Connecting Generations in Nate Powell’s “Conjurers”

Matthew Teutsch
5 min readAug 9, 2021

I’ll always remember sitting at the table in my grandparents house and the smells that would float through the room as my grandmother whipped up food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I distinctly remember the salmon cakes and the vegetable soup. However, the one treat that always makes my olfactory nerve and taste buds perk up, sending electric impulses to my brain and triggering a feeling of nostalgia, are sausage balls during the holidays. I’d put them in the refrigerator, causing them to get cold, and once they got to the right temperature, I’d open the door, pull a few out, pop them in my mouth, and be content. When my wife and I make sausage balls, they’re not the same. They are minuscule by comparison, and the Bisquick seems non-existent. Yet, whenever I eat them, I think about my grandmother. I connect with her, across the span of time.

Two recipes from my grandmother and my wife’s grandmother

This connection of generations through recipes, the passing down of stories, and the tangible material objects of the past is what Nate Powell’s “Conjurers” deals with. The story links three generations together over a recipe, and as Powell puts it, “Sometimes it seems that the act of re-creating a recipe of the deceased is a magic of sorts. It’s the closest we can come to summoning their distinct, intangible properties, and does seem to truly carry magical properties allowing us to transcend the limitations of our existence.” It serves as a tangible connection to our ancestors, whether we ever met them face to face or not. It connects us, across time and space, linking us in the ether through nostalgia, reminisces, memory, narrative, or more.

“Conjurers” begins with a young girl and her grandmother, Rose, preparing to make fried chicken. Rose, as she pours the flour into a measuring cup, tells her granddaughter, “Your great-gran fried up the best chicken. She might as well be right here next to us.” The act of making the fried chicken and teaching the process to her granddaughter brings about the presence “great-gran,” Rose’s mother. We don’t see her in the kitchen with the two cooks, but she is there, especially when the grandmother goes over to the counter a removes a card from the recipe box, a box…

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Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.