By Lucy Winn Fuller
In the south, tradition is everything. Antiques are passed down from generation to generation just as delicately as those gorgeous vintage dresses that our great-grandmothers handstitched that every single little girl in the family wore for her first portrait session in her great-uncle’s cotton field. Southern folk pass on things in order to be cherished and remembered. A lot of people refer to these “hand-me-downs” as heirlooms.
One of the most important things that seems to come to mind is recipes. I could list a hundred different delectable dishes that have been made by me and every other woman in our family, but I would easily go over my word limit. Recipes are cherished in all families in all walks of life all over the world, but here in the south, it’s just as important as church on Sunday morning. Don’t ever throw away the original recipe card with your Mema’s handwriting; I don’t care how stained and faded it is. You keep that card and frame it. Or, if you are my mother, you hand stitch it on a pillow that you “don’t sit on” and keep in your kitchen rocking chair for decorative purposes only.
Well, my kitchen doesn’t have a rocking chair, but it does have that pillow with the word for word recipe for my great-nanny’s cornbread. For a pillow that we don’t sit on, it sure does get used a lot. That pillow has made a name for itself over the years, almost as big as the recipe for that delicious cornbread it holds. When I tell you that’s the best cornbread you will ever taste, please don’t be shocked when you taste it and it actually is. It’s so good, you might even name your dog after it… not that I’ve done that or anything.
Fried cornbread is a staple in this house and is one of my favorite heirlooms there ever was. Aside from the heirloom tomatoes that are all the rage in your local farmers market, Nanny’s heirloom cornbread is sure to be a hit with whomever is lucky enough to consume it.
Just today, I was walking around my garden, trying not to melt in this sweltering heat, and admiring my zinnias that I had planted in the spring. I didn’t go to the nearest box store and pile plastic pots of plants into my cart, which I have been guilty of, I went down the road to my father-in-law’s house for some seeds that he’d saved from his garden from previous years. He handed me a brown paper sack full of dried petals and little pieces of what looked like dandelion fuzz (that’s the best description I can conjure up) and told me that they liked lots of sun. I emptied the contents of that brown paper sack into my hand made raised garden beds and sprinkled them with lots of dirt, water, and love. I began to see them grow around the middle of May, and it’s the end of June now and they are blooming like crazy. They are the most beautiful zinnias I’ve ever grown, most likely because they are the only zinnias I’ve ever grown.
All humor aside, they are gorgeous flowers, and I am so proud of them.
I have received several compliments of these flowers and have even been asked where the seeds could be purchased. I explained that they were given to me. I was told by my mother-in-law that they are seeds from flowers that have bloomed for many, many years so I decided to call them “Heirloom Zinnias” and rightfully so. Anything that beautiful and carefully handed down to another person is sure to be something valuable and cherished, therefore, it would be and could be considered and heirloom.
Zinnias are gorgeous flowers that grow throughout the summer months in various colors. They grow tall and hearty and are a flower to be admired by all. Yes, you can go buy the plant and plant it with much success not having to worry about taking extra time and energy to plan when and where to plant the seeds. Picking a perfect spot, building a raised bed, or even adding to them an existing flower bed does take planning and time, which is not easy to come by these days. But, when you take that extra effort to sow a seed, water it, take care of it, and patiently wait for it to grow into something beautiful, it makes all of that hard work so much more valuable. When you see the flower finally bloom into something so big and beautiful and you are reminded of how tiny it was when you planted it, and it really makes you feel like you’ve done something worth doing. It makes you want to sow more seeds.
When you think about things of importance, things you want to be proud of and admire, think about sowing a seed. Planting an idea is the first step to a garden of bountiful progress. And if you are lucky enough to have some seeds left over you can then hand them down to the next generation and before you know it, you’ll be watching your great-grandchildren make Nanny’s fried cornbread from scratch with some homegrown sliced heirloom tomatoes on your grandmothers china with a big vase of fresh cut zinnias on the kitchen table.
Fuller is a lover of nature, animals, gardening, and old houses. She is a full time mother and wife. She may be reached at email@example.com.