Mississippi, Part II


Have we talked about all the food and the eating while I was in Mississippi?

There is no lack of either when visiting the folks.  Matter of fact, I have to be really careful about portions, etc., because my mother-in-law cooks up these “to die for” desserts that make you want to go back again and again.  So, when we got there, what had she fixed?  Lemon pound cake, chocolate pie, and, as if that wasn’t enough, she had blackberries to make a blackberry pie – a dessert from my childhood, loaded with memories of my brother and I picking them by the bucket full from a field beside our backyard.  She made that the next day.  Then she baked “Cowboy Cookies,” which is just a fancy name for these super duper chocolate chip cookies – these GIGANTIC, almost saucer sized versions that have oh, so much more than chocolate chips.  Pecans.  Oatmeal.  Peanut butter.

To. Die. For.

We bought peaches in South Carolina on the way over, so, that meant I must fix a peach cobbler.  This is the dessert my MIL takes her own turn to swoon over, while I’m still reeling from my own sugar overload after that hunk of pound cake I just ate.  My peach cobbler is such a simple recipe, but I add my own little bit of this and that to make it even better.  (as if???)  Like a little orange juice along with milk in the batter.  A little vanilla.   A little cinnamon.  Oh, and a little brown sugar sprinkled over the top before baking.   I also had to improvise with a simple syrup (1 cup sugar/1 cup water – boiled) to ensure I had enough “peach juice” because you can’t make a good peach cobbler without a lot of juice.

All that for four people, and I’m not even onto the meals yet.

We had lasagna the first night because she knows how much I love pasta/Italian of any kind.  Then hubby and I fixed barbecue chicken, corn on the cob (fresh!) and macaroni and cheese.  She had chicken salad (more goodies packed in like pineapple, grapes and pecans) and that was for “snacking,” along with the grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and still some left over blackberries to eat whenever.   Come Wednesday night it was my turn to cook.

One thing I always do when I’m there is cook an old fashioned southern supper.  By that I mean fried meat of some kind, this time, pork chops.  Fresh vegetables in season, and of course, cornbread or hushpuppies.  My FIL grew up in Mississippi on a dairy farm.  They had a huge garden, and this is the way he’s used to eating.  It’s the way I’m used to eating as well, and even though my husband and MIL are from Ohio, they’ve been down south so long, they like to eat all this good stuff too.

Here’s the “feast” I fixed:

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The closest item in the picture, those long, lovely, green things?  Steamed okra.  Okay, a little retching is allowed, but honestly, I LOVE okra.  Call me crazy.  I suppose it’s an acquired taste. Normally, I’d slice and fry it, but my FIL had a triple bypass (years ago) and really ought to not even eat the FRIED PORK CHOPS, (those crispy looking brown things in the distance) but…, once in a while, he just has to have them.  Beside the okra, that’s sauteed squash and onions, butterbeans behind the okra, and beside the butterbeans, purple hull peas, then the cornbread and last, tomatoes from a neighbor’s garden.

I ran more there and that’s a Good Thing.  Believe me.  We joked about the eating we were doing and I found out my MIL (one of ten kids) had gone hungry some when she was little.  She likes to pull out one of Scarlett O’Hara’s famous lines, “As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again!”

No worries there.

After we came back home, I swear, our refrigerator looked barren.  Empty.  And when I left, I thought it was loaded.  That really put things into perspective.

When appropriate, I tend to have my characters eating, or cooking, or somehow use food in my stories.  I’m not writing the kind of book where I’d expect to include the recipe/s, it’s just a part of what I, myself, like to read, even if the characters are simply pulling into a fast food restaurant and picking up a hamburger and fries.  I want to know that.  I’ve always liked when an author tells me his character is eating “whatever.”  In my latest WIP, my family will, literally, have to sing for their supper after losing their home.

And speaking of WIP’s, you may have…, but, I haven’t …, forgotten my self-imposed challenge from a few months ago.  Something happened, and I had to divert from the suspense genre and steer more towards southern fiction.

