2013-06-05 / Editorials

All That’s Fit to Print

Thinking tomatoes
Brenda Wall

I have tomatoes on the vine. They are just babies, at least they were before Sunday night’s rain. I am thinking about how good they will be once they are fat and juicy and red and sliced up on a plate, the green plate I told you about.

The new potatoes are coming in and the Vidalia onions are here. Those tomatoes and potatoes and onions have me thinking about butterbeans and butterbeans make me think of fried chicken. And fried chicken? It makes me think of Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s table.

I grew up on homemade fried chicken. I can close my eyes and see my grandmother standing at the stove, her black cast iron frying pan filled with bubbling fat and browning chicken. I seriously doubt the fat was healthy. In fact, I would put good money on it being straight lard.

Sometimes she just used a quick flour coating on the chicken. Other times she got fancy and rolled the chicken around in buttermilk before she dropped it in the flour. That made lots of crunchy crust, which we all loved. Of course, we now know that the best part to eat is the worst part for our health. Shoot.

My cooking mentor, Paula Deen, says that to fry really good chicken, you have the pieces close together in the frying pan. She must be right, because my grandmother could cram enough chicken in that frying pan to feed an army.

I am not sure that it didn’t reproduce while it was in there, because what seemed a scrawny little chicken became a platter of golden delight when she was done. It was the fishes and loaves all over again.

My grandmother usually served mashed potatoes with fried chicken. Sometimes, she called them whipped potatoes. Those times usually coincided with company at the table. Whatever she called them, she could do the same magic with plain potatoes that she did with chicken. She peeled the potatoes, quartered them, cooked them in salty water and drained them well. Then she mashed the daylights out of them, added a good hunk of butter and started beating the stew out of them with her hand mixer. She added warmed, evaporated milk and the potatoes would begin to take on a life of their own. They would literally rise in the bowl and become a fluffy, white delicacy. Hmmmm.

She always served at least one vegetable. Baby butterbeans floating in well-seasoned pot likker, usually accompanied by a hunk of some part of a hog. English peas heated with butter if nothing fresh or frozen was available or, if time was short. Oh, and those field peas seasoned with pork and a goodly mess of okra.

Cornbread balanced the plate and at my grandmother’s house, cornmeal was transformed into buttery goodness I have yet to create. The funny thing is, she would have me mix the cornbread. What came together perfectly under her roof has never been repeated under mine.

I am going to check on the tomatoes. Have a good week.

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