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8 Days Of Happy: Day 6 
16th-Dec-2008 10:10 pm
My Grandparents, who along with my mother and my Aunt Kathleen and Papa Jack taught me how to make real, authentic, southern style home cookin'.

My Granddaddy had a one acre vegetable garden on his property in Villa Rica, GA this side of Carrollton. In the summertime it was a place of purest discovery. Mounds of cucumbers; rose red tomatoes pulling themselves from the stem cap and eager to break free of the vine, and tender greens that would go into countless salads. Glowing yellow summer squashes and bushes thick with fresh okra pods. Emerald bell peppers and almost crimson cayenne chilis. Row upon row of silver queen corn stalks filled with fat cobs - each laden with the sweetest kernels you've ever tasted. He taught me how to fry okra country-style by cutting the pods into 1" sections and dipping them briefly in buttermilk, then tossing them in a mixture of salt and pepper-seasoned cornmeal in a brown paper sack with the top folded over. Heat up the biggest cast iron skillet or Dutch oven you had available, heat some vegetable oil (and a little left over bacon fat if there is any left from breakfast) and saute the lightly breaded okra until it's nice and golden.

My Grandmother, who taught me the best way to fry chicken and roast potatoes, and how to appreciate the bounty of vegetables in summer as frozen casseroles put up for winter.

Aunt Kathleen, who taught me what a rare and amazing thing a green tomato can become when properly breaded, fried, and eaten while hot - long before Fannie Flagg ever wrote the novel that John Avnet would direct that would become the film that would end up being my favorite of all time.

Papa Jack, who made the best bread and butter pickles I've ever tasted and loved me like no man ever would or could. Who never called me by my name once in my life, instead always choosing to refer to me as 'Baby', and who made the most amazing Brunswick stew, Bocaditos, butter beans, and cornbread that has ever been made by anyone, anywhere, ever. Who also gave me both my first cup of coffee and my first cigarette, oh - and my first beer. Only he never knew about the cigarette or the beer, just so you know.

And of course, my Mama - who taught me to make home made, from-scratch biscuits and red gravy; chicken and dumplings and a perfectly roasted chicken; all manner of fruit cobblers and hot fudge cake; just to name a few. Who would ask me on trips to the grocery store if I could remember what all was in the recipe we saw on TV a few days before so I could help her compare the ingredients we needed against the things we had at home in the pantry. "Do you think you could help me make that when we get home, angel baby?" Always overjoyed with the proposition of time shared in the kitchen being creative with her, she'd scoop me up and hug me tightly to her chest as I replied "Yes, Mama!" Whenever she would congratulate me on a success she would clap loudly and applaud me and I would thank her with my much coveted and oft-sought out "Kiss Of Fire", which was performed by holding her cheeks in my plump little hands and planting a kiss on her lips that I would hold until one of us began laughing and the spell was broken. My kisses were always longer and more heartfelt than those of my siblings I reasoned because mine took longer - and because I held her face in my hands, I suppose. Plus, I was the only one who would sing songs by Olivia Newton-John and The Carpenters with her...

Don't you remember you told me you loved be baybyyyyyy, said you'd be comin' back this way again baybyyyyyy...
17th-Dec-2008 03:22 am (UTC)
Oh man, this makes me miss home. I grew up in southern Alabama and to this day a breakfast isn't complete without grits or biscuits and gravy. I still can't make either the way that my Gran does.
17th-Dec-2008 03:25 am (UTC)
...and I'll bet like me, she could SHOW you how to make them, but couldn't tell you how, am I right?
17th-Dec-2008 03:29 am (UTC)

It's useless trying to get her to write down a recipe either. She has a Ph.D in paleontology, but all she'll say is "I know when it looks right."

Oh well. I still love my family.
17th-Dec-2008 03:31 am (UTC)
See, I knew it!
(Deleted comment)
17th-Dec-2008 03:26 am (UTC)
Simple - we like to eat, and we are children of this weather, so the heat doesn't bother us as much. In fact, I can deal with that a lot better than I can when the temperature drops below 40!
17th-Dec-2008 03:28 am (UTC)
Can I come to your house and have you cook for me for about a month or two?
17th-Dec-2008 03:30 am (UTC)
I think you already know the answer to this, so I'm going to pretend you didn't ask me such a silly thing!
17th-Dec-2008 03:31 am (UTC)
There can be a lot of love expressed in good family food...now I'm going to have to find Grandma G.'s Lord Baltimore Cake recipe! And I haven't forgotten my Mom's Bean Soup recipe...I will probably make it within the next 48 hours, so I can figure out exactly how much of what ingredients I actually use....
17th-Dec-2008 03:32 am (UTC)
Rock on with your bad ass!!
17th-Dec-2008 03:52 am (UTC)
You'd better believe I will, baby! I LOL'ed over your exchange with dawning_star after I replied myself...it's the Bean Soup Conundrum! :)
17th-Dec-2008 05:36 am (UTC)
Yer icon makes me happy. *ded*
17th-Dec-2008 06:56 am (UTC) - "You are uncommonly loved"
(sigh...) I wish I had a gay son... You are wonderful. One in a million. Don't you EVER forget that.
17th-Dec-2008 01:17 pm (UTC)
You know I'm no fan of cooking myself (which is a delicate way of saying that I hate to cook), but I could be a fan of that family of yours.
17th-Dec-2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
One thing I never learned form Maw-maw before she died was how to make her buttermilk biscuits. I can do the cornbread, I can do the chicken & dumplings, I can do the fried okra. But there's just SOMETHING about those biscuits that I can't duplicate. Mom can't either, and she's tried. She made biscuits with Maw-maw FAR longer than I ever did, too. But they just aren't right. I think the missing ingredient is Maw-maw's love. There was absolute love in everything she cooked. You could taste it, it was a tangible thing. It was THERE. Now, my love or my mom's love is there, but not Maw-maw's. So it's different.

And OMG just about anything cooked in fresh bacon grease is DA BOMB DIGGITY. You know this!!!!
18th-Dec-2008 01:02 am (UTC)
My mom always saved the fat from making salt pork or bacon on the stove in an old coffee container. I know it sounds gross but she made the most amazing food from that fat! She learned from her dad who was German how to cook and I was always at her side helping.

One thing we always have at this time of year is this amazing sweet ham gravy with our ham and mashed potatoes. Made with pineapple juice, brown sugar and a few other things it is so yummy! And no one I have ever come across makes it like that.

I can cook and bake (very well according to people who we have entertained over the years) but the one thing I never learned to make was homemade breads and biscuits and white gravy.I can make things like pumpkin and zucchini bread but not the slow rising on the top of the fridge, like my mom made with love, smelling it all day throughout the house, homemade white bread. Or dinner rolls. The biscuits and white gravy Larry loves and has ordered the couple of times we were down South. I'd love to be able to make those for him.

I have wanted to have someone teach me for years so I could pass it on to Jillian. She loves to bake. I have a friend here that is from GA, in fact she was at the premier of "Gone With The Wind" so she is truly a southern lady and knows how to cook Southern dishes as does her daughter.

I wanted to have her teach me over the last 20 years but time never seemed right. She is now in an assisted living facility and I'm afraid too frail to help me learn.

I guess I need to head your way for some lessons!LOL.

Hugs to the chef!
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