Friday, May 29, 2009
When I was a child, no meal more exemplified traditional southern cooking than Sunday dinner which was eaten at noon. All over the south cooks prepared special dinners for their families to enjoy-and they didn’t worry about calories and heart-healthy food either.
One of my mother’s favorite Sunday meals was fried chicken, potato salad, creamed corn, green beans, and banana pudding. Yes, it was a huge meal, but we enjoyed it, and there weren’t very many leftovers.
How did she fry the chicken? Naturally she used a cast iron skillet, a big heavy thing that she filled with either bacon grease or Crisco. I liked it better in Crisco. The chicken was always crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. I think chicken tasted better back then because the chickens were normal sized birds-not those enormous steroid chickens you buy today. Frankly, if a chicken is over three pounds it’s hard to cook properly. You can buy organic or free range chicken today which aren’t so large, but they’re usually more expensive than regular chicken.
When I fry chicken today I still use a cast iron skillet, a big heavy thing that I usually fill with olive oil or sometimes corn oil. Know what? The chicken tasted better in Crisco.
Banana pudding was one of my all time favorites. My mother didn’t take shortcuts when she made her banana pudding. She followed the recipe on the Nilla Vanilla Wafers box. If you’re never tried traditional banana pudding you’re missing out on a treat. The recipe may still be printed on the box, but just in case it isn’t I’m giving you recipe below. Try it if you never have. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
If you’d like my chocolate cake recipe check back with me next week. It’s so good I’d like to bury my face in it.
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
4 eggs separated at room temperature
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
35 to 45 Nilla wafers
5 to 6 medium size fully ripe bananas sliced
Reserve 1 banana and 10 to 12 wafers for garnish
Combine ½ cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Stir in 4 egg yolks and milk: blend well. Cook uncovered over boiling water, stirring constantly until thickened. Reduce heat and cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Spread small amount on bottom of 1 ½ quart casserole. Cover with layer of Nilla wafers. Top with layer of sliced bananas.
Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas, and custard to make 3 layers of each ending with custard. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Spoon on top of pudding covering the entire surface and sealing the edges. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or until delicately browned.
Friday, May 22, 2009
In the day of a global economy with refrigerated food carriers it’s hard to believe that until very recently in history people ate what they could find locally. That being the case, around what products did southern cuisine grow and develop?
First of all, there’s corn. Europeans who settled in the south in the colonial period didn’t know about corn. The Indians had to tell them. Okay, what can you do with corn? You can start with hominy which was often served as a breakfast cereal. Leftovers could be fried for supper later that day. You could also make cornbread, hushpuppies, grits and spoonbread so delicate you needed a spoon to eat it. People also make ashcakes, hoecakes, and journeycakes. Don’t forget popcorn either.
The second mainstay of southern cooking was pork. Pigs aren’t native to the United States. Hernan de Soto’s army brought pigs with them when they came to explore Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Some of the pigs escaped or were stolen by the Indians and became the ancestors of modern pigs. Southerners do love their pork. Nothing beats a good salty country ham or a nice smoked ham. Mmm. Pork barbecue. Love it. I grilled a nice pork steak for dinner the other night too.
The third agricultural mainstay was brought to the United States by African slaves. They planted collard greens, peas, okra, yam, watermelon, and sesame. It’s traditional in the south to serve collard greens on New Year’s Day. If you do you’re supposed to have wealth in the coming year. You also serve black eyed peas. I have those two things plus a nice ham.
Lastly, southern cooks learned to appreciate local foods. Squash is delicious, especially if you fry it nice and crispy. If you don’t like fried you can stir fry it with a little onion. Season it with basil, oregano, garlic, and thyme, and you have a dish fit for a king. Pumpkins, rice, venison, oysters, fish, rabbits, squirrels birds-all were available locally and taste good.
Of course, southern cooking varies according to where you live. Cajun or creole for example doesn’t have much resemblance to traditional food in upstate South Carolina.
Please check back next week for a look at the foods my mother cooked when I was growing up. I’ll be sharing some recipes too.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Isn’t it wonderful when out of nowhere something really nice happens to you? It can cheer you up and warm your heart-sometimes when you need it the most. I had just such an experience this week.
I checked my email on Thursday and found a message from Emma Lai. Emma is also an author with The Wild Rose Press. She told me she’d written a review of my novel Purple Heart, and she gave me a link to go to the site.
The review itself is wonderful. Thank you so much, Emma. I’d like to share the link with you partly because I’d like you to see my nice review but also because the site is new to me, and it may be new to you too. The site looks like it might be a nice opportunity for some of you to post articles, reviews, etc.
