Every once in a while, I just have to go home to Arkansasâ€¦to put my feet upon the ground of my childhood home, to remember where I came fromâ€¦and to eat some of the finest food on the face of the planet. I have been asked on many occasions from my followers on Twitter (@beckypruitt) and my friends on Facebook, â€œAre you there to visit family or to eat?â€ My answer isâ€¦bothâ€¦there cannot be one without the other. In my book, family and food just naturally go together. Sunday dinners are all about the food, holidays are all about the food, picnicsâ€¦food, stopping by for a quick visitâ€¦food.
Some people mistakenly categorize southern food as simply that which is deep fried. The southern food that I grew up with was a beautiful mix of fresh (and home canned) fruits and vegetablesâ€¦.tomatoes, peppers, okra, purple hull peas, field peas, black-eyed peas, green beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, plums, blackberries, onions mixed with a good portion of animal fat (mmmmmmâ€¦..baconâ€¦.hamâ€¦â€¦) or copious amounts of butter. Where I grew up, Food is not just fuel, it is a thing of beautyâ€¦..a symphony of sight, smell and taste. *sigh*
My Momma and I went to my Grandma’s house for a visit while I was there. Now, my grandma is the type of woman who will get up at the crack of dawn and fix all of my favorite things to have for lunchâ€¦but this time, I wanted to have a lesson in cooking all of the favorite things my grandma makes for me. Although I consider myself to be a pretty good cook, I never quite mastered the art of fried okra and have never cooked purple hull peas (one of my all time favorites)â€¦mostly because these are things I just can’t find in abundance in Indiana. I wanted to reconnect with my roots in a very foodie kind of way.
We arrived that morning and set out to plan our lunch menu. After looking at all of the produce we had from friends, family, and neighbors, we decided to cook up a mess of okra (a â€œmessâ€ in Arkansas means a skillet or pan full), some purple hull peas, fried corn (cream corn), cornbread, and banana puddingâ€¦accompanied by homemade pickles, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. Yes, you read correctly..there are three of us for lunchâ€¦yes, just three. Needless to say, my jeans didn’t fit right for a month after my visit.
Grandma taught me to proper way to â€œlookâ€ the peas and the correct size to cut the okra so it doesn’t get tough in cooking. We used her pressure cooker to cook the peas (along with about a pound of bacon). The best partâ€¦.the very best part was I got to use her cookwareiron skillets passed down from her mother. I used her knife to cut the okra — a knife that she received as a present on her wedding day — a knife that has been used so much, it is paper thin and has a curve worn where she cuts.
In this day and age where we are all a-hustleâ€¦.wolfing down our food at lightening speed to get to our next activity, it was such a pleasure to spend a few hours with my Grandma cooking and creatingâ€¦and then enjoying our lunch, sitting down at the table and talking about life. That is why I cook beautiful foodâ€¦to enjoy itâ€¦to be able to share a bountiful feast with those I love and take some time to reconnect with them. I am proud of my southern roots and the things it instilled in me â€” namely the art of slowing down â€” and enjoying good food.
Next Week: Grandma’s Fried Corn (Creamed Corn)
Read Becky’s blog, Divorced Diva’s Guide to Survival.