Classic Southern

It’s so Sad that Julia Child had to invent good American Cooking all by Herself

From native foods like grits and corn bread, to introduced European specialties such as ice cream and macs and cheese, the South has something of a history with food. The included recipes here are particularly Southern, and there will be NO FRIED CHICKEN (even though I trained as a chicken fryer with the Kentucky Colonel’s business).

Pink Eye Purple Hull Peas

Still More to Shell

Carolus Linnaeus was a great benefactor of mankind, who invented the system of binomial nomenclature of plants and animals. Now we know that Vigna unguiculata is not the same as green peas, though they share a common name. This particular pea was brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, whose cultivation of it caught the eyes of the slaveholders. Cowpeas, as they are also known, were described by Thomas Jefferson in 1798 as a veg that “is very productive [and an] excellent food for man and beast.” 

This is a simple veg to cook, though it is starchy and takes some time. Water, salt, and some good seasoning meat, are all that is needed. This particular variety is the most popular, though the other varieties of cowpeas are remarkably different in taste and texture. If you see any cowpea for sale, buy them in bulk and freeze them, as frozen cowpeas are almost as good as fresh ones.

Southern Frat Boy Sticks Bottle Rocket up his Butt, Lights it, and Gets Sued

Don’t Leave Home without These

If only I could make up things this good, Robert Ludlum would be out of the writing business.

Since this has to do with a distilled or cooked grain, and possibly a smoked herb, I find this story to be fair game for a food blog. That, and it is something of a classic Southern story of the inexplicable.

Culled from one of my favorite mags, The Atlantic, that has published such writers as Twain and Hemingway, this classic hails from 2011. A West Virginia college frat was hosting a party, when one of the mentally altered guests decided to go out on their deck and stick a bottle rocket in his anus. I actually could not determine which way he stuck it in there, business end or stick end, but enquiring minds want to know.

As this was at a college, naturally there was someone filming the whole thing with a phone. After the genius lit the fuse, the phone guy became so excited he fell off the deck, and found himself lodged between the wall of the building and the heat pump. Naturally, he sued BOTH the frat and the guy with the butt rocket, for damages. The case was settled out of court.

I have to leave the last words to Shakespeare: “I am amazed and know not what to say.”

Better Know a Southern Staple

Grits or Polenta? Either way, it’s Boiled Ground Corn.

Ingredients here that are specific to the South, though the Grits/Polenta controversy lives on, and probably will, as long as people boil ground corn.

Great Southern Food Essays–“The Pleasures of Eating,” by Wendell Berry (1989)

Every writer runs across an essay occasionally, and says, “Damn, I wish I had written that.” Let’s just say that there are probably thousands of writers who wish they had written “The Pleasures of Eating.” Brilliant and prophetic at the same time, it has to be the best takedown of the current food system dominated by big agriculture.

I’m just going to start with one of the finest sentences I’ve ever read. “Like industrial sex, industrial eating has become a degraded, poor, and paltry thing.” Industrial sex? What a comparison. Every time I drive past a fast food place like Chickin-fil-whatever, I have the same thought.

Here’s another zinger, about how oblivious people are to the garbage they are eating. “One will find this same obliviousness represented in virgin purity in the advertisements of the food industry, in which the food wears as much makeup as the actors.” I actually had a student who worked as a food “stylist” and photographer, and she sprayed her food with hair spray before she took a picture of it. Enough said.

I will end with the thesis, which is something of an odd way to end, but it is “the proposition that eating is an agricultural act.” I won’t give all of Berry’s recommendations, but a revised version of the entire essay is posted on the interwebs. Alas, it omits the industrial sex reference. Read it, and weep anyway, for the current state of our food system. Then go to your local farmer’s market, and buy some real food.

I saw Mr. Berry once, when he gave a reading at the University of Illinois. He drove up from his farm in Kentucky, and showed up wearing a pair of overalls. That’s what we call keeping it real.