Do you go the extra mile? Or are you the chip and dip person? We all know one. And let me say, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING THE CHIP AND DIP PERSON. In fact, I envy you. You know, the one when you’re having a function/party/shower and you’re making a list and they immediately sign up for chips and dip. Either they don’t wanna/think they can’t (which is always wrong bc cooking is easy and fun)/just ain’t gonna/don’t have the time to/would rather pay to have it done…..each and every one of you have already had a name cross your mind. It might even be you! And that’s OK. Y’all chip and dip people just stop what you’re doing and say a prayer for us folks I’m gonna call “extra”. We ain’t ok. In fact, we are weary. Mind, body and soul. Mostly mind. Our minds are like a rat on one of them spinning wheels.
I’ve talked about my Momma lots on here. Our Yaya. And how she was so crafty, and loved to cook and thrift and yard sale. And how I’m just like her now, even when I vowed I never would be. Now, while I got alot of my traits from her, being “extra” wasn’t one of them. She was simple. And plain. What I haven’t told you about is these other ladies I have in my life. I call them “the aunts”. My mother was an only child, but my Daddy has 3 sisters. And my Daddy’s Momma? My Granny Gracine? She was extra too. She taught her girls to be extra, and unfortunately, even though I’ve fought it for quite some time, the torch has been pitched my way. I won’t say passed, because they all so busy being extra they sure ain’t passed it. But they definitely turned it sideways and lit a fire under my end.
Aunt Di (Diane), well she’s the oldest. The nicest, too. I’m not gonna offend the other two. They know it. Aunt Di is soft spoken. When I look in the mirror, she is the one I see most looking back at me. I think I look just like her. She can sew, and cook, and multi-task with the best of them. Thanks to her I always had the best school play and Halloween costumes. And homemade lady finger cookies. Now Aunt Connie (aunt Funny as my son called her), she’s the middle one. She’s the fiesty one. The one I act like. The one who took my sister and I on vacations, was a mother to me in every way possible, and still is. She can multi-task too. To the point that I just sit down and give up if I try to keep up. And then there is Aunt Net (Lanette). The most laid-back, funny, youngest one. My sister looks just like Aunt Net. For a long time, I have to say I was more like Aunt Net. I did my part, but I didn’t feel the need to be “extra”. Somewhere along the way I drank the Koolaid. And it’s exhausting.
Now while my family is blessed, we’ve seen hard times. I mean hard. Loss of my Momma when she was just 51, my Daddy at 60 and Jason (my aunt Connie’s only child) at 37. My aunt Net recently lost one of her legs to diabetes. I’ve been mad, then sad, then mad all over again. But not for long. Never for long. These 3 ain’t gonna let you. My aunt Net could have sat down and just given up. But no, even when faced with the amputation, she’s laying in the hospital bed making US laugh. And she ain’t slowed down yet. Ain’t nobody got time to slow down. I have folks ask me all the time how I do all that I do. I’m like “If I slow down, I’m gonna get old”. Fact, jack.
So, even in our grief, and our hard times, these 3 makes lemonade out of lemons. They had the idea after Daddy died to start a Relay for Life team in his honor. The Bellomy Bunch we are called. We’re a large family, a loud family, a fussing/arguing/aggravating family. But we are family. And in times like these, we come together. We started off slow, with just a team and a table that year. We have morphed into a Relay for Life mega-crazed machine. After Jason passed away, we had a new purpose. Cancer done pissed us off. And if there is anything in the world you should steer clear of, it’s a pissed off Bellomy. Sorry. Truth will stand when the world’s on fire.
The Bellomy Bunch Bake Sales. I don’t even know how to describe them. These 3 ladies produce 97 pies, 46 triple layer cakes, 34 dozen cupcakes, and 216 moon pie banana puddings. Me and my cousins pitch in our 1 or 2 cakes, brownies and cookies. Oh and lets not forget my homemade crusty no knead bread. And I quote my aunt Net when I put it on the table….”What the heck is that”? Have I mentioned none of us have a filter? That’s important here. Don’t like each others new hairdo? Outfit? Gained some weight? We gonna tell each other. I am literally embarrassed to get my meager offerings out at the Bake Sale. I try to sneak them in while no one else is looking. Slap it down in the middle of the table among their perfectly packaged creations. My aunt Di puts her 21 layer strawberry cakes on real plates she collects at thrift stores. Wraps it up with cellophane and a bow and a pretty label. They aren’t really 21 layers, but that’s close. Aunt Connie has her pecan bark cellophaned, bow tied and in a tin bucket or box for whichever holiday it is. I ain’t even gonna lie. These 2 make my plumb mad. Buncha over-achievers. And Aunt Net ain’t much better. She ain’t no fancy packager, but she makes up in volume with her 27 sheet cakes. Gimme a second while I text every one of them and tell them to kiss my foot.
