If you are ever invited to a real country noontime dinner in the South, jump at the chance to see what the fuss about soul food is all about. What could be the value of two days extensive labor in addition to the growing and harvesting procedures of the hosts?
The day before guests arrive, like the preacher’s family or other important company, the cook bakes a 12 egg pound cake, makes 36 fried dried apple pies, and two cobblers, blackberry or peach according to the season.
Garden bounty collected
Then garden bounty is collected. A peck of peas and one of okra, a half dozen medium sized squash, and an apron full of string beans are harvested, washed and put in a cool place for the next day’s preparation.
Another peck of roasting ears is put aside until needed. Fresh onions and potatoes are dug and placed in a basket on the shady back porch. Sprigs of dill, parsley, and some of mint are washed and saved in jars until needed to garnish prepared dishes.
Very early the day of the event, the cook rises to prepare the meal. She shells and washes the peas, puts them in the water where slices of bacon have been boiling and turns the heat down to simmer. Okra must be cut, covered with corn meal and fried. Squash is sautéed with onion, then given enough water to tenderize. The green beans have to have the strings removed and snapped. It also is simmered with bacon to give it the distinctive soul food flavor.
Part of the fresh corn will be boiled on the cob, so all that is needed is shucking, checking for insects, and removing corn silks before dropping into boiling water, minutes before serving. The rest of the corn is cut in tiny layers, then scraped to get every drop of the starchy liquid, then poured into a skillet sizzling with the bacon fat left from breakfast. Fresh red potatoes are quartered, dropped with skin on into salt water and boiled until tender. They will be served with the string beans and garnished with parsley.
Sliced tomatoes, green onions, and cucumbers are gathered, washed, and placed in cut glass bowls. The tea is strained from its tea pot and diluted with water and separated into pitchers, one straight and another sweetened generously with sugar.
Corn meal measured from the large bin where it has been stored since it came from the grist meal, is measured into a large bowl, mixed with a couple of eggs and an equal amount of freshly churned buttermilk and poured into another sizzling skillet of bacon fat and cooked in the hottest part of the oven. Then pan of yeast rolls rising since breakfast wait to pop into the oven after the cornbread is removed.
The fried chicken came from two young fryers, chased by younger members of the family and dispatched with a quick stroke of the ax, picked, gutted, and cut up. They were fried with a coating of buttermilk and flour and set aside until gravy could be stirred up in the resulting fat and crispy bits left in the pan.
When guests arrive, the adults are ushered into the dining room around the 12 foot long table. The children wait impatiently, hoping a drumstick will be left when their turn comes. That is the way I remember dinner at Granny’s house.
Now I call a half dozen friends about 3 hours before the evening meal, ask them what they would like to prepare for a covered dish supper, open a refrigerated spiral sliced ham, pop open and toss a bag of green salad, and stick a package of Sunbeam rolls in the oven. Put a couple of bags of preseasoned frozen vegetables in the microwave, and open a jug of Milo’s artificially sweetened tea. Put out paper plates and napkins, plastic cutlery and cups on a plastic tablecloth, pull out a chair, and relax.
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Aunt Jessie’s big meal of the day would be supper: corn bread, fried okra, green beans with bacon strips, butterbeans, pan-fried yellow squash, sliced tomatoes, fried chicken, pickles, sweet tea, and pie (usually fruit or lemon meringue). A big treat might be unside down pineapple cake. This was the pattern Monday-Friday. On the weekend, the big meal was lunch and would include fried salt-cured ham, grits, biscits, redeye gravy, at least three vegetables, sweet tea, and banana pudding or fruit pie (big on apple or ice-box chocolate). Weekend supper would be like lunch with sweet potatoes added. Lots of butter and bacon grease. Harry
To say the least, you were a blessed man. I was fortunate enough to have eaten those same meals prepared over a wood stove by my grandmother. Food, meals today pale in comparison. I have eaten the native crusine of many countries and have found none to match my “Momma’s” meals. To this day I can smell them cooking……
ham, black-eyed peas and cornbread
Pork chops, mashed taters, turnip greens, corn on the cob and cornbread!
Peas, butter beans, squash, fried okra, fried cornbread, potato salad, and of course,sweet tea.
Fried chicken, mash potatoes,green beans and cornbread.
Fried chicken, smashed taters and gravy, corn on the cob, fresh green beans with ham hocks and corn bread. Don’t forget the big slice of onions and tomatoes
Fried okra, creamed corn, purple hull peas, sliced tomatoes, green onions, corn bread, apple cobbler, sweet tea. Home grown vegetables, boiled the tea bag, sweetened tea, everything hone made. We could not afford meat. Who cared with all those great vegetables
You’re are sooooo fight about the meat. I dIdn’t know there was such a thing as a chicken breast till I was 14. I thought a chicken’ legs was all you ate and the rest was for royalty. ……that cream corn was cooked for hours ………to this day I have to have beans at least once a week or I get realllll ll cranky. ……
Banana Pudding and Chocolate Cake.. Oh Boy! Said the 8 year old boy =D
Purplehull peas, turnip greens, pickled beets, cornbread and a big bowl of boiled mashed potatoes. All that went with mom’s fried chicken and thickening gravy. Homemade cake or a pie for dessert with sweet tea or milk for us kids. Now I’m hungry!
Bob Wilson, This is for you.
All the above..
And never refuse to sit down with a true Southerner’s table when invited . At least accept a drink . To refuse is taken as an insult . Back in the depression folks had little to eat and to refuse meant you didn’t want what they offered because it wasn’t to your liking .
And “dinner” is always the noon meal, especially on Sundays, casually it might be called lunch; it is always “supper” at night.
Grew up eating tHese at my grandmothers on Suunday. Wonderful.
44 Lima beans cornbread and sweet tea
“True Country Dinner In The South” and I didn’t see Sweet Tea mentioned or do I need to be corrected?
Oh yesssss! Sweet tea was left out, but we could never forget to add it. In fact, AP wrote a whole story on the Ten Commandments of sweet tea at: http://alabamapioneers.com/iced-sweet-tea/#sthash.B1XyQauQ.dpbs
Sweet tea is mentioned in the original article. Right after she talks about the sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. She talks about straining the tea from the teapot and pouring it into two pitchers. One straight and one sweetened with plenty of sugar.
lemin rolls. dont knowthe recipe. does anyone?
Pinto beans, fried potatoes, fried salt pork, fried okra, buttered cornbread, green onions and sweet tea. My grandmother always cooked her beans in rain water gathered in a barrel.
I know that meal. I can see it on the wood stove cooking. I can hear the screen door being swung open in reply to the announcement that “it was ready and if you don’t come on it’s going toooooooo get cold”……I can see the pleased look of my grandmother as she looked at her table that she had prepared for those she loved.
The first meal described is exactly as I remember it, only my Grandmother added cream or purple hull peas as they were a favorite of mine. Then we all gathered around a big round table . Oh for the days!
Living in Alaska I can only dream of meals like this! Once in
Alabama, I remember having a delicious fried cat fish dinner.
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