Just got off the phone with my mother’s friend, Ms. Betty. I mentioned that when I had left California, I hadn’t anticipated staying here this long. That my recipe books were back in San Jose. But! I remembered that she had given me a recipe book some years ago and in it was a recipe for a cookie that I would LOVE to bake. When I was a little girl, I just loved it when one or another aunt would bake cocoons, an absolutely scrumptious delicacy! Kind of like a wedding cookie, only far better, in my not-so-humble culinary opinion. ;)
Years, before the storm, Ms. Betty had put together a cookbook for the local county hospital which happens to be in our hometown. She had given me a copy of it, and I recall that in it was this recipe.
I didn’t think twice about asking her for the recipe. It’s a simple enough of a request. Everyone down here loves great food, swapping recipes, and raving over mouth-watering palatable pleasures. I told Ms. Betty that there was absolutely no rush, just whenever she came upon it, if she would call and read it to me, I’d simply write it down.
She said that she didn’t know if she could find it. Not quite yet grasping the situation, I mentioned that it was a pink covered book that she had put together for the hospital. I could hear in her voice that she may not have it. How thoughtless of me especially considering that I knew that she had lost her home. An easy going conversation ended up as reminder of what was lost in a moment during a major natural disaster.
“Ahhhh, yes!” Ms. Betty said. She proceeded to tell me that it made her sick to lose that book in the storm because she had worked so hard on it. Ms. Betty, who is now 71 years old, had been a full time volunteer at the local hospital. However, she then told me that she had mentioned to a friend at the hospital that she had lost the recipe book in Katrina. Lo and behold! There was a single copy of it left, and Ms. Betty did, in fact, have the book containing the cookie recipe. Whew!
Not so fast, though. Ms. Betty said that she had to look through her Katrina boxes to find it and would look for it over the next few days. As she and I talked further, she piped up and changed the subject. “You have a pen and paper?” I said, “Uh, yes.”
“I found the book.” Ms. Betty then dictated the recipe to me. We continued chatting about cooking, food, recipe books. I mentioned that I had really missed having mine with me especially since I’m baking a carrot cake for my younger brother’s birthday at the end of the week. Again, she piped up with offering to look for her carrot cake recipe. I was really feeling conflicted. I knew how food-centric we all are here—cooking it, eating it, sharing it with others. But, I didn’t want to put her out nor did I want her to go looking for something that Katrina had swept away almost 22 months ago.
Again, she put her hand right on the recipe and now I have a great recipe in my hands. Such a sweetie that she is, Ms. Betty asked if I had cake pans. See, when she moved back after the storm, she had attended some volunteer meeting and offered to make a cake for some occasion.
She went to the store and got a few things. When she got to where she was staying, she realized that she didn’t have any cake pans. By this she meant that Katrina had carried away her kitchen belongings along with the rest of her things. Something as simple as baking a cake—at least for those of us who are used to having a kitchen stocked with pots and pans, cooking utensils and assorted items like flour, sugar, baking powder and the like, becomes a reminder of all that was lost on that fateful day Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and burst the levees in New Orleans.
I replied to her question stating that mom’s baking pans were in a box somewhere in the shed or in the make shift storage on the carport. However, my brother’s girlfriend has cake pans she was going to let me borrow.
I think about all of my belongings that are safely in California. Given the way life has unfolded since I arrived here back in the beginning of March, I am uncertain of when I’ll reunite with my things. I remember that I’m lucky. I have all of my belongings. For so many here in Katrina Land, they don’t have what they had pre-Katrina be it a cake pan, a dish towel, or a home to call one’s own.
It shouldn’t be this way. The insurance companies should have paid out the claims long ago. Instead, their unconscionable behavior has forced policyholders to go to court. Thankfully, we have the Scruggs Katrina Group, the Merlin Law Group, Mississippi’s Attorney General Jim Hood and others who are bringing justice to this ongoing nightmarish situation. Hopefully, the insurance companies will receive sky high fines for their atrociously bad corporate behavior which they continue to demonstrate. Along with the fines, I wish that there could be personal criminal charges brought against the insurance managers and board of directors for their role in what they have imposed on Katrina’s survivors.
This is America, where we learn as children about Justice being blind so as to see Truth. When corporations deliberately conspire internally or externally as the documents listed on the official website for Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) appear to indicate, we look for the wheels of Justice to do us proud.
As we wait for the court proceedings to conclude favorably, those of us in Katrina Land must continue to live our lives as best we can. While living in California, going to the one of many grocery stores within a 15 minute drive was the norm. Having at my fingertips, the pots and pans that I’ve accumulated over the years was, of course, common place. Like my maternal grandmother, I absolutely enjoy cooking and baking. These are among many such simple pleasures that I, along with many of you, take for granted.
For me—as for others here in Katrina Land, things are different. Even the simple pleasures in life are not so simple.