Some Things Never Go Out Of Style…

20877054-9485-4571-9E48-88F0E310F2ABSome things never go out of style. Pearls. A handwritten thank you note. A good white blouse. A bereavement casserole or a pound cake. A kind word.

57DDD8B5-4814-47B7-8581-B0AD79AA7981A well cut suit and a decent raincoat. A genuine compliment. Well made shoes kept in good condition. Giving someone your full attention. Looking decent when you leave the house. Table manners.

CE7D9B55-9CC0-4A59-9F6A-7FC389CEF403Good language skills, even if spoken with a slight accent might make the difference in social situations or could call into question your upbringing. My grandmother sure drove this point home! Extending common courtesies. These things never go out of style.

I saw a disturbing headline recently that questioned whether the southern tradition of good manners is alive and well. Occasionally, I have to wonder whether that headline is true.

AD7FC119-65A2-408F-A6D4-5D3D7FE00A6ARecently, a sweet southern lady remarked, in her best southern accent, ‘Folks just seem so impolite, why just yesterday someone in a nice car behind me, actually honked their horn! Impatient and aggressive if you ask me.’  She was rattled to say the least. Okay, the two of us are… of a certain age. Still. She had a point and a nostalgic conversation ensued about good manners and other things that never go out of style.

CD92A979-5A2B-42CA-AC06-BE9ACA3558E3It’s important to understand that life is always better when we have at least a few genuine lifelong friends who stand by us ’til the end! So…no matter how many beauty contests you won or how high you rise on the corporate ladder- remember that you will always need friends and you will never be queen of everything! Since this is true- be the one who is willing to shine up and straighten your friends’ reputations and crowns without letting on that her tiara had slipped in the first place!

66AB7C8C-2897-4EFA-97A2-54BDCA467411Hospitality is important to friends, family and even strangers who might stop by…always be ready to offer refreshment of some sort. Be as generous as possible- the best hosts offer abundance… it sets the guests at ease so they won’t have to worry if there will be enough. And! Be the one who offers to add to the abundance by bringing a dish or drink if you are a guest!

18F26ABE-5E14-4D94-913E-357DF6ED18ADLearn and follow the basic rules of polite social engagements. Find out ahead of time what the occasion entails and the dress code. Always take a hostess gift, offer to help with set-up or clean up, leave at a reasonable time and don’t be the guest who wears out your welcome, then- for heaven’s sake – remember to write some sort of complimentary thank you note!

 

 

Come down off your high horse. While you value your opinions- others have their own perspectives which may differ. Show respect. Avoid discussions that could get heated. Is whatever you think, worth expressing, if it means losing important friends and relationships?53D8E6A0-6B0B-4AAA-AA65-7B34C0525218

And while I’m at it- limit gossip, I’m not sure it can ever be eradicated…just know when talk has gone over the edge from idle gossip to just plain meanness. No amount of saying, ‘Bless his heart.’ ‘We need to pray for her.’ Or passing unfair judgement ever made anyone look better! If you look back on your life…you might find that we are all just one bad decision away from being in the same dilemma- we’ve taken so much pleasure in passing along!706E302B-54B3-446B-ADDF-513ACF10DC2B

Thank you for letting me preach a little here…This judgement of others would include religious beliefs that folks hold dear. My own faith is important to me- yet that doesn’t mean I have all the answers to life’s dilemmas.450D5F7F-CA36-4871-A080-8B886E1F8C85

I recently read that a certain eastern religion believes in Smile Energy- I don’t know all of the particulars…yet I do know this- life just feels better and lighter when I smile than when I frown! Speaking of making a face… please don’t! Would you rather be known for your smile or your sour attitude? F1591DBC-BE6B-4B88-9BF6-3EC2C4B96B4E

If you belong to an organization, participate! Be the one who offers encouragement but is also willing to gather the kindling, bring the marshmallows and light the campfire! Let the leader lead, be teachable, become part of the sisterhood or brotherhood.

 

 

I speak from experience on this- find a group you can support wholeheartedly and the quality of your life will improve in direct proportion to your enthusiasm.  And, while I’ve been talking about things that never go out of style… offering support to others might be the one thing that never goes out of style! Support is best expressed by one of my favorite authors…

‘Support is a hand held when you’ve failed, a smile in the morning when you leave to face the world, a laugh shared till your sides ache and tears flow down your cheeks.’ By Mary Alice Monroe from ‘Second Star to the Right’

A ‘hand held’ when the day hasn’t gone so well or you need support…or even as a sign of affection- costs nothing but could mean everything!

