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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Family Style Papaw baked a big biscuit in a castiron skillet each morning. Papa Dave took his breakfast at the Court Cafe. Jo made cornbread with less salt than soda. Ruby considered meat loaf poor-do. Papaw liked to saucer thick black coffee. Papa Dave couldn’t stand to see mixed-up food. Jo drank syrup. Ruby took the skin off a chicken neat as the coat off a child. Papaw loved clabber. Papa Dave relished canned peaches with saltines. Jo beat the devil out of steak with a saucer edge. The devil was tough at Ruby’s house, too. Papaw once for a year drank beer before breakfast. Papa Dave for his ulcer ate cakes of yeast. At Thanksgiving dinner, Jo served tomato and kraut juice. Ruby swore by milk toast, domestic tea. Papaw brought hamburgers from the bus station Sunday evenings. Papa Dave took us in the Nash for a cone of cream. Jo’s recipe for corn: boil the water while you go to the field. Ruby’s jam cake still sweetens my days. Hair I am from the springy honey-blond hair which thickened my father’s arms, the silky black fur that hugs my husband’s I am from the sharp dark dream hair of my babies newborn slick from the river crossing From Rapunzel’s pigtails Samson’s shearing hair spray, home perms spoolies, spit curls I’m from bright barrettes and butch wax hair tape and juice cans dog-ears, split ends crowning glory From the hundred-stroke fire the lathered river the ritual electric air from earth curved in pubic curl, thatched in plush armpit. GEORGE ELLA LYON George Ella Lyon, prize-winning author of many picture books, poetry collections, and three novels for young readers, lives in Lexington, Kentucky. She writes, ‘Family Style’ began in my journal as a list of things my grandparents ate…. I was doing it for the joy of language and … the memories the foods evoked…. The further I went, the more the list spoke to me of the differences in the households where my parents grew up…. `Hair’ got started when I was on my hands and knees cleaning the bathroom and trying to love it. \(I’d been reading Thich Nhat Han’s I asked myself, ‘What is all this hair besides an endless chore?’ The poem is my answer.” Naomi Shihab Nye 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 25, 1998