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Posts posted by souljoy

  1. Hi TrishCT, again,

    I don't get carried away over oils. I grew up with chicken fried in lard, which imparted a delicious, crackling-like flavor.

    Health considerations began shading my kitchen later on. Then I switched to sunflower oil and canola, which have high smoking points but impart little flavor. This summer I have been frying green tomatoes, corn fritters and fish, such as sardines, porgy, and smelts, with grapeseed oil, which also has little flavor but a high smoking point.

    But I think good quality peanut and corn oil provide the best flavor for frying chicken, and I use them too. Both have a relatively high smoking point. Basically, any of the above oils fry well; I tend to grab which ever I have on hand.

  2. Hi Blondie,

    When I was in high school we used to go to Mobile for the annual Mardi Gras. I, too have memories of splendid seafood, including fried oyster sandwiches, with the crisp morsels sprinkled with hot sauce and smeared with a dab of vinegary tartar sauce. I also love some of the traditional one pot dishes of the region, especially the stews made of chicken, shrimp, okra and tomato; kind of a mini-gumbo.

    But my favorite must be Shrimp Jambalaya, which is a pot of shrimp, sausage, tomatoes, laced with garlic and herbs, and simmered with rice. Real yummy.

    I was in Mobile the summer of 2002. My sister-in-law and I had lunch at a local groaning board restaurant; a buffet of down-home favorites. Neither one of us can remember the name of the fingerlickin' joint. But I am sure there are many "New South" restaurants about; the city has changed.

  3. Hi Foodman,

    You sound just like one of my brothers; love ham hocks. They are great for seasoning a pot of beans or peas or soup. But here's another good way, too:

    Cook the ham hocks in a big pot of water seasoned with a little thyme, a few whole cloves, onion, garlic and bay leaf for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until just about tender.

    Meanwhile, make a glaze out of a half-cup or so of dark molasses or maple syrup or dark honey; one-half cup water, a splash or dark rum or bourbon, a tablespoon cider vinegar, and teaspoon or two of spicy mustard. Mix well.

    Drain the ham hocks. Lightly oil a heavy roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the ham hocks in the pan and brush liberally with the glaze. Cook another 30 minutes or so, or until the hocks are glazed and lightly browned, brushing with the glaze a couple times. Enjoy.

  4. Hi Turtle,

    I grew up in the rural Deep South in a family with five brothers. They hunted. I remember eating rabbit, possum, raccoons. When I went to France I encountered a lot of rabbit again, lapin, served up with a fancy sauce, and frog legs and snails.

    A few summer backs when I was renting an apartment in Paris, the local butcher used to tease me that he was going to pawn off the horse meat for the ground beef I requested. I said my prayers.

    People all around the world eat all kind of meat. But in the past decade or so, I have been moving more toward the eating pattern of my ancestors: lots of greens and peas, and beans, and sweet potatoes and rice and other grains, and very little meat of any kind. Fish a couple time per week, as a health throw-in.

    So enjoy your turtles; years ago I had the pleasure, and as I remember, it tasted just like chicken, with a little heavier flavor.

  5. Hi Craig,

    I am always on the lookout for a good "match" for soul food, and when I found one, I scribbled it in my notebook, and add a star. I am peeking right now:

    If I could afford it, I think that every time I sat down to dinner at night I would pull out a bottle of rose champagne, such as Tattinger Prestige Rose. A perfect match for my "seasoned" soul food, which often reeks with garlic and herbs. Those bubbles blend perfectly with the textured cuisine.

    But baring that, I look for other fruity, young wines, shy on the acidity. This past summer I drank a lot of rose wines, and found Marques de Caceres from Spain a delight. Virtually strawberries and watermelon in a glass; perfect with soul food. And cheap too; $6.95 or so a bottle. Try this with wild salmon hot from the grill and slathered with say, rosemary and coriander.

    I also stumbled upon a few white wines this past summer that "matched" so well with my food. One was Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand-- wonderful and fruity, slightly petillant with lively bubbles; a nice fruit and herb balance, not too grassy. Good. I enjoyed the wine with grilled red snapper and fried porgy, an old Southern favorite.

    Two other white wines I enjoyed came from Sonoma, California, both from Rancho Zabaco: Pinot Gris, Reserve 2002, and Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve 2002. These two wines are gem; slightly petillant, perfect with fish or chicken; grilled corn and vegetables. Thabini Sauvingon Blanc from South Africa is also great with soul food.