82D70BF6-F81E-4077-B124-50C3673CC7EFThough darlin’- our southern mothers would add- ‘Limit those public shows of affection to hand holdin’ or a peck on the cheek, unless folks get the wrong idea about you, then, question your upbringing!’ Our southern mothers’ advice is another thing that never goes out of style! Oh me, how I do run on!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are from my private collection with the exception of the ‘friends’, the hospitality queens with the turkeys and the ‘ugly face’ which were found via Pinterest so long ago I haven’t been able to run down the source- if they belong to you please let me know so I can credit you properly! Thank you. * The photos I chose for this post were chosen for subject matter only. They are fine beautifully mannered folks!

 

Maybelle Turner’s Blonde Brownies…

0CEBA9D8-A454-4781-B693-1EB9B355C514I never knew Maybelle Turner. She might have been a friend of my grandmother’s double first cousins, since this recipe was tucked in their cookbook and on the same page as Nellie’s Wicked Brownies…which I’ve never had the nerve to bake. I don’t know whether Maybelle was short or tall, young or old. Whether she had blonde hair, was a redhead or had salt and pepper hair wadded up in a bun, it really doesn’t matter- Maybelle Turner must have been a generous soul; must have loved doubled recipes (because this one certainly could be halved!) and she had to be a creative cook since she gave a variation. Or… maybe one day she was making these Blonde Brownies and ran short of chocolate chips! Whatever… I do know this is an old recipe- why? Because it was in one of my oldest family cookbooks and nobody says- ‘Blonde Brownies’ anymore!

E8157407-54E2-47DE-B2E5-351B9CF537FBHere’s how you make- Maybelle Turner’s Blonde Brownies 

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs – beaten
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi sweet chocolate chips (variation- 8 oz. chocolate chips plus 4 oz. butterscotch chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8×8 glass baking dishes- lightly butter, line with buttered parchment paper. Set aside. Melt butter, combine with brown sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla and salt. Stir in flour and baking powder- do not overmix! Fold in pecans and chocolate chips. Divide dough in half and spread lightly in the 2 prepared baking dishes. Bake for 25 minutes. Do not overbake! Allow to cool in baking dish. Cut into small squares and serve. These are very rich.B943EB76-94F4-4382-A911-28CF222CE0D3

I’ve hung onto the recipe for Maybelle’s Blonde Brownies a while now… why? I don’t bake bar cookies or brownies very often! These are moist and very rich. I used her variation of adding butterscotch chips, though I’m sure they would be good either way! And, please don’t overbake- who wants a dried out blonde brownie? Also, they are truly rich- I cut mine in small bars and truthfully if you’re as generous as Maybelle, a bar is rich enough to share! So… I’d like to say- ‘Maybelle, wherever you are- your Blonde Brownies are delicious, darling!’ Who knows maybe closer to Halloween, I’ll get up the nerve to bake Nellie’s Wicked Brownies!

C2AACC1C-5F49-4BDD-8698-B7F8294BDFCBSchool’s back in session, the garden is headed into ‘curl up and die’ time and I’m beginning to see fall fruits in the grocery store…these Blonde Brownies tasted awfully good with apples, and they sure would make a wonderful addition to a lunch bag or as an after school snack!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine!

Summer Tomatoes in the South…

70853A62-5688-42A3-8CFD-C0DAE8E348BFWe wait all year long for summer tomatoes. We long for them all year. There’s no end to what we do with summer tomatoes-

