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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Every year now it seems that newspapers, food blogs, and radio shows debate the merits of turkey or sides as the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner.  Personally, I’m all about the dressing–cornbread stuffing baked in a separate pan for those of you who don’t have Southern roots.  I’ll never forget the year that my sister, accompanied by my mother, ended up in the emergency room the night before Thanksgiving.  The task of making the cornbread for the dressing fell to my father.  He made the mistake of picking a sweet cornbread recipe and using that cornbread for the dressing.  It’s the only year that I didn’t pig out on the dressing.  Needless to say, it was genuinely disgusting.  (Sorry, Dad!)  That dressing is part of family legend.  So is our regular recipe, anchoring us to our ancestors like Americans’ gastronomy nationwide reflect their origins.

As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve discovered that asking the simple question “Dressing or stuffing?” can place a person’s ancestors faster than any other question.  If you want to get more specific within the South, you have to ask more detailed questions about the recipe.  For example, the Georgia dressing recipe that I grew up with included the traditional cornbread as well as a sage stuffing mix, celery, onions, broth, and eggs.  The result was a mixture as solid as canned cranberry jelly.  We could cut it into neat slices.  (I use an all-scratch method now that stays fluffier, and I like it much better, but don’t tell Mom.)    Mr. Homesteader grew up in south Arkansas, and his dressing recipe included chopped boiled eggs.  Those chopped boiled eggs seem pretty consistent across the flatlands of the state and can mark a delta Arkansan faster than any accent.  Newer recipes that are tasty include squash dressing.

I confess to an endless fascination with dressing and stuffing recipes.  I’ve always wanted to compile a catalog of regional variations.  Will you help me to start that catalog?  You can build the recipe catalog one of two ways.  For both cases, you’ll need to answer the following questions.  You can answer directly on the blog, but if you prefer not to tie your ancestry to your regular name here, you can send answers to my email (Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo DOT com), and I’ll remove names before I post them under anonymous listings.  (And, yes, I’ll preserve your privacy and not share your information with anyone else.)  You may also email photographs in jpg format to that address, and I’ll upload them with this post.  Folks from outside the US are welcome to join in too!

1.  What’s the recipe?  This can be a precise recipe or a vague one, but it needs to include the key components (like boiled eggs, chiles, giblets, fruit, nuts).

2.  What consistency does the product have?  Can you slice it?  Do you spoon it?  Is it fluffy?  Can you see discrete pieces of bread?

3.  What do you call it?

4.  What place do you call home, as in where you learned the recipe?

5.  What is your primary regional and/or state influence in cooking?  For most people, we’re talking about where your mother and grandmother(s) originated.

6.  Do you have any relatives who aren’t from that region?  If so, from where are they?

7.  How long have you used this recipe?

I hope you like mapping food history as much as I do!  Join the fun, and spread the word so that we can get a good sample here.  Remember to include your food origins location!

Update, November 23, 2011:  Please continue to submit your recipes and memories of dressing and stuffing at your house for Thanksgiving.  We’ve still got lots of the country to cover!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Lately I’ve been disappointed with my broomstick.  It just doesn’t glide like it used to, and I’m not even tempted to pick it up, much less accelerate it.  Therefore, when I had a chance to visit a superior broom maker at the Ozark Folk Center near Mountain View, Arkansas, this summer, I leapt at the chance.

Our day at the Ozark Folk Center began with a master carver who conjures the tiniest sculpture portraits you’ve ever seen, on toothpicks!

At the Ozark Folk Center you’ll find a chandler who makes wonderful beeswax candles, perfect for setting a magical mood without contaminating the atmosphere with petroleum products.

You’ll also find potters and weavers, complete with goats and sheep to help them weave.

The scents from the herb shop were enchanting.

Near the herb shop we found what we were seeking:  the broom maker. 

Everywhere we looked were brooms:  standard floor brooms, kids’ brooms, whisk brooms, and turkey wing brooms (do you see the red one hanging on the wall?).  All of the brooms are made of natural, sustainable materials.

Mr. Homesteader, despite knowing that he is the one most likely to pick up a broom around our house, asked if I could take a few for a test drive.

I only needed to try one.  I knew it was the right one.

It glided, it swept, it made me feel like flying.  I brought it home.

Check out the broom straw on this beauty.  I understand that the standard straw-colored broom straw is best, but the red broom straw adds such perfect color.

And I actually like to use it, so I do!

This broom also come with a remarkable 19-year warranty.  Why 19 years?  Because, as the broom maker told us, he has to retire some day.  That’s a phenomenal deal on a broom, making my new broom not just an effective and lovely choice but also a frugal one.

Oops–I just looked at the clock!  Time flies, and so must I!

Do you like my new broom?  I got the hearth (whisk broom) version for one of you!  I’ll be doing my second blog giveaway in late November or so, so be sure to check back then for your chance to enter.  The hearth broom will be ideal for holiday decorations or to keep your fireplace hearth nice and clean.  I planned this giveaway this summer, but now I have even more reason for doing it.  Wendy at A Wee Bit of Cooking just had a giveaway that my dear female cat, pictured above, helped me win.  See here for my silly cat’s antics that won me a new cookbook!

