I have been waiting for just the right opportunity to make this pie, and here it is. It’s a combination sweet potato and pecan pie, and it only has about ten million calories in it. It was also the favorite pie of one President Obama. Naturally, it’s from a bakery in Virginia.
A digression here: since Mr. Jefferson of Virginia was asked to write the constitution for the first French Republic (he declined,) let’s have a few lines of the French national anthem.
Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! Contre nous de la tyrannie L’étendard sanglant est levé,
“Arise, Children of Patriots,
The Day of Glory has Arrived!
Against us, the Tyrant’s banners
Damn skippy. Now, back to pie.
The origin of this pie is Red Truck Bakery in northern Virginia, and the genius behind it is Brian Noyes. Go buy his cook book.
1 Creole Pie Crust (more Southern than the original. I really can’t follow a recipe very well.)
Hickory Nuts (not in the original recipe. See above. As it turned out, mine were all ruined anyway.)
Baked and mashed Sweet Taters, Precious
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Whipping Cream
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Bourbon (as much as you dare)
Fill up half the pie dish. That’s plenty.
That’s just the bottom layer. To quote Will Shakespeare, “I will call it Bottom’s dream.” Quoted out of context as usual. Now to the pecan top layer, which is the scary part.
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Sorghum Syrup (VERY southern)
Some Bourbon and Cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted Butter
Pinch of Salt
Here’s where I really depart from the recipe: corn syrup, as called for, is verboten in our kitchen so we improvised a replacement.
1 tablespoon Flour
A layer of Pecan Halves
The last ingredient is a thickener. The result is a masterpiece.
The crust is a bit ragged, but it will have a short life anyway. Handsome Joe and Handsome Kamala should drop by for a bite. Otherwise I am gaining several pounds.
Emma the Aussie is a big dog. She spends her days sleeping in the sun, and her nights on the dog bed. At 70+ pounds, she is far past the size of a registered Aussie. Think Shirley the Sheep from the great show Shaun the Sheep, who was three times larger than the rest of the flock.
Her sleeping habits surprised us the other day. She came to snooze on our couch downstairs, and to have me scratch her back at the same time. As soon as I started, a worm looking creature came crawling out of her fur. I grabbed it, yelled, and threw it on the floor.
The ever logical MJ inspected it, as it was sine curving it’s way across the floor, and said, “It’s a salamander.” That is the signature amphibian of the southern Appalachians, and I have seen tiny ones, up to ones more than two feet long (re: Hellbender.) I liberated it back outdoors.
That’s a white oak basket, made by an elderly Black gentleman from Montgomery county, Alabama. We purchased this back in the 1980’s. The oak splints are finely split and woven. We honor his incomparable craftsmanship and legacy by storing all our veg seeds in it. No one else that we know has ever seen a hinged handle like that.
Another masterwork from an equally elderly Black gentleman named John Reeves, which we bought in the eighties in the town of Gay, Georgia (population: 92.).
This thing could haul an orchard full of apples. However, it can’t touch our mac Daddy basket, when it comes to payload.
That’s a cotton basket, once common everywhere in the South. I get to add that I am one of the last generation to pick cotton by hand. It would take a good long while to fill up this thing. Made in my home county of Cullman, Al.
An earring rack for MJ to house just a few of her immense stash of earrings. It’s what to do with dead Mountain Laurel.
We have plenty of dope sticks in the South, like our new US Senator from Alabama, a former Auburn football coach named Tupperware (I think that’s right,) so take our new Senator, PLEASE. This dude was fired by Cincinnati–the college team. I would say we really need Chairman Mao and some re-education camps, but that would be too tough on people who never got an education to begin with (Tupperware could not name the three branches of the US Government, when asked.).
So let’s get off the train to Crazytown, and have a real Southern New Year’s meal. You also have my permission to make this any time of the year. The ham is the star, but the sides are the supporting actors. MJ came up with yet another new ham glaze this year. Superb is only the beginning.