  • We put them in canning jars, freeze them and preserve them any way we can think of for winter soups, warm red sauces and hearty stews, so of course we’re trying  keep the memories of summer tomatoes alive.
  • And yes, we make fresh tomato soup with thin slivers of cool cucumber, snips of green onion, crumbled bacon and a drift of shredded cheese.6450DC56-D19F-4397-BB09-69BDFD262117
  • We consume vast quantities of summer tomatoes alongside Fried Chicken, Pork Chops and a personal favorite- Fried Catfish.
  • Who would turn down a vegetable plate of butter peas, steamed yellow squash, corn muffins, macaroni and cheese alongside thick slices of summer tomatoes?
  •  We stuff summer tomatoes with shrimp salad, egg salad, tuna salad or chicken! And it must be summer tomatoes or the taste just isn’t there!
  • There may not be a better savory pie than Summer Tomato Pie, my sister’s is the best I’ve ever tasted- a flaky pie crust oozing with fresh summer tomatoes, a sour cream and onion filling topped with thick and melting sharp cheese- well, I’m drooling just thinking about it!A2E3C53C-B1DF-4E1F-8726-FF4FE037F9F3
  • Let’s not forget mile high Club Sandwiches, grilled Hamburgers and of course the all time favorite Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes… as long as there’s a summer tomatoes on there- any of these are near perfection!E38C9809-2B2C-46E9-8DDB-338336A88517
  • Of course, we love Fried Green Tomatoes- now you may be able to get hot house green tomatoes all year round…yet, if they’re made with summer green tomatoes they’ll have that extra special flavor!E2C9EC81-455C-4901-89C7-EB479A3E1320

We consume all of these wonderful things and more… almost any mixed green salad is elevated by summer tomatoes, even the humble potato salad with cherry tomatoes is a cool refreshing lunch! 6A0BF5E2-9057-46E1-9489-B0B7C797DA8BBereavement buffets almost cry out for scalloped tomatoes and tomato aspic which are amazing made with summer tomatoes!

C5B80D0A-75AB-4CCC-9716-B9E97D59347BNow, if you’re from the South… and I mean truly from the South- there’s one particular delicacy which is the real reason we wait all year for Summer Tomatoes… Tomato Sandwiches! If you add anything more than loaf bread, mayonnaise, summer tomatoes with salt and a bit of black pepper- then you don’t really have a Southern Tomato Sandwich! I’ll let you all fuss and discuss which mayonnaise is best- to me as long as the ingredients include lemon juice on the label you’ll have good mayonnaise and no, we don’t call it mayo – say that and it might put you under suspicion!

0CC775ED-48DD-488F-98E7-CFCCDCBC6CF8Now, if you’re a true believer in a pure Tomato Sandwich- then you’ll know there’s a secret wish we all have had from time to time… to have one beautiful slice of tomato which will cover the whole slice of bread… Big Boy Tomatoes move over.. the new one to try is – ‘Mater Sandwich’ ! Of course it is! I’m here to tell you this one is a winner… never mealy or bland tasting… the ‘Mater Sandwich’ variety of home grown tomatoes is one you’ll want to try!  We’ve been picking and eating these for weeks! Now, if you’ll excuse me- I’m gonna fix me a Tomato Sandwich!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine! *Mater Sandwich tomato plants may be a registered trademark!

Lemon Squares…

From the cradle to the grave, in the South- at every occasion of any importance – you can mark this down, a dessert, or two or more will feature lemon. Lemon desserts are legendary and iconic… Lemon Meringue Pue, Lemon glazed Pound Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie, wedding cakes filled with lemon curd…even our sweet tea is laced with lemon juice! However, these Lemon Squares make a regular appearance on tea tables, at baby showers, holiday dessert tables, bridal teas, anniversary and retirement parties and yes, grieved though we may be for the dearly departed- we tend to consume Lemon Squares in quantities to comfort ourselves. How do I know this? Almost every dark suit and black dress that’s been anywhere near the bereavement buffet bears a sprinkle of a telltale streak of powdered sugar! On one occasion I helped with –  Lemon Squares were assigned to more than one trusted baker- but all agreed that Bennie Sue’s recipe should be used for uniform quality. Okay, I made up Bennie Sue’s name to protect the innocent. You know, there’s always at least one Bennie Sue in any southern community whose recipe is considered the gold standard. Rustic and humble in looks- not Bennie Sue, for heavens sake! No, the rustic and humble Lemon Squares- tend to take on a heavenly appearance with their light cloud-like dusting of powdered  sugar. I think even the formidable  Bennie Sue would approve of this recipe for Camellia’s Lemon Squares! 

