Mom and Rob, Iowa CityA Twitter exchange involving tamale pie and “The Joy of Cooking” led me to investigate this photograph of my mother and youngest brother, both now deceased, during our residence in a trailer house on blocks somewhere near Iowa City, Iowa, in 1954 or ’55. Dad was was working on his master’s at the Writers’ Workshop; Mom was caring for three boys. Retrieving the photograph, I initially dwelled on my mother’s beauty and happiness, despite the low-rent surroundings, but I really was checking out the cookbook on the far end of the shelf. I had been prepared to fire off a tweet showing my “Joy of Cooking” credentials, but close examination revealed that this cookbook actually is the Better Homes and Gardens guide to post-war cuisine. An ironic selection, maybe, given my mother’s environment. But the greater reminder here is that she had a halo about her regardless of what concoction — no doubt involving a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup — she might have been preparing for supper. Here’s the tweet and a wonderfully written essay that propelled this runaway train of thought:

Every year around this time I get a hankering for Tamale Pie because of and

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