    I look for "little" red wines to go with soul food, such Marques de Caceres Rioja; red wines from Portugal, such as Herdade de Santa Marta Vinho and Palha Canas, all soft and supple and fruity. Try these with roast chicken or chicken smothered with mushrooms.

    From France I look for the wines from Beaujolais and Cotes du Rhone; all young and sappy and fruity. Last year I stumbled upon a delightful Beaujolais Noveau during the annual hype in late November. This one was a beauty: Beaujolais Nouveau Durdilly. It was perfect with Thanksgiving dinner.

    I could on and on, but got something cooking on the stove. Enjoy.

  6. Hi Dumpling,

    I love that name; that's what I used to call my son when he was small. Now he is six feet and two.

    On to that Native-American and soul food connection; which was quite pervasive. Think corn right away, which gave rise to my favorite bread in the world, cornbread.

    The thinking is that the slaves had used millet, barley, couscous, etc., back in Africa. Corn is indigenous to the Americas. The slaves got corn from the Native Americans, dried it, added water, baked it over hot coals, and this gave rise to cornbread.

    And let's not forget grits, that other Southern delight; which is simply ground dried corn.

    You can see other Native American influences in soul food dishes such as Succotash, a savory pot of lima beans and corn and tomato; in that other soul food dish, okra, tomato and corn; in corn pudding, and breads such as fry bread, which is a kind of fried biscuit eaten with onions.

    And let's not forget barbecue. European settlers found Native Americans smoking and cooking meat on a frame over a fire in a hole in the ground. Over the years, African-Americans in the South turned barbecue into high art. Well, almost. I can get hyperbolic sometimes.

    All of this makes food so exciting; so many different culture connections.

  7. Hi Kpurvis,

    Surprised. I thought I had heard just about everything about the Old South from my father during my childhood, usually when we sat out on the porch on summer nights, listening to him tell stories. He worked on the docks in Mobile for years and had been a seaman as a young man.

    But I don't recall anything about burial societies, and piqued by the subject, I called my oldest brother, who lives down in Gulfport/Biloxi. No help there either.

    But as I posted earlier, food is a very important aspect of African-American funerals. Usually the food is prepared by friends and neighbors, and the repast is generally held after the burial, with loved one gathering to eat and drink and reminisce, sending the departed on that final journey.

    I will continue to look into the burial societies; what an interested topic. Good luck with your book.

  8. Hi Suzanne,

    I know you know this: the USA is in the throes of a usual epidemic; last I heard about 67 or 68% percentage of the population is overweight and obese.

    Obviously something has happened. Can't blame the brunt of that statistic on African-Americans; we are shy of 13% of the population. The other 55% of the American population is gouging away, too.

    People cure meat and deep fry around the world. Reason: no refrigerator and no oven; but do have a big black pot that can sit over an open fire. In a yard someplace. Fill it up with oil and fry away. Asia and Africa are typical examples; thinnest people in the world.

    So perhaps the weight problem in USA has other sources. And I don't mean to get preachy here, but how about the proliferation of fast food joints in African-American communities, few supermarkets in the 'hood, and in general, an increasing sedentary society for everybody.

    Cooking is kind of heavy lifting. And lot of people in high-tech society America don't want to get they hands dirty.

  9. Hi Fifi,

    When I was growing up in Alabama we ate rice almost daily. Tomato rice; steamed rice with lots of black pepper; neck bone and rice, my favorite; black-eyed peas and rice or what is known now as Hoppin' John, rice mixed with chicken or sausage and tomatoes for Jambalaya.

    There is a South Carolina connection in my maternal line; Grandma Addie is thought to have migrated from South Carolina to Mobile sometimes in the early 1900s. Hence the love of rice.

    If I were asked to name one food or crop that best tells the story of our work and struggle and contribution and creative efforts in the Americas, it would have to be the role of African slaves in the cultivation of rice in the Carolinas and Savannah, Georgia. Not only did the slaves cultivate and grow the rice, but they also cooked in the Carolina kitchens, as has been so ably detailed and recorded by my friend and colleague, the culinary historian, Karen Hess.

    Many of the dishes that I mentioned above came out of those kitchens, and some historians feel, even Gumbo, which moved on down to New Orleans, and became world famous.

  10. Hi Rachel,

    Lots of new soul food or fusion restaurants have opened up in Harlem in the last five or six years. Popular restaurants are Londel's, Spoonbread, and Amy Ruth's.