Lemon Squares…

Cut in bar cookies or tiny squares, Lemon Bars are welcome any time. A shortbread type crust topped with baked lemon  curd and dustEd with a snowy powdered sugar topping – it’s a near perfect addition on dessert tables or as a stand alone confection. 

  • 1/2 Cup Butter (Softened)
  • 1 Cup Flour (Sifted)
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • Zest Lemon (from 1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Flour
  • 1/4 teas Baking Powder
  • 3-4 Tbs Lemon Juice (* Freshly Squeezed – use zested lemons)
  • Powdered Sugar (for Dusting )
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine softened butter, 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar for crust. Do not overmix. Press into an 8×8 glass baking dish for crust. Bake 12 minutes or until pale but dry. Do not overtake, crust will complete baking later. While crust is baking, make lemon filling with remainder of ingredients, except powdered sugar. Mix well. Pour mixture over partially baked crust. Complete baking at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until Lemon Mixture is done. ( press lightly with your finger, if no fingerprint remains, the Lemon Squares are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue to cool. Dust again with powdered sugar.

    When ready to serve, for parties, cut into small squares. As a dessert, larger squares may be preferred. * Serving suggestion: When ready to serve, top with additional lemon zest for a pretty presentation and a tart fresh taste. 

While they can be made year round, winter is a perfect time for Lemon Squares. Citrus fruit is fresh and abundant. And while we do make these lemon squares for special occasions, they’re the perfect ending for a Sunday Dinner, when they can be cut generously with no complaints!

I do recommend using three small kitchen hand tools when making lemon squares- a wooden lemon reamer – less cleanup for just one or two lemons, a small hand held specialty lemon zester for those pretty little strands and curls that add a zip of flavor, done as a flourish right before serving and- a small fine mesh strainer in stainless steel to seed and pulp the lemon juice for the filling and again for the pretty finale- the sifting flourish of powdered sugar! And we do love to add a flourish, accessorize if you will. And if there’s one thing Southern women know how to do- it’s to accessorize! Oh me, hope you’ll try them some dreary winter day soon!

Love y’all, Camellia

Health and Beauty Tips: Citrus fruits including – maybe especially lemons,  are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and those all important B for Beauty Vitamins. Some think that lemon juice even in a spa juice does help ease symptoms of the common cold. Here’s a Spa Water I made this week, with sliced ruby red grapefruit, oranges and lemon slices. if nothing else it sure was pretty- so pretty, I was enticed to drink more water! And that has to be good for your skin and keep you healthy and hydrated!

  • * You can find the small kitchen tools, such as the citrus reamer, the specialty lemon zester and the small stainless steel/fine mesh sieves-  at fine kitchen shops, including Williams Sonoma. (This is not a sponsored post) And! that pretty green plate? It’s made by Earthborn Pottery right here in Alabama!
  • We do have some ads now, to keep the lights on… Camellia’s Cottage does not guarantee the quality of any products or services in these ads!
  • *And… I just made up Bennie Sue’s name- to protect the innocent you know…
  • *All photographs are obviously mine!

Camellia’s Classic Cheese Straws…

If there was a manual for Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society, there would be an entire section devoted to the proper menus for afternoon teas, bridal showers, various receptions and occasional celebratory parties. And, you may count on Classic Cheese Straws making an honorary appearance on each and every menu. Southern Cheese Straws have been the subject of hot debate for decades…every town has at least one sweet soul who takes great pride in producing the very best cheese straws. Okay, it’s not a hot debate, it’s more like a warm undercurrent. Someone remarked recently, ‘Why, I haven’t made a cheese straw since Captain and Tennielle sang Muskrat Love, I never could get them to crisp up like Gaynelle always could.’  I can’t say I blame her!

Here’s why:

  • Some say it’s too humid right now for making a decent cheese straw.
  • Others think it’s because a certain baker never shared her grandmother’s recipe on her momma’s side, I think it was a deathbed promise.
  • Then, some recipes survive, however the oven temperature tends to vary or a critical ingredient is missing.
  • Even the fact you must be in possession of a proper cookie press has mysteriously been left out.
  • In fact, it must be said-  Blessed is the bride who receives a fine metal cookie press at her kitchen shower and-
  • Far more than blessed is the southern hostess who has inherited her great aunt Bessie’s cookie press which had her famous cheese straw recipe hidden inside the tube.

