My Own Betty Crocker

by Seale Ballenger
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bettycrocker.jpgseale_ballenger.jpg As Mother's Day quickly approaches, I am reminded of the many reasons I love my mother.  She is smart, kind, funny and she makes one hell of a good Hershey Bar Cake - you see, I grew up with Betty Crocker.
While Wikipedia defines Betty Crocker as "an invented persona and mascot, a brand name and trademark of American food company General Mills," my own personal Betty Crocker is a flesh and blood person who happens to be related to me and goes by the name of Jodie.
While I was growing up the fictitious Betty Crocker was famous for such delicacies as "dunkaroos" (snacks containing frosting and cookies) and "mystery fruit cake;" but my own in-home version could whip up just about anything to rival her.  My mother's specialties, always made for the sweetest "sweet tooth," included lemon icebox pie with a Vanilla Wafer crust, bittersweet chocolate chip cookies, a pound cake that defined the law of gravity, a sour cream coffee cake that me makes salivate just thinking of it, and the chewiest brownies possible made with Droste's cocoa imported from Holland ("Corners, please!")
jodi2.jpg But Mom's culinary skills did not stop with the sweets, for dinnertime entrees also featured kid-friendly favorites such as slow-cooked stovetop spaghetti with crusty garlic bread, messy sloppy Joes, hamburgers broiled in the oven with cedar cheese and grilled onions, crunchy topped chicken tetrazzini, meatloaf with lots of Heinz ketchup, and the best lasagna in the North or the South (even better on day two).
When I was a kid, food was hardy, bountiful and close at hand.  (Is there a reason I have struggled with my weight all my life? J)  At 4245 Shiloh Drive, food = love and my mother was always ready to feed just about anyone who walked through the door and shower them with that love. 

friedcurls.jpgAll the kids in the neighborhood wanted to hang out at our house, because my mom was always ready for a party at any given moment – chips, dips, crackers, and every flavor of "coke" (used generically to mean what non-Southerners call soda or pop) were always in abundance.   None of that stuff that other moms said was good for you. HA!!! While most kids were eating carrots and celery sticks for an afterschool snack, my brother and I usually fought over Golden Flake cheese curls or Kim & Jim buddy bars ("One for you, and one for me." Never!)
So as I prepare to mark this special day, I want to say to my mother: "Thanks Mom for keeping me happy, well-fed, gluttonous and addicted to sugar all these years.  If I were able to be there I would take you to the soda fountain at Gilchrist Drugs for a piece of pie and a cherry limeade, but instead I am sending you a special treat overnight by UPS.  I just hope the chocolate doesn't melt when it crosses the Mason-Dixon Line...All my love, Brother"


Seale "Brother" Ballenger is a twenty year veteran of the book publishing industry and currently works as the senior publicity director for Harper Entertainment and William Morrow at Harper Collins Publishers. He is the author of HELL'S BELLES: A Tribute to the Spitfires, Bad Seeds, and Steel Magnolias of the New & Old South.  Seale, his partner Chris, and their two French bulldogs, Maddie and Petey, live in New York City.

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