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Column: Henrietta’s gift
Ronda Rich
Ronda Rich

It happened the other day, but I just wouldn’t accept it. Then, a couple of days later, it was made clear that she had just given up the ghost and died.

There would be no reviving the Black and Decker food processor, which is absolutely necessary in making what has become, accidentally, my world-famous macaroni and cheese — a recipe I stole from my Aunt Ozelle.

I remember standing in Mama’s kitchen and savoring a spoonful of its glory, which is why I named it “Aunt Ozelle’s Glorious Macaroni and Cheese.”

As I lingered on the taste of cheese and noodles, I finally swallowed and said to Aunt Ozelle, “I don’t know what it is, but I can’t make it as good as you do.”

She shrugged and replied, “The only thing I never vary from is using Duke’s mayonnaise. Duke’s is the best there is.”

I stopped, spoon in mid-air and exclaimed “Dukes?! Well, there’s the problem. I’ve been buying the most expensive mayonnaise, and you’re using Duke’s, which is the cheapest.”

After that, I became a devotee of Duke’s, but made a little twist of my own. I shred an 8-ounce bar of sharp cheddar, then another bar of extra sharp cheddar, which makes it tangier. If you want the recipe, just Google Ronda Rich macaroni and cheese.

I was making pesto when the little gadget let go of the ghost. I grow fresh basil on the back porch then make pesto, not with the normal pine nuts, but Southernize it with pecans. The motor came on, but the blades refused to move.

As you know, I’m frugal. So, losing anything that is a mere 15 years old, cannot be fixed with duct tape or some other cockeyed notion of mine, hurts.

Losing this little Black and Decker hurts for another reason.

Mama had just gone to meet the Lord a couple of weeks earlier, so I was checking the legals to make sure her probate notice was running. I happened to see an announcement of dear Henrietta, a fixture in my hometown, who up and died quickly as Mama did. She died on the same day, if you can believe that. 

Henrietta was what they used to call an “old maid school teacher.” I’m sure that’s not an acceptable term anymore, but she didn’t mind. She’d set her feet squarely, shoed in the most sensible toe leather possible, pull her shoulders back and say, “I’m all that. Old. Maid. School teacher. What’s wrong with that?”

And that’s one of the many reasons she was well loved. There, right next to Mama’s probate notice, was an announcement of an estate sale for Miss Henrietta’s. Now, I’m not one to go to garage sales or its more glamorous sister, the estate sale, but I wanted something of Miss Henrietta’s. When my first book was published, she bought an armload and gave them to all her friends.

Since Miss Henrietta came from well-to-do folks — department stores and other mercantile ventures – I knew her modest little brick ranch would hold treasures that would stand long after I’m gone.

I was not disappointed. She had a complete, 16-place setting of sterling flatware, and apparently, she loved sterling letter openers. I always tear open letters with my thumb. But, from her estate that day, I bought three sterling silver letter openers (one I gifted to my agent in New York who adores it), a gravy ladle and that Black and Decker food processor, brand new and still in the box. Since she died in February, we reckoned it had been a Christmas gift. I paid $20 for it and have used it hundreds of times.

Every time I used it, I thought of us standing in the stairwell at church between Sunday school and preaching, exchanging a story or two.

Now, I’ll have to miss her all over again.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Visit www.rondarich.com and sign up for her free weekly newsletter.

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