It’s that time of year again. People are dusting off the old recipe books that they’ve either been given or bought from some Baptist church, all in an effort to prepare a down home meal worth posting on the Gram.
Here’s a little known secret that all cooks with TRUE Southern roots have known for a while.
DON’T BELIEVE THAT!
Sure the title says “Aunt Myrtle’s Famous Southern Fried______” but what probably happened is Aunt Myrtle got backed down into the corner by the Usher Board to submit an entry for the fundraiser or commit to buying a minimum and she wasn’t on coughing up that cash… (paprika, cayenne pepper…same color right?) fast-forward to your naive self in your kitchen trusting the words on the page, looking like a fool with too spicy deviled eggs, pound cake thick as a brick, and chicken that tastes like wood. (S/o to The Sugarhill Gang)
WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?
I have a few theories , and I’d like to put out, and I’d love to talk it out with some of you. Perhaps you’ve held the same suspicions.
1. If food is the key to a man’s heart, then the recipe is the locksmith.
Maybe back in the day Hattie May knew that her husband was all about her hot buttered rolls, and Anna Lee down the road was always trying to get Herschel to try her version but she could never get it right. Hattie May would write out the recipe in code so whenever Anna Lee came to the house for Circle Meeting, Hattie didn’t have to worry about her being all in her kitchen.
That recipe code gets verbally passed down, but the writing stays the same.
2. Who will come and visit when I’m old and mean?
Perhaps the reason that Nana ain’t coming up off that casserole recipe is because that’s the only time that she can get all her family in one place at the same time because her mouth is crazy and nobody can stand to sit through that without something good to eat.
She didn’t write that recipe down at all, the only way you’re getting that is if you actually go and spend time with her and watch her do it. Those recipes are more art than science to even attempting to take notes will lead you down the wrong path… you’re going to have to Daniel Son this one…
Muscle memory and the EYE are the only things that get you to the promised land on those dishes.
3. They just remix the store bough and you never knew it.
Martha Ann is just a flat out lie. You’ve been eating Stove Top stuffing with celery salt your entire life and all this time you had a picture of your dear sweet Auntie slaving away getting every ingredient just right, when the truth is half of the work was done when she opened up the packet.
She always cooks at 2am after all the drunks and kids are sleep so the only way you’re catching that is if you take naps throughout the day and plan a sneak attack. You think you can just go through the trash don’t you? Wrong, your Uncle Otis has been trained to make a late night store run every Holiday Eve with the main task being to get rid of all evidence. Yes your Uncle Otis sweeps in like a Gladiator and Handles her dirty little lie every year just so that your Aunt Shirley’s green beans get shade.
Give up there’s nothing left for you to do. That whole dinner is a lie. Next year just go to the casino buffet and save on running up Big Momma’s light bill.
My advice, come up with your own recipe remixes, and while I encourage you to not be afraid to make mistakes, I also admonish you to refrain from serving your family some foolishness because they’ll never let you hear the end of it.
In the time between Turkey day and NYE I hope to bring #MeetTheHockers to this space and share a bit of my lovely family’s holiday fun with you.
Until then… Let all the food brought forth be nourishing and not fattening and allow us to go out into the world and do good works.
My mother was a cook and my father a baker. They both did both in the house but looking back if I had to give them titles. Dad would get out the measuring cups and spoons.
Mom would say add this and that mix and feel or eyeball it then taste and put fire to it.
When I was 11 I decided I seriously wanted to learn to cook. I asked them to teach me.
They started slowly. Too slowly for me. I dug out an old cook book from a drawer and looked through it.
I told myself: I can read so if there is a recipe I can cook.
I tried my hand at pancakes and chocolate chip cookies and have never looked back.
I am a picky eater and so I did not really take any recipes from home. I don't eat stuffing, mac&cheese, greens…all kinds of things.
My maternal grandmother baked bread and sweets but she was in the Bahamas and I was raised in northern California.
I had a few recipes from my paternal grandmother that she had clipped out or written up for me. Those I cherish.
I learned early that with baking once I had made a dish I could manage to wing it from then on. With baking I pick the ones I like and use them since there is more precision to baking.
It is a special thing to try a new untested recipe for an event. I have done it but I consider myself a confident home cook and I usually would make more than one thing or have a back up for emergencies just in case.
That sounds like the kitchen relationship my Grandpa had with my Grandma!
I love new recipes, and the science behind food, but the art of knowing and being able to feel one's way around a particular dish… That's the magic.
I'm so glad you enjoyed this post and I'm really grateful that you've shared your story… if you ever need a taste tester for one of your new recipes I'm down. I'm great with cakes but I have such a hard time with breads… lol