More on why later.

Right now, I’m heading over to my fridge, where I baked this yesterday.

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Rhubarb pie.  Looks like I’ll be running four miles tomorrow anyway, so I’ll be having a BIG slice.

How about you?  Do you like to describe, or use food, regional or otherwise, in your writing?

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11 Comments

Reblogged this on Susan Schild Blog and commented:
Enjoyed this post about Southern cooking.

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Okra, hushpuppies, barbecued chicken, and rhubarb pie! This post reminded me of the deliciousness of Southern fare. Also got me thinking about what make certain dishes comfort food, and of the meaning of a full fridge or pantry.

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I envy you pretty much all of your Mississippi food (plus that PIE!!) I do the cooking, pretty much, so I’m the one who makes the grocery and dinner decisions, but it doesn’t mean I don’t get into “food doldrums” and spin my wheels with the same couple of things. Maybe it’s pork chop time!

In the book I’m currently NOT querying, I have a variety of meals spread throughout the narrative. I think, in an amorphous way, I mean to symbolize the notion of comfort, family, and home that meals mean and how they mean those things in different families. Of course, it might get read into totally differently, ’cause that’s how symbolism works! (or, if those novels get an agent’s eye and then an editor’s, those scenes might change. wheee, who knows?)

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    I get what you mean by the “food doldrums.” My husband does a big share of the cooking around here – and he’s really good at it, but he’s a recipe follower, whereas I’m a “basic” cook. I’m likely to fix something like what I have above, while he’s liable to throw down Bobby Flay style. He’s all about trying new things – and that’s sometimes good – and sometimes pretty bad. 🙂 (he admits it)

    Exactly what you said above about using food for the comfort/family togetherness, i.e. symbolism. I think if food “scenes” are done well, they add so much to the overall world building of a story.

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Add a bit of strawberry to that rhubarb and you’ve just taken me back to my childhood. We also used to “stew” the blackberries and then either eat it with breakfast or spoon it over ice cream. Inevitably, I overwrite food scenes and then need to trim them down in revisions. Probably a life lesson there, as well–but like you, I just tack on another mile….
Writing about life in the Keys absolutely requires certain foods–Key Lime Pie, anyone?

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    Ha, after I baked the pie, my husband wanted to know if I’d added in strawberries. I usually do, but I was curious about the taste without them. I discovered I can go with/without, but it is funny how they compliment each other.

    We do the same thing with blackberries! And, as to the Key Lime pie….swooning.

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That picture of rhubarb pie is culinary pornography, you know? Looks deeeeelish… just needs some of my daughter’s made-from-scratch custard and it would be perfect! 🙂

And to answer your question, yes, I do. It not only adds color to the story, but also helps give depth to the characters.

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    Culinary porn – love it! ❤

    I agree. I've read books in the past where there is no mention of food at all, and all I can think is, how are they surviving? I know it's not necessary to include food, I just like it. A scene captures me and brings me closer if food is present. I don't know why.

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Food is such an issue for me, I don’t use it in writing at all. I have lost 100 lbs. to get to a normal weight, and I have maintained that for well over three years. It’s Hard because I LOVE food. because I am so active in my job, I think it’s made it a little easier to maintain but every time I snack or eat a meal I have to consider the taste and satisfaction vs. eventual outcome if I “fall off the wagon” so to speak.
After reading your post I’m sure I gained a few ounces. It all sounds so wonderful.

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    I remember your weight loss from other blogs, and what an accomplishment that was! Plus the fact you’ve kept it off. My MIL has also lost weight in the past couple of years – about 50 lbs I think. She says she has about 10 more lbs to go – I’m sure last week didn’t help one bit b/c she was “splurging.”

    I think the thing I’ve come to realize is you can eat just about anything you want as long as you eat small portions. I’ve never had problems with weight, but things sure do “shift” as one gets older.

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