    But I cook virtually everyday, and friends are always barging in for a meal, so the very best soul food, modest aside, is chez-moi, my house.

    Sorry about that; but come on over Rachel.

  11. Hi Varmint,

    Nice to meet someone who loves green as much as I do. As I said in an earlier post, I do eat greens everyday. Well, almost. And thankfully, the farmers markets here in NYC have a huge variety, plus I can always scoot down to Chinatown and find a bumper supply of Asian greens.

    I buy all kind of greens, with my favorites in this order: collards, mustard, turnips, kale, bok choy, broccoli rape, Swiss chard, dandelion, and during the spring, wild spinach.

    I always cook a bunch of greens in a cup or so of water brought to a boil with lots of chopped garlic and hot chile pepper, a generous dash of extra virgin olive oil, and then extra seasoning, depending on the green. But if the green is real tender, like bok choy, I often just saute for a few briefly, and then cover the pot and steam for a few moments.

    I may add a dash of cider or balsamic vinegar to collard and mustard greens; perhaps a teaspoon or so of crushed coriander seeds to the intense flavored greens such as Swiss chard or dandelion; or perhaps, a little honey mixed with lemon juice, or if I have it on hand, a spoonful of lemon confit.

    I like greens such as broccoli rape and kale just loaded with garlic and hot chile peppers. And I cook the greens until just tender; not for hours. Enjoy; I do.

  12. Hi Guajolote,

    Close to six million African-Americans left the Deep South and migrated to major cities northward and westward between say, 1919 and the early 1950s, taking along with them food preferences.

    I've noticed out in California, that you get the soul food of Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where dishes such as red beans and rice and gumbo and Jambalya reign supreme. Chicago and Detroit serve up boss Alabama and Mississippi barbecue, smoked with hickory wood.

    New York City gets South Carolina, offering lots of fish and rice, as well as North Carolina, with macaroni and cheese and white potato dishes, and Virginia, lots of breads and hot cakes, and cornbread often made with sugar! Of all things. But maybe that state is not really in the South.

    But all the old standards, such as sweet potatoes, chocolate icing cake, peach cobblers, greens galore, fried and roast chicken, cornbread, dressing, upside down pineapple cake, and banana pudding, went everywhere. And thank God!

  13. Hi TrishCt,

    I love spicy food, and I am happy to see more and more Mexican food under the spotlight; you know, moving beyond the standard tortilla and taco. And I also like tequila, and it is great for cooking as well as for plain sipping, like a fine Cognac. Perhaps Diane Kennedy played a role in this focus.

    I think the trend is increasingly toward fusion food; featuring many cuisines, such as the food of India (Tabla restaurant in NYC is typical example), food from Latin America, soul food, Vietnamese food, and so on. I don't think the so call butter and cream haute cuisine of France will ever have the importance that it did years ago.

    As for new chefs; I can't keep up with them. There seems to be a musical chair of glittering stars. But I think Emeril is talented and funny, and sloppy at times, perhaps on purpose? Who knows.

  14. Hi Rachel,

    Most of the people who contribute to my cookbooks are happy to do so, and are very precise and complete with their recipes. They love seeing their names and creative efforts in print. Once or twice I have run into a few guys who have "secret" barbecue sauce recipes, but with a little coddling I am usually able to get the recipe, and fill in any missing links in the kitchen.

    Of course there is one exception. And this involved my dear friend Jacqueline Corr out in Bloomfield, Michigan, a chef, and a passionate ice cream maker. Jackie gave me 20 recipes for ice cream for my last cookbook, then decided at the last moment not to give me her recipe for her watermelon ice cream because it was a "secret."

    She had first tasted the recipe in a small soul food restaurant in Tennessee. She was an airline stewardess at the time. Whenever she visited Memphis she would go to the joint and order the recipe.

    Finally she was able to duplicate the ice cream's flavor. And that's what she told me to do: Come up with my own recipe. I did. And she loves it. So much for "secrets."

    Again, thanks for inviting me here; I am having fun.

  15. Hi Lou,

    I took one of those brief tourist courses at LCB back in the early 1970s. I am not "trained" in French cooking.

    But I have lived and spent a lot of time in France, and I have cooked for many French people, here in NYC and in Paris.

    As you say, there are many similarities in French cuisine and soul food. You know, rendering lardons, nothing but pork fat back, to use in stews and one pot dishes such as Coq au Vin; pickling pig feet and coating with aspic; andouille or chitterlin' in a sausage casing topped with a homey mustardy-flavored white sauce. Just like down South.

