Summer Corn Salad…

IMG_3157Bubbled or Brewed, Souffle’d or Stewed. Roasted or Raw, Fresh or Fried…Corn nourishes the South. When Settlers bringing domesticated hogs stepped onto land in what is now Virginia and met Native Americans bearing corn- Southern Cuisine was born.

From Pig to Pone, Pot to Plate- take Corn from the Southern Pantry and more than half of our delicious diet would collapse in despair!

Corn feeds our livestock and our families all year round. If you’ve never rustled down a row of sweet corn, well, you’ve missed one of the great joys of summer. The first ripe ears of corn are a sight to behold, the most highly prized Summer Corn of my youth was White Corn- Yellow Corn was preferred boiled or roasted on the Cob. The merits of white cornmeal versus yellow cornmeal continues on- I have to admit I still prefer White Corn, White Grits and White Cornmeal. Someone jokingly told me recently that if you preferred Yellow- chances are you’re either a Yankee or an Aristocratic Descendent of Carpetbaggers, who  probably sneaked in yellow seed corn! Actually I’m glad they did! Yellow Corn is wonderful! I’ll admit that Yellow Corn on the Cob and in Shrimp Boils can’t be beat, but that’s getting off on a tangent…Before Summer Corn gives way to the dried and ground Cornmeal of Autumn, I’m  thrilled to bring you a Southern dish that won’t have you breaking a sweat to prepare. (Besides Southern ladies don’t sweat– we perspire delicately.) Summer Corn Salad. IMG_3162

Because of the heat and humidity, Garden Lettuce wilts before Spring has barely sprung. Try to grow lettuce in our climate and it will just up and bolt on you! Therefore, many of our Summer Salads are based  on Seasonal Vegetables, like Summer Corn Salad- now, this salad is so familiar that I have to confess- I don’t own a cookbook which records how to make it, though I’m sure someone somewhere did put pen to paper for it.

Camellia’s Cottage Summer Corn Salad

  • In a large bowl, take 3 fresh shucked ears of White Corn – cut kernels and scrape juices from the cob. (Do not cook, y’all- it will ruin it.)
  • Add additional vegetables to the large bowl of Cut Corn.  All vegetables should be chopped in small dice. IMG_3157
  • Chop- 1/2 of a good sized Purple Onion
  • Seed and chop in  either one large or preferably two small pickling Cucumbers (I leave the skin on- but peel if you prefer before chopping- no need to seed small summer pickling cucumbers)
  • One large Summer Tomato- cut and chopped.
  • One medium Green or Yellow Bell Pepper, cut and chopped. Do not overdo the Bell Pepper, try to keep the added vegetables in the same quantity- about 3/4 to one cup.
  • *If you like a little extra zing, like I do- add chopped and finely diced Jalapeno Pepper to taste, I used one half of a large jalapeno.
  • Dressing *Before mixing the corn and other vegetables together- In the bowl, add on top of the vegetables-  4oz of Sour Cream, 1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder; squeeze the juice of a medium size lemon on top of the sour cream. Add fresh cracked Black Pepper and Salt to taste.
  • Gently stir and combine all of the ingredients, being careful not to break up the tomatoes.  Summer Corn Salad is best if refrigerated several hours or overnight- keep covered until it is served. IMG_3162

The best thing about Summer Corn Salad- besides the fresh taste is no cooking required! This is a wonderful side dish with anything from Pit Barbeque to Fried Chicken, Country Ham…oh! and let’s not forget Fried Fish or as a great addition to a Southern Vegetable Plate. I hope you love Summer Corn Salad as much as I do! Oh, lordie- Pig to Pone…now that’s corny.

