Imagine cooking without the basic ingredients—or even electricity—in 120° heat. My mom, Shirley Randall, faced such challenges daily when our family lived in Africa.

For 30 years, my mom and dad, Maurice, served as medical missionaries in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). One of my mother’s main responsibilities was feeding and caring for the many visitors to the mission hospital and school…as well as tending to my brother, two sisters and me.

With no restaurants or stores nearby, visitors knew that they would be welcome in our home. The only visitor Mom turned away was a cobra that fell from the dining room light fixture just before dinner one day. Everyone else who came to our home, regardless of their cultural background, enjoyed my mom’s cooking.

Mealtime Memories

One meal I remember fondly is Cheese-Filled Meat Loaf with Butternut Squash Casserole, Parker House Dinner Rolls and Company Chocolate Cake.

Because flavorful Cheese-Filled Meat Loaf was one of my favorites, my mom would make it when I returned from boarding school in Kenya. Now I make it for special occasions.

Mom, who grew up in rural Georgia, was famous for her light, fluffy Parker House Dinner Rolls. Her comforting Butternut Squash Casserole filled in for sweet potatoes when we couldn’t get them; it was a favorite of guests.

She made Company Chocolate Cake for birthday celebrations. One guest from New Zealand was so impressed with this cake that he included the recipe in his travel article!

Creating memorable meals was an accomplishment. Getting even the basic supplies wasn’t always easy. The hospital lorry (a flatbed truck) picked up our groceries in town. When we heard the truck returning, we’d rush to meet it with our wheelbarrow…hoping the eggs and milk had survived the trip.

Fun with Food

Electrical outages happened frequently during the rainy season, so Mom couldn’t rely on mixers and other appliances. Since we didn’t have air-conditioning, some foods like gelatin salads didn’t hold up well.

Cooking was more than a necessity. It was our main form of entertainment. We’d invite friends for a fast-food night or a pizza party. We often held large social gatherings for people who worked at the hospital and school. The single nurses and teachers considered our house a second home and always helped in the kitchen.

Mom Shirley R.

Although the atmosphere was casual, Mom’s table was set elegantly. We couldn’t get paper plates and plastic utensils, so Mom used her china and crocheted tablecloths made by local women. And she always decorated with her homegrown roses.

Some of my best memories are of preparing foods with Mom and my sisters. She taught us to be resourceful and use what we have available to create satisfying meals.

Now that I have three children of my own (and another on the way), I appreciate all my mother did even more. My husband, Hunter, is director of behavioral health at a private clinic. I stay at home with our boys (Luke, J.P. and Rayne). I still cook most of our foods using the basic ingredients that were available in Zimbabwe. But on hectic nights, when we end up at the drive-thru or ordering pizza, I think of how my mom managed without such luxuries.

My parents live in Georgia but visit Zimbabwe every year. The grandkids (they have 13 scattered across the globe) call her “Gogo,” the Ndebele word for grandmother. It suits her perfectly because she’s always on the go, and she can still whip up a meal faster than anyone I know! I hope you’ll enjoy this memorable one.