Bevy of Beauties…

 

img_3484They still spring forth from twisted roots, thick marshes, stark rocky hillsides, rushing rivers, dark coal mines and the red clay soil of Alabama, a veritable Bevy of Beauties. Let us never forget that:

  • Stars Fell on Alabama,
  • Hank Williams wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’ , What ya got cookin’  and-
  • F.Scott Fitzgerald found his Zelda right here in my Sweet Home, Alabama.

It’s no coincidence that Southern girls aren’t just cuter, they are stunning beauties. We know this from birth. They’re like Strands of Steel woven through Lace Christening Gowns, Ruffled Petticoats and Tulle Tutus. For southern girls, there’s an immediate affinity for Sparkle, Sequins and Crowns.

Their eyes flash with fury, the art of flirting comes naturally at an amazingly early age. Charmingly, disarmingly  and alarmingly they manage to get their own way, especially with their daddies, brothers and beaus, who are more than happy to go along with it.

Some prefer devastating hats, some wear Hollywood style sunglasses all year round, some prefer to wear their crowns- All. The. Time. Others insist on over-accessorizing. We allow it, we encourage it and just between me and you? It’s easier than arguing them down.

We crown our daughters for every conceivable Fruit, Flower or Nut- not to mention Cotton, Crisco® and Congeniality! And- Bo Weevils, too. For others, the Tutus and Dance costumes aren’t  reserved just for recitals but worn everyday. Recently, I saw a tiny girl with a running suit which had wide bands of sequins down each tiny arm and each tiny leg- her mother said the child loves it so much she has to wash it while the little girl is sleeping!

img_3500It must be said, that those who are born loving sparkles often get the crown– we have spawned more than one Miss America right here in Alabama. Southern Beauties win more often than any other region of the United States!   We may be the Land of Cotton but someone somewhere has made a killing off  the 1000’s of yards of tulle for years now! Ball Gowns, Prom dresses, Homecoming Courts, Beauty Pageants, Cotillions and every conceivable holiday including Alabama’s own Mardi Gras, in Mobile, Alabama.

Even Senior Centers have beauty contests- I have warned my family if the day ever comes when they think I need to be assisted in living ( even though I’ve never won a beauty contest in my life!)  It will cost them a fortune in sequined pageant dresses alone. Why? because Southern ladies nevah evah give up hope or stop flirting for that matter!

img_3484It would be a mistake to think these beauty queens are all fluff, many go on to become-

  • Lawyers,
  • Surgeons,
  • Executives,
  • Artists,
  • Teachers,
  • Engineers
  • Rocket Scientists.

If you research the Southern Bevy of Beauties, you will find articles have been written throughout the years- all asking and trying in vain to answer the question of why Southern women are so much prettier

  • Some say it’s the extra amount of Sunshine, others say it is the Humidity that makes their Skin Glow and their Hair so Full.
  • Some say it’s the Slower Pace or the Sweet Southern drawl, or maybe it’s growing Sugar Cane.
  • Some say it’s Handed Down from Generation to Generation from folks who have stayed in one place.
  • Some say it’s Training or other less desirable reasons- which, to be honest, hurts my feelings to read such nonsense.

To pigeonhole Southern Beauties would be a mistake- some are as soft and gentle as Wood Violets, some are livin’ as large as our Magnolia Grandiflora, some cover pain and heartache like the sweet scent of Jasmine.  Some are more like creamy Gardenias, you can’t miss ’em but they’re shy and bruise easily. Others are  late bloomers like the Glory Bower. Then there are those who simply bloom at the wrong time– like Camellias, our Winter Rose. We name them for-

  •  Our indigenous flowers,
  • Our ancestors
  •  Others are so precious we’ve named them Jewel, Ruby, Opal and Pearl.
  • Then there are some who are quicker than a lightning bug can blink- so we’ve nicknamed them,  Junebugs, Skeeters and Katydids.
  • They are as sparkling as our Rivers,
  • They giggle and babble like our warm Springs
  • They are as tough and spunky as Pig Iron, yet soft as Moonlight and twinkle like Stars.

There is an intoxicating mix of culture in the South- more Flags have flown over the Deep South than any other. The spice blend of Native American, Spanish, French, British,  African, Greek, Italian, German and Caribbean have influenced the very food we eat and also contribute to our sweet and spicy Bevy of Beauties!