Love y’all, Camellia

 

The Church Cookbook Mystery…

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It was one of those evenings in the hours after twilight- a cloud covered waning full moon when crickets sang and lightning bugs fly closer to the ground…the perfect night to scan through a few cookbooks I had found in a claustrophobic flea market stall. Two cookbooks, instinctively I knew I would know and love- another was a mystery to me. Why I would even be drawn to put one dime down for it- yellowed but not worn- the front cover had faded just enough to make the stuffed apples look seriously unappetizing…but that old familiar streak of electricity zinged up my left ankle and my right eyebrow twitched as I held the cookbook. A Church Cookbook Mystery! Here’s the confession- I read old local cookbooks like novels– I read the names of people, places and foods; before I know it- I have made up a story about a Cook or two within the pages… This time was a little different;  it is a Birmingham area United Methodist Church Cookbook, published over 40 years ago in 1975. The cookbook shall remain mysterious and as nameless as Mrs. Fleck’s Nameless Cake on page 108. I knew no one from the cookbook- but let’s just say I developed a fond affection for the Cooks, the Church but not all of the recipes. I mean really, do I want to cook Slumgullion? I don’t think so! But yes, oh my yes- I would love those ‘Cracklin’ Corn Pones’… I found myself wondering why they compiled this cookbook, it gave off a desperate vibration to me.  Was it to raise funds for a playground, new pews or to finish the church basement into a soup kitchen/homeless shelter/secure meeting rooms- an all purpose expansion? What? and why? and more important Who were these ladies?  There was an appreciation page, a cover page with information on Circle Meeting times and General Assembly times, but no Mission Statement page. It was almost too sparse in titles and ingredients for a regular cookbook. It seemed like a Church in a Struggle.

IMG_2671The recipes are mostly forthright with plain names like – Pound Cake, Meatloaf, Pecan Pie, Squash Casserole, Coleslaw- with a rare flowered up exuberant name here and there.  I had the feeling that these ladies spent so much time working, cooking and washing dishes there wasn’t much time for frills. I found recipes for

  • Corn Dogs for 200 servings
  • At least five Armed Forces Service Recipes for 100,
  • Spaghetti Italian Style that fed 150
  • Chili Con Carne from Lodge 808 for 75 servings

What puzzled me was that there was a mixture of fine food, old time basics, budget or quick recipes and surprisingly recipes for Bath Salts, Modelling Clay, Bubble Bath and Finger Paints, no doubt for the children’s activities . The names of the ladies were either Mrs. or Mae- I began to feel like the Mrs’s were the Church Mothers- the girlish names were still a puzzle to me.  And there was a definite sense of Church Humor goin’ on… I imagined the meeting for the gathering of the recipes-  a Church Mother presided- wore sensible block heel shoes, a dark fitted serge suit with short pressed sleeves and a modest skirt just below the knees, a bit of a ruffle blouse at the neck and peeking out of the sleeves to disguise the landslide of flesh on her aging neck, knees and elbows. As she took the podium she thanked the ladies for their submissions, reminded them of the need to include Recipes to promote Faith and Bible Study, in fact she would bring her own Version for their Edification! She meant business too, but then I’m getting ahead of myself. So, recipes were added-

  • Angel Food Cake,
  • Heavenly Hash,
  • Trinity Biscuits,
  • Christening Day Seafood Casserole (always some sort of seafood – what with the water and all),
  • Lemon Divinity Pie,
  • Baptist Pound Cake,
  • Presbyterian Punch,
  • 300 Degree Church Casserole (*Put in before Sunday School, ready after church, not the temperature of the Devil’s Doorknob!),
  • Divinity Candy,
  • Grand and Glorious Punch
  • In fear and trembling- a few submitted Devil’s Food Cake or My Mother’s Devil Food Cake (whose gonna disqualify yo’ momma’s cake?)

Now, whoever submitted Witch Stix might have held her hand up as if to testify on a stack of Bibles, her recipe was for the children! She must have been persuasive! The Church Mother truly did mean business- she included a Scripture Cake. IMG_3139Now, I’ve seen these recipes before in Church cookbooks but always the church ladies are kind enough to translate- Not this tough bird!