I’m not exaggerating here. Classic Cheese Straws are highly prized and the one who literally pressed on through the ages- surviving even ‘Muskrat Love’ persists until this day! Still. I’m not going to tell you my cheese straw recipe is the best, I could get into a lot of hot water! I am going to tell you that this recipe is one of my favorites. And! I personally love southern cheese straws so much that I generally make a double recipe at least twice a year and they’re squirreled away in my freezer. I pull out what I need, put them on an ungreased sheet pan and allow them to thaw slightly and bake as directed. Winter is a great time to make cheese straws, but as my friend who probably does make the best cheese (because she does have a genuine handed down recipe) told me recently…’They won’t get crisp if you bake them on a rainy or humid day’. I agree. Try this recipe- I haven’t left anything out.

Join me in keeping this wonderful tradition alive- it’s an heirloom recipe. It’d be a shame for polite society if the tradition didn’t survive, especially if you live, like I do,  where cheese straws are always welcome and the sugar cane still grows.

Love y’all, Camellia

 

Camellia's Classic Cheese Straws

An old classic cheese straw for teas, showers, receptions or parties!

  • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese (grated= *do not use pre-grated cheese! )
  • 1 stick salted butter (if you use unsalted add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to sifted flour)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  1. In a food processor, grate sharp cheddar and chilled stick of butter- doing this in batches if necessary. Put cheddar mixture in a large bowl, covered with plastic wrap and leave overnight to soften- do not refrigerate at this stage. Sift together flour, cayenne, paprika and salt (if using unsalted butter). With clean hands, mix dry ingredients into softened cheese and butter- mixing very well until mixture is smooth.  On ungreased sheet pan, in batches, put dough through a cookie press with a star tip in approximately 4 inch strips. (If you don’t have a cookie press- the dough can be rolled with a bit of extra flour and cut into narrow strips.) Placement is approximately 1/2 inches apart. When sheet pan is filled, chill the pressed dough briefly to retain better shape as they bake.

    Preheat oven to 350. Bake 15 minutes, checking after 12 minutes. Cheese Straws should be dried out but not browned. Remove to a wire rack to cook. Keep in an airtight container. Makes 4-6 dozen.   

The best cheese straws are put through a cookie press, using the star plate. If you choose another design, adjust cooking time.

* all photographs are obviously mine. Williams Sonoma sells a wonderful sturdy cookie press. I also found several good all metal cookies presses sold on Amazon. *Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society does not exist- though it’s crossed my mind…

Cookbook Therapy…

444257F5-F821-48DD-BF08-DF8D90F28256Most Southerners take prolonged cold weather as a personal insult. Oh, we put up with chilly days in a good natured way, some even going so far as to say they love cold weather or that it’s a good thing ‘because it’ll kill off the bugs’. More than a few days? The novelty of wearing wool or goose down or cashmere has worn off- we’ll put on Bermuda Shorts with fake fur lined boots and heavy socks as if to defy the unwelcome visit of Jack Frost.

I admit it, I have taken the recent cold spell as a personal insult, even blaming the Devil for a few days and for me that’s extreme. Okay, I said, ‘It’s cold as the devil.’  Extreme weather conditions call for extreme blame. Fed up, I refused to go out in it and settled in to soothe my nerves. Bundled up in socks and covered with a throw, I was surrounded by my highly prized Southern Ring Bound Cookbooks, you know the ones- that real folks have tested and written. I took perverse pleasure in finding the most difficult, unusual, or even grotesque recipes I could find, with no intention of cooking any of it.  Well, maybe the sugar laden ones. Still. I was looking for more than recipes. Let me explain, Church or Organization Cookbooks are Story Books to me. I’m a descendent of at least 2 Grandparents who loved Crossword Puzzles, who were also Amazing Storytellers and one of them was an Amazing Cook- who clipped recipes from her beloved Birmingham News. Thus, I am a collector of- words, sentences, phrases, stories and recipes.

Cookbooks give me a window into other kitchens, other times and in most cookbooks- there are stories, methods, hints and tips that are priceless. I do not buy these cookbooks new, I want the recipes with a star beside favorites, or a note written to improve the recipe at hand.

