Dear Aunt Nell: Idiots & Trail Mix

Dear Aunt Nell, 
With the holidays just around the corner, I can’t help but think about our delicious southern family dinners. In my recollection, all of our dinners were reasons for thanksgiving.

​Time and distance have changed a lot about Thanksgiving for us, but one thing hasn’t changed for me…



One year Mama carried seven homemade layer cakes to Granddaddy’s for Christmas. I can still taste that caramel icing when Buddy got the bowl and I got the spoon to lick. Um-hmm! That was some kinda good.

And then a couple of miles from Grandaddy’s, we stopped by the Shelley’s for a quick visit. We safely hauled all those layer cakes over a hundred miles, and then it happened. Mama set a coconut cake on the front seat and the three of us kids started crawling out of the back seat.

Honestly, I don’t  which one of us did it, but one of us pushed down on the back of Mama’s seat a little too hard and turned a stately three layer cake into a plateful of smushed coconut and cake.

Lawdy mercy knows! I bet y’ll heard Mama yell all the way down the road at Granddaddy’s.

As delicious as I knew those cakes were going to be, it was the thought of your famous Idiot Bars that made my mouth water then, and still does now. Oh the joys of food and family!

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see–
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.
Worship God if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.
​Psalm 34:8-9  MSG


These days our rare family celebrations are so health conscious (and shhh, so boring). Low salt. Low cholesterol. Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Tree nut warning. And let’s all be sure to take our requisite meds to go along with our restricted diets.

The thing is, Aunt Nell, there’s no guarantee that we’ll live any longer munching on trail mix instead of savoring Idiot Bars. For crying out loud, Granddaddy lived to 95, enjoying that luscious southern cuisine right up to the end.

​Three out of four of those Herndon Boys lived well into their eighties, along with their wives, also savoring southern comfort food all their lives.

Transplanting us up north meant so many changes, including our diet. I know it was probably more than decades of lackluster meals, but they sure didn’t seem to keep Mama and Daddy alive. They both barely made it into their seventies.

We just never know, do we, how even the smallest of changes can impact our lives? Maybe we need to pay closer attention to the words of the psalmist, and focus more on the positive. God’s blesses us with so many delights and promises! All we have to do is look for them.

​I think this year I’ll be taking Idiot Bars to our Herndon celebrations (if we’re not in quarantine). ‘Course I’m going to have to add pecans to this recipe so there’s at least one almost healthy ingredient. And I’m sure Nancy and I will reminisce about holidays past, and how they just weren’t complete without you and this succulent morsel.

Love and prayers for holidays full of blessings!

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