    One of my favorite culinary memories in Paris happened about a dozen years ago. An expatriate friend there, Nancy Holloway, and I went to a restaurant, Josephine (Chez Dumonet) on rue Cherche Midi, for lunch. We split a bottle of champagne and a dish of andouille made with black truffles. We were home sick. We paid a lot of money for that plate of chitterlin'.

    As for wines with green, I prefer fruity wines, shy on the acidity. Roses work well, and so do young Rioja wines, as well as some of the fruity and light Sangiovese wines from Italy, or a soft Zinfandel, if it is not too spicy; Merlots from Chile, or a soft white such as Pinot Blanc from Alsace.

    I have wonderful memories of Paris; but I was always an "exotic" visitor not an African or brother or sister from Guadeloupe or Martinique looking for a job and permanent housing.

  16. Hi Mayhew Man,

    You couldn't love okra anymore that I do. It is one of my favorite vegetables; and full of nutrients too. That gooey stuff is supposed to be full of health protecting antioxidants. We can thank African slaves for this gem.

    As you know, okra is loved in the South and was brought to the region by African slaves. Records show that in the early 1700s okra was a main ingredient in a dish in Louisiana named gumbo; a savory pot of vegetables, shellfish and sometimes sausage. My research shows that okra was seen as early as 1658 in Brazil, again, brought by African slaves. Interesting enough, the Central African Bantu word for okra is "ngumbo" or "ngombo."

    Today okra is enjoyed around the world: the Middle East, India, the Caribbean, France, Asia, and of course in Africa, probably its birthplace. I love okra prepared all kind of ways. It's in peak supply here in NYC, and I pickled a few jars the other day, just to have on hand for the holidays.

    Good tip from you: I have never had okra in cornbread, but will try. In Trinidad they do a similar dish with boiled cornmeal, kind of a polenta, and stir in okra. The world is real small.

    As for fattening soul food. No such thing. I agree all those calories were needed year ago to do all that work. Today, the country is sedentary; in all quarters, and the country is facing a serious weighty problem. As soon as I finish this chat I am going for a long bike ride, and come back home and cook dinner. Smile.

  17. Hi Jimmyo

    I love both Jamaican food and Indian food, and probably so because both cuisines use lots of spices and herbs, which I like. But when I travel I eat the local food; consider that part of my research.

    But here in New York I cook everyday, and friends come over often for dinner. There are many "ethnic" stores and shops in NYC, and I can pretty much buy ingredients from around the world. I found it fun to go in the kitchen and tinker with the different cuisines of the world and see what I come up with.

    I like French pastries, but no more so that a nice wedge of chocolate icing cake, or a slice of lemony chess pie, down-home style.

  18. Hi Rosie,

    I decided to do a cookbook on soul food and the African-American church because the church is and always has been such a major institution. Years ago the church was our first school; and we also went there for concerts, recitals, theater performances, weddings, baptisms, funerals, political rallies, civil rights forums. And at almost every gathering, food was on the table.

    Remember, there were Jim Crow laws covering restaurants in the Old South, and Up North the situation wasn't a lot better. So much of the social life of African-Americans took place in the confines of the comforting church.

    That's the reason why I linked my first cookbook to this important institution. I wanted to celebrated two of our sustaining legacies: our church and our culinary genius.

  19. Hi Therese,

    I grew up on the type of buttermilk you are talking about. I have vivid memories of my mother sitting and churning milk; sweet butter and delicious, tangy, watery buttermilk as the reward.

    Today when I want to make cornbread and there is no buttermilk in the fridge, in a pinch I will add a little vinegar to whole milk, set the bowl in a warm place, and let it clabber. That's about as far as I go.

    But I am lucky enough to live close to a health food supermarket that sells a good quality cultured buttermilk. However, I yearn for yesteryear's flavor. I envision a new project in the making here.

  20. Hi Ruthcooks,

    I had to check with my brother who still lives in Choctaw County in Alabama about butter beans. He has one of the best gardens for miles around.

    We agreed: butter beans and lima beans are very similar in taste but actually are two different varieties. The pods of fresh lima beans are pale green, while fresh butter beans are light brown or gray-brown in color, and can be speckled with purple. There are many varieties.

    Generally the pod of mature butter beans is a little smaller than that of lima beans. On the other hand, dried baby lima beans and dried large lima beans are white. I have never seen butter beans dried and sold in packages.