  • I found mostly mathematicians in the Baking Sections, the insistent precise ones.
  • Then there were the Happy Socialites- especially in the Beverage and Appetizer Sections, though I wondered about a non-alcoholic punch I found…the recipe called for an entire bottle of Almond Extract! I asked myself if perhaps the person offering it up was in a 12 Step Program.
  • The Casserole Ladies might be my favorites, they improvise, aren’t precise, give options and also instruct the reader that the recipe can be stretched to feed a crowd, they are a big hearted group no doubt.
  • To my surprise on that cold and dreary day- hovering over the Soups and Stews Sections were other Southern Cooks whom I fear must have shared my disdain for cold weather.

One fine example was called NO PEEP STEW. After a sketchy mixture of ingredients was put in a Dutch Oven- the recipe writer directed- ‘Bake 5 hours at 250 degrees. DO NOT PEEP, REPEAT, DO NOT PEEP.’ … I wondered what would happen if one decided to go rogue and PEEP? and who in the world wrote it? a former Drill Sargent?  Apparently deciding to calm down- the writer adds- ‘Serve with wedges of your favorite cornbread and a green salad.’  Still another, in another cookbook, had a much nicer even fun title for hers- it was ‘No Peekie Beef Stewie’ … you have to love her!

Another Stew which was full of ingredients and difficulties was followed by ‘Served with hot buttered French Bread and Assorted Pickles, this will serve about 8 hungry men.’ … From vast experience with hungry men, no doubt. Surely this one had cabin fever like me- with the added pressure of being cooped up with 8 hungry men to feed!

Then there was the sweet lady who got a bit bossy about when to add egg yolk and vinegar to Pig Stew… but regained her composure and politely said- ‘My grandmother’s cook made this every Christmas and it was served alongside turkey, dressing etc. It’s very rich and not too good in warm weather, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without it at my home in New Orleans.’    Bless. Her. Heart.     Just so you know… we Southerners who had grandmothers or great grandmothers who employed cooks – You have to know- you must know, we  do KNOW who taught us how to cook right! I have a cookbook to prove it! It’s ring bound cookbook with recipes compiled by household cooks, fairground workers and large military service organizations. These recipes have exquisite names-

  • Chicken Elegante
  • Mardi Gras Chicken
  • Custard Pie Excellence
  • Sicilian Meat Roll
  • Sweet Potato Souffle
  • Asparagus Souffle
  • Squash Croquettes
  • Celery and Almond Gratin
  • A Devil’s Food Cake that has 3 layers with a Lemon Pineapple Filling and a Dark Chocolate Icing boiled to a soft ball stage!
  • Pillow Pastry
  • Luscious Chocolate Cake
  • Lane Cake (a Southern Classic)
  • Honey Caramels
  • Fig Conserve and Creole Pralines
  • Oh, and please don’t let me forget- Chocolate Fudge that is poured on a platter- this is the hallmark of an old but great fudge recipe!

Some recipes assume you know how to cook. One I’m particularly fond of simply says-

  • Cook Chicken, cool and shred.
  • Save Broth. Blanche Broccoli.
  • Make a White Sauce. Add White Wine and Grated Parmesan Cheese.
  • Brown Cracker Crumbs in Butter.
  • Assemble.
  • Bake at 350 until bubbly. Serve with Rice. That’s it.

I made that one recently. I need no nonsense, clear direction when it’s cold weather. Now, recently I offered you a recipe and our friend Bob remarked ‘Any recipe that starts with frying bacon can’t be bad’. He’s right. These are the recipes you know are winners- if they start with a Cast Iron Skillet and Bacon. C6BD81F7-75CE-4851-A2DA-025E41542AD7

When I found one of those, my Freezing Cold Day- Cookbook Therapy was beginning to kick in. The recipe – no doubt submitted by a beautiful and fragile Southern Cook was so well written,  I fell in love with her …not sure about her recipe, but her gentle coaxing ways soothed me.  Her Southern Charm, her impeccable manners won me over, not to mention she started out her recipe with charm…

  • ‘Fry Bacon in a heavy cast iron Dutch Oven until crisp- set aside.
  • ‘Pour off almost all of the fat leaving just enough to leave a thin film on the bottom.’  There were no upper case letters… gently implied was this-
  • .‘Now darling, you better save that bacon fat, you may need it later’.
  • She gets fired up…‘Heat fat to smoking hot, brown meat a few pieces at a time… if needed, add a little more bacon fat.’
  • (Later on, when she finally finishes browning all of the meat and has removed it to a platter, she goes on… add butter to the pot…onions…)
  • Then says, ‘You may need more bacon fat.’
  • Alright, now she wants us to add Beef Stock, Spices and Beer.
  • Umhmm…Winter Stew for sure…
  • ‘Return browned meat to pot. There should be enough sauce to cover, but if you’re a little short, add beer.