Most of my ancestors were of European descent, yet I have an American Indian great grandmother aptly named Bama. Whole counties, rivers and towns bear names like Choctaw, Etowah, Tuscaloosa and Cherokee. In the county where I live, the will of a Cherokee Indian Princess is on record. Of course she was a Princess! No other region of America has been so ravaged by war and gone down a trail of bitter, blood, sweat and tears like the South. We’re still struggling with the aftermath. It is undeniable that Beauty is Born out of Trouble. So, is it any wonder that our Daughters are the Queen of our Hearts and a Bevy of Beauties?

img_3274We teach them that to be well received,

  • They must have good manners, high standards,
  • Be well dressed, get good grades,
  • Have a winning smile and be good citizens.

Secretly we know that beauty and brains is a devastating combination! So, from generation to generation- we revel in their beauty but admire good posture. We remind our daughters, they are born of backbone and courage! And that my friends, is the truth of where our bevy of beauties get their real good looks!

Love y’all, Camellia

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

* Photograph of ‘Katydid’ was taken by Hollis Ellison a wonderful photographer!

*This post was originally written in 2017, in 2018, Z Publishing awarded Bevy of Beauties…  for Emerging Writers of Alabama. This post has been edited and updated from the original. It seemed fitting to redo this post since we have been blogging 4 years this month!

*Some of the vintage beauties are from Ash-Clairma 1961, the high school annual of Ashville, Alabama where surely some of the most beautiful ladies on earth were born.

* ‘Hey Good-Lookin’ was written by Alabama’s own Hank Williams.

* Zelda Fitzgerald was from Montgomery, Alabama.

*Alabama has had three winners of the Miss America Pageant®, over 20 were runners up and countless have been finalists and special award winners, including our very funny Award Winning Author- Fanny Flag.

Special Edition! Camellia’s Valentine’s Advice…

img_3382Valentine’s Day is a veritable mine field of a holiday. I’ve interviewed a good many women who report feelings of depression, unfulfilled expectations and outright anger after this day of love. Valentine’s Day is fraught with problems for Southern men. Why? Because the south is a matriarchal society. Southern mommas take care of all the gift buying, the decorating, the meal planning, the teacher gifts, cookies and cupcakes and all of that glitter strewn around from card making- even cellophane bags stocked in at least 3 different sizes, perfect for goodie bags for? Every. Single. Occasion known to mankind. We might let men think they’re in charge of… say, the Deep Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving but it’s a woman who has the back up roast turkey just in case his fryer catches on fire! img_3376

Valentine’s Day is that exceptional holiday– she may done everything for the children’s parties yet southern women don’t think it’s asking too much for Billy Bob to turn into a Sugar Daddy on Valentine’s Day. For just one day, is it too much to expect Billy Bob to turn into William Robert Smith IV, master of all things sweet and romantic on just one little bitty day of the year? Is it any wonder that Every. Single. Year- most men manage to blow it? They need help and she’s put her foot down she’s not giving him even a hint.

Knowing the average male attention span is short, this is the Short List.

  • Avoid anything fuzzy, helium filled or a good deal like boxes of chocolate you forgot to remove the sticker which says- ‘Buy one Get one Free’.
  • I’ll let you in on a big secret-  Victoria or Frederick’s are names southern women associate with Hurricanes- this is not a good message to send and- really, you don’t know her size or preferences.
  • Do not buy matching camouflage outfits and take her to the hunting camp, even if she’s bagged more quail or pheasants than you did. She wants it served under glass.
  • If you do take her out to eat, make sure the place has tablecloths and seating- not just bar stools if you get my drift!

Now that I have your attention gentlemen, remember this above all else- Valentine’s Day is for her, not you.  Please don’t go into a store, and buy lingerie- if you can’t pronounce it- you don’t need to be there! Listen to me- you’re gonna bomb on this one because just when the sales lady asks for her size- you’re going to fall into this trap by sayin’ ‘Well pretty lady, I reckon she’s just about your size!’ and boom! Too big or too little will not be forgiven any time soon! Now, if you’ve stayed with me this long… I can get into specifics-