Scripture Cake

  • 1 1/2 c. Judges 5:25
  •  2 cups Jeremiah 6:20
  • 1 1/2 c. 1 Kings 4:22
  • 2 cups I Samuel 30:12
  • 2 cups Nahum 3:12
  • Season to taste with II Chronicles 9:9
  • 1 cup Numbers 17:9
  • 1/2 tsp. I Samuel 14:25
  • 2 tsp. Amos 4:5
  • 6 Whole Jeremiah 17:11
  • Pinch of Leviticus 2:12

*Beat Judges 5:25 until creamy; gradually add Jeremiah 6:20 beating well. Add Jeremiah 17:11, one at a time. Mix together  I Kings 4:22, Amos 4:5, Leviticus 2:13 and II Chronicles 9:9 ; reserve small amount; gradually add balance to Judges 5:25 mixture. Add Judges 4:19 and I Samuel 14:25. Mix I Samuel 30:12, Nahum 3:12 and Numbers 17:8 and coat with reserved portion of I Kings 4:22 mixture; then add to batter, mixing well. Bake 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Leave cake in the pan until it cools. To store, wrap tightly in foil.


And no, I haven’t baked it! I think I’ve figured it out though…as we say- ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’  I did a little research on the church- it is over 100 years old! A member of the congregation died in 2016 at age 94. She never married or had children but there were scores of family members, one of which contributed to the church cookbook. Her name was Mary Elizabeth. She attended Birmingham Southern- a Methodist University in Birmingham, not very far from her neighborhood church. She may not have attended at an early age. After a career working for the U.S. Army, she retired from Alabama Department of Revenue. Mary Elizabeth would have been in her early 40’s during the Civil Rights Movement, yet may not have even lived in Alabama at the time. It seems her forbears pulled themselves up by hard work and Mary Elizabeth’s surviving relatives became well educated and successful. I have a strong suspicion that this UMC Church was a mixture of folks who were:

  • Service workers,
  • Domestic Help or Cooks-
  • Some may have been Educators,
  • Small Business owners or
  • Laborers in the Iron Works or Steel Mills in Birmingham.

Some of the recipes indicate a level of poverty for their membership.  Maybe Mary Elizabeth attended college on the GI bill. Her age tells us that she lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War and the Viet Nam era, the Space Program, certainly the tragedy of 911 and maybe, just maybe those Armed Forces Services Recipes were sent in by this amazing lady, Mary Elizabeth. Her dying request: ‘in lieu of flowers make a donation to my church…’

All Cookbooks have a story to tell… this church faltered shortly after the cookbook was written, perhaps the congregation was struggling to keep it going… however, in a few years they re-opened their doors and continues to thrive! I’m not sure this whole cookbook will remain in my collection but there are several recipes that I wouldn’t give up for the world! And to:

  • Mae, Erline, Lois, Jessie,
  • Vivian, Rosalie, Dora, Estelle,
  • Gaynelle, Ruth, Winifred, Cassie,
  • Anne, Ottalie, LaFaree, Ora, Willie Mae,
  • Beulah, Bennie, Maybelle, Thelma,
  • Vista, Cadie and all the Church Mothers… Bless your hearts, I thank you, your hard work lives on…

The Church Cookbook Mystery was just the right thing to do on a summer evening in the hours after twilight…with a waning full moon covered with clouds as crickets sang and the lightening bugs flew closer to the ground…Now, you know I made up the story about the Church Mother, but it could have happened just that way!

Love y’all, Camellia

p.s. The Mystery of  the Scripture Cake is solved …what else? A Fruitcake!

