Chris Shoaf: A persimmon pudding memory

Published 8:13 am Sunday, June 4, 2017

By Chris Shoaf
Special to the Salisbury Post

Even though it has been difficult since my brother Scott’s passing, I do find myself smiling a little more each day as I recall good memories.

Our mother was the source of a lot of our smiles when we were growing up.

Some of her humor was intentional, taking the form of little jokes, jingles, and spoonerisms that she was so fond of. But there were times when it was more mischievousness as the result of her making the most of a bad situation. They were the best and they often took place in the kitchen.

She was really a very good cook, being trained in the wonders of good country cooking by her mother-in-law, Gillie Shoaf, who fed her husband and their five strong sons through some pretty rough times.

When Mom made little mistakes in the kitchen, she didn’t mind if other people found out. In fact, she counted on it, and Scott was often her target.

Nobody can be sure if she actually planned it, but Scott would always be the one who found a small shell in the pecan pie. Bones in the chicken soup would miraculously be in Scott’s bowl.

But these were just warm-ups for the most memorable dish she ever tainted.

With every fall came the great anticipation of our most favorite dessert in the whole world, persimmon pudding. Yummm. This was one of Mom’s most special dishes that we all dearly loved.

Now, a persimmon is a peculiar little fruit that has to be harvested and prepared with a great amount of care because if you gather them too soon they’re unpleasantly puckery.

If just one somehow found its way into the dish, the whole dessert was ruined, so normally Mom tasted each one just to make sure they were all friendly.

One time though, there was this one persimmon that somehow slipped through Mom’s meticulous method, and surprised us after supper one evening. After it had been clearly determined that the dessert was ruined, there was no other choice but to throw it out. It was a sad moment but it was the right thing to do.  There was simply no way to salvage this flawed treat….

But wait a minute, there was hope! Scott wasn’t there! He didn’t know!

Now there was a routine to walking into Mom’s kitchen: You open the back door, take three steps, then open the refrigerator. That’s it. If you did this, you were immediately welcomed into the inner-sanctum of Mom’s goody heaven. It was this long engrained routine that Mom was counting on, because she knew that Scott would soon be coming by to visit. She was sure that he would see this “delicious looking” pudding and help himself.          

And, that is exactly what happened.

Now I wasn’t there at the time, which was best, considering my giggling would have surely alerted him that he was about to be the victim of something. But Mom was a pro and Dad just buried his head in the newspaper.

Mom and Dad were sitting in the den, as the crime scene unfolded step by step, doors and drawers opening and closing, rattling dishes and clinking silverware revealing each stage of the long awaited conclusion.

Not wanting to enjoy this delightful moment alone, he even waited to sit down with them in the den before taking his first bite.

Then, the long-awaited moment arrived! He had cut off a big piece and was raising it to his mouth when he paused briefly, closed his eyes, as though in prayer, and slowly placed it in his mouth. Little did he know, but this was the only heavenly part of the experience that he would have, because he stopped mid-chew, looked at Mom who was still acting in her perfectly motherly manner. Dad on the other hand looked at him and said, “Buddy, I didn’t have nuthin’ to do with it.”

Well, I can only imagine the poor, “Who me?” pitiful expression on Mom’s sweet face, but even Mom couldn’t hold a straight face long.

Scott didn’t want to believe that he had been set up by his own, dear, sweet Mama … with persimmon pudding.

He figured it was her carelessness that ruined this delicacy,(which was true enough) but what none of us realized was that it was her mischief that made it the most memorable of all.

Chris Shoaf lives in Salisbury.