to cook and then master all the soul food classics in that tiny kitchen at my mom's side.
It all started with fried chicken, which is still my favorite thing to cook. It was my mother specialty. To this day I love marinating fresh chicken in my own blend of spices, getting that flavor all the way to the bone, making sure that sin is crispy, serving it hot -- I love that chicken.
I practiced my mother's recipes throughout my teen years. Our home was always full of people willing to sample and critique. In addition to my large family there were extended family members, neighbors, and church-folks, all crowding the house because people knew where to find a good home cooked meal. By the time I was a teenager people were saying, "that girl can BURN", which is a high compliment from the soul food aficionados. By my early 20's I was so good that people were willing to pay.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the key is to find that one thing you can do so well that people are willing to pay, but that you love so much that you would do it for free. Well, I had found my, "thing". My "thing" was a gift from my mother. I sold dinner for $5 every Friday and I was a hit!
Since those early days, I've met and married the love of my life and business partner Miguel and we've had four beautiful children. We've grown from $5 Fridays, to a small take-out-only restaurant, to two sit-down locations. it has been a long journey that my mother has taken with us, always helping, always advising, always inspiring, I've love and appreciated every step. And now I am a professional restaurateur with years of experience but my mother is still the best cook I know and I am still her student. There are some dishes I still haven't mastered at her level. Her meatloaf, her sweet potato pie, and her fried cabbage are still the best. I'll never stop learning from her, just as I'll never stop thanking her. her lessons and her patience with me all those years ago planted seeds for my entire life. Her encouragement watered those seeds. I adore and respect her beyond measure. My business, my career, my life is my love letter to one Mrs. Mary Harris, the best food master and mother in the world.