Benne Seed…

IMG_3070Only in the lower Southeast corner of the United States, are sesame seeds still referred to as Benne Seed and almost always connected with a candy, a savory cracker or a sweet wafer. Watermelon seeds and Benne Seed were brought to America on slave ships back in the early 18th century from Africa. It’s difficult to think of the hardship to get these seeds to our shores and difficult to imagine American cuisine without Watermelon or Sesame Seed. The first time I ate a Benne Seed Wafer, I was on a Girl Scout trip in Savannah, at the home of Founder Juliette Gordon Lowe, actual Girl Scouts baked the small thin crunchy wafers for us there. Lucky for me, since I wasn’t born a roughin’ it type of girl, much less a very enthusiastic scout, I never forgot those little wafers.  Only in the Low Country and Coastal South do you regularly find recipes where Benne Seed are a central ingredient.  I rarely make Benne Seed Wafers- they need to come with a warning on the recipe- *Do not make these home alone! You are at risk of eating the entire batch! I have made Benne Wafers which are like a savory shortbread dough baked then salted while hot, I have added lemon zest and thyme or even grated sharp cheddar cheese for variations, but again not often- honestly you could stand there and eat every one. Just look at these Salty Benne Wafers! Great with a summer salad, or to serve with soup or a fancy snack! IMG_3078

Benne Seed Candy has a caramel like base with a heavy dose of toasted Benne Seeds- wrapped in little squares of cellophane. Toasted Benne Seed are the key ingredient- to do this , place the pale white seeds in an iron skillet and toast in a hot oven until they are browned, being careful not to burn the seed. As the seeds cook in a recipe, a browned nutty flavor is achieved.  Topping off Yeast Rolls, sprinkled across a pan of cornbread, browned on the bottom of biscuits or even tossed in the batter for fish- Benne Seed add crunch and texture.  I just had to share the best recipe I’ve come up with for Benne Seed Wafers, tweaked from several very good old fashioned cookbooks.  And darlin’, it’s not pronounced- Been– with the ‘e‘ dropped; please say it like Jack Benny or Awl-benny Georgia!  IMG_3073

Camellia’s Cottage Benne Seed Wafers

  • Toast 3/4 cup of Benne Seed, set aside to cool.
  • Cream together 1 stick of butter with 1 cup of light brown sugar. (In Southern Recipes, because of the age old problem of heat- butter was salted to retain freshness, therefore salted butter is used in old recipes unless otherwise indicated.)
  • Add 1 large beaten egg to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well.
  • Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, stir well.
  • Now, add 3/4 cup of sifted self rising flour (add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder to all purpose flour if you don’t keep self rising flour on hand) Do not overbeat but mix well.
  • Fold in 3/4 cup of toasted benne seed carefully.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350º, while dropping  mixture from a scant teaspoon approximately 2 inches apart onto a buttered parchment lined baking sheet (I use a silicone baking mat- if you have one it makes baking easier).
  • Bake for 11-12 minutes (14 for silicone baking mat). IMG_3070
  • Remove and cool slightly, no more than a minute because the cooled Benne Seed Cookies will stick!
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely- the cookies will crisp up as they cool.
  • Makes an incredible 5-6 dozen Benne Seed Wafers!

Serve as soon as possible so you won’t eat them all yourself! Actually, they keep very well stored in an airtight container. If you’re smart, you will package them up in cellophane bags for 4th of July Favors! IMG_3082

While you’re enjoying Hamburgers on Sesame Seed buns and cold wedges of Watermelon- tell the story of how these African treasures made it to our shores, for it is in the telling…we won’t forget.

Love y’all, Camellia

Mardi Gras in Mobile!

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Camellia’s Cottage is so blessed to have among our friends and family those who carry on the traditions of Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama! With all of the pageantry, parades and literally raisin’ Cain…Mardi Gras in Mobile is more than a street brawl- its very much a family affair with fabulous Kings, Queens, Pages, the Court and Krewe balls, along with wonderful traditions handed down from one generation to another; not to mention a boost to the local economy!

