From the time I was young, food was love. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up and there were times when my mother had $10 to buy groceries for a family of four to last a week, so everything was made from scratch and we didn’t eat out often. When I was four years old, Mom and I woke up at 4:00 a.m. every morning, drove over the state line to Kentucky Fried Chicken, and picked up my dad from work. We only had one car for most of my childhood and this proved difficult because dad worked in South Carolina and we lived in North Carolina. My dad worked third shift at a power plant over an hour away and he worked 80 hours a week. Mom didn’t want to be without a car for that many hours, so they cobbled together a plan with one of dad’s co-workers to get him to and from work. My dad’s co-worker would drive him to the state line, and Mom would pick him up there and drive him the rest of the way home.
This required us to wake up at 4:00 a.m. every morning, drive 45 minutes from Charlotte, North Carolina to a little over the state line in Fort Mill, South Carolina to Kentucky Fried Chicken and wait for my dad to be dropped off. We would walk in from the cold chill of the morning into the warm restaurant enrobed in reds and yellows and my mouth immediately began to water when I smelled freshly baked biscuits and fried chicken. The first time we made the visit, I asked for a biscuit, but my mom said we didn’t have any money. The next day I dug in the couch cushions, searching for spare change. I scrounged up a handful of dimes, quarters, nickels and pennies and put them in my strawberry shortcake change purse to bring with me the next day. The next morning, I walked right up to the counter and dumped out all of my change on the red Formica counter and ordered a biscuit.
“Do you want one too Mom” I asked.
“You only have enough for one,” the cashier responded.
Selfishly I ordered one just for myself without even thinking about my mom.
I unfolded the yellow wrapper, already marked with grease from where the biscuit sat, and took in a deep breath of the yeasty, buttery delight. I used a plastic knife to slice the biscuit in half vertically and I slathered a layer of strawberry jelly on the warm, flaky surface. I placed the top back on, making a jelly biscuit sandwich. I picked up the biscuit and opened wide, prepared to take a bite, but then looked at Mom and realized she didn’t have anything. I set the biscuit back down and took the top half off and offered it to Mom, “Do you want half my biscuit?” I asked.
“No thanks sweetie,” she said. “I’m not hungry.”
I shrugged, put my biscuit sandwich back together and took a bite of the buttery, salty and sweet delicacy. I can still taste the combination of sweet and salty melt on my tongue.
We repeated this ritual every morning, with me scrounging up enough change to buy a biscuit a day. I didn’t realize until years later the sacrifices Mom made to make sure I had food in my stomach every day.