Fans have asked dozens of questions about the ghost who took over The House on Persimmon Road with her witty and old-fashioned ways. So Jackie decided to drop in, not as a writer, but as a guest to have a chat with Lottie.
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Wearing an apron, the bib straight-pinned to her cotton house dress, Lottie welcomed me into the house with a pleasant expression. The grand hall seemed larger than I recalled. The old floors gleamed, the walls painted a rich cream. I asked what changes Tucker and Justine had made. Lottie opened a door on the south wall. "This was my linen room. Now it's an indoor bathroom. Can't even hang my herbs to dry in season. Used to have lavender, mint, sage, marigold and such..."
The dining room was still converted into an office. I glanced in as we passed the open door. The room was modernized with state of the art computers and all sorts of electronic gadgets. In the kitchen the old farm sink was filled with green tomatoes. A hand-turned grinder stood on the counter along with dozens of canning jars, a gallon of vinegar and a bowl of salt. Lottie poured me a huge glass of sweetened iced tea. "You can sit, but I got to keep at it. I'm canning pickle relish."
"It's quiet," I noted. "Where is everybody?"
"Justine and Agnes are at a Girl Scout camp with Judy Ann. An overnight. Tucker, Wheeler and Pip are fishing up on Dog River. Pauline is off with her high-falutin' friends on ghost tours in Savannah and Charleston. As if there is any such thing. What questions do you have? I already explained all I know about being betwixt and between."
"You may not believe it, but most of your fans want to know how to dobe a roast."
"Law! You're trickin' me. Every woman ever lifted a fork knows how to dobe a roast."
"Not in the Twenty-first Century, they don't. Or how to make pickle relish out of green tomatoes, either."
Lottie put the first batch of ground tomatoes in a huge bowl, stirred in two tablespoons of mustard seeds, sprinkled the lot with a half-cup of salt, then wiped her hands on her apron. "I best have a glass of tea myself," she said and sat across from me, her brow wrinkled in angst. "You puttin' how to dobe a roast in another book?"
"No, I'm just going to write an article about it."
"Well...back in the early days, we didn't have store bought beef or pork. We butchered those animals ourselves. Or a neighbor did and you traded for a haunch. You wash that roast good and dry it. If it was wild game like a turkey hen, wild boar, or venison, you ground up mustard seeds and rubbed it all over. I allus poked a few cloves in my wild game. Next you take a good quality lard and rub it all over the meat and let it set for an hour. Then you dobe it with flour. That means you roll the roast in it. Wheat flour is best, but a fine ground corn meal will do. Next you brown the roast all over in a good hot pan of lard. I allus baked my roasts in a clay baking brick. Henry Watson made the best brick oven dish. I don't know where mine got to. Probab'ly stolen during The WAR right along with my pigs. That's how you dobe a roast.
"Nowadays, you can use mustard right out of a jar and Justine swears by olive oil. But when I put up a fuss, she'll buy a pound of lard at the Publix. Hog lard makes the best biscuits. Anything else? I got to get my canning done."
"One more question, if you don't mind. How did you keep up with War news?"
"Why, the Mobile Register. Came up on the mail boat. Listed all our men folks kilt. That's how I found out Elmer was gone over to the Red River Campaign in Louisiana. We didn't have roads or mail delivery like today. Mail boat brought the newspaper, ice blocks in sawdust, spices and sometimes the scissors and notion man. Elmer kept our knives sharp, but he was fair mess when it came to my scissors. Captain would sound the horn when he was coming up river and folks just go down to our docks up and down the river. 'Course after the Union blowed up Fort Morgan, that was the end of any fair-sized boat slipping up river." Lottie moved back to the sink and started grinding more green tomatoes. I took the hint.
"Thank you for having me. I appreciate it." I still had a bevy of questions, but thought it best not to push my luck. "If I get any more questions from your fans and readers, would you mind if I came back?"
"I might. How nosy are those folkses?"
"They're just curious. But mostly they're eager to learn how people lived in those early days. What they wore for everyday clothes, how they shopped and what was essential for every day living. Maybe you could talk about a day in the life of Lottie Mae Roberts. Or how you and Elmer spent time in the days before the War."
"I best give it some thought and talk to Justine, too. "
"I'll email her in a few days." Lottie saw me to the front door and once I was on the porch, latched the screen.
"Don't knock over the mailbox backing out," she called.
Oh, that poor mailbox. Both Agnes and Pauline had run over the thing while learning to drive. I hope my next visit I will see the rest of the family and learn how each is doing. Today was a good start.
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