Food: the pulse of my southern culture and my community

I buy more cookbooks than I use which makes me feel bad that I don’t give each of them their due – Not enough time in the day – not enough days in a week – seasons go by so fast. I have great intentions, make lists (surprise!), read and consider things to make, but too often I get side-tracked by another cookbook I already have, or by some random thing that I’m obsessed with making at that moment. Friggin inter web. Or something the Boy wants – don’t mind that at all.

Being from south of the Mason-Dixon, born of two North Carolinians in Florida (which isn’t, if you are from NE Florida, part of the South really – too many transplants), raised on what could best be described as country food, Southern food, soul food, and poor people food, but wickedly good food, is an amazing heritage to have and one that is strangely unique.

There are so many things that I remember and want to share with my family. There is also so much that I have yet to learn and didn’t learn before my mom died. That is the heart of this problem.

My father’s family was from North Carolina via Georgia and my mom is also from a very small town North Carolina town – town is kind of stretch when my uncle was mayor and there is only one stop light. Her first husband was from rural North Florida which I think influenced her NC cooking because my mom spent lots of time with her lovely in-laws, who I was blessed to know, but briefly.

So my cooking influences are plain and simple and Southern. There is so much history in the south of iconic Southern recipes – some simplified, but those aren’t the ones I am really interested in. I’d like the ones that my two lovely short grandmothers worked with – you know, the ones without the inclusion of processed foods that seem some times so ubiquitous now in “southern” food.*

I think there are so many Southern recipes that have moved around the south and you see slight variations from all your family and friends (and their families). Sausage balls, creamed beef on toast, collards and cornbread, tomato gravy over rice, country fried steaks, real mac n cheese, sweet potato casserole with lots of pecans – this could just go on forever.  Not to mention boiled peanuts  – can’t wait for fall for the biggest and best green peanuts from Jay, Fl. Totally forgot about hoe cakes – damn.

Now if I could only find a recipe for pork ‘n bean salad with celery and onions.** Guess I need to start looking at church cookbooks.

This feels like an odd kind of manifesto. Maybe it is.

*Think bisquick and condensed soups, especially condensed soups – ugh.

**I do want this recipe, but somehow I have the strange feeling it won’t measure up to my memory of it. I do think memories work that way and maybe it’s best to leave things alone. Who is to say?

 

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