Please, please notice how polite she is! You may need more bacon fat,if you’re a little short,  you may need more beer! Almost as nice as the lady who is making Beef Roulade Sandwiches…she starts out by saying- ‘First, be nice to your butcher. Smile.’ They both put me in a better frame of mind! Cookbook Therapy works!

Peruse the recipes in good Junior League or Church Ladies Cookbooks and what you’ll find are stories of real people making really good food. And what’s better than a collection of stories that could end up as a feast on your very own table?

Love y’all, Camellia

*Some of these recipes were found in a cookbook my friend Sandra and I think is the cream of the crop- Southern Sideboards compiled by the Junior League of Jackson Mississippi. Others were picked at random from River Road, Junior League of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The other cookbook shall remain unnamed…it is from my own private limited edition- privately published stash! *Photograph from Tante Marie, a French Cookbook published in English in the 1950’s- please note that Café au Lait, is not made with coffee at all…it’s made with a coffee extract and…on the next page we’re told it’s made with chicory– which could explain why Café au Lait in New Orleans tastes so good! Bon Appetite, y’all!B06450F9-AA38-4A90-8329-9CA61F333BBA

Home Going…

IMG_3292My father in law would have loved his funeral last week… I know, I know…he was ‘absent from the body but present with the Lord’.  Still. If he could have been in the body, he would have loved his Home Going – all of it. But then I’m getting ahead of myself… Wallace Wyatt, Sr. was my father in law for decades, he lived to be 93 years old- he had a long, well lived life. He was born in Cool Springs, then made his life just a few miles over in Beaver Valley- in his beloved St. Clair County. A county older than the State of Alabama, where he served the people for 14 years as their Judge of Probate. I remember he told me once that being Probate Judge was the closest thing to the role of a pastor within our government- with duties ranging from adoptions, marriages, guardianships and of course the end of life business with wills and estates. He said that a good probate judge needed to know and love the people he served. He did. He passed this on to his son- ‘To know and love the people he served.’ This is the motto of a true public servant.

He was surprisingly well travelled for a home body. I recall when he and my mother in law went to Israel, they were in their sixties but both of them rode camels, one of the camels thanked him by spitting in his eye! For their 50th anniversary, one of his daughters asked my father in law if he had gotten their mother a gift- he replied, ‘Well, I bought her a pre-paid funeral plan!’ Of course he got her more than that! On their 60th anniversary- if you can believe it- the two of them went for a little anniversary trip to Cheaha State Park, the highest point in Alabama.  She would die less than two years later. I still miss her every day. Two days after his funeral, would have been their 73rd anniversary, he went to a far higher place to spend it with her. IMG_3249

Always a generous man, when he worked for Alabama Gas Corporation, he ran up on a young girl who was blind, her family told him she was learning Braille. He couldn’t get it out of his mind; so he talked to his Union Brothers about her. Those men raised enough money to buy her a Set of Encyclopedias written in Braille!

Mr. Wyatt was one the Tom Brokaw’s ‘Greatest Generation’– a World War II veteran, who got lost from his unit in France… it was an experience he rarely talked about. Someone at the funeral told me that- lost from his unit in a foreign country in the middle of a war was frightening enough but my father in law ran up on a Mortuary Unit. They fed him and furnished him a place to sleep with the living and the dead. The next morning, the soldiers told him he was welcome to join up with them, he graciously declined saying- ‘Well, you boys sure are nice and I appreciate what you’re doing; a mighty fine job of it too- but if it’s all the same to you, I think I’d ruther be at my own duties then do yours!’ Can’t say I blame him.