Our bake sales are set 4x a year, before major holidays, so folks can buy desserts for their family gatherings and not have to cook, all while supporting a great cause. I am SO thankful for the community support these bake sales are given. But heavens to betsy, y’all just ain’t never seen nothing like it. Take Black Friday @ Belks when they got the boots for $19 or Walmart when the Pioneer Woman dishes are $15. That’s what these things are like. Especially the Easter and Thanksgiving ones. Folks are literally waiting on us to open the doors, or in most cases if we are outside for the stuff to hit the table. They for real serious about getting what they want. I had the big idea one time to “pre-sell” on Facebook. I think they’re all still mad at me about that one. I personally had to make 364 pecan praline cakes and my kitchen looked like it had exploded. But mine was a cake walk compared to theirs. Yes, these numbers are all increased and embellished. But you get the point. We make ALOT. And most times sell out.
With each event comes more pressure, more Pinterest binges, recipe searches and my mind spinning. I ain’t gonna lie, sometimes I just say bump this and make what I can that looks whatever way it looks and slide it in on the table. But that extra gene has slowly crept up on me. I’ve looked on in envy (yes, I’m aware that’s like a sin or something) and thought, yeah huh, I’m a gonna show them one day. Which I kinda thought I was gonna with my crusty no-knead bread wrapped up all cute with a bow and a pretty label. Then Aunt Net knocked me back to reality with her “What the heck is that”? Guarantee she doesn’t even remember saying it and will read this and say “I did not” but it happened.
Fast forward to this week and a retirement party I was planning at work for a beloved coworker. I love fall. I love the colors, the weather, I love everything about it. I also love and appreciate this coworker more than words. So I decided the theme was going to be “We are thankful for Betsy” and it was Katie bar the door from then on. The decor was of course fall themed and colored. But did you know the food had to match also? Don’t even think about putting anything red or strawberry colored on this table. You gonna draw back a nub. With the help of some coworkers, we pulled it off and it was beautiful. The honey mustard pretzel dip was the color of an autumn leaf. The chicken ranch cheese ball was shaped like a pumpkin thanks to some rubber bands and a pretzel rod stem (yes, I wanted a green bell pepper one but they didn’t have any long enough at the store). The spinach dip was in the perfect copper hammered bowl. The dum dum tree was in a vase with fall rocks and a burlap bow. I hand stuffed cranberry sauce into puff pasty and twisted them into puffs 96 times.
And the apple harvest punch? That’s just a complete other story. Walmart didn’t have the frozen cranberry concentrate it called for. Most folks would just get cranberry juice in a bottle and go with it right? Nope. I had to call Aunt Connie for advice. Which turned into me taking my immersion blender (if you don’t have one, you need one) ahold of some canned cranberry sauce, adding some cranberry apple juice to it and pureeing the heck out of it and then freezing it in my Tupperware hamburger molds. Because you know just regular cranberry sauce wouldn’t be as strong as a concentrate even if you doubled it and well you can do whatever you want to but that’s not how Aunt Connie would do it. She literally shamed me to the cranberry sauce aisle after I had the juice already in my buggy. And you know what? That punch was the bomb. And it was beautiful. I even brought my Cracker Barrel peeler, corer, slicer to work with me and sliced some apples up to float in the punch. Because that’s what you call being extra. In a world where you can be anything, always be extra.
Get the good plates out when you cook for your husband or your family. When your 25 year old baby boy realizes he loves chicken casserole for the first time after you trying to get him to try it for umpteen years, make it for him. Often. Don’t go to your mother in laws on Sunday without taking your precious brother in law some sweet treat. Because even after an exhausting week of work and caregiving, Mickey is gonna take a bite and tell you it’s the greatest thing he’s ever had. And even though he says the same thing when you were too busy to make anything and stopped at Foodland to get a 7-up cake, there is more of a twinkle in his eye when you made it special for him. At least you feel that way inside. And when Granny O wants cornbread, make cornbread. Never, ever forget the cornbread.
May peace, love and extra-ness abound in your lives today and always.