The Baby’s Coming, The Baby’s Coming!

Maternal bliss in The Ladies' Home Journal, 1941. Image: Wikipedia.
Maternal bliss in The Ladies’ Home Journal, 1941. Image: Wikipedia.

There’s a baby on the way! Not mine, silly.

My dear friend Heather has been pregnant for about 8.5 months, which means that she is very pregnant right now. Kin-Kin (I like to call her Kin-Kin) always looks great with her curly red hair and flawless complexion, but she looks amazing pregnant. In fact, Kin-Kin looks so amazing pregnant, she should be pregnant all the time. I can hear every woman who has ever been pregnant, including Kin-Kin, laughing hysterically right now. I’m betting my sweet friend will look even more beautiful when she has that sweet little baby in her arms though, so I can accept if she rejects the suggestion of being pregnant for the rest of her life and goes for just having the kid.

And speaking of having the kid: Kin-Kin asked me if I would be willing to be second in command, if you will, when she goes into labor. My eyes got big and I said yes, yes, absolutely; I was honored she asked me. I signed a paper! On the wee baby’s birth day, I will be serving as the person in the room other than Sam, at the ready for absolutely anything she (or Sam) might need. I like to think of it as I’m Chief of Staff on Baby Day.

Me and Kin-Kin are pretty tight, but I’m also just a great candidate for this job. I’m single, for one thing, so I can take off in the dead of night and head to the hospital if need be — heck, sometimes I do just that for reasons that do not involve babies! But that hospital piece is actually hugely relevant: I have a ton of experience with Northwestern Hospital. I know how the elevators work (not all cars go to all floors), I know the food court, and I have a special way with nurses, which is to say nurses are angels and I treat them as such. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to have a baby in the Chicago Loop, you should probably give me a call. I’m like a midwife, but without any of the medical knowledge whatsoever. I can’t help you push, really, but I can get you a bagel and I can call your mother. I only ask that you name your baby “Mary” if it’s a girl and “Pendennis” if it’s a boy. Not a lot to ask. Do you want poppyseed or plain?

Heather, I’m so happy to help in any way I can when the day comes. Everything is gonna go great. I love you!!


Recipe: Clay-Baked Possum.

posted in: Family, Food 1
Young boy with possums, Blackall district, Queensland (or Louisiana) 1908. Photo: Wikipedia.
Young boy with possums, Blackall district, Queensland (but it could totally be Louisiana, too), c. 1908. Photo: Wikipedia.

My Aunt Leesa had dozens of her own cookbooks and then inherited many from my grandmother. Looking for a praline recipe this morning, we discovered Mary Land’s Louisiana Cookery (1954). Scanning the index, we found something unusual before we hit “Praline.”

There’s sweet intro copy before many dishes and then precious few instructions or measurements in the “recipes”; Louisiana Cookery appears to be a cookbook for those who already know how to make this stuff but need a reminder before they, you know, skin a possum. That’s right. “Possum” comes before “Praline” in Louisiana Cookery. The intro:

“A clear, cold night, baying hounds, and a flash of flambeaux form a picture dear to the Southerner’s heart. Treeing possums has long been a nocturnal sport with country folk of the Deep South. Whether it be the large Virginia possum, the small Gulf possum, or the long-tailed Texas possum, both the hunt and its reward are exciting experiences. If the possum is taken alive, pen and feed him for two weeks on milk, bread, and persimmons.” 

What have we have learned, students? “To tree” is a verb, and feed your possums persimmons for two weeks before you slaughter and eat it. Here I thought it was oranges! Oh, you southern cooks. You think of everything. 

Land offers five recipes for your now-persimmoned possum: Clay-Baked, Idle Acres Plantation Possum, Arkansas Style, Louisiana Style, and Possum Dressing a la Gowanloch. Here’s the winner in my view, though this one doesn’t specify what another does, namely, “Scald, dress, and pick hairs off possum.” Take out your notebook, here we go:

Prepare possum as for kitchen baking. Roll in a sheet of moist clay and cover with a bed of coals. Bake from one to four hours, depending on size and age of possum. Break away the clay and eat. (Serves six.)

I do love the idea of baking something in a clay sheet. But if I understand this correctly, when you break off the clay, you’ve got hot possum. That is not okay. But I have to be careful sharing my feelings about the attractiveness of these recipes; I once shared my distaste over another of my grandmother’s recipe books and received a well-that’s-a-bit-harsh note (my first!) from a lady who thought I was being disrespectful and rude, that if “[I] wasn’t grateful enough to appreciate it, I should send it to [her.]” I felt like I was pretty fair. I mean, there was olive jello loaf involved. My grandmother was great.

If anyone makes Clay-Baked Possum and serves it with olive jello loaf and takes a picture and sends it to me, I will… I’ll think of something good. Because you should win something for that.