Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eating at Granny's House

Today my guest is Wild Rose Press author Jennifer Johnson telling us how food and food memories help bring a story to life.

Eating at Granny's House

My granny used to make these fried pies with a chocolate filling. There was nothing better than one of those pies fresh out of her iron skillet. My cousins and I would wrap napkins around them because they were too hot for our little fingers.

We’d nibble on the
edge of the crust trying not to burn our lips in the process.


Another specialty of hers was “Cat Head” biscuits. They weren’t made from cat parts. I think the name comes from the size of the biscuit. Sometimes we ate the biscuits with red eyed gravy, a disturbing name for gravy. I never asked why it was called this. Perhaps because I was afraid of the answer. But, oh, boy, were those cat head biscuits good for sopping up the gravy. When I think of all of these bad-for-you delectable foods, it’s no wonder so many members of my family have heart disease.

If you can’t fry it, it ain’t worth eating. My favorite vegetable? Okra, of course. Chop it, bread it, and fry it. I could make a meal out of it. Now, some people like it boiled. Not me. When you boil okra, it’s disgustingly slimy in a snot sort of way. So, I eat mine fried or not at all.

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Granny was also very gifted in frying chicken. I’m a big fan of fried chicken. I’m pretty sure this is because of an incident between me and a young rooster when I was about five. Apparently, I got too close to him and his feathered friends. When he started chasing me, I couldn’t outrun him, and he spurred me from the back of my neck down to my heels as I screamed and cried my way down the dirt road to Granny’s house. My mom claims no one could say the word “rooster” around me for weeks without me bursting into tears, but fried chicken never tasted so good. I guess in my young brain, every time I ate fried chicken, I was enacting revenge on that mean rooster.

For many of us food is more than just food. A taste of home-fried chicken can propel me back to Billingsley, Alabama and my girlhood. In books as well I have found a great medium of creating atmosphere with food. In The Jinx, Ellen makes a chicken casserole for Rick, her love interest. Why chicken casserole? Well, it travels well, and it is a very domestic-type of dish. Though Ellen doesn’t realize it, she’s letting Rick know she’s ready to set up house with him!

So, do you have a certain dish that is more than just food to you?

Jennifer Johnson’s book The Jinx is available now from The Wild Rose Press. Her second book, The Clergy Affair, will be available in July of this year. Come visit her website at http://booksbyjenniferjohnson.com or her blog at http://jennfrancesca.blogspot.com/

15 comments:

D2TM2 said...

OK, now I'm really hungry!

Mary Ricksen said...

I have never had okra. I'd have to try it fried. The boiled thing, yuk.
Don't we all have memories of those great foods from our childhood. I remember all the Italian members would cook like there were no tomorrow. My very Polish aunt got tortured by them when she cooked a large pot of our families famous antipasto. Black and green olives, pimento, celery, and anchovies cooking, smells really bad. Ha!

Lisa Logan said...

Fried chocolate pies? You mean like those hostess turnovers?? Oh, now I'm so going to have to go out and try to Google up the recipe! Yum.

Jennifer Johnson said...

Hostess can't even compare to homemade!

The antipasto sounds fabulous, though it was something I probably didn't eat until I was in college. My husband from Ohio has broadened my culinary horizons, including pickled tongue (which my stepdad-in-law makes every Christmas).

Jess said...

mmm...biscuits and red eye gravy...

Terry Odell said...

All right, Jess -- which of your Grannys made biscuits and redeye gravy?

Anonymous said...

From the time I could sit on my own until I was 8, my grandmother would perch me on a tall stool next to the pull-our cutting board. From there I must have watched thousands of meals get prepared and served. The best part was rolling out my own tiny tortilla. When she passed away my grandfather gave me the little wooden rolling pin. I have it still. My son wasn't very interested in cooking but my 5-year grandson is at his mom's elbow during meal prep. Look out Emeril!
Vivian

Emma Lai said...

You can't beat Granny's southern cooking. Mine always seemed to be frying chicken. She also liked to do silver dollar pancakes. What I liked best were her preserves though...mulberry and figs.

(I always thought it was called red-eye gravy because it had blood in it, but I could be wrong.)

Jennifer Johnson said...

EMMMMMAAAAA!! Gross! Don't tell me there was blood in it! YUCK! Okay. I'm going to have to call my mom and confirm it. EEEWWWW!

Jennifer Johnson said...

I'm okay now. It's made from country ham drippings and coffee. Whew!

Ray said...

My ancestors were Germans who had lived in Russia from 1813 until my mother's mother left in 1911. They were from an area near the Black Sea called Bessarabia, which is now split between Ukraine and Moldova.
One of my favorite dishes was Knepfla buttons, called perogies in Russia and Poland. I also love sausage, although I no longer eat any not made from turkey.
I also love a borscht my grandmothers made with dill for flavoring.

My mother died in 1976 and one grandmother before. The other no longer made these dished.

In 2003 I had the opportunity to visit Gdyny, Poland and Tallinn, Estonia. Even though I was in the Baltic the food was so much like what I grew up with and hadn't had in over 40years to that time that I had to try everything. it took my back to being a young boy in the 1940s and 1950s.

I also had a run in with a rooster on a daily basis when he looked bigger than me. My job was to water the chickens. I made sure the water can was between me and the rooster. When I went back to the house I got out of his territory as fast as I could.

My second oldest son has a scar near his eye from a rooster claw.

Thank you for bringing back memories of my youth.

Ray

Elaine Cantrell said...

Everything tastes better fried! My grandmother used to fry chicken in bacon grease. Not so great for your long term health, but the taste would warm your heart.

Jess said...

none of my grannies made it, but there was this hole-in-the-wall cafe' in Ocala...when we'd go up for pow wow...

Jennifer Johnson said...

Wow! Thanks, guys, for sharing your thoughts and memories. My heart is warmed. And glad to know I'm not the only one who has been attacked by a rooster!

Anonymous said...

Well this city girl never had okra or red eyed gravy until we moved south and they both have mayo ( I just don't get that part) but fond memories of good food made by family members long gone rushed back to me as I read this blog. Thanks for the memories Jennifer. And whoever said no to Hostess must be referring to Little Debbie because not much beats a Hostess HoHO unless of course you FRY it!!! Seriously try it you'll love it.
Leona