Juice of 4 Oranges
Juice of 1 Lime
Make this as rich as you want. I like lots of Mustard, MJ lots of sweet, so split it down the middle. She did grow all the citrus.
I accidentally found a sustainably grown ham. Seek, and ye shall find.
The sides? Collards are a classic. Serve with pepper sauce. I have some high octane made.
You get one dollar for every cowpea you eat (seriously). All you get with macs and cheese are extra calories. Thanks, James Hemings. He was the chef for Long Tom Jefferson.
Rolls finish this off. We will be eating leftovers for the indefinite future.
Even someone as OC as myself occasionally slacks off. I pulled out a dutch oven that had this skillet lid sitting upon it, and there were spots of surface rust on the inside of the lid. Time for some rejuvy-nation.
Lard to the Rescue
This was a simple fix–lard and paper towels, plus some heat. This is a stove top treatment, so it does require some adult supervision.
Start with a practically invisible layer of melted lard. Heat until it smokes, wipe it out, and repeat the step until you get tired or fall asleep. After a few rounds, the rust disappears. Magic!
A Stovetop Skillet
It finally dawned on me why I like this skillet lid so much. It’s the handles. There isn’t a long skillet handle to get in the way of all the other things on the stove. This now is no longer a lid for a dutch oven. It’s a permanent resident on the stovetop, where it is used at least a couple of times a day.
Now I have to get MJ the 2020 Rosie the Riveter skillet. This is seriously a 19th amendment year.
I love people who hate on Amazon and our corporate overlord Bezos, when I know that they are buying like crazy from them. Life these days would be nearly impossible without them.
I have been saving writing about this cookbook for a couple of years now, and this is only a teaser. I’ll begin with the modest assertion that this is the greatest cookbook ever written (or at least it’s my favorite). You are allowed to ask why.
First, thanks to archduke Bezos, I was able to purchase a mint quality hardback of the 1989 version of the book for $3 plus change. It is expertly edited by a great cookbook writer herself, Marcelle Bienvenu, who wrote the definitive cookbook on Cajun cooking, Who’s Your Mama…? And please don’t confuse Creole food with Cajun food, unless you want to get laughed at.
Then, the recipes are superb, especially the meat recipes for chicken, beef, and Gulf seafood, as well as every vegetable imaginable. There is even a suggestion about how to serve broiled Robins or Larks–this one is not suggested by me, but the recommendation is to serve your songbirds on buttered French toast, and garnish with parsley.
The last mystery was as to who wrote this mammoth book (this latest version is 629 pages). An intrepid young scholar at Tulane University named Rien Fertel has determined that the author was one Marie Louise Points, a writer for the Picayune, who was “from a white, French-Creole family in New Orleans; her ancestors were from Virginia and around the Gulf Coast.” This is a common enough history, as my two favorite “Louisiana” writers came from Missouri and Alabama, respectively.
Bienvenu took the interesting approach of using the recipes from the second edition, but the introduction to the first edition. Anyone who has a copy of the second edition knows why. The second edition has an introduction that contains every racist stereotype that one would expect from the city that brought us legalized segregation with the case of Plessy v Ferguson in 1896–only four years before this book was first published. Fortunately, when it comes to the kitchen, all women and men are created equal.
I really wish I could make this stuff up, but Pastor Fiedler fell through this porch. Actually, these are just some of the surviving boards of the porch that the hefty pastor fell through. Read on.
Fiedler was one really funny pastor, and I witnessed his take down of one of MJ’s most repulsive in-laws–at a wedding, no less. With that said, he was also quite large, and he never once missed a free meal cooked by Agnes Olga, MJ’s mother. However, he almost missed one meal when he fell through the porch.
Background info. When MJ’s parents built their house, they did it right. Oak floors throughout, and even oak boards as the floor to the porch. To preserve the porch, they used green lead paint to keep it from rotting. Bad news–nothing will keep wood from rotting in this hot humid climate.
