Miss Ina Odum doesn’t eat chicken. Period! She will tell you in a heartbeat, “Nothing fowl goes into my mouth. Nothing ‘fowl’ comes out of my mouth.” I have explained to her a thousand times that it’s near on to impossible to be a true southern lady (which she is without question) and not experience a Sunday dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and sweet tea.
Nothing sways her. She prefers fried shrimp, fried oysters, fried scallops and fried green tomatoes. On the many times she has taken me out to eat over the years, the seafood platter with all the trimmings was her usual order. I dutifully point out to her on each and every occasion that all that fried food couldn’t be good for her. It would clog her arteries, raise her cholesterol level, lead to high blood pressure and foul (her word, not mine) up her digestive tract. Maybe she ought to order the baked chicken, or the chicken salad, or the broiled chicken with raw carrots……
Miss Ina celebrated her one hundredth birthday this week.
She apparently has done all right without my gastronomical advice. But that doesn’t keep me from pointing out that chicken today might taste a little better than it did in 1918. “Miss Ina, Colonel Sanders has come up with a special ‘eleven herbs and spices’ recipe.” I’ve suggested hot wings, marinated thighs and “Popeye’s”. She just laughs at me.
Miss Ina is a special treat. She talks about going down to the train station in DeFuniak Springs and handing out bags of food to the soldiers passing through on their way to World War I. She remembers vividly the first airplane that flew over. “What a sight!” she declares ninety years later with still a hint of wonderment in her voice. She can discuss first hand the shenanigans of the Warren G. Harding administration. I asked about Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh. She wasn’t a baseball fan but she was “quite taken” by the exploits of “Lucky Lindy”.
I wanted to know about flappers and tin lizzies. Again, I got a first hand account of the popular dress of the Roaring Twenties and Henry Ford’s Model-T that put America on the road. Miss Ina wouldn’t make a good spokesman for Goodyear or B. F. Goodrich. She remembers the many cars pulled off to the side with a flat tire on any given trip to town. And the twenties apparently didn’t roar as much in Northwest Florida as they did in other places.
“Hoover Days” to her is not some forgotten story in a history book. I asked about getting along in the Great Depression. She wouldn’t blame it on one president or political party. She remembered that money was always scarce. But folks “in her neck of the woods” raised their food so they didn’t feel the squeeze quite like the bigger cities. It’s exactly the same thing my parents said.
I asked Miss Ina often to “throw that rug back and do the Charleston for me”. She would just laugh and laugh. And then tell me about the dance that swept the nation in the mid-twenties. She kinda talked like she never really participated. But she’d put her hands on her knees and demonstrate the back and forth motion in a way that made me suspect differently!
You talk about a walking encyclopedia! I never tired of asking her about America before women got the vote. Did she ever hear Calvin Coolidge speak? How grand was it when the movies started talking? Did she know about Roosevelt’s polio before he became president?
When I realized what a good sport Miss Ina really was, I took a few liberties with the age thing. I asked her if it was crowded on that boat with Noah. Did she remember when Stanley met Livingstone? Why didn’t she warn Custer about the Indians?
Once, in between bites of shrimp and French fries, I asked her about her old boy friends……you know, before she met Brother Odum. I thought I’d get that wonderful smile and then the laugh. But she surprised me by naming names, dates and places! Of course, she let me know in that wonderful way of hers that if I “spilled the beans” on her personal life, she’d wring my neck to a fare-the-well!
I know how she came to meet Brother Odum……before he was Brother Odum! I feel like I was there when he asked her to marry him. The World War II home front came alive for me as she described her travels by train across this county with a baby son to be with her husband stationed in California.
And I have heard a story or two about church, preachers, choir directors and congregations of all sorts, kinds and descriptions. We’ve had the most wonderful conversations long into the afternoon. I know for dead certain positive that nothing foul ever comes out of her mouth.
I love Miss Ina a thousand ways. And I fear our current generation is missing the boat by not stopping to enjoy the seafood platter.
The next time we go out to eat I’m going to take some notes on her non-chicken diet. If she can make it to the century mark sans the fowl life……I may give up the birds myself!