Biscuits and Gravy: “Cauldrons an’ Cider”
You see, the mountains, especially those around my home town of Hendersonville, were rich with apples, hence a yearly apple festival and parade. Every year, without fail, the apple harvest would kick off with a monumental start and culminate in all the little old ladies in the community rushing out to begin their routines.
Some would take to their churns whippin up delectable batches of hot, spicy apple butter. Oh, I can still taste that good ol’- fashioned hand churned apple butter now, tastin like cured applesauce hot and fresh from the pot. But this isn’t about the apple butter, not even about the apple pies or fritters, or one of a dozen different concoctions that the apple harvest brought. Oh no this is an event all its own.
Once Fall begins to crest on the calendar, a little town I lived in for a spell would get plum giddy like a pig in slop (that’s “excited” to you northern type folk). Early in the morning, the ladies of the sleepy little town in Bluff City, Tennessee would get up and gather in the parking lot in front of the Methodist church downtown. Each group of ladies, or well family, would gather round, setting up chairs, tables and a giant pot in between with a wood fire slowly cracklin’ underneath.
With a slow rhythmic motion, the ladies would take turns stirrin’ those giant cauldrons with wooden spoons big enough to be oars for the lifeboats from the Titanic. As the dawn began to creep into view, the fog slowly wound its way through the gathering of a dozen or more giant black cauldrons, likening something of the Salem Witch Trials, no doubt. Yet even in this early morning hour and the bewitching appearance, you could hear laughter and the sweet song of Southern ladies engrossed in their craft.
Passersby couldn’t help but stop, enticed and entranced by the spell of what lay brewing in those cauldrons. Each group of ladies had cups sitting out for anyone to sample what slowly boiled in the pots with plenty of jars readily available for sale.
You see, boiling steadily in those pots and filling the air with the delectable smell of its spice was old fashioned apple cider. Anyone venturing by had to sample them all, something akin to a country cider cook off to see who in fact brewed the finest cider.
Yet every year, the scene was always the same, of those women gathered around laughing and stirring those massive pots of apple cider, tossing in bits of spice here and there to produce the best brew in history.
Every time I venture out early in the morning before the sun begins to crest the horizon, I’m reminded of those times when I chanced a walk past the old Methodist Church. I remember the song of laughter as the women worked around the pots, the fire glowing underneath a scattering of light fog.
You see, mountain communities have a spirit like none other it seems. They have a pride in the simplest of things and to them even something as simple as cider is nearly a life or death situation.
It seems to me these days that many of our community have lost their spirit of pride and community. Perhaps the world might be a different place with a return to the ideals of community and compassion.
You see, a community, no matter the circumstance, maintains stability through any adversity and regardless of what might come its way. Much like a star, take the symbolic form of a star, five points that no matter how you turn it the star will always be the same, it will never change and will always stand.
Well, cut an apple in half and tell me what pattern you see. At the core of the community, the seeds or people, if their intentions are good will ensure that the community stands always. Much like those ladies who went out early in the morning because for them the community was the most important part of their lives.