A couple of decades later, the fateful day arrived, and it could have been karma, as he was the first pastor of the church who could not speak German (the church was even founded by Col. Johannes Gottfried Cullman). Fiedler showed up as hungry as usual, but no lighter than before. He hit the one really weak board on the porch, and boom! Down he went, about three feet.
No harm was done to the man of God, but the porch received a death sentence. Here’s where I come in. I happened to be there while my in laws were tearing up the oak boards, and replacing them with cheap pressure treated pine. I asked them what they were going to do with them, and the answer was that they were going to be burned. There is nothing as healthy as burning boards painted with lead paint.
I offered to take a few boards off of their hands, and the result is above, a cabinet I made using only hand tools. I even saved some of the green paint. Hey, nostalgia, and a great story.
As my man Brecht wrote ( sorta plagiarizing Villon), where are the snows of yesteryear? I at least I saved a few of the oak boards.
This is actually a heart warming story, after all the witticisms I have made about heart warming stories. This is how a bunch of smart Alabama white guys insured that the University of Alabama was peacefully integrated. Naturally, food was involved.
Dr. John Blackburn was something of a genius (there is still a Blackburn Institute at UA). I was something of your local friendly environmental radical as an undergrad. Then Dr. Blackburn came to speak at our dorm, Mallet, the Men’s Honors Dorm, which he had founded. After his talk, I became an all-around radical. I still am.
The gist is this: Dr. Frank Rose, the UA prez, was something of a genius himself (He also worked with NATO, and hired Bear Bryant as the football coach). He gave Blackburn the job of coming up with a plan to end segregation at UA, without the rioting that happened at the University of Mississippi. Blackburn’s idea in 1961 was beautiful. We’ll get a bunch of smart guys to be our enforcer goons against the frats, in case there was trouble. Thus the Mallet Assembly, the Men’s honor program was born. Even when I interviewed for a spot in the dorm seventeen years later, they still wanted only highly intelligent athletes. When they found out I was one of those three sport letter guys in high school, I was in.
Here’s where the food comes in. The frat expletives decided they could get rid of James Hood, the first Black male to enroll in 1963, by denying him a seat at the cafeteria. The whole plot was as laughable as George expletive Wallace standing in the school house door earlier that year. Everyone knew that frat expletives ate in their frat hidey-holes, and that they all had Black cooks. (The women’s Honors dorm, in Fitz Hall, protected Vivian Malone, who later became Vivian Malone Jones, the sister in law of US AG Eric Holder. Nobody messed with a Fitz woman, least of all some dainty sorority expletives.)
Dr. Blackburn passed the word down to Mallet–now is your time. After the Malleteers finished laughing at the idiocy of the frat’s plot, they decided it was time for the frat expletives to get some of the old what for. So they staged a little drama for the village idiots.
For the first time in history, when James went to pick up his first meal, every seat in the cafeteria was full. The Malleteers sat at their usual table, and tried not to laugh while the frat expletives all smirked. James was in on the plot, and came in with his tray of food, and looked around, as if confused. A Malleteer stood up, waved him over, and gave him his seat. The frats couldn’t believe that it happened. They really were that dense. Soon thereafter, Mallet was listed “as a subversive organization with capability to build a nuclear weapon.” I never saw any nukes, but a chemistry major made LSD in a sink in the kitchen next to my room.
Barely ten years later (thirteen, to be exact), Mallet ran, and elected, the first Black Student Government president. This was before my time, but I would have quoted Bertolt Brecht to the losers, “Erst kommt das Fressen, Dann kommt die Moral.” (Food First, and then Morality.)
Which leads to a lighter story, about our dorm soccer team, which was unbeatable for our first two years. I was a defenseman, but we were required to choose a nickname and a number for our jerseys. I choose the nickname of Sierra Club president David Brower, who defended the environment by founding The Friends of the Earth, and the Earth Island Institute. John McPhee’s great non-fiction book Encounters with the Archdruid featured three long stories about Brower.
