Thursday, February 14, 2008


My mama was not a gourmet cook; she worked with what she knew, which was plain down home Southern cooking--no herbs nor spices to speak of, and sometimes, shall we say, more traditional than thought out?

But there was a mantra: local and fresh. She shopped at a butcher's for her meat, and locally raised produce was the standard, not the exception. Yes, she canned and, later, froze some things for later use, but it was always with the thought "Fresh is best." I've shelled many a bean or pea on the porch on a Summer morning that was brought by "a friend" the night before from their garden, to be served for Dinner ("Lunch") or Supper ("Dinner") later that day. My Daddy raised 117 tomato plants for five people the first year he was retired--some for eating, some for canning, and some to give away. (He always said the best way to eat tomatoes was going down the row with a salt shaker.) That barter system was a part of being a good neighbor; you had to have something really good to give away to be able to hold your head up and look your peers in the eye as you gave 'em a sack full of ...well, lotsa things.

Peas ( 11 varieties one year, all "field peas"), tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, lettuce, collards, turnips and greens, radishes, onions (about five different types), garlic (finally), potatoes, summer squash, peaches (bought by the bushel), blackberries, sweet potatoes, corn--during "Season" almost nothing was bought. People staggered their crops; if you knew your friend was putting in corn, you might back off corn a little and focus on tomatoes.

What prompted this memory was tonight's dinner: not thought out, nor anything in particular. Last night I had poached salmon, roasted French Fingerling Potatoes w/Thyme, and fresh Sugar Snap Peas. Tonight I plated the cold Salmon, warmed the potatoes in the toaster oven, and "nuked" the peas gently to warm them: one of those days; I drove 230 miles today and wasn't ready to fuss.

The point being: the peas were raised locally in a greenhouse; even re-heated they still had a lovely flavor and some texture, the same with the potatoes--mildly sweet and nutty, with a lovely potato mealiness. The point being: fresh. Local. It holds up. It tastes better. It's good for you and the environment. It gets ya out in the garden "in the cool of the day" like you know Who.


Jane R said...

Yum, JohnieB. Fresh and local. Do you know my friend Jennifer's blog? Cookin' in the 'Cuse. A foodie Episcopal priest. Quelle surprise. (Not.) Read and enjoy. Thanks for the family and garden and kitchen memories. Leftovers here too, not even warm. More like nuts and fruit after class and whole grain crackers and cheese before. At least it was nutritious.

pj said...

Oh Johnie, I'm hungry now. Your third-to-last paragraph (the one that begins with "Peas") is just like a poem. I'm quite serious.

I had salmon last night too! With mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed zucchini-and-onions. Sadly, it all came from the Stop'n'Shop. :(

johnieb said...

Jane R.,

I've been thinking about Oxtails a la Mario (Bahamas Style) since my last visit; you have some great links! I eat little beef, but a recipe like that, with those wonderful gelatinous cuts makes me want to try it!

I gotta find yer peanut sauce recipe; when wuz that?

Jane R said...

Can't remember but I just made some the other night so if I don't find it tomorrow I will send it to you. I keep a card with the recipe handy now. Kind of got hooked on the recipe after the first time I made it. I make it with a touch less soy sauce than it calls for, cuts down on the sodium a bit.

Jane R said...

Here you go, JohnieB. There is a "food" label on my blog and most of the foodie posts are archived there. (I say "most" because I may have forgotten to press the "food" label button a few times and I haven't had time to go back and check that everything is properly organized. Organizing the blog topic archive is kind of like organizing one's spice rack, not something one gets too often.)

BTW, you make your own labels on a blog. Look at the bottom of the post before you post (or after if you make corrections after the fact) and you'll see a space and a mechanism for this. It's pretty intuitive, so you can poke around and experiment.

BooCat said...

johnieb, This brought back memories of being in my grandfather's tomato patch in Corinth, Mississippi late on a summer afternoon with a bucket of water (to wash of the seven dust) and a salt shaker. The tomatoes would still be warm from the sun and had that wild, almost jimson-weedy kind of taste that just can't be duplicated in any supermarket. We would eat until we couldn't with the juice running down our chins and onto our shirts, shorts and even our bare, tan little toes. Great goodness, it was as close to the Garden of Eden as we would ever be on this earth and we didn't even know it!

June Butler said...

Johnie, you missed your calling. You should have been either a chef or a food writer. When are you having me over?

johnieb said...

Soon as I git a place more fitting for such company; I don't have a table nor chairs for the kitchen: only two kitchen stools.

Sometimes I daydream about it, but the training sounds grueling. Our Dean's spouse is a food writer who used to work for Gourmet; maybe I should ask her! They throw a helluva Pig Roast a la Cubanyo and Lawn Party early each Summer.

Jane R said...

Oh, Boocat, I am drooling. I have kindred memories from Up North, in Vermont, where the growing season is short, short, short (Memorial Day to Labor Day and that's pretty much it except for what you start up in your house with little seeds and shoots in egg cartons.) but the tomato season is all the more glorious. Thanks for the Mississippi memories.

JohnieB, Mimi is right, I can totally see you (as the kids today would say) as either a food writer or a chef, or both.