Bradshaw’s Bread Pudding
“Yoo-hoo! Louisa! Ethel Mae! I’m here!”
Ethel Mae glanced up at the sound of the voice, though, if she were honest with herself, she’d recognized the speaker in her sleep. Ethel Mae shot a quick glance towards Mama Lou, who was directing members of the youth choir in the set up of banquet tables and chairs, in order to gauge her friend’s reaction to this latest arrival to the Friendship Community Church Annual Picnic.
Agnes Bradshaw was a tall, bird-like woman with a hawkish nose, light-caramel complexion and jet black hair. The color drew attention to the network of creases next to her mouth and eyes. She was eighty if she was a day but still wore five inch heels and dresses above her knees. Mama Lou complained that being in Agnes’s company for any length of time was exhausting. The woman was never still; she flitted and her hands fluttered.
Mama Lou and Agnes were a match made in hell.
“Whew!” Agnes said as she breezed up to Ethel Mae. “That was a long walk.”
The annual picnic would be held under a massive tent set up on the back forty on the grounds of the historic church. The original church founders, which included the great grandfather of Agnes’ late husband, Willie C, had inherited the land located just outside Memphis in the village of Collierville, after the former plantation owner passed away. The cornerstone recorded the building was erected in 1848. The city had built up around the church ground over the years but sitting on the back forty acres, under massive oak and pine trees was like stepping back in time.
“I can’t believe y’all made it here before me,” Agnes continued. “Louisa tends to be late for everything bless her heart but maybe she’s mellowing in her old age.”
The words were spoken just loud enough to reach Mama Lou’s ears however, she gave no reaction that she’d overheard. Mama Lou, straight-back, head up and chin thrust forward, barked out orders like a pint-sized general. The kids gave no indication of fear or awe; children tended to see beyond Mama Lou’s bark and right into her heart. They finished one task and ran up eagerly looking for the next assignment.
“We still have a bit more setting up before the congregation arrives,” Ethel Mae attempted to divert the latest skirmish between her two friends. “Would you like to finish these lanterns? Or maybe labels for the silent auction?”
Agnes continued as if Ethel Mae hadn’t spoken. “It was so nice of y’all to help us out today. We have to try to keep our elders busy otherwise, they just might wither away.” She shot another pointed look towards Mama Lou. “But I’m sure our Pastor and First Lady will appreciate whatever small contribution you can make.”
Ethel Mae glanced up in time to see Mama Lou rap her beechwood cane twice in succession, a clear sign of agitation. If Ethel Mae couldn’t divert Agnes from further needling, there would be a storm coming for sure.
“We have some wonderful offerings for this year’s silent auction. I brought some banana pudding and Louisa made her famous apple fritter tarts. Your Pastor is brags about those tarts whenever he sees us.”
“Lord knows, he is a kind man and knows just what to say, bless his heart. I’m sure today will be a success. We need to raise as much money as possible in order to defer some of the costs of the loan. That’s why I made my bread pudding.”
As she spoke, she shifted the baked goods around on the table until her bread pudding was set in a place of prominence; the apple fritters were pushed to the end of the table. “This recipe has been in the Bradshaw family for generations. It always disappears as soon as I make it. I’m sure it will bring in lots of money.”
Neither of them had been aware of Mama Lou’s silent approach. “One would think she was born into the Bradshaw family, instead of some po’ trash sharecropper’s daughter.”
“What’s that you say Louisa?” Agnes’s lips were curled up in a way that indicated she’d heard every word. “For a former school teacher, you have a terrible habit of mumbling.”
COMING NEXT: Charlotte’s Carrot Cake