    However, I am sure that you can order the seeds for butter beans from some of the major horticultural companies. As for the name, my brother and I were stumped. But I suspect the delicious pod, butter bean, gets it name from its velvety texture.

  21. Hi Jess,

    The real key to cutting the cooking time of greens is to buy young, tender greens with small leaves. Greens with big, mature leaves are, well, tough cookies, and have to be cooked longer.

    Hurray for healthy greens! I eat greens everyday, usually cooked in a generous cup of water brought to a boil with lots of chopped garlic, chile peppers, and perhaps a pinch of ginger or turmeric or crushed coriander seeds, and maybe a cap or two of cider vinegar or soy sauce. The old traditional pork seasoning is on hold.

    Sometimes when I have guests and make the dish, I use chicken broth instead of water to make the cooking broth. Or even throw in a smoked turkey wing or ham hock for flavor. Truthfully, I don't think wine or herbs add much to greens. I love their own natural herbaceous taste.

    I usually cook a pot of greens in 30 to 40 minutes; never virtually all night like in the old days. But I like them with a little "bite."

    As for spoonbread, I found if you separate the eggs and beat the egg whites until soft but firm peaks form, then fold into the batter, you end up with a little, souffle-like texture. Try it.

  22. Hi KNorthrup,

    I am real excited about the future of soul food. There are many food writers out there, beside me, who continue to preach this good gospel. Wilbert Jones, Donna Pierce, Donna Hodges, Lisa Lenoir, all of Chicago, and Jonell Nash, Essence food editor, come immediately to mind. Their food is creative and innovative, putting new spins on a food that been around almost 300 years.

    All of us are trimming the fat and pork "seasoning" in pots of greens and peas and beans, and boosting flavor with more herbs and garlic and hot peppers. But we are also aware that many of the dishes created in the Old South by our ancestors are full of nutrients. That's what got us here.

    For example, I recently read in a health magazine that collard greens are the world's most nutritious vegetable. Sweet potatoes are in the same class; full of fiber and plant vitamin A. Peas and beans are a good non-meat protein source. Okra and corn offer the B vitamins.

    I hope we don't throw out all that good stuff for a plate of French fries and an iceberg lettuce salad doused with "ranch" dressing, offering a lot of calories but no nutrients.

    By the way, I eat a plate of some type of greens everyday.

  23. Hi Jaymes,

    Please see my posting for Lady T on this great civil issue of adding sugar to cornbread. Perish that thought. Best cornbread in the world is made with buttermilk, with one-teaspoon baking soda replacing one-teaspoon of baking powder.

    Add sugar and you got corn cake, Northern-style. And yes, I make it in a cast iron skillet; an old iron crepe pan is fine too. And the pan should be hot, and yes, bacon dripping is fine, but I use a melange of oil these days, such as sesame, olive, etc.

    Again, thanks for the inquiry.

  24. Hi Kim,

    Two chefs come to mind; both women, both inspiring, living at the time I met them miles apart on two different continents. The first was the legendary Edna Lewis, and the second was a woman I met in the South of France, Madame Hirtzman, chef and owner of a family auberge in Provence. These were humbling experiences. Both women were without celebrity pretensions. A relief.

    I first met Mrs. Lewis in the mid-1970s when I interviewed her at my small apartment for a magazine called Encore. I made us a simple lunch: chicken salad with homemade mayo, popovers, and tomatoes sliced and dressed with fresh mint. We ate, talked and sipped a glass of white wine. Mrs. Lewis was almost shy, unassuming. I didn't quite realize it then, but I know it now: I was in the presence of greatness. Her work continues to inspire me.

    I met Madame Hirtzman one Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1972. I was traveling through France. A friend in Marseilles drove me up to her inn, located in the village of Lourmarin, north of Aix-en-Provence. Her auberge, L'hotel Ollier, was favored by the late great writer, Albert Camus, who had had a country home nearby.

    After our delicious country meal; white fat asparagus and all, Madame Hirtzman came over to talk with us. She shared anecdotes. Then, squinted at me and told me I reminded her of somebody in her family. I remembered the Moors. Gracious to the end.

  25. Hi Jonathan,

    Got to tighten up those recipe directions, huh? Yes, that wonderful spicy mixture goes on the corn; not on the husk. And of course, you pull the husk back up around the corn and grill away.

    If the husk begins to burn or char too much, spray it with a little water, or place ears of corn on a sheet of heavy duty foil.

    I love corn, and this is one of my favorite recipe. Enjoy.

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