How do we teach our kids how to eat?

When I was a kid, you sat down for dinner (supper in our case) and you ate what was on the table. If you did not like something, (green beans – ugh – even though my Mom was a great cook, I just never could get past this),  you ate more of something else that you did like (rice and corn mixed together with lots of butter or homemade mac n cheese or anything else). But there was not a separate meal for us kids. To be honest, I do not remember kids’ menus at restaurants either.

We had to try things (rutabagas, which I loved with lots of butter and black pepper), and we could certainly doctor things. My great aunt Rhodie’s chow chow made black-eyed peas amazing and now I cannot figure out how to eat them without that. Collards with home-made hot pepper vinegar* – amazing.

But supper was what was on the table. There it was. Your food. Enjoy.

To a large degree, we did that with The Boy and at a very early age, he ate pesto and sushi at 3-ish. In England he did what we did – trying lots of new vegetarian things (because I was, at that time, a vegetarian). Indian samosas were great and cheese and onion pasty (no sniggering –  it is what they call them) was simply and stupidly good. I’d like to think that The Boy still tries new things (in all honesty, I know he does). He is still a fan of salt and vinegar potato chips because we had chips (in the UK version of the word) with malt vinegar – something sublime about that. Okay – damn it. Now I have a craving. Crap.

Do we do our kids a disservice by catering too much to them for supper? In my case, there were nights where we had “fend for yourself” nights. For all of us – me, the Boy and the MotH. Go in the kitchen and make your dinner out of what was there. That is still one of my favorite things. Tonight, I think popcorn.

In my family, the only time you could just get around the – eat what is on the table rule – was when it was your birthday. That day you got whatever you wanted. I think that is totally valid.  But my mix of food was so weird. I mean, tacos and pecan pie. Who does that? Sounds so ugh at this point. But it did make me really, stupidly, happy. I am glad there are no pictures from this point in my life. My brother’s birthday food was even better. Roast beef, gravy, rice, and carrot and raisin salad. What a way better choice than mine. But I got the benefit of his birthday – I was smart.

I am sure we need a picture or two here, but, I’ve got nothing. Which is probably for the best.

*Home-made hot pepper vinegar is so easy. And so good.

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?