What’s your favorite household cleaning tool?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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I have a confession:  I like pimento cheese. I still consider pimento cheese a treat.  Unfortunately, I know that, even made with natural ingredients, it’s not good for me.  Thank goodness for red pepper pesto, which provides all of the great pimento cheese taste with none of the guilt.

red pepper pesto on whole-grain penne

For those of you who aren’t Southern, let me begin by explaining the concept of pimento cheese.  Pimento cheese is an obscenely orange creation made of grated yellow cheddar, canned pimento peppers, and mayonnaise or even Miracle Whip.  When I was growing up, you could find it most often served at ladies’ luncheons where women wore fancy hats and drank sherbet punch, student piano recitals where parents eagerly awaited their child’s labored key plunking, and non-catered wedding receptions, where loving friends of the bride and groom decked out the church fellowship hall or local women’s club with crepe paper bells and garlands and tissue paper roses.  The pimento cheese at these events manifest itself spread on white bread that had been cut into shapes like playing card symbols (hearts, diamonds) and seasonal critters and emblems (turkeys, stars) and then made into sandwiches, sans crusts of course. I actually looked forward to events where I could anticipate pimento cheese.  When I moved north for school, I craved pimento cheese as a taste of comfort food from home.  I finally found it in a small grocery store in a predominantly African-American neighborhood populated with–you guessed it–Southern expatriates.

But that was then, and even though I’m back in pimento cheese territory now, instead I feast on red pepper pesto with gusto but no guilt.

Red Pepper Pesto

Begin by broiling 3 sweet pimento peppers, turning regularly until the skin starts to separate from the peppers all over.  Yes, you can use something other than pimento, but pimentos have a special flavor.  I used sheep-nosed pimentos, fresh from the garden.  Take the peppers out of the broiler and while still piping hot, put them in a lidded glass container and set them aside for a few minutes.  Then slip off the skins, rinsing if you need to get the skins off.  Clean up the seeds and membranes inside too.

Now comes the pesto part.  Chop the peppers to get the process started.  Then using a food processing, mortar and pestle, or hand blender, blend the peppers with a tablespoon or more of good olive oil, until you get a nice paste.  Add less than half an ounce of finely grated real parmesan cheese and combine.  Add salt to taste.  That’s the basic version.

If you’d like a little more kick, add a mashed roasted garlic clove or a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts or herbs.

This pesto is great on toast points, crostini, scrambled eggs, or as a pasta sauce.  It’s tasty warm or cold.

Are you a fan of pimento cheese?  What childhood favorite have you converted to a more sophisticated, adult treat?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Last weekend I had the opportunity join in a friendly Dutch oven cook off for a state outdoor club.  I won the same competition last year, with roasted rosemary chicken (drummies, thighs, breast pieces) and vegetables.  When I say friendly competition, I mean friendly.  I even loaned a few competitors equipment that they needed.

Folks fired up coals.

Well, actually  it wasn’t so much “folks” as men, except a girlfriend who was assisting one competitor, plus me and lovely Jessica, shown hard at work here.  Somehow playing with fire does seem to be men’s game more than women’s, although I’ll never understand why.

Some folks had fancy fire pans.

Others, like Paul, didn’t even use charcoal.

I used this funky rectangular aluminum Dutch oven that belongs to my husband.

I should have paid more attention to presentation, like this competitor, TC, did.

My husband apparently garnished his green chili chicken enchiladas with my tomatoes.  The enchiladas look pretty plain here.

I made lasagna.

Everyone in the cooking area who tasted it proclaimed it the best, giving me hope for a win, although one friendly guy said a beef stew might be my strongest competition.

TC won in the breakfast category with this quiche.  I didn’t try it, since it had red meat.

These apple dumplings won in the dessert category.

Competition in entrees was strong this year, with no flubs and a lot of good food, as I understand it.  The judging was apparently very, very close, with only a few points dividing most of the competitors.  The entree winner was—–drumroll please!———Mr. Homesteader.  Ugh.  He’s kind of a sore winner, a bit obnoxious about it.  It’s okay; at least we’re keeping the title in the family!

I heard afterwards from two judges what kept me from winning:  garnish (ah, if only I’d clipped a few fresh sprigs of basil from the garden!) and the fact that, by the time they judged mine (which was after a dozen other entries), the lasagna was not piping hot.  Next year, I’ll serve straight out of the pan, like I did last year.  Anyway, you too can make whole-grain lasagna while you’re camping!  And, yes, that’s a little slice of flatbread with tomato, cheese, and fresh basil, also from a Dutch oven.

Have you ever competed in a cook-off of any kind?  What’s the dish of which you’ve been most proud, either in competition or at a potluck or big family gathering?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved, including for photographs.