  • Do not- I repeat- do not buy her a digital bathroom scale. Do not sign her up for a gym membership! Do not buy sugar free candy or a trial membership in a weight reduction program, even if your Valentine has been asking you since New Year’s if you think she needs to lose weight- that is a trap.
  • Dinner and a movie is generally a safe bet- unless dinner is fast food and the movie is ‘Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Jaws‘ or ‘Walking Tall- Part 2′ . It just kills the mood. Believe me on this one.
  • Please don’t complain about the prices at dinner or at the movies.
  • Whatever you do- don’t have photo booth pictures blown up into framed 8×10’s, she may have thought they were adorable at the time… yet for her desk? Probably not so cute.
  • About that desk- you might want to check with the florist- ‘Are there multiple orders going to her workplace?’ You wouldn’t want her to be mortified if she’s the only one there with no flowers! (I have known women, who in desperation have called the local florists and had her own flowers sent to cover for your gross negligence in this matter! Believe me, you will never live this down.

Speaking of flowers, we do know the difference in florist flowers and those bought at the big box or grocery stores. Whatever you do, please do not buy a neon blue orchid. Now, those are the basics, are you ready for more?

  • Going to look at tractors, single wide trailers or pre-fab storage buildings are not exactly her idea of a romantic outing.
  • Neither is taking her car for an oil change, new brake shoes or having the tires rotated- even if they throw in the Valentine Special of hot pink fuzzy seat covers. Just  do your duty to see about her safety and welfare- not as a gift! Note one exception- *If you’re thinking automotive- buy her a new car! *

I know you’re thinking of buying her something for the household- this is another trap, believe me. Please don’t buy household appliances of any kind- a new vacuum, a toaster, a leaf blower or an electric drill. Let the kids buy her those things for Mother’s Day! Or better yet, hire someone to do all those chores that you’ve been putting off for…ages?

  • Do not buy her an apron, oven mitts or dish towels. In fact, do not even think of buying her a trinket of any kind- especially if you found them at a truck stop or country cookin’ gift shop.
  • Even if she’s the one who yells the loudest during football games- do not buy a 65 inch color TV and have it mounted in her absolutely gorgeous bedroom! In fact, don’t give her anything that is suitable for mounting on a wall- especially your latest ‘catch’ even if she’s won more tournaments than you have!
  • A shirt with an Arrow pointing your direction- that says- ‘I’m His’ might be funny to you- believe me it’s not! Matching Tshirts are to be avoided at all costs for Valentine’s Day- especially if you’re taking her out somewhere nice.

By now, you’re probably thinking that a card is a nice touch and it is. Unless you’ve neglected to actually read the inside of the card! It might look great on the outside with romantic wording like ‘You are so beautiful to me…‘ yet on the inside there’s a picture of an Orangutan sayin’ ‘A face only a mother could love.‘  Now, you may have howled when you read it and gotten a big kick out of it all; believe methis will not be well received, any more than :

  • Wrinkle, hair removal, anti-aging products or the perfect shade of nail polish which you think will save on all of the beauty parlor bills! Leave this to the professionals.
  • Handwritten coupons for anything will not spell Sugar Daddy- even if your handwriting is nice- this doesn’t read nice. It shouts- Cheapskate!
  • Candy is always a nice touch as long as it’s not a fun-size bag, a quarter pound chocolate heart that she’ll need a chainsaw to cut (see above) Or…a cheap grocery store brand with four pieces of chocolates – go for broke here and get the kind of candy sold in free standing stores with nice gold wrapping paper- even if you think the price is ridiculous!
  • And, if you’ve been dating a while, please don’t buy a hard candy diamond shaped plastic ring, a big old fake diamond keychain, a heavily over advertised open heart or a boxed set of jewelry on the sale aisle. She wants a diamond not a friendship ring!
  • Listen up! Regardless of the song… Diamonds are a Man’s best friend! And of course-dogs, it just depends on where you’d rather be.

img_3376Southern men need help on Valentines Day. According to my hotline results- no matter how hard you’ve worked that day- she’s expecting you to show the same energy and enthusiasm you had for SEC football games. When you pick her up, please don’t say-

  • ‘Are you wearing that?’  or ‘How much did that cost?‘ no matter what she has on.
  • If she asks you if her shoes look funny- please don’t say ‘Well honey, they aren’t hilarious.’
  • If she exclaims that her hair looks awful- refrain from saying ‘It doesn’t look any worse than usual.’