The last years of his life were spent at beautiful Veterans Home in our county- the Colonel Robert L. Howard Veteran’s Nursing Home. When he died, his body was prepared…then- while ‘Taps’ was played, his flag draped body was rolled down a long hallway lined with fellow Veterans- standing or in wheelchairs, gave him a final salute- some with arthritic hands.  This is called ‘The Walk’ and is a fitting goodbye to an Old Soldier; he would have loved it.FullSizeRender

His firstborn child was a ‘war baby’, Wallace Jr.(above) -Next, were his pretty girls- following soon after his son, Carol Jane, the next, Eleanor Kay was born 6-7 years later, the last was a late in life baby, Vicki Lynn. Then there was me, his favorite daughter in law. Really.

The first time I went to their home in Beaver Valley, newly engaged- I got ‘The Talk’… He explained, ‘Our family doesn’t believe in divorce, you’re in it for the long haul, just so you know.’ Sort of put the fear of God in me with his bright blue eyes- I nodded in perfect understanding. He restored perfect harmony by playing a stereo record – It was his favorite gospel music group- The Swanee River Boys. swanee river boys

I should say right here that I knew nothing about gospel music- does ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore’ count? As the Swanee River Boys sang so smooth…I could not believe my ears! Mr. Wyatt alternately sang-All Four. Parts…

  • Bass,
  • Baritone,
  • Tenor and
  • High Tenor, have you ever?

Well, I can tell you now…I still have never heard anything like it.  What I was about to find in this huge family that embraced me… they all could sing or play. In fact I was told, if a baby was born Tone Deaf in the Wyatt family- they pinched their heads off at birth!

Can I just say right here? They (the entire clan) told me stuff like that all the time, for the shock value I guess or maybe they had detected I am practically tone deaf.  I’ll have you know, my children have perfect pitch! Needless to say, there was music at the Funeral for my father in law, last week- just enough and just what he’d like and I tapped my foot a time or two.

A full blown Wyatt event, family reunion, wedding or funeral closely resembles an Ant Bed, occasionally a Fire Ant Bed, depending on who’s there. Pine Forest Baptist was the host of the Ant Bed last week, for decades my father in law was a Deacon there. For the record he would have loved having so many members of his family and the folks that he claimed kin to at his Home Going. vintage women's shoes

He would have loved the ladies in sensible block heels, flats (me), cowboy boots and four inch heels- especially if they were toting a Crock Pot or a Casserole Dish- Oh my! He would have loved the food, do I need to describe it? Groaning Church tables loaded with Food were Begging for Mercy. That’s the most poetic way to describe it. The only thing that was missing was my mother in law’s Coconut Custard Pie.

Pine Forest Baptist is a small Rock Church nestled in a piney grove, the smell of pine always permeated the dinners on the grounds, surrounded by beautiful farmland. Then there was a growth spurt and a fine Trade School was built across the road….Several sent out directions to the funeral service- my favorite was:

‘Head north on 231 toward Ashville, at the crossroads right at the Trade School, turn right like you’re going to Rainbow City, Pine Forest is beside Dollar General on the right.’

Pine Forest was at capacity, there were fine suits and designer dresses, Versace ties, denim and sequins, work clothes and a few in Military Uniforms- My father in law would have loved it all.  His youngest nephew, Danny- the only one who has become a member of clergy was lined up to preach the funeral, three Nieces were asked to sing a favorite gospel song- ‘Unclouded Day’ , his Grandsons were the Pall Bearers and a handsome group that was! This is a family that can put on a funeral at the drop of a hat. My father in law would have loved-

  • hearing his Nieces sing for him one last time,
  • he would have loved Danny’s sermon,
  • he would have loved the Masonic Funeral Rites which were done in such a moving way by Brother Talley.
  • Mr. Wyatt would have loved hearing Taps at graveside and-
  • that the Flag which had draped his body was given to his son.

Yes, he would have loved his Home Going- but most of all- I know he would have loved hearing the recording with his old friend Buford Abner of the Swanee River Boys- the foot tapping upbeat- ‘When I Wake Up That  Morning’

Who knows? He might have been singing along- All. Four. Parts.  As his favorite daughter in law, I would have loved that. There will never be another like him. For sure. William Wallace Wyatt, Sr. was greatly loved. He will be greatly missed … May he rest in peace.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Okay,  I know you want to hear it- take it away Swanee River Boys! https://youtu.be/CVFWDnJtV88