On the way back from Baltimore this weekend, we made a stop at Cracker Barrel. I like this restaurant so much there is a brochure in the door of the car that lists all the restaurants by state and interstate. I mean, you never know when you might need one, right?
When the waitress hands us the menus I always look, but know in my heart I’m probably going to get my usual – beans and greens. This is a truly Southern dish and northerners look at it as say “that’s all you’re eating?” Yep and it is satisfying to boot.
When I moved to Chattanooga from Miami, very few people realized I really was from a Southern family because I don’t have any kind of accent. People from Miami – I mean born natives – typically have no accent or they sound like whomever they have been near recently. The complex where I worked had a wonderful company cafeteria and being in the south, had great southern food. Several of my co-workers joined me at my table and saw I was eating beans and greens. They were amazed and said how come I, an Yankee, liked this dish. Once I stopped bristling at the “Yankee” comment and informed them I came from a Southern family, I made sure they understood I grew up on this tasty dish.
And it’s not just beans and greens, it’s the fixin’s too. Pickle relish or chow chow and sliced Vidalia onions that are mixed into the beans. Vinegar, or better yet, hot pepper vinegar is poured into the greens to complete the meal. We always had biscuits, but Cracker Barrel likes to serve it with corn bread. That’s cool too, but I always ask for biscuits instead so I can soak up the pot liquor.
Pot liquor? That’s the broth from the greens. My mom makes a killer batch of greens and she had a friend who would call and put in a request for pot liquor. He didn’t care about the greens – he just wanted the broth. What it basically contains is water, and a ton of salt from the bacon and/or fatback or ham hocks. He would have a fresh batch of biscuits ready for dunkin purposes. In return, things got fixed around the property and that suited my mom just fine.
All of us have something we eat that makes us feel warm, fuzzy and at home. Comfort food – what a great expression. Beans and greens is one of those meals, that to me, fill that bill.
In researching things to put in this blog, I’ve chatted with my mom about what we ate and what was considered Southern. To me it was just food that we ate all the time. I never thought of the meals as Southern – they were just what we made. Traveling around the world has taught me that much of what I ate was special to the South and I want to pass those traditions along to my kids. This blog is a start in the direction and beans and greens had to be one of the first entries.
Things to look for in the upcoming days are, in no particular order:
1. My grandmom’s Banana Pudding recipe
2. My mom’s fried Okra techinque
3. Why Iced Tea means Sweet Tea in the South
4. Chicken Fried Steak – yum
5. Hush puppies – I mean what do you do with the leftover corn meal for heaven’s sake
6. Fried catfish – bones and all
7. Cobblers, lots and lots of cobblers
8. Chicken livers – you love ’em or you hate ’em
9. Messes of things – whether it’s greens or shrimp
10. Corn bread or corn pone?
That’s it for today’s entry.