Friday, May 7, 2010

Carolyn's Love Via Southern Cooking (Kinda)

I've been thinking about the past lately. Actually, it started with the Great Mullet Smackdown between Canadian Kristy J and American SB Sarah. Although it was all in fun, it got me to wondering - are we really so very different?

When I moved to Alabama from Toronto Canada 40+ years ago, I think my answer would have been a resounding YES! Not only was I going from a large city to what I guess what would be termed a town (pop. 20,000), but I was entering what seemed to me to be the Twilight Zone. Southerners have their own ways of doing things.

For one thing - they cook food to death. Not that I cooked, you understand. Mom may have thought she was teaching me, but I somehow managed to dodge even the simplest basics. But a lot of our food - vegetables and fruit - in Canada were steamed, baked or just plain raw. Now I had entered the land of "if you can eat it, fry it" and if you can't fry it, boil it to death.

My first experience with cooking Southern was blackeyed peas. These were fresh from the garden, compliments of a first cousin belonging to John. So, you know, I cooked them as I thought they should be cooked. Like English peas. I can remember eating English peas straight from the pod, so you know they don't need much cooking. I proudly dished up my first attempt at cooking southern food and those blackeyes peas bounced around the plate like BB shot!

See, you're supposed to cook blackeyed peas at least 2 hours, after seasoning them with fatback or bacon strips. That's so you get a liqor (yes I spelled that right) to dunk your cornbread in.

John laughed his ass off (not that he has much of a one in the first place!). I was not amused.

Then I compounded my error due to differences in language. That same cousin dropped off some turnips, also fresh from the garden.

Well now. After the fact, I discovered that what we called turnips in Canada were called rutabagas down here. And lots of other places, for all I know. But I knew turnips as those big waxy things that are so hard to peel. Sort of all purpley and white. I do remember thinking Southern turnips were rather puny, but shrugged my shoulders and got on with preparing them. Cut off the tops (good lord, there were a lot of tops!), peeled the puny turnips and cooked them as I remembered Mom doing it with a pinch of sugar and salt and a slab of butter on top when they got to the serving bowl.

John couldn't eat them, they were so bitter. That's when I learned I cut off and threw away the wrong part. It's the green, leafy tops I was supposed to cook. Called turnip greens down here. You cook 'em with fatback and/or bacon and if you wish you can add a few cubes of the turnip, but not too many. They are bitter, you know. It is certainly a sign of true love when a man puts his stomach second to a woman. Romance, southern style.

I tried to make Brunswick stew; it scorched. We ate it anyway, with little flecks of black throughout it. Very decorative. My chicken and dumplings? I may be the only person in the south whose dumplings collapsed. I buy Sweet Sue now.

About the only thing I got good at was cornbread dressing. That's because I couldn't cook the wild duck without it drying out, so I boiled the hell out of it, stripped it off the bones and put it in a 13x9 baking dish of cornbread dressing. Not too bad. My guys did eat it, anyway. But that was when I was older and wiser and had become fairly familiar with my stove. I also discovered if you wrap dove breasts in bacon they won't dry out. Took me awhile though. And John kept eating questionable food. True love, I tell ya!

I've settled in down here and have found that people are people, no matter if they're north of the border or south. Southerners certainly don't talk like Canadians, but their values are the same.

And didn't someone wise once say 'variety is the spice of life'? If they didn't mean the South, they should have! The South, where a southern gentleman - in all senses of the word - will dutifully eat questionable food cooked by someone who could have been a damn Yankee, except she lived too far North.

It's true love and in it's own way, entirely romantic.


  1. Aww aint love grand :D

    I too have a similar story, although it probably doesn't count as it was the for the folks and they have to love me anyway - it's the law...

    I was about ? in age (shh it's a secret) and living in Townsville (blech). I thought I would be nice and cook the folks dinner so got the meat out of the freezer, roasted it up with all the veges etc and served.

    Get this. The meat was a piece of silverside. Now, you CAN roast (we normally boil), just not to the extent I did apparently. Whilst the veges were eaten, Dad threatened to take the meat to the Barracks the following day so his men could make gp's (army boots).

    To this day I've never lived it down. I've had other cooking fiascos since then but that's the one that normally gets told at gatherings of 7 people or more...


    Carolyn, you wanna tell them to try Southern cookin'? Tell 'em to come here. Can't get much more southern than us, unless you wanna eat with penguins and polar bears lol. Tell them we do a mean barbie though, that will sort 'em out. And I promise not to use hte silverside.


  2. So let me show my ignorance, in all its glory: what's silverside?

    In NA some bears are called silversides .... oh wait! That's silvertips, lol.

    Anyway, were you trying to cook beef, mutton or bear??? ;-)

    (I won't bore you with the tale of my attempts to broil, but can you say crispy critters?)

  3. I guess it's most commonly known as corned beef. It's yum...

    And broil? Is that baking, boiling or just grilling? You Americans sure do talk funny
    Hugs :P

  4. Aint no polar bears down this way,Lea.

    Just a bunch of pesky penguins and walruses.

    I've been served roasted corned beef too. Yechhh. It's an easy mistake to make though. It can look just the same as a topside roast! (just a bit redder)

    I do love corned beef boiled and served with white sauce, carrots and peas though.

    Carolyn, your man must be a real southern gentleman. Either that or he simply loves you a lot.

  5. Yeah, I know there aint polar bears - I was just pointing out we are more Southern than the South...

    It did look like beef - it was frozen and in a plain bag when I pulled it from the freezer. At least it's good for a laugh lol

    And except for the peas, I don't mind white sauce with mine. Pickles is better :) It's nice in a toasted sanga the enxt day.

  6. Just goes to prove - "Always label your frozen food", she said righteously.

    Corned beef?? Urk ...

    As for broiling - I don't know what it is.

    See, there's this heating element at the bottom of the oven and that comes on to roast or bake. And there's this heating element at the top of the oven, and that comes on when you turn the knob to broil. Oh, and you have to raise the the thingy - the tray, the oven rack - up to just under it.

    I gather one broils something for only a short time. Not real sure though as I never tried it again.

    Too traumatized, lmao!

  7. sounds like a griller... oh well, we don't have a setting for it so I guess don't need to worry about it lol.

    And I can't label what I don't put in freezer. But it is a good tip and I try to where I can. Especially when you clean it out and there's been soemthing at the back since Noah wore short pants. Might defrost it and find it's something a caveman would eat lol At least with a label it narrows down the guesswork.