Some final advice- if she’s over the age of five- your valentine doesn’t want a bouquet of lollipops, a stuffed animal of any kind- no matter what size it is- and certainly not a bunch of helium filled balloons! Save that for birthdays or fun days. And remember above all else- Valentine’s Day is for your sweetheart, not you. If you can’t remember anything else, gentlemen, remember that. Or. Believe me, darlin’, she won’t let you forget it for a whole year or…maybe your own natural lifetime.

Love y’all, Camellia

*These helpful hints have been gleaned from an informal poll of southern ladies who have experienced some frankly disappointing Valentine’s days. The poll is non- scientific and based solely on the horror factor of it all. *Men, you have my full permission to reprint this article, IF you commit it to memory and can recite it in your sleep! Ladies, you have my full permission to reprint this article- as long as you promise to give it to your sweetheart, right before or after Valentine’s Day- depending on when you need it! It doesn’t worry me…much- I’m a fictional character.

*The wonderful free images are from @over including the cute videos!

Jambalaya!

img_3252I was peeling shrimp. Minding my own business, when out of this feeble brain of mine- I heard this song running around,

‘ Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File Gumbo… me oh my oh! Gonna see ma cher amio…On the Bayou’.

Apparently Yvonne could either make a mean jambalaya or dance the night away in the lovin’ arms of Alabama born country legend Hank Williams, so you know I had to make a pan of Jambalaya. Since way before that song was written- we’ve all been trying our best to make sure Jambalaya isn’t just On the Bayou, but on our tables too!

img_3435Now, there might be dozens of recipes for Jambalaya and I’m sure I’d love them all! Still. If you’ve never made it, you might not realize, it’s a one iron skillet dish that’s easy to get on the table and can feed the multitudes. If you don’t need a big batch… Well, it’s even better the next day and also freezes well! And actually, most of the early Jambalaya recipes were from fishermen, so proportions aren’t exact. In fact, one very old recipe called for ‘clean Bay Water.‘ Okay, here’s something you need to know- they used exactly what they had on the boat and rarely gave proportions. Still. It’s that complex simplicity of a classic Jambalaya that still inspires.

img_3437Here’s my rendition of the Classic Jambalaya:

  • Allow one cup of uncooked, unwashed rice to a pound and half of peeled shrimp. (Leave the tails on for extra flavor)
  • In a large skillet, fry 3-4 pieces of Bacon. Remove and drain.
  • In hot bacon drippings, brown one large sliced onion, 1/2 cup chopped green pepper, 1/8 cup chopped celery. Quickly add chopped garlic- one or two cloves.
  • Add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust at the end if needed), 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoons of thyme,  1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, salt, pepper and stir to combine working quickly.  *As Eugene Walter always admonished….use fresh ground pepper, not that powdery stuff that loses it’s flavor before it hits the food! *At this point, feel free to add chopped smoked sausage.
  • Add 1 cup raw rice, 1 1/2 pounds shrimp and stir until shrimp turns pink.
  • Add enough boiling water (Start with 2 cups) over mixture. Add one bay leaf.
  • The rice will thicken the liquid, yet isn’t done until the grains are tender.
  • Simmer , adding more boiling water if needed.
  • Add more spices until you’re afraid to add anymore!
  • When all liquid has been absorbed ….Jambalaya!

img_3436

  • To make it extra good, squeeze the juice of a lemon over the Jambalaya after it’s done. And to make it real pretty, top with chopped green onion tops and parsley, even cherry tomatoes. Folks won’t mind if you crumble that bacon top as well! Some have been known to top it with grated sharp cheddar cheese- though I think that’s gilding the lily a bit too much.  And don’t forget to remove that Bay Leaf! This recipe will feed 4-6.
  • Jambalaya is great with garlic bread and a green salad, though equally good with fresh cornbread, baked sweet potatoes and steamed cabbage. Jambalaya doesn’t have tomatoes in it, though I’ve added a few cherry tomatoes on top of this Jambalaya for her beauty shot! And yes, you can make it in something other than an iron skillet! img_3437

Easy and delicious, is it any wonder Hank Williams wrote, ‘On the Bayou’ in celebration of Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie…oh me, here I go again!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Eugene Walter was another famous Alabamian, known for his book ‘Hints and Pinches’.  *Shrimp and shrimp boats were photographed at Alabama’s own Bon Secour Bay, and were obviously taken by me!′img_3434

Aunt Daw Daw’s Basic Glaze…

img_2341My Aunt Daw Daw was always such fun to be around. Actually we pronounced it- Ain’t Daw Daw. Her real name was Dorothy and she was a cousin, not really an aunt. She laughed a lot. Daw Daw was one of those folks who didn’t just laugh, she laughed all over, her whole pleasingly plump body bobbed up and down- she clapped her hands, shook her curls and threw out at least one foot; tossed her head back so you could see every single one of her pearly little teeth, her cheeks were pink and tears squeezed out of her merry and bright blue eyes. Simply a sweet joy to be around.