Anyway, here’s the link. http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/3204973-ebook-review-purple-heart-by-elaine-cantrell
Purple Heart is available at http://www.thewildrosepress.com or at Amazon.com
Friday, May 8, 2009
Even though the course of true love nevers runs smoothly, Tommy Price and Nikki Lane from The Best Selling Toy Of The Season seem to have more than their share of obstacles to face. In a previous post you met Cherie Blake, Nikki's rival for Tommy's affections. Today, let's meet Tom Price, Tommy's father.
The Best Selling Toy Of The Season is now available at http://www.midnightshowcase.com
“Cherie is a charming woman,” Tom senior, Tommy’s father,
ventured the next afternoon as they relaxed in Tom senior’s den
following a truly splendid Christmas dinner. Mrs. Price and Cherie sat
in the living room having their own private chat.
Tommy shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “I didn’t want Mom
to invite her for Christmas dinner. I wish that she had cleared it with
“Your mother likes Cherie. You know how desperate she is for
you to marry and give us grandchildren.” Mr. Price looked hopefully
at Tommy, and Tommy could see that his mother wasn’t the only one
who looked forward to his marriage and the birth of grandchildren.
“We would have had a house full of kids if we could,” Mr. Price
continued, “but your mother had to have an emergency hysterectomy
after your birth.”
“I know the story, Dad. It smacks a little of emotional blackmail
if you ask me.”
“I don’t mean it to sound that way, but what’s wrong with
Cherie? Don’t you like her?” He paused to light his pipe.
“You won’t be around to see grandchildren if you don’t quit
“Let’s make a bargain. I’ll quit smoking on the day you get
Tommy just shook his head and groaned. More blackmail.
“Now about Cherie…”
Tommy impatiently shrugged. “She’s just another woman, Dad.
She doesn’t really stand out in any way. Yes, she’s pretty, but so
what? Lots of women are pretty, and if we came from the other side
of town, I don’t think Cherie would be interested in me at all. She’s
“So what? The two of you come from similar backgrounds, and
you have a lot in common. I think you’d be very happy together.”
“I don’t think so. She’s a little plastic replica of all the women
I’ve ever known.”
A short silence fell in the room, and when the fire popped
Tommy jumped slightly. “I did meet a woman this week. She’s even
prettier than Susan if that’s possible, and I …really had a good time
Tom senior leaned forward intently. “This sounds promising. Tell
me about her.”
Tommy recounted the story of his collision in Super Mart and
told his father about the delivery of the robots.
“So, this woman works at Super Mart and lives in Higgins
“She has two children, but no husband.”
“And she’s cleaning your house to pay you for the robots.”
Tom laid his pipe in the ashtray and wandered to the bar. He
poured a brandy for himself and Tommy and sat back down in his
recliner, a huge, overstuffed chair that Mrs. Price loathed. “Don’t do
“Don’t get involved with her. The Lane family is notorious in
Fairfield. Only one or two of them ever amounted to anything. Most
of them are drunkards who’re a blight on the city. Don’t let her trap
you. You’ve always looked for the best in everyone, but in this case,
there probably isn’t much to find. Tell her that she doesn’t have to
pay off the debt, and don’t see her anymore.”
“Rather snobbish, isn’t it?” Tommy demanded as his face flushed
“Maybe, but I don’t want to see you make a mistake. For the sake
of everyone involved, will you promise me not to see this woman
“No, I certainly won’t,” Tommy coldly answered. “I’m a grown
man, Dad. I don’t need my father to plan my love life for me. You’ll
have to let me be the judge of what’s best for me. I like Nikki. She’s
more authentic, real, and genuine than any woman I’ve met in a long
Mr. Price shook his head again. “You’re making a mistake. You
may get angry and call me a snob, but she isn’t our kind. Get involved
with a woman like her and you’ll be sorry. She probably just sees you
as a meal ticket anyway.”
“It’s nice to know that you think I’m so unattractive to women,”
Tommy retorted, but he hushed when he heard Cherie’s voice.
“Tommy? Where are you?”
“We’re in the study, Cherie,” called Tom senior.
“I should have known I’d find you gentlemen drinking brandy
and smoking your pipes,” Cherie teased. She walked over and took
Tommy by the hand. “I came to say goodbye. I have to be at Mom’s
house in thirty minutes. Are you sure that you can’t come with me?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” Tommy replied. He set his brandy glass on
the table beside his chair and rose to his feet. “Let me walk you out.”
Tom senior said his goodbye as well, beaming approval the entire
time, as Tommy walked Cherie to her car.