Inez’s Soul Food For Real: Where There’s Love In The Cookin’ And The Folks Who Serve It

7-6-2013 10-16-47 AMTwo months ago I wrote a Publisher’s Point article that was entitled “A Day In The Life,” in which I chronicled a typical “mad dash day” around Athens that was made by yours truly in the process of getting Athens Now “put to bed.” In it I talked about the blessing that is Athens, even though I was under the gun and dealing with several production-related crises. I want to reference that article in order to tell you about Inez’s Soul Food For Real, and the wonderful story behind it. “Back I zipped over the railroad tracks to Inez’s Soul Food For Real, where Salena Cain had made lunch for me with love. I got a hug from Ms. Salena, who sent me on my way. I felt like a kid whose mom had carefully prepared my lunch, and you could taste the love in it.” Unbeknownst to me, that was one of the many important lessons Inez Turner Freeman, (in whose honor the café is named,) taught her granddaughter, Salena. “Always fix your children’s plate with a mother’s love,” she would say, and I can say from experience that Ms. Salena has learned her lesson well.

7-6-2013 10-16-57 AMInez Turner Freeman was born in 1916 in Athens, and died in 1995. Her grandmother, Glovenia Yarborough, had been a slave belonging to Hence Yarborough. Mr. Hence fiercely loved Glovenia, married her in 1877, and they had ten children. Glovenia picked up the nickname “Governor” because kids especially had a tough time pronouncing her name. Ms. Inez’s mother, Lily was one of those ten kids, and married Maxie Turner. Inez married the love of her life, James Freeman, and they had seven children: Johnny Mack, Zellar Rich, Ollie Turner, James Wesley, Mary Catherine, Shilrey Ann and David Darnell. Six of the seven are still alive.

Given the times, I am amazed at the courage of the Yarborough family, especially Hence and Glovenia. It seems that the good things they instilled in their children regarding courage, integrity, honor, love, hard work and godly values were passed down to and through their progeny, and Salena has much to say about the things Inez modeled for her as a child.

“My grandmother was the one that people would go to when they needed help, often when no one else knew what to do. Her home and heart were the kind of places where you could ‘lay your head down’ and be safe, and she would take on the ‘tough cases.’ As a child, living in her home on Hine Street, she would take me with her to the Square. She would call the Mason Freeman Cab Company to take us to the Square (because Inez never drove,) and drop us off at the corner where Bennett’s is now. I would watch her go to stores like U.G. White and Beasley’s, and pay what she owed as recorded on the ledger, on the first of the month, just like she said she would. We would go from store to store, she would chat and ‘love on people,’ and it didn’t matter what color they were. She would introduce me to the store owners, and the people we met, and I wanted to be on my best behavior. We would end up at Nelson’s Burgers, (just over the railroad tracks and north of the Courthouse Annex.) When we were finished eating, she would ask to use the phone to call the cab to take us back home, and she paid the store owner for the phone call. She took me up under her wings, and she taught all of us, ‘First, treat people right. And as long as it’s right, then no matter what, you stand your ground.’”

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One of the most powerful lessons Salena learned from her grandmother was about the kind of love that “hopes all things, bears all things, believes all things and endures all things,” and the “stage” was the home of a prominent Athens family where Inez worked as a domestic. The family had a disabled child who would viciously call Inez the “N word.” To the child Ms. Inez said the following: “Regardless of what you call me, I am going to take care of you.” Ms. Inez told the child’s family what was going on, and thankfully they put a stop to it. Salena said, “I never one time heard my mother or grandmother say they hated anyone in their heart.”

Salena added, “Every holiday, our family went to her patio, where there was lovingly prepared food in abundance everywhere. She didn’t use or have recipes, ‘just a pinch of this or that,’ and her favorite spices were salt and black pepper. She made sure that her sons knew how to cook as well. Everyone learned.”

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Inez apparently made biscuits and fried chicken that should have been world famous. In addition, there was banana pudding, peach cobbler, blackberry cobbler, chess pie, pecan pie, and on it went. You will find the same fare at Inez’s Soul Food For Real, and know before you cross the threshold that this is a place just off the Square where you can get a marvelous meal, and if you should want one, a loving hug.

Inez’s Soul Food For Real 102 E. Washington St, Athens, AL, 35611 Lamont and Selena Cain, Owners
We Offer Catering, Event Planning, And Facility Rental
Hours: Sat, closed, Sun, 10:45-4:30, Mon, closed, Tue, 11-5, Wed-10:45-4, Thu, 11-5, Fri, 10:45-5
Phone: 256-233-4046
facebook: Inez’s Soul Food For Real
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner