Janisse Ray wrote the book, "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. " In the story, the author describes how she grew up, the influences that her family history, culture, and nature had on her, and how she is an individual as well as part of a whole. The memory that I believe gives a very personal insight into the author's identity details her mother's down home, southern cooking and the imprints, that her cooking impressed on her. In this exert, Ray describes her mothers cooking.My mother was a simple cook. She prepared foods she'd been raised on, plain Southern fare-rice, gravy, sliced tomatoes, turnip greens, cornpone, grits, eggs, chicken and dumplings, pot roast, ham, field peas, lima beans, potato salad, stewed okra, pumpkin pie, salmon balls.

We didn't have fancy casseroles or lasagnas or spaghetti, and nobody had ever heard of a burrito or an egg roll. I didn't know what an artichoke or a parsnip or kiwi or papaya was-certainly had never taste them.We drank sweet iced tea and sometimes lemonade. Mama made biscuits the old-fashioned way, hollowing a well in the bowl of flour and cutting the shortening in with her fingers, then pouring milk into the reservoir and stirring until she had a ball of dough.

She pinched the biscuits off one by one, rolling them into small balls and pressing them out on a cookie sheet. Each biscuit bore the mark of the backside of her knuckles (page 198-199).This passage reveals a personal truth because, throughout the chapter, Ray keeps repeating how she never wants to be her mother for the simple reason that her mother gives up all her desires for her family and their happiness, "Growing up I thought my mother was beautiful and loved her desperately, but I did not want to be like her" (page 203) but, at the same time, Ray thinks of her mother as "..

. superwoman disguised as a chaste Cracker house wife with four children and a husband ... " (page 199). Also, Ray did not want to be her mother simply because her mother gave away all her ambitions for her family, as was expected.

But at the same time, Ray did become her mother in the way that Ray cares as much about nature and the virgin stands of pine as her mother cared about her and her family. Citing her mother as her role model, her mother's cooking represents the values and views Ray adopted or rejected. The imprints of her mother's knuckles on the biscuits are symbolic of the love her mother imprinted on Ray. The biscuits represent Ray's impressionable childlike soul as the knuckles mold her childlike ways. Ray did not want to become her mother, but at the same time, her mother imparted certain values that Ray cannot deny.Ray didn't give up her beliefs and love of nature to take care of her family but does both at the same time, unlike her mother's unquestionable surrendering of all her ambitions.

She acquired her mother's unconditional love and gentle nature to balance her ambitious nature. The passage in turn personifies Cracker culture and certain values inherent in the culture. Food becomes a defining point for a culture. Southern food is known as soul food. When a person thinks of southern food, the automatic response is to think fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, grits, and sweet iced tea.

In the south, most people were poor and couldn't afford many exotic foods. The food was plain, but wholesome. The way Ray's mother makes biscuits by hand is also reminiscent of the cracker culture. When a person thinks of Mexican food, they automatically think of salsa and tortilla chips, Chinese, rice, Italian, pasta. A person can tell a lot about a culture by studying the food and the local ingredients used in the common, everyday fare. In the south it was typically pork, chicken, and beef.

The vegetables consisted mainly of anything that would grow in the Georgia red clay and dry summer heat.Cracker culture was identified by its simplicity. Another staple in Cracker food is potatoes. Potatoes originally came from Ireland; the birthplace of the Cracker persona. A Cracker is identified as a poor, usually ignorant, uneducated white person who settled in the south.

Because they were poor, the immigrants were forced to carve a living in the harsh Georgia climate. Ironically, a food that grows well in the south during any season is the hearty potato. This ties the Cracker culture back to Ireland where it originated. The life was hard and until ducation became available to the rural areas, many never even learned how to read and write. But, the talent of cooking came naturally to the Cracker and became the legacy of the south. As all the foods come together, it becomes an entirely different dish.

Thus several individual items are related to the whole. Cracker culture consisted of poor people making do and their food reflected this. Ray's mother was not only making biscuits to feed her stomach, she was also feeding her soul with the rich culture that exists in the south.Ray accepted her mother's wisdom with a grain of salt, vowing never to become her mother.

She did not become her mother, but she did acquire her mother's undying love for that which lives around her. Through the simple act of making a Cracker staple, Ray reveals the truth that she loved her mother and disapproved of her giving up on her dreams, but at the same time she embraced her mother's love for all things and for the Cracker culture that can be described simply by the food we southerners love to call soul food. It's good for the body and the soul.