A Favorite Family Meal With a Funny Name
I was a child—six, maybe seven—when I woke up not feeling well enough to go to school. Now, the truth is, I probably wasn't sick. I was a frequent target of bullies at school (you know: a smart boy with a name like Stacey, it happens) and often faked being sick to avoid having to deal with being picked on. But that's another story entirely. The point here is that I didn't really feel that bad. And my mom knew it.
Regardless, she had an amazing way of making ordinary things extraordinary. That particular day's adventure was all about finding loose change. We scoured under couch cushions, emptied piggy banks, and scrounged through the bowl on the dryer that collected random things found in the washing machine. We gathered just enough to go to McDonalds for lunch that day to get 59 cent hamburgers and fries. We had a blast and I forgot about school that day. That day, I wasn't afraid that someone was going to call me a nerd. That day, there wasn't someone telling me I had a girl's name. That day, I didn't get called a sissy.
We always had exciting adventures like that and Mom always had a way of making things better. She knew exactly how to take a bad situation and make it exciting.
It wasn't until I was an adult looking back on those adventures that I realized what was really going on. We didn't have a lot when I was little, but I never knew that. We weren't scrounging for change because we couldn't afford lunch. We were having an exciting adventure and the award was a fun meal. It was all about perspective. It's a simple idea that has become a big part of who I am as an adult.
My parents made a decision early on that it was important for Mom to stay home with me while I was little. Is that the right move for every family? Of course not. But they deemed it right for ours. It meant that we sacrificed and did without a lot of things, because it was important to them. I remember walking to the gas station down the street to use the phone to call my grandparents because we didn't have one at home—of course, that was an adventure too.
You know, the weird thing is, at no point in my childhood do I ever remember thinking we were any different than any other family. It took having a child of my own and looking back to actually realize how hard Mom had worked to make my life one where I didn't feel like I had to do without. As a parent, I think we all want that for our kids. We don't ever want them to feel inferior. And while now I can look back and see the struggles and sacrifices my parents made, they were invisible to me then.
WATCH: Chicken-and-Collards Pilau
Perspective is one of the most powerful things that we control. A shift in perspective turns a sink piled high with dirty dishes into the gratefulness that we were able to feed our family. It's a shift in perspective that turns a frustrating 30 minutes in a workday traffic jam into the realization that we're blessed to have a job to go to and a vehicle to get us there. And it's perspective that I have now that turns a humble childhood into one of the most influential parts of my character.
Another thing my mom was good at was stretching a dollar to feed the family. I'm sure the talent was derived from necessity, but we ate well nonetheless. One of my favorite things that she would make is Chicken Bog. Despite its weird name, it's a rustic, homey comfort food dish made with chicken, sausage, and rice. She picked up the recipe from a native South Carolinian when she lived there in the late '70s. While there is much debate about what should go into the dish and where the name came from, this is the way she was taught to make it and it's the way we both still make it today.
Blogger and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Stacey Little is committed to getting folks back to the table for dinner. His quick and easy recipes are helping busy families get a home-cooked meal on the table without a lot of hassle or expense. Southern Living Magazine has repeatedly named Stacey a top blogger to follow and a favorite Southern blogger. He has appeared on The Today Show and Fox and Friends and has lent his talents to national brands like Betty Crocker, White Lily, Martha White, Kraft, Queen Latifah, and Reese Witherspoon—just to name a few. Today, his easy, delicious recipes and heartfelt stories have brought tens of millions to his blog, SouthernBite.com, since he created it in 2008. Stacey's cookbook, The Southern Bite Cookbook, is available at book retailers across the country and online. Stacey's deep Southern roots have him firmly planted in central Alabama where he lives with his wife, little boy, two dogs, and his collection of cast iron skillets.