Daw Daw never married and I personally think that was a crying shame. Some say she fell in love with a soldier headed to the Korean War. Daw Daw was one of my all time favorite relatives. And, we children loved her. She made us laugh and played the games we did.

  • Daw Daw not only loved to do the Hoola Hoop with us,
  • She played Swing the Statue (called it Sling the Statue),
  • Took the lead in Red Rover
  • And even tried to do the Limbo and the Twist  I think she threw her back out one time over that.
  • And! She was a tough line judge for Badminton too.

She played as hard as the children, then plopped down beside my grandmother, who would say ‘ Daw Daw, you’re just like sittin’ next to dough, and it rising.’ And the laughter would begin all over again.

Here’s the best thing- DawDaw always gilded the lily. She loved to try new things. Stayed up to date on fads and fashion, though she tended to wear sensible shoes with her bright floral or ruffled dresses. Still. Daw Daw truly kept up with baking trends…She was the first one to make-

  •  Sock It To Me Cake
  • Co-Cola or Seven Up Cake
  • Mississippi Cake
  • Milky Way Cake and!
  •   Daw Daw’s Kentucky Wonder Cake was slightly risqué, probably because of the spirits she added.

No doubt her Momma’s Devil’s Food Cake was a wicked vision. Daw Daw’s versions of any cake were the best, mainly because of the Glaze. Secretly we all suspected she doubled the recipe!  Generous, just like Daw Daw.

Often I recall hearing – Did anybody think to call Daw Daw? I wonder now if it was an oversight or an afterthought to call. And you know? Most folks treat a glaze as an afterthought– not Aunt Daw Daw… her baked goods were delicious because of the glaze! If Daw Daw ran short of time and bought a plain loaf cake or sheet cake from a bakery, she smothered it with one of her drippy sweet glazes, and not one of us thought a ‘bought cake’ was one bit scandalous.img_2341

Here’s how you make Aunt Daw Daw’s Basic Glaze:

  • 2 cups of sifted Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons softened Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Whole Milk, Half and Half or Evaporated Milk (Aunt Daw Daw’s favorite)

Sift powdered sugar in a medium bowl, add softened butter, mixing well. Add extracts, mix well- mixture will be thick. Add 2 Tablespoons of milk, stir well, add another Tablespoon, mix. *This will be a thick glaze, add more milk carefully to the consistency preferred. * If you add too much liquid, add small amount of sifted powdered sugar.

Variations: for Lemon Glaze, add zest of one lemon plus 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, reduce milk to 1-2 Tablespoons. Add to sugar, butter and vanilla. Omit Almond Extract. For Orange Glaze, zest of orange plus 2 Tablespoons of orange Juice, reduce milk to 1-2 Tablespoons, and omit Almond Extract. Add to sugar, butter and vanilla.

If you like a chocolate glaze- I’ll direct you to my grandmother’s amazing chocolate glaze-Southern Pound Cakes… since honestly, I don’t have Daw Daw’s.img_3006

If you’re thinking  Basic Glaze is an afterthought? Remember my Aunt Daw Daw- she thought glazes were a necessity- that extra special something for otherwise plain cakes, loaf cakes, sweet breads, such as banana bread, even cinnamon rolls and cookies. And frankly, a glaze is fun addition and always just as sweet she was.img_3191

Love y’all, Camellia

* It’s not uncommon in the South, to call an older cousin an aunt, it’s just one of those goofy things we do!  And! It’s a sad fact that I do not have one photograph of Aunt Daw Daw, yet she was unforgettable. And! All photographs are obviously mine.

