A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Food and Family

Since we are rolling into Thanksgiving with all the wonderful and sometimes bittersweet memories that holidays pack with them in their luggage, for this week’s Moonshine Challenge at yeah write thought I would re-post something I wrote for last April’ s A-Z Challenge, A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South.    This post was letter “F.” 

I do hope you enjoy, and that it brings back good remembrances for you, too, of meaningful meals with your family and friends and all of the love that was the primary ingredient.

I still crave my grandmother’s cooking, although she’s been gone now for more than 15 years.

My Granny

My Granny

She wasn’t a “chef,” or a fancy cook, but she prepared delicious, abundant meals and she poured her love for her family into every casserole and every slice of cornbread. I think because she and my granddaddy had lived through the Depression, when times were so hard and food was scarce, it was important for her afterwards to make a feast of every family meal.

Sunday dinner at my Granny’s was a momentous occasion. (And Sunday dinner means lunch, by the way. In the old South, “supper” is the evening meal.)

She started cooking for Sunday on Saturday morning.

She always had two or three meats (ham, a beef roast, fried chicken, fried catfish or country-fried steak with white gravy) along with one or two types of potatoes (mashed with gravy/sweet potato casserole/potato salad), a vegetable medley casserole, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, fried summer squash, fried sweet corn, green beans, slow cooked turnip greens with fatback, fresh sliced tomatoes in the Summer and fried green tomatoes in the Spring, and my all-time favorite, cornmeal–battered okra (the super crispy, slightly burned pieces are the best).

Hushpuppies, fresh-baked cornbread, yeast rolls and biscuits to sop up the gravy, or to slather with butter and her homemade plum jelly. Coconut cake, banana pudding, pecan pie, strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler would satisfy your sweet tooth (should you have any energy left to open your mouth.)

I have dined at some of the finest restaurants in this country. I’d trade every one of those meals for one more chance to sit at her table.

Of course, she never sat at her own table. She bustled throughout the entire meal, filling up glasses with iced tea and water, fetching a fresh batch of biscuits from the oven, replenishing the chow-chow. After everyone else had stuffed themselves senseless, and the table was cleared, she might stop a moment for a small plate for herself.

She was always urging you to eat more. “But your plate is empty!” she’d wail.

Biscuits, butter and jelly

Biscuits, butter and jelly

Bulging eyes, tightening belts, groaning tummies and protests of being “full as a tick” had no impact: She’d just sniff and mourn that “you must not have liked it.”

Jewish grandmas got nothing on Southern grannies for food and guilt.

There are days when I yearn for for the food of my childhood.

Her food.

I’ll pick up squash and fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market. I even bake biscuits. I have the technology, recipes and equations that should make them taste the same, but they never do.

Southern food is au courant. Farm-to-table is all the rage. You can spend a fortune on something called “soul food” in trendy restaurants in New York, Chicago and L.A.

The true soul of Southern food isn’t just grits and greens, though; it’s the passion that goes into making them.

It’s the time and care in the cooking, the bond of the family at table; the joy of generations sharing stories and sustenance, passing down the memories along with the recipes.

It’s my Granny, piling up my plate not just with food, but with her love.

“We believed in our grandmother’s cooking more fervently than we believed in God.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer

F

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Food and Family

  1. Oh my, those feasts sound so special! My dad was a great cook and loved making everyone’s favorite dishes, so this brought back a lot of memories for me, even though the dishes weren’t the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes…everything you mentioned is exactly like we had here, at my granny’s and grand-ma’s, and even at our regular meals at home…and we still do all that. Southern cooking is the best. And yes, even now we have dinner at noon, and supper in the evening.:) Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, you reminded me of my own grandma and her cooking. My absolute favorite was the fried okra (she grew her own okra in the backyard garden). Always a pie or cobbler for dessert. I have her dishes now, and the little bowls always remind me of her desserts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s