It is an historical fact that Mardi Gras celebrations began in 1703 in Mobile, Alabama a full 15 years before New Orleans even existed! The New Orleans folks will try to tell you that in 1699 a few miles from there, they were the first to get Mardi Gras started but don’t believe ’em…well actually it might not be worth arguing about unless you want to get all historical about it. Anyway, Mardi Gras in Mobile has a wonderful tradition of hosting a People’s Parade- better known as Joe Cain Day. Ever heard the term- ‘raisin’ Cain’ ? Well, during Mobile’s Mardi Gras there’s a whole lot of raisin’ Cain because of a man named Joe Cain- who decided after the Wah between the States that folks were just too down and out-in 1866 Joe Cain dressed up like an undefeated Chickasaw Indian Chief and with a few of his rowdy friends and a fireman also known as the Lost Cause Minstrels-  they used a coal cart to parade through Mobile. One hundred years later in 1966, the city of Mobile literally ‘raised Cain’– Joe Cain’s body was exhumed from his resting place in a sleepy little town called Bayou le Batre; then Joe Cain’s remains were re-interred in Mobile’s historic Church Street Graveyard. Complete with a jazz band- Joe’s Cain’s Procession led by Joe’s wailin’ widows- Lida Cain, Novah Cain and of course Solah Cain joke and argue all the way from Joe’s house on Augusta Street  about which one was Joe’s favorite – these widows aren’t exactly dog ugly but they do look suspiciously masculine when they start dancin’ on his grave at Church Street!  Thousands of people walk the hilarious funeral processional parade.img_2205

Mobile somehow manages to accommodate more than a 100,000 visitors for Joe Cain Day! I couldn’t resist showing off some of our own Mardi Gras memories! The opening photograph is a handsome Page whose daddy is in the Double OM’s or Order of Myth, which is the oldest continuous parading Krewe in Mobile and celebrates it’s 150th year! His momma is in the MOM or Maids of Mirth and without her, I would not have many of these photographs!!

The vintage photograph is not Joe Cain’s widow, but a beautiful Mardi Gras Queen, not just once but twice! Other photographs are a Mardi Gras Queen in all her glory and Raisin’ Cain with a couple of merry men!, then there are a group of adorable Pages, a little wannabe Queen dressed for a Ball, a kindergarten reveler pulled in a parade wagon-then there is the Floral Parade which is for the young folks when they get a certain age who are finding out just how much fun being in a parade actually is!

Also there is a couple who had a great time attending an unofficial Mardi Gras Ball. Mardi Gras wouldn’t be complete without a King Cake and a Mardi Gras loot bag with the famous Moon Pie® parade throw included!

 

Folks from Alabama often say that ‘New Orleans may be the most famous and ‘trashiest’ Mardi Gras in the nation but Mardi Gras in Mobile is the ‘classiest’ and perhaps the very first Carnival in the nation.Parading Krewes and their families do an enormous amount of good charitable work. Mardi Gras in Mobile is all about fun, family and tradition!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are the personal property of Camellia’s Cottage community and should not be used without permission.