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I told you in my previous post that we almost never do “supper in a bag,” as my mother-in-law calls it.  Today, though, we did picnic lunch in a bag.  We went to KFC.  Yep, you read that right.  Neither my husband nor I had had KFC in years (I think it was still Kentucky FRIED Chicken then), but my mother-in-law wanted it, so we got it for a picnic at a park about an hour from here.  The chicken was okay–not great, with those fishy undertones I’ve come to associate with mass-produced chicken–and the cole slaw was a bit sweeter than I like but still fine.  The biscuit was sort of tasteless and a bit gummy, with a flavor like wallpaper paste (which isn’t surprising, considering that wallpaper paste is also made from white flour).  What blew me away was the “butter” and “honey,” to which my husband said, “yes, thanks” when the clerk offered it.

The clerk put a pile of “butter” and “honey” in our bag.  Too bad all of them ended up in the trash.  The “honey” was labeled “honey sauce” and actually had never seen a bee but instead was made of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and caramel coloring.  That was it.  The “butter” had never seen a cow either; it was labeled “buttery spread,” and, despite KFC’s bold statement on its web site that it uses no transfats, two out of four of the first ingredients (which I had to really hunt for and found on another blogger’s site) are transfats.  The other two of those first four ingredients are water and salt.  Everything else is a chemical except for beta carotene and Vitamin B.  And finding ingredients on KFC’s web site for everything else was impossible, because the “ingredient statement” had no link and just the cryptic note in parentheses “currently being updated, check back soon.”  I wish I’d packed a homemade picnic instead.  I will next time.

An old Yiddish expression is, “Don’t pee on my back and call it rain.”  I’m sorry to be crass in quoting it, but it seems so apt in this case.  Don’t give me high fructose corn syrup and call it honey, KFC.  Don’t give me hydrogenated, chemically treated oils and call them butter.

Are you and your family watching ingredient lists more carefully?  What processed foods have surprised you recently with their ingredients?  (I wrote about a few of the ones that surprised me in “Overeating Processed Foods?  Look for These Key Ingredients.”)

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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Today is Robert Burns’s birthday, and since I’m both of Scottish descent and lacking meal ideas, I decided to dedicate tonight’s dinner to Scottish traditional food.  We’re having rumpledethump (onion, mashed potato, and cabbage casserole), smoked salmon, and oat bannocks alongside Bellhaven Scottish ale.  I may also add leek and tattie soup–better known as potato-leek soup.  Let me know if you are interested in recipes.  I’ll post them if they’re good!

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A few days ago I blogged about a Southern staple of healthy frugal food, beans and cornbread with greens.  Today I’d like to give you my Georgia grandmother’s cornbread recipe.

I learned how to make cornbread standing by my grandmother, in her kitchen.  As with so many of the foods she prepared often, she had no recipe for cornbread, so I insisted that we measure as much as we could after she eyeballed amounts.  She was particularly fond of measurements like “butter, about the size of a hen egg,” which confounded me until I became the recipient of her most treasured cookbook and discovered that that was the kind of measurement her well-worn nineteenth-century cookbook used. (Please don’t tell my mother I have the cookbook.  My mother thinks she got the most treasured cookbook.  I don’t think she knew about this cookbook.) It has been two decades since I transcribed this cornbread recipe.  At the time, I know I got more direction on how the mixture should look, but I did not write it down.  Nonetheless, this recipe produces a darn good cornbread.  If you do not have bacon drippings, you can use butter.  You could also use apple sauce if you want less fat, but it may produce a little stickier bread.  This cornbread is authentic; it was originally lacking completely in sugar, and it has no wheat flour to soften it.  The bread’s consequent hardiness makes it perfect for crumbling in beans or mixing with celery, onions, and seasoning in Southern dressing (stuffing for those of you who aren’t Southern).

Tools: one 10-inch cast iron fry pan  (Yes, you can use a 9-inch square pan, but the cast iron heat helps create the crust.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons bacon drippings (or butter or apple sauce–see note above)–about half of a large cooking spoon
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (original recipe called for 3/4 teaspoon)
  • optional: 1 teaspoon sugar (not in original recipe but really does perk it up)
  • 1 egg (In all likelihood, she would have been using medium eggs.)
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk (My note says 1 1/4 “or more, if necessary.”  This was one of those measurements where she talked about appearance.  I think 1 1/3 or even 1 1/2 cup is closer to what you need.)  You could use Kefir if you cannot get good buttermilk.

Put the bacon drippings in your skillet and put the whole thing in a 425 degree (F) oven, to melt the drippings and get the skillet hot.  Mix the cornmeal, leavening (baking powder), salt, egg, and buttermilk in a bowl.  Pull the skillet out of the oven, and swirl the drippings to coat the bottom and a little of the sides.  Pour the melted drippings into the batter, stir the batter to incorporate the drippings, and then immediately pour the batter into the skillet.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, higher rather than lower in the oven.  When you take out the cornbread, flip it over and leave it in the pan upside down to cool.  Then flip it back to serve, or flip it onto a plate.  Cornbread is served in wedges, cut like pie slices.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with a full link and reference to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Passing off my grandmother’s recipe as your own?  not cool!

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