Last night, I hung out with my mom and learned how to make Turkey Hash – that wonderful concoction of leftover gravy and turkey and whatever else you’ve got that goes over biscuits and pairs perfectly with cranberry sauce that I’ve been eating after Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter for as long as I can remember.
Earlier this week, I picked up several books of old recipes while I was in New Bern to add to my collection – one on hearthside cooking of colonial Virginia, one of pioneer recipes, and my favorite – What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. . This one is the first known cookbook published by an African-American; it was published in 1881, and Mrs. Fisher was a former slave who became a business owner and award-winning cook in San Francisco. She knows her stuff.
Today I sat down and started jotting down some of my recipes – a few of my experiments that ended up successful and in my standard repertoire, but especially the variations of recipes that I cook that I learned from my parents and grand-parents. The dishes that are hard to find anywhere else…the ones that I grew up eating and that I know my kids won’t be able to eat after my parents and I are gone if they don’t know how to cook them themselves. And it got me to thinking about all of the delicious food I have eaten over the years I was growing up here in rural Nash County – at friends’ houses, at church potlucks, at restaurants that are gone (Town and Country, for example – Good Lord, I miss that place! And Just What The Doctor Ordered, which praise the Lord, has a cookbook for sale now here).
Y’all….I really, really, really want to eat like that again. And I thought those of you who visit this site and read this blog might want to, also. So here’s a request, and an idea.
First, I am going to give y’all my version of the fried cornbread that I grew up on, the way that I was taught to cook it and do it now. This is my version of the cornbread my Granny, Rachel Lynn Inscoe Freeman of Castalia, makes. The instructions aren’t precise, because cooking is by feel, right? Some people like their fried cornbread thick, some like it thin and crispy. Some like it sweeter (I do), others don’t. It took me years to get it to turn out consistently the way I like it, and sometimes I still miss it. The cool thing is, you can play with it to make it the way you want. Here it is:
Some white cornmeal
A little salt
Lots of pepper
A few pinches of sugar (or splenda)
1. Mix the cornbread, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add a little garlic powder or seasoning salt if you want to. 2. Add warm water and stir until it is a little soupy but not too thin. 3. Heat about an inch of oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high-ish heat. 4. Test the temp of the oil. It is right when you can drop a little batter in and the batter sizzles as soon as it hits. 5. Stir the batter again and make sure it didn’t get too thick – if it did, just add a little more warm water to thin it a bit. 6. Drop the batter in the oil by spoonfuls – don’t crowd the pan…the key to frying is having the right oil temp and leaving plenty of space. 7. Turn them a couple of times. If the first batch isn’t spreading out the way you want, just add a little water to the batter for the next batch. 8. Pull them out just before they are as dark as you want – they will get darker out of the pan. 9. Continue until all the batter is done.
Second, I have a few church, fire department, company, etc cookbooks that local communities created and over the years. If you have any old ones that you might be interested in giving or selling to me, I’d love to know about them! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Third, RNHS would really like to collect and share Nash County recipes, giving credit to the sources of them whenever possible. If you have recipes that you make or that have been passed down from your parents, grandparents, or longer – or interesting traditions around food (for example, my grandmother doesn’t eat red meat because she didn’t grow up eating red meat – her grandfather didn’t eat red meat because of the stomach problems he developed as a POW during the Civil War, so her mother didn’t learn to cook or eat it, either) – would you please share them with us? You can email them to me at the link above, share them in the comment section for this blog post below or on Facebook, or send them through the Contact Us page here.
We will start sending out periodic e-newsletters in 2017, and including your recipes and stories about food traditions would be a fun addition to the newsletters. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, let us know by the Contact Us link above and board member Kristi Brantley will make sure you are on the list!