Hidden Spaces…

img_2222I don’t do a lot of movie reviews, however, I hope you’ll go see the blockbuster movie, Hidden Figures. One of the main characters is played by Alabama’s own Octavia Spencer. It is the story of three of the human computers and unsung heroines of NASA’s Space Program. And while it is not set in Alabama, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville was a big part of America’s Space story. Hidden Figures is one of those gaps in history, a hidden space-filled in now on the big screen with a charming cast and a disarming story every one should see at least once.  I feel blessed to have known a few hidden figures who worked for NASA in the early days; one close friend’s father worked toward sending chimps up in the fledgling project and more- and I knew a man who loved to tell the story of being on the team who designed the…uhmm, well the way the astronauts relieved themselves on long flights!  I’ve been told since childhood -as the airplane was landing in Huntsville, passenger and brilliant scientist Werner Von Braun remarked, ‘It looks like we’re landing on the moon’.  The flat red clay soil was dotted with cotton farms and not much else up at the neck and shoulders of North Alabama. Now, the largest concentration of engineers in the entire United States live in and around Huntsville. I wonder what Dr. Von Braun would think as a Saturn V Rocket pierces the blue sky marking the Space Center and home to America’s Space Camp for aspiring children, along with Redstone Arsenal, NASA, Space X, the University of Alabama at Huntsville and a multitude of engineering, aerospace, technology and scientific communities dot the landscape that he once thought looked like the moon. It’s one of those Hidden Spaces we call home.  Down in the Southeastern hip of Alabama is another Hidden Space- called Tuskegee University. The University, once called the Tuskegee Negro Normal School or Institute was founded on July 4, 1881 in a one room shanty. It’s first teacher was the pre-eminent Booker T. Washington, whose intelligence and fundraising abilities brought Tuskegee to the attention of wealthy industrialists such as Henry Ford, who made regular endowments. It could also be argued that one of America’s favorite foods originated through Tuskegee’s scientific and agricultural studies. George Washington Carver worked at the Institute with peanuts as a crop rotation to replenish soil stripped of nutrients and the result was Peanut Butter!  You may have heard that singer Lionel Ritchie’s parents were in the professional community at Tuskegee and you have surely heard of the famous World War II Tuskegee Airmen, who received their flight training there.  What you might not know is that Tuskegee is the only Historically Black College and University  (HBCU) in the United States to have an Aerospace Engineering Program. It was my honor to stay at Tuskegee for a 3 day conference right on this amazing campus- to me, it is one of those hidden spaces I had never experienced firsthand. Tuskegee University and Huntsville’s Space Center are places I hope anyone who visits Alabama would tour. The science for the space program began before I was born, but national awareness of the Russian designed Outer Space Surveillance Satellite known as Sputnik was very much a part of my early years. While we may have sat outside at night watching for Sputnik in lawn chairs, the truth is Americans were afraid. With World War II just behind us, the atom bomb had become part of the nervous system of the entire world, bomb shelters- air raid drills, getting under our desks at school, horns blaring occasionally and men wearing hard hats going off to Civil Defense Meetings kept us in a state of fear. Society was changing-the Missile Crisis in Cuba so close to our southern border states, racial tensions were running high, whole communities were grappling with fear and change, especially in my grammar school years. The shoe banging dictator of Russia, Nikita Khrushchev threatened America and were  broadcast on Huntley/Brinkley’s scary news nightly.  A young President Kennedy had announced the improbable dream of sending a man to the moon.img_2221

I brought my own history as the backdrop to the Hidden Figures’ story, which opens in 1961. It is a story that made me smile, squirm in discomfort and brought the sting of tears to my eyes more than once. This movie brought me back to a childhood fraught with fear– when national leaders were assassinated, when the whole country seemed to be going mad and when unbeknownst to me, human computers were exchanged for whole walls of metal and wire computers designed by brilliant engineers, some who worked less than 2 hours from where I sat at school desk in Birmingham, Alabama. The summer before I entered the University of Alabama, with the aid of so many hidden figures, an American Astronaut walked on the moon! Those of us who grew up in Alabama were deeply affected by this achievement. The story is told by a young man who had a summer job selling Black History books during this time frame- walked through a neighborhood where a young mother sat on her porch watching her young son play-he asked ‘What’s this little fella’s name?’ The reply- ‘His name is Lunar Module’. I suppose Lunar is in his 50’s by now…a living testimonial to the value of the NASA Space Program. Hidden Figures has been added to the American History Books, a technicolor testimonial of the immeasurable value of three brilliant mathematicians, who also happened to be astounding women of color, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Imagine, these hidden figures helped put John Glenn into orbit!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs were taken by me of the Hidden Figures posters. Hidden Figures 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award Winning Movie by Twentieth Century Fox based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly for more information on NASA visit: http://www.nasa.gov  and for more information on Tuskegee University visit http://www.tuskegee.edu

Strong but Fragile…

imageIt happened again. I broke down and cried. And once again, it took me by surprise. As I stood in line waiting my turn, I saw masses of people-all kinds of folks- from this country and from foreign lands waiting their turn too. Like the tangled historic roots among cobblestones, bricks, asphalt and concrete-their faces were solemn even anxious as they quietly waited, I’m sure mine was too. I read again the history of it. The difficulties, the immense courage of men in another day and time, the decision made knowing what it would cost them.image

I saw so many other landmarks, so much more history, walked in the old cobbled paths read about for a lifetime. I didn’t break down at Betsy’s House or in Ben’s Business, I didn’t even break down as the tour guide pointed out- place after place where history was being made so many years ago. I didn’t break down at Christ’s Church, though I was deeply moved.

