Friday, January 12, 2007

Food Porn Friday!!!


New Years Day Menu

Hop'n'John
Fried Okra

Collards and Fatback
Jalapeno "Corny" Cornbread

Wild Blackberry Jam



If this looks like a page from my all-time favorite cookbook, White Trash Cooking, or its companion book, White Trash Cooking II (Sinkin Spells, Hot Flashes, Fits and Cravins), then I have achieved my goal.

We lost one of this country's greatest unintentional sociologists when Ernest Matthew Mickler succumbed to AIDS in 1988. Yet another sad tragic loss we have sustained to this scourge.

If you are able to say the words, "white trash", in public with a sense of pride, then you have Mickler to thank for that. During the 1980's, Mickler traveled around the southeast taking photographs and collecting recipes from the South's working class. His work is both hilariously funny and deeply respectful at the same time.

The first time I saw the book, I was staying at the Hyatt in Savannah, GA while working on TNT's The Rose and the Jackal. We had a tight-knit crew and each night we'd stay up too late drinking in the piano bar and carrying on. I remember sitting in my hotel room sipping Wild Turkey with some actor friends and leafing through the pages of White Trash Cooking. We'd read aloud the recipes and hoot with laughter.

But the truth was, we were all Southerners. We were laughing at ourselves. We all had a recipe stuck in our brains somewhere that had Miracle Whip or katsup as its "secret" ingredient. And I had more than a few recipes like "Squirrels in Gravy over Biscuits" or "Scrambled Squirrel Brains and Eggs" tucked away in the recesses of my childhood. While I was not of the upper crust of the White Trash caste, we all recognized that they were the true masters of Southern comfort food cuisine.

And that's not all that unusual, since many of the world's great cuisines have their roots in poverty and "making do".

Mickler compiled his record just in the nick of time. The people he recorded and spoke to are quickly disappearing from our landscape. Mickler died the day after the second book was published. I can only imagine what wonders he would have recorded had he lived. I would have loved to have seen him do a book on cake.

The Politics of Cornbread

Certain food items seem to require a great deal of debate over how to prepare them "properly". It is completely impossible to change a person's mind about this. We are all ideologues when it comes to the question of barbecue sauce or cornbread.

Here in Tennessee, the only proper way to make cornbread is to use a "pone" recipe. This is an eggless batter made with cornmeal, salt, and water. It isn't sweet at all and is very crumbly.

But I'm not from around here. Lowcountry cuisine is like New Orleans cuisine without the heat. We love sweet things. So my cornbread recipe has stone ground sifted cornmeal, eggs, goat milk, a handful of flour, baking powder and sugar. The pan I made for New Years had jalapeno peppers and corn in it as well. This makes a very satisfying "cracklin" cornbread. Don't ask me for measurements because I just do this by feel. It's sort of hard to mess up...you'll just have to try it. Just make sure you sift out the husks from your cornmeal.

This makes a slightly sweet, slightly chewy and cakey cornbread.

And, of course, all cornbread needs to be made in a cast iron skillet with the batter floating in oil.

Friend Scott is in love with my cornbread. He just won't shut up about it. He has bragged on it to most of the ladies of the mountain and now I am an object of envy.

Or at least I will be until they find out how I make it.

Then it will just be yet another weird, somewhat bent nail in my coffin.

6 Comments:

  1. Anonymous said...
    Hellfar Lambo Gawd:

    Do I understand you to be sayin not only do you put sugar in this, but you use sweet milk? (cow, goat: hell, it could come from a squirrel for all I care.) Gracious. Though it has an egg and must go in cast iron floating on bacon drippings.

    I believe I may be shocked beyond further comment. Best we save BBQ comments for another time, huh?

    Best to you, friends, and goats.

    JohnieB
    Rosie said...
    Now JohnieB...the milk part is not unheard of round here. Though buttermilk (homemade-hand-churned of course) is preferred. This is my buddy, Betty Jo's, secret to her cornbread and the best damn biscuit I ever put in my mouth.

    I'm over on y'all's blog all the time but don't comment much 'cause y'all is just so smart, I'm afraid of shaming myself.
    Velociman said...
    Wow. That New Year's feast looked like my maid Etta fed it to me. Incredible. And I'm down with your cornbread recipe. No crumbly. Sweetness is our friend here. And we want baby goats, by the way.
    Anne Johnson said...
    My grandma always used Jiffy, which I know is cheatin but I do it too.
    Anonymous said...
    I beg pardon if I sounded overly opinionated; as I re-collect you pointed out, the topic runs to strong feelings.

    As to your visits to our porch, I always sense you have brought more than a touch of class to the doin's, so no false modesty, if you please. Truth to tell, I sometimes fear I don't keep up to your level.

    JohnieB, his own blamed self
    Rosie said...
    Yes, V-Man...I'm ready for baby goats too. In two days I'll be in the hot zone for the rest of the herd to kid. If Blinkin' hasn't dropped her kids by then, her yard goat ass is going back out to the pasture.

    Hey Anne...jiffy cornbread is my friend.

    JohnieB...Now I have read your comments over on TGW and you, sir, are a scholar and a gentleman. I fear I am just one of them there "suede-o-intellectuals".

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