Southern Comfort- Soups, Stews, Shrimp and Grits…

img_3081Winter in the South is fickle, some days chilly, windy, rainy or downright warm. And while I think most southern food is comfort food- there’s nothing like something warm in a bowl to make us all feel better about the weather and the world in general. It’s like a warm hug or a welcome home, now that’s southern comfort. And, let’s face it- this sort of comfort food is a great way to feed the multitudes!

  • Shrimp and Grits
  • Fresh Tomato Soup
  • End of Summer Vegetable Soup
  • Fresh Mushroom Soup
  • Mimi’s Lemon Butter Chicken
  • Camellia’s Spicy Shrimp

All of these and more have made us southern folks feel full and comforted. Often, it’s what’s served alongside these dishes, that’s just as delicious as the bowl of soup, stew, gumbo, dumplings or shrimp and grits! img_3082

  •  Cornbread Patties…
  •  Bighearted Cornbread…
  • Garlic Breadsticks
  • Saltines or Tiny Oyster Crackers
  • Toppings of grated cheeses, crumbled bacon, thin sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, red pepper flakes, even hot sauce img_3043

All add that special something to a one bowl meal. Think of a Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Buffet… now, that would be a Comfort Food gathering! img_3098

And is there anything better than Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, especially when it’s made in an iron skillet? Try Iron Skillet Sandwiches…

img_3085A lot of these Comfort Foods we’ve already written about, yet never fear we’ll give you the links and the prettiest pictures we could come up with at the time! However, I realized a grave error; while we’ve expounded on Bighearted Grits, I’ve never actually given you the recipe for topping those hominy grits with warm and spicy shrimp! So! That’s your bonus round today! And very well one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever given to you…img_3081

Now, we all know that every recipe has a story- Shrimp and Grits started out as an humble quick breakfast for shrimpers, then city folks and high browed chefs got in on the act! Here’s how you make the ‘shrimp part’ of Shrimp and Grits-

Shrimp and Grits

  • Grits made according to package directions. I prefer Hominy Grits.
  • 2-3 slices bacon
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (any size, I like medium for this)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
  • Grated zest added to the juice of one large lemon
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese, if desired and I do!
  • Chopped Green Onion Tops
  • While the grits are cooking, take an iron skillet, fry bacon slices until crisp, drain. Reserve 2-3 Tablespoons of Bacon Drippings in the iron skillet. Finish making grits and keep warm until ready to serve. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and hot sauce, reserve. Sprinkle raw shrimp with a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning, toss. In hot skillet, quickly cook shrimp in a single layer on both sides until pink. Swirl in lemon juice mixture and heat through. A thin gravy will form. Spoon Shrimp over a bowl of grits and a portion of gravy. Top with crumbled bacon, grated cheese and garnish with green onion tops. Feel free to add whatever toppings you like! Tip: Old Bay Seasoning is hot! Hot Sauce is hot! Start with a small amount and adjust seasonings. You may want to omit the Old Bay Seasoning and simply sprinkle raw shrimp with salt and pepper before cooking shrimp. Serve with Bighearted Grits…

This classic dish is quick and easy… makes 4 generous servings and may be expanded to feed a crowd!

And… The beauty of soups and stews is they all can increased to feed a crowd or served  for more than one meal! So, here are few links to some of our favorite soups and stews! All are full of ‘good for you’ ingredients! Enjoy!

Southern Tomato Soup…– we have several versions of tomato soup, one is a Summer Tomato Soup…img_3079

Mimi’s Lemon Butter Chicken…– an heirloom recipe she claimed would cure anything!img_3074

Homemade Mushroom Soup…  is loaded with fresh mushrooms, butter and fresh thyme!img_3080

The classic version of Chicken and Dumplings… with no big ol’ thick globs of dough either, strips of dough make it perfect! And I promise I’ll make you a batch of these soon!img_3099

Camellia’s Bighearted Spicy Shrimp is  way easier than you would believe! And, it is very similar to gumbo – which has the addition of sausage, green onions, bell peppers and tomatoes- It does start with a roux! Scary? the easiest way I’ve found to start a roux is found in Of Real Roux and Faux Beignets… Great with rice, though this gumbo can also be used alongside those Bighearted Grits! img_3083

Southerners are known for hospitality, comfort food and knowing how to feed the multitudes! Soups, Stews even Shrimp and Grits stretch farther because small amounts of meat or seafood are combined with delicious broths, vegetables, starches and seasonings, they are all satisfying and just plain good. Here’s a bowl of End of Summer Vegetable Soup, that is basically the last pickings of tomatoes, corn, okra, bean, peas, carrots, onions and a good chicken broth and if you have a bit of chicken- add that in too! Nothing better with a pan of cornbread! img_3082

Looks like we’re going to have a cold snap and  a bit of cold weather followed by warm spells and rain! Here’s hoping your house is filled with soups, stews, spicy shrimp and well…Southern Comfort Food!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine!