Dare I say it? I love this country. I love the red, blue and white star spangled flag and even though it is off-key I do love to sing the national anthem. I still put my hand over my heart when I pledge the flag. Every. Single. Time. I get exasperated with my country, the kind of exasperation I feel when I find a new wrinkle or another gray hair. Not the kind of exasperation that would ever make me want to give up on her, my roots are among those cobblestones, bricks and concrete too.image

This country is Strong and Freedom has always been Fragile. What started as a Dream, a Pursuit and a Bill of a Dozen Right Ideals were formed in the Fiery Furnace, a Foundry filled with the lives and fortunes of a few good men. On a heavy wooden beam their hopes were mounted and hoisted up with the strong belief that there was a better way to form a more perfect union. No one noticed it was imperfect, that a hairline crack had formed. After loudly proclaiming freedom-there was always the possibility that it could break, the ringing could be silenced and the whole idea would become a shining part of world history. image

A dozen years ago, I saw it. I broke down and cried. It took me by surprise then and it took me by surprise again last week. I saw masses of people yearning to be near her, I saw my own family pause by the Liberty Bell- The Liberty Bell spoke to me gently in passing and then I cried.  She stands silent, she stands in full view of Constitution Hall- a Strong Fragile Lady aging gracefully, unruffled and calm.. Even her tiresome quarreling children became quiet and reverent, desperately trying to be more perfect, more united in her presence. Beneath the hem of her garment, created equal with certain inalienable rights-Liberty’s children share her Love of Freedom.  This Southern Belle knows a true Lady when she sees one. Lady Liberty, I salute you, Darlin’.

May God’s generous Grace, His unmatched Mercy and His abiding Love continue to shine His Glorious Light upon you.image

Our Holiday Vacation was an inspiring trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love and the Birthplace of Freedom-where the Lovely Ladies are Strong, the Goodlookin’ Men are Brave and the Children of Liberty strive to be Far Above Average.*

Love y’all, Camellia

*quote- is a play on Garrison Keiller’s statement about the fictional Lake Woebegone – ‘Where the women are strong, the men are goodlooking and the children are all above average.’

All photographs are mine- from Old City, Betsy Ross House, Benjamin Franklin’s Print Shop, Elsfeth Alley, Constitution Hall and of course- Liberty Bell Center

French Influence…

imageThere is a definite French Influence in the South…after all one of the Six Flags flown over the South is French!  And let’s be clear, Julia Childs was a Yankee. She did not bring Wrought Iron Furniture, Balconies, Fountains or Railings down here to us- nor did she introduce us to Mayonnaise. It would be easy to believe that food in the Alabama is all ham hocks, cornbread and turnip greens but how would you explain generations of Southern cooks who insisted on a Meringue topping on their famous Banana Puddings if not for a French Influence?

There is a delicate side to Southern Food- one that is unmistakably French. We lighten up our Macaroni and Cheese with enough eggs that it’s almost like a soufflé, in fact souffles are very common in Southern Cookbooks. You could hardly host a Luncheon or, the Lord forbid, a Funeral -without some type of shivering gelatin, Tomato Aspic is iconic. We love our Mayonnaise, homemade if possible- not because of Julia Childs but because our grandmothers made it! I would argue that it was a good ol’ Southern boy named Thomas Jefferson who had America’s first French trained chef!image

The Coastal Southern States almost always have a French Quarter even if miniscule-we just visited a tiny French Quarter in Fairhope Alabama!  Bay Minette, Bon Secour Bay, Daphne, Fayette, Eufaula, Luverne, D’Olive and Dauphin Island (it’s not Dolphin y’all !) are all in Alabama. Look at that Shrimp Boat in Bon Secour Bay! Alabama Seafood comes in there every single day!

