Front Porch and Kitchen Memories

By Chaunte McClure

By now, you know I love to reminisce about growing up with Grandma. I was scrolling Facebook on Sunday night and came across a meme with an image of peas in chipwood baskets, and of course, my mind traveled back to summer months sitting on the porch at Grandma’s.

On occasion, she’d shell peas or butter beans while we, the grandkids, frolicked in the yard. Some days I didn’t have that privilege or thought I was “too grown” to play with the others, but my time wouldn’t be idle because I’d have to get a bowl and help shell peas. Geez, if Grandma could’ve seen the eye roll I imagined upon her demand. Of course, she always knew whether or not I wanted to do what she asked. I’ve heard her say, “If you can eat ‘em, you can shell ‘em.” That meant get your fingernails ready to open the seams of 2,000 pods. (Clearly, I’m exaggerating.)

fresh-peas

It just seemed like it took forever to see the results of my labor, for I thought my bowl would never get full and the pile of unshelled beans always looked so large.

We snapped beans too. I’d much rather the snapping because it was much easier to break off the tips and snap the stems and that was easier on the fingernails, thumbs and index fingers.

Those are classic moments because today I don’t eat fresh vegetables often enough nor do I have a garden like many families did during my childhood. Food was better for you and oh, the memories we made just with food. Picking, peeling, cutting and bagging tomatoes. Canning peaches, apples, and beans. And making biscuits from scratch. I only watched Grandma knead biscuit dough and even at 42 years old, sadly, I’ve never made homemade biscuits nor have I canned fruits and vegetables. But some of my fondest memories were made on the porch and in the kitchen at Grandma’s House.

What are some of your fondest memories growing up in the South?

Yuck! Southern Foods I Just Can’t Get the Taste Of

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I love food.

I love to make it, plan it, read about it and think about it. The Food Network is practically the only TV station I watch. (Fortunately, I also love to run or I’d have a big problem … and I do mean big.)

But that doesn’t mean I love all foods. In fact, there are some I’d rather go hungry than eat. I’m not talking about the stuff hardly anybody likes. I mean, if you really like liver, that’s fine, but please just keep it to yourself. I’m talking about popular, traditional, mainstream dishes my family and friends profess to love. And they’re aghast that I don’t share their tastes.

So here, at the risk of starting a second civil war, is my list of foods I just can’t learn to love even after living more than 40 years below the Mason-Dixon Line:

  • Boiled peanuts. Mushy with little taste other than salt. Give me a paper sack of nice roasted peanuts any day. Or a jar of peanut butter (not so handy for tailgating, though).
  • Pimento cheese. What a waste of perfectly good cheddar. The only exception I’d make is DiPrato’s sharp white pimento cheese. The smoked gouda with bacon might be OK, too, but I haven’t tried it yet.
  • Pepper jelly. One word says it all: why? If you want something spicy, have a pepper. If you want something sweet, have some jelly. Don’t try to cram them together into one item. Even pouring it over cream cheese doesn’t cut it. Here again, you’ve ruined some perfectly good cheese.
  • Beets. Maybe it’s the color. Maybe it’s the texture. Maybe I’ll pass (make that definitely).
  • Rice Krispie treats. “Treat” is quite the misnomer. What’s in those things, marshmallow fluff and Karo syrup? Oh, no, I see online it’s butter instead of Karo. Still, there are tastier ways to remove your fillings.
  • Pecan pie. If you were getting all indignant that Rice Krispie treats aren’t Southern and don’t belong on this list, then this Bud’s for you. Too sticky, too sweet. Don’t bother trying to juice it up with bourbon or chocolate. Can I please just have a small dish of pecans? I’ll take the bourbon and chocolate on the side.

The list could go on, but I don’t want you to leave thinking I’m a hater. Fresh sweet corn, vine-ripened tomatoes, the occasional piece of super-crispy fried chicken, perfectly seasoned collards (on holidays), locally caught shrimp (in or out of a Beaufort stew), homemade peach ice cream … there’s lots to love in our neck of the woods. God willing, it keeps coming.

But please, God, keep the boiled peanuts.

Biscuits, Tea Cakes & Neck Bones

By: Chaunte McClure

I can already visualize my sister facepalming after reading the title of this blog post, but don’t worry, I’m not about to embarrass you.

biscuitsI was just thinking about Grandma as I do from time to time, reflecting on fond moments. I miss that lady and sometimes I wonder what life would be like if she were still here. I’m not sure what I’d love most – just having her around or enjoying her good cooking. Surely she’d be disappointed that I spend more time at restaurants than I do in my kitchen. I wonder if I would have developed that bad habit of eating out with her here? Probably so. I’m not sure if she could change that, but I could be wrong. That woman cooked two or three meals every day and loved doing so. What’s more, we loved it too. We, the grandkids and grand nieces and nephews, were guaranteed a meal when we got in from school. An aroma met us at the door every single day.

Fried chicken made everyone happy, but my favorite was neck bones. Yes, country I am; country to the bone. I know there’s hardly any meat on neck bones, but they are good. It was something about the way Grandma seasoned them and that gravy . . . oh my goodness! I try my best to cook them like Grandma used to, but mine aren’t quite the same. I usually cheat by cooking them in the Crockpot, but that shouldn’t affect the flavor, right? Anyway, I always wanted seconds with that good gravy covering my rice.

And those Saturday or Sunday morning homemade biscuits. Oowee! Many times I watched her sprinkle flour over the counter and knead, roll and cut biscuits. It’s a shame that I can’t make them. Okay, I haven’t tried. But back to Grandma’s biscuits. When they came out of the oven, all I needed was that bottle of Cane Patch Syrup and I would dip and chew, dip and chew. (I think that Cane Patch also came in a can.) As kids we’d do the I-want-some-more-dance while holding our plate or bowl, asking Grandma for another biscuit. Even when her children were adults she’d make them biscuits and they never turned them down.

And they never turned down those old-fashioned southern tea cakes. I don’t know who was most excited, the grandkids or the adults. I was never really into sweets so I didn’t react to tea cakes like I did to a pot of neck bones. If she happened to bake them on a day when I had a taste for something sweet, then great, but they were always a treat for everyone else. If I just say “tea cakes” around one relative, it brings a smile to her face because she loved Grandma’s tea cakes as much as she loved the fact that Grandma would make them when she asked.

Those were the good ol’ days, as we like to say. It seems like you don’t realize how good they were until they’re gone or the people who made them special are gone.

So who wants to make biscuits, tea cakes and neck bones just for me? Not everyone at once, please.