Miss Lillian was a neighbor to my grandmother. Listening to the stories that
My My—that’s what we called my grandmother—told, it was easy to imagine that Miss Lillian had studied her wife-artistry at some old-world school of housewifery etiquette. Even back in the sixties when I was growing up, her way of tending to her husband’s needs, made other good wives say she was an old-style wife—what her husband Logan said, went, and what he needed, Miss Lillian provided. They say, she was so aware of Mr. Logan’s needs, she could feel them coming on way before he could; say, she would hand him his back scratcher or his plastic toothpick or a fresh handkerchief, minutes before he himself actually felt a need to request those things. When Logan came in—around three in the morning—from his General Motor’s job, Miss Lillian would rise and pour him a bowl of cereal flakes.
One Saturday afternoon, Miss Lillian sat on my grandmother’s porch and casually mentioned that she had to mosey on to the grocery store to buy a box of corn flakes, and then, to the drugstore to pick up a bottle of peppermint oil. “What cha makin’ that’s callin’ for oil and flakes?” My My asked. She was always looking out for a new recipe to add to her files.
“Oh, no, Sister Thompson, it ain’t for no recipe that I need these things. I clip Logan’s toenails and rub his feet with peppermint oil every Sunday morning before we get dressed for church. I’m runnin’ low on foot oil and corn flakes; You know how Logan expects me to set him out a bowl of flakes every morning.”
Though they were friends, the extent that Miss Lillian was willing to go to fulfill her wifely duties grated on my grandmother’s nerves. My My used to say, “If a man loves you, he won’t let you do all of the work to keep him.” Truth told, My My was on the spoiled side. While she would indulge my grandfather, Pop, with little niceties, like a Sunday-like supper on a weeknight or a surprise platter of his favorite gingersnap cookies, she was not the kind of woman who would clip a man’s toenails, or oil his feet, or get out of bed in the middle of the night and break her sleep, just to fix him a bowl of cereal. “You have to draw the line somewhere,” she used to say. “Cause some men’ll work the sap out of you if you don’t.”
My mother, who was wise in the ways of womanhood, once told me, “there’s nothing wrong with a woman babying her husband. Especially, if he’s a good man—hardworking and sweet.” Concerning Miss Lillian, Mama said, “I see nothing wrong with getting up in the middle of the night to fix your husband a bowl of flakes when he comes in from work…but I’d draw the line when it comes to clipping his toenails and oiling his feet.”
She did say however, that it was up to every woman to set her own standard of wifely familiarity—and wifely leniencies and pleasures. Said, where she wouldn’t clip her husband’s toes and oil his feet, said it was perfectly plausible if another wife saw where it was fit.
On that, I agreed with Mama. Where one woman “won’t” another one “will”.
A few months before I got married, I started putting together a little journal of man-pleasing recipes and womanish niceties that would make ‘coming home to me’ a nice experience for my husband. Miss Lillian and Mr. Logan came to mind immediately; as I recalled from childhood, Mr. Logan appeared to be a happy husband who was always doing something in and out of their home to make it more pleasant for Miss Lillian. With that in mind, I promptly called Miss Lillian and asked if there was anything that she’d done to Mr. Logan’s bowls of corn flakes to make them special. She said, “No sugah; it was never about the contents in the bowl that pleased him, he could’ve poured his own cereal; it was the fact that when he came home, there was somebody, warm and welcoming, waiting in the kitchen to greet him.”
Miss Lillian’s Corn Flakes
1 Large bowl, deep enough to hold the cereal and the milk—choose one that you suspect
will feel good to a man’s sense of touch.
1 box of cereal flakes (or any dried cereal)—I prefer Kelloggs’ Brand
Milk or cream (Use whole milk or 2%)
1 large spoon
Brown Sugar (optional)
Maple Syrup (optional)
Place the bowl on the table or the countertop. Fill it half-full of cereal. For variety, you can combine two or more cereals. Pour enough milk or cream over the cereal to suit your taste. Garnish with freshly cut fruits like bananas, strawberries, peach slices, kiwi, pineapple slices, or top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream .
For hot cereal, add a sprinkle of brown sugar, a drop or two of maple syrup, crushed pineapple, or dried fruits to add flavor and interest. Serve alone, or with a slice or two of bacon, or a couple of links of sausage .
Makes 1 bowl of cereal