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Even our Children have French inspired names– Ladale, Lavonne, Bridgette, Delane, Jeanette, Eugenia, Annette, Dwayne, Charlene, Verne, Louise and Claude are all rooted in French culture. And who would argue that Southern Women embraced the French Twist, we took it to Marie Antoinette heights with a Beehive that some still maintain! Even our menfolks like Elvis, Porter Waggoner, Jerry Lee Lewis. Merle Haggard and Duane Eddy all had that high pompadour hair!

We want our children to have French hand sewn Batiste Christening Gowns and our Brides proudly boast of Wedding Gowns with Broderie or Alencon lace! Ladies used to brag about their Negligees made of floating chiffon – instead of plain flour sack nightgowns! I worked with a lady of a certain age and status who dreamily told us of the beautiful negligees her late husband bestowed on her for every occasion. She was dead set on wearing a Pale Blue Chiffon number at the viewing of her Casket lined in Pale Blue Satin! Southerners  love to dream of their Swan Song outfits– it’s biblical- we’re just going to sleep when we Pass over Jordan’s Stormy Banks, so why not wear lingerie in caskets covered with roses, gladiolas and lilies?

The first women settlers were said to be horrified that there was no refined white flour, so they set about making corn soufflé, shrimp bisque, meringues, tomato aspic and sauces we now call gravy-even our casseroles definitely have a French Influence. The Redneck Red Eye Gravy is actually an au jus! My grandmother was very proud of her French heritage and insisted on being called Mimi instead of MeeMaw- she was adamant that her great grandchildren to call her Gigi.image

The uncouth men who first brought these women into a southern corn fed land, were no doubt pressured into getting White Flour here as soon as possible! We want our-

  • Biscuits to be high and light
  •  Piecrusts to be light and flaky
  • Airy Chiffon and Angel Food cakes and puffy Meringues
  • Southern Pecan Pralines, Beignets and Dreamy Divinity.

While generations of women might have had to depend on canned crescent rolls- we were dreamin’ of Croissants! And oh my! Palmiers! Now, the truth is the name for this pastry confection is derived from the shape of a Palm Leaf- but folks have to redneck it down to Elephant Ears or fancy it up by calling them Butterfly cookies- but please call these crisp buttery puff pastry delicacies by the right name! Palmiers.image

I love Palmiers so much I actually make 18-20 dozen for Christmas! That precious Barefoot Contessa has a wonderful recipe for Palmiers, but I cannot resist gilding the lily by taking the baked Palmiers and dipping them again in melted butter-then in sugar. I bake them again to attain a very crisp Palmier that is perfect with coffee or tea. I will post a link to Ina Garten’s recipe for Palmiers at the end- just know that after they are baked, mine are dipped, sugared and baked again! image

Ok y’all, I’ve got to package these up. I’ve nipped one too many- I’m in danger of gaining too much weight to fit into my Swan Song Burial Negligee to Pass Over Jordan. Don’t depend on Julia Childs for the Art of French cooking- the South already has that down pat! Please add to my list of Southern French names, places and food- we all know there is a definite French Influence in South! Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit !

Love y’all, Camellia

Barefoot Contessa PalmiersBarefoot Contessa’s Palmiers Other Palmiers were made by me yesterday! Funeral flowers funeral flowers  Image of St. Francis at the Point was taken by me at Point Clear Alabama. Image of meringue topped banana pudding- AOL images- may be copyrighted but the one that is embellished with meringue, caramel and whipped cream was taken by me at Buck’s Diner in Fairhope! Fountain and Wrought Iron Chair were taken at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, the closeup fountain was taken in the little French Quarter in Fairhope! Elvis, Porter Waggoner, Jerry Lee Lewis are AOL images and may be subject to copyright- the photos of Merle Haggard and Duane Eddy were taken by me from vintage albums we own. Shrimp boat was taken just last week in Bon Secour Bay.