Truthfully, we won every match because our front line was three Nigerian grad students, all of whom were working on MS degrees in Petroleum Engineering. I actually would go a whole half sometimes, without ever seeing the ball come my direction. I did see a member of the frat league break his leg, when one of his rival frats kicked the snot out of him. Their game appeared to be more like a cross of rugby with thunderdome, than the beautiful sport we played.
I am down to my last two cast iron grinders to write about, and MJ has banned me from buying more. Even with that, I have my eye on a couple of them on Fleabay. Gearheads have no limits.
This Porkert mill is from the Czech Republic, and is the only one I have purchased new. It excels at grinding mustard seed for making fresh mustard. It will also produce a really good medium grain cornmeal. If you are Hulk Hogan, you could even attempt to grind wheat into flour with this. I have had the most success with spelt wheat, which is very soft.
I purchased this from Lehman’s in Ohio, as they have great service and great products. However, hereby hangs a tale, as I was once acquianted with the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic. He was even a customer of mine, back when I was in the Outdoor Retail business.
George W. appointed his favorite henchman from Alabama to be the Ambassador to the Czechs. The Czechs are famous for their metal casting, and I immediately suspected some industrial espionage, as Birmingham wasn’t just a steel town, but also a cast iron foundry town. Some of the finest cast iron cookware came from there. I’ll finish with a story about that.
At any rate, he was a good customer, as he had boat loads of taxpayer money to spend. I asked him about the Czech Republic when he came home for the holidays once. I asked him if he had seen the Faust House in Prague (by the way, Faust probably never lived there). His answer was as follows:
Me: Faust, the guy who sold his soul to the devil
Ambassador: Never heard of him
Me: You know, the Faust that Goethe wrote about
Ambassador: Never heard of him, either
So our educational system produces such products, and they become our Ambassadors to foreign lands. I should stop there, but I have a great cast iron story.
One of his friends, who was much more intelligent, was a retired Gent who worked with us one day a week. He was an expert fly fisherman, had been in the steel business, and knew every mill and foundry in town. His wife wanted some really fancy iron posts for their gate to their new house, and had him custom order some from a cookware foundry nearby. He went to pick them up on a Friday afternoon.
He said all the muscle bound foundry workers were there, lined up to collect their pay checks. He went up to the foreman of the plant, and stated that he wanted to pick up his cast iron posts. The foreman did this. He turned around and yelled:
Foreman: Hey, the guy is here to pick up his Mule dicks!
Everyone laughed but him. He said he just wanted to sink into the concrete, but he had mule dicks to deliver to his house. The fence did look nice.
André Michaux was one more botanist, gardener, and traveler. He was the Royal Botanist to French King Louis XVI, (that is, before the King misplaced his head), and botanized all over Eastern America, Canada, Persia, and parts of the Indian Ocean. Among his friends were Ben Franklin, William Bartram, and Thomas Jefferson. This Southern lily is among the many things he discovered.
We have been fortunate enough to have owned two properties where these were native. That’s a good thing, as these are practically impossible to transplant. I got that info from Ben Pace of Callaway Gardens in Georgia, where he said they killed about twenty of these before they finally gave up on them.
This, however, is the first yellow one I have seen. The more common color is orange. If this makes seed, I will try and plant more. Deer and rabbit love to eat these things, so I will just have to play wait and see on the seed angle. (Note: I just noticed that it has been eaten. Correction! MJ found it for me, as it was hiding in the maples, and it has a seed pod on it!)
While I’m on the subject of Michaux, here’s another plant he discovered–Big Leaved Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). It has the largest leaves and flowers of any plant in North America.
There is even a legendary yellow flowered version that is found in Alabama. I have seen one of the trees said to have yellow flowers but not while it was in bloom. It’s location is a deep dark secret.
Easy to grow, but hard to find, these are too big for even a deer to eat.