There 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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.