The Eggnog Party…

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DWe could have called it a Fruitcake Party, though fruitcake rarely makes an appearance. We could have called it a Caroling Party. We tried that one year- no one wanted to go. Ever. Again. Come to think of it- we could have called it the Bourbon Ball. Okay, that’s a bit pretentious and we’re better at eating than dancing. The truth is- fruitcake, bourbon balls and eggnog tend to be … let’s just say- under appreciated holiday fare. For over two decades, we’ve been going to an Eggnog Party, hosted graciously in the home of friends; attended by families and friends who are loved and cherished as the ‘family we have chosen for ourselves’. It’s uniquely southern, so it’s a traditional party, with the dining room table set buffet style and yes, family china and silver makes an appearance.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DThe Eggnog Party is sort of an unorganized , uncategorized gathering of folks bound by generations of communal experiences. Besides the heirloom recipe for Eggnog- what makes this party so charming is the Program, the Favors and the planning for it- often months in advance. There are children of… all ages and highly anticipated by all. The Program always includes Readings for children and one or more Readings which embody the Season and always includes Music. Sometimes the program is as zany as The Sister Act, a goofy rendition of Santa Baby or an airing of jovial grievances through Festivus, which, by decree shall never be repeated again. One of our talented guests might sing Ave Maria or an old fashioned Christmas Carol which would have been introduced by a Reading of the history of the hymn – always accompanied by a classical Guitar. Last year a Reading of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’…followed by the old Lullabye- ‘All Through the Night’ with a soloist, the haunting strains of soft music as the rest of us sang the sweet Chorus- that one definitely brought forth a few sweet tears. The favor that year had the theme of Angels.

Always, regardless of the theme, the program is a mix of the significance of the season and the joy of it too. Any gifts are token and quietly exchanged – to be opened later, since this party isn’t centered around gift exchange, instead its more about exclaiming, getting caught up, enjoying the program, the music and always the bubbling effervescent love and laughter. And my oh my! the food! A Christmas Ham and a thinly sliced fragrant Turkey. The sides always include a relish plate, our beloved southern casseroles, a cheese ball, roasted and salted pecans, cheese straws, tiny rolls and a buffet laden with desserts. Groaning might be a better word.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DOf course, there’s a silver punch bowl filled with a frothy full bodied Eggnog-

  • The creamy color of magnolias and gardenias,
  • Light as a feather plucked from an angel’s wing,
  • Thick with cream and
  • Freckled with fragrant nutmeg.

In the South, we tend to claim Eggnog as our own, since George Washington of Virginia enjoyed it and recorded a recipe for it. In the southern tradition of leaving out a critical bit- in Washington’s case he left out the number of eggs! Eggnog really isn’t southern at all- it’s British, it’s European, it’s American- yet what makes this recipe Southern is the ‘spirits’. We tend to replace ale or sherry with ‘brown whiskey’ … Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey- some add Rum, to honor our southern proximity to the Sugar Fields and Caribbean flavors. Take a sip of Suellen’s Eggnog and ‘darlin’ you’ll talk southern to me.’

 

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s how you make this old classic which we know as Suellen’s Eggnog

  • 14 Large Eggs, separated
  • 1 pint Jack Daniel’s Brown Whiskey
  • 14 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
  • 1 Quart and 1/2 pint Whipping Cream

Separate eggs and reserve egg whites at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow. Slowly add whiskey, one silver teaspoon at a time, at first. Increase additions of whiskey beating continually until egg yolks and whiskey are combined thoroughly. Add sugar slowly, one silver tablespoon at a time. Whip cream and add slowly to mixture. In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into whiskey mixture. Sprinkle with fresh grated mixture. Keep thoroughly chilled. It is preferable to ladle from a silver punch bowl. Enjoy!

