Matuce. Her real name’s Violet, but when her husband died many years ago and she came to live with daughter and son-in-law Babs and George, her young grandson called her Mom-Two. It came out Matuce and it stuck.
I came to know Matuce because I happened to be teaching at Kitchenware Outfitters in Savannah, Georgia, near my sister-in-law, Jeanne. Matuce, Babs, and George are her neighbors.
Back in September Jeanne e-mailed that Matuce wanted to host a dinner for me. “Cooking is her passion, “ she wrote. “That’s nice,” I thought. “Love a good home-cooked meal on the road.” No one prepared me for the extravaganza I experienced.
I pull into Jeanne’s driveway a couple of hours before dinner just as she’s heading over to Matuce’s. She’s been enlisted to write name tags for each of the 27 (no kidding) dishes Matuce, George and Babs are making.
About now you’re probably picturing grandmotherly Matuce in her mid-sixties. Wrong. Matuce just turned 86. Over the years she’s suffered a severe stroke and survived a car accident that broke her back and should have killed her. Clearly at this point she could justify a life of leisure.
Instead she is still adding to her thousand-plus cookbook collection. Everyday she combs the Internet for new recipes and makes dinner for George and Babs every night. (George also takes coffee to Matuce every morning before he leaves for work. Now that’s a model son- and mother-in law relationship)
Matuce greets me at the door and walks me into the dining room to a table filled with room temperature entrees—grilled rack of lamb, beef and pork tenderloin, chicken salad, and fried turkey. Broccoli salad, cucumber mold, marinated tomatoes and okra and tomatoes have already been laid out too, Jeanne’s place cards holding spots for the dishes warming in the oven—tarragon pork, broccoli and sweet potato casseroles, scalloped and stuffed potatoes, mac and cheese!
We move into the kitchen where we’re handed Kir Royal’s and ushered to a table of hors d’oeuvres—Sausage Pinwheels, Onion Rounds, Tomato Cups, and Matuce’s Marinated Shrimp, a recipe she’s not ready to part with just yet.
The kitchen island groans with desserts: coconut cake, fruit dumplings, Death by Chocolate, Neiman Marcus Bars, 7-layer cookies, Reeses Pieces, and a congealed mold dubbed “Green Stuff.”
As I was taking it all in, someone asked how I felt. “Humbled,” I said. I write about food for a living. I love it, but it’s work too. Matuce, Babs and George cook for the sheer love of it.