A Southerly Course; Recipes and Stories from Close to Home
By Martha Hall Foose
Mazy paths of rivers meander and by disposition I do the same. My lite, aside from little stints abroad and forays to the west a ltd east coasts, has traveled a course dose to the Mississippi River, I've lived up towards the narrow headwaters in Minnesota and down at its yawning mouth in New Orleans As a child and now once more I live in its sprawling delta. Seemingly random events and choices conspired to bring me home again and keep me around.
This peculiarity, my trait of meandering, markedly apparent in my cooking as well as in my conversation, a tendency to take switchbacks in time and place and even tastes. I have come to see that it is just mv nature Time and again I've wondered what it is I traverse these same roads over and over. Why do I reach for these same familiar ingredients? Why are my most cherished belongings made of cast iron? I think it is perhaps because we Soutlierners are homesick for the place in which we still live
Sentimentality and a heaping spoonful of nostalgia flavor our dishes as much as black pepper and Worcestershire sauce do It tastes good bur sets us up for mocker)-. Our regional history fraught by the economics of cotton and all that surrounds it, is difficult to maneuver and remain on solid footing. Communality through food in many ways has helped us as a region begin to reconcile ourselves with the past.
For the past two years I've spent my time touring through classic and modern kitchens. taking back- road rambles, and doing some in depth explorations of venerated Southern ingredients That has had me considering and at times lamenting how we feed ourselves, see ourselves, and portray ourselves Peeking beneath the table's pall in the mythic South to see how its patent qualities of deep involvement with family, observance of ritual, and celebration of eccentricity play out around Southern food today has been quite a trip. It has taken me on an inner journey as well. My ambition to understand this mythologizing to which we Soutlterners are prone has had me up nights in the kitchen. I he myths themselves seem to begin with stories told around rabies.
And because so much of Southern living is spent in the kitchen, it is naturally the place to start. A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home is a collection of recipes I gathered along my path. I hope it shares some of the flavors I believe will guide the way to a full-immersion baptism in the font of Southern culinary eccentricity, ingenuity, and creativity.
Rum Tum Tiddy
Many a child home sick from school has been fed Rum Tum Tididdy - a soothing, warm concoction of tomato soup and melted cheese over toast. There the dish got its funny name I don't know. I do know that it can hardly be said without .J smile or guffaw. Here those comforting flavors arc set up as a pick-up snack gnat for parties of all ages.
Serves 4: Makes 16 Pieces
1 large egg. beaten
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ pound Cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup)
1 cup chopped pecan pieces
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 cup (8-ounce can) tomato sauce (I like Red Gold brand)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 pickled okra pods, tops and tips removed, sliced into rounds
Heat the oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine the egg, Worcestershire sauce, Cheddar cheese, pecans, and bread crumbs.
In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until slightly browned, about 3 minutes Add the tomato sauce and cook tor s minutes. Pour the onion and tomato sauce over the bread crumb mixture and stir together.
Spoon the tomato bread-crumb mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 25 minutes or until firm. Cool tor 10 minutes and cut into 16 squares.
Put the Parmesan cheese on a large plate. Coat all sides of the squares in the Parmesan. Place 1 round of pickled okra 111 the center of each square as a garnish.
To serve, skewer each square on a cocktail pick.