This Eggnog is an adaptation of an old recipe from a Talledega cookbook, one county over from where we live. *Please note that an essential tool is a silver spoon. This isn’t a pretentious tool- old recipes tend to specify silver spoons since other materials could affect the taste, generally metallic.

I’ll admit, I sip only one small punch cup, it’s a thick, rich holiday mixture unlike anything else. Eggnog is also something I taste just once a year at this amazing party. If you’re wishing you had a less spirited eggnog, I’ve had good success slowly melting homemade ice cream, adding a bit of whipped cream on top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s the thing- I’ll always associate Eggnog with the exquisite color of creamy magnolias, strengthened with the years of friendships sustained for such a long time… soft strains of music, gentle laughter, so much love, genuine acceptance, concern freely expressed and the joy only this season can bring. Here’s hoping your gatherings are as spirited as Bourbon Balls, as nutty as a Fruitcake, as fragrant as a Gardenia and full of Comfort and Joy!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Eggnog contains raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized eggs, and it should not be consumed by children due to alcohol content.

Pecan Pies…

Pecans are a cash crop in Alabama, indeed all across the South, folks love to have their own pecan trees. Pecan Pies are the iconic southern dessert, and while we wouldn’t turn down a piece of pecan pie any time of year- a pecan pie always makes her appearance on holiday tables. The truth is? It’s hard to imagine southern food without this wonderful nut. Some of my favorite cooks tend to enjoy- shelling pecans. Could I get a hallelujah for these fine ladies? I’ve had a few tell me they find it ‘relaxing’ to shell pecans… I wouldn’t know about that, it’s frustrating to me. To each his own. I do know this- to receive a bag of fresh shelled pecans is better than getting a bag of gold!

Now, I have to admit that I love pecans and pecan pies, though I also tend to restrict myself to baking the classic pecan pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I love variations on the classic too. Chocolate Pecan Pie and Sweet Potato Pie topped with Pecans is amazing too. I’d never turn down either variation. Still. I rarely make all three at the same time. I made a classic pecan pie and a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving this year. The classic is my husband’s favorite and I had a special request for the chocolate pecan pie. These pies are amazing and might just be one of the easiest pies to make! The wonderful thing about the classic pecan pie is that it can be pre-baked now and thawed and reheated any time during the holidays! I’ll admit to having one lurking in the freezer right this minute! I haven’t tried freezing the chocolate one…yet I believe it also would work well. And, even though, making your own pie crust dough is a wonderful thing…with all the busyness of the holidays, why would you unless you’re very organized and made up pie crust dough ahead…I’d say go ahead and use it! It’s the holidays! You want to put your very best out for family and guests! Here’s how we make Camellia’s Chocolate Pecan Pie-

You will need:

  • Single Pie Crust for Deep Dish Pie (unbaked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter (melted)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee
  • 3/4 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (melted)
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecan Halves
  • Prepare crust in a deep pie crust dish or 8 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For Filling Mixture- In a saucepan, on low heat, melt butter, then add chocolate chips to melt. Add Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, Instant Coffee and Salt- combine well. Mix eggs in a small bowl and add to Filling Mixture, combining well. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of pecans, reserving a few to decorate the top of the pie, if desired. Pour Filling Mixture into prepared Pie Crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes until crust is lightly browned and filling is not completely set- *This is important- do not over bake the filling! When done, top the pie with reserved pecans in a circle to decorate if desired. Allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack.
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  • You will need:
    1 Single Pie Crust for deep dish pie (unbaked)
    1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
    3 Large Eggs
    1 cup Sugar
    2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
    Pinch of Salt
    1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
    1 1/2 cups whole pecans
    • 1 Tablespoon Bourbon ( if desired)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie crust in deep dish pie pan. Line bottom of pie crust with whole pecans placed in concentric circles. Set aside to mix filling. Melt butter. In a mixing bowl, lightly mix eggs. Add corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Combine well and pour carefully over pecans in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes, until pecans rise to top. Do not over bake. When pie is still hot sprinkle Bourbon over hot pecans (you will hear a sizzle!) Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour or until thoroughly cool and set. Keep chilled, before serving warm lightly if desired.

And, we’ve told you about another Pecan Pie that’s absolutely delicious!

It’s called Sweet Potato Pecan Pie… and is a wonderful twist on the classic pecan pie!