Thinkings & Summer Food
Harping & Eugene Walter
There is so much…a tremendous, colossal, plenteous volume or multitudinous volumage of the thoughts that I want to share on the Southern practices of food consumption, preparation, production, and practicing-of-traditions.
Henry and I are sitting on the front porch. It’s a lovely morning. I was going to run to Publix, though I don’t think I want to, and may go to the Sam’s Club later to see if I can find any goodies on sale. Yesterday, a new hot water heater was installed in my garage. The other was leaking. I see some neighbors down the way harping at one-anutha in their lawn- I think she knows, but…hey. Happy Pride Month….
I’m re-reading, as I have three personal copies (and have given several away) of “Hints & Pinches” by Eugene Walter (John T. Edge, forward). This is required reading in my circle of culinary learnting. Yes Hunty. Learnt. Blest# Eugene Walter is a card and an elf of intense Alabama fabulousness- of the old, old school order from down in Mobile.
I highly recommend reading all of his books if you can get your hands on them. Some prove tricky to find occasionally. Walter was whimsical and silly. His books while are well informed, leave a good bit to the imagination, if you have never spent time in the south- especially southern Alabama. Walter though did make some majorly tasty contributions to culinary books, and to the literary world. Let me not be cheap or hasty in my analysis. While other Southern writers tried to make serious products during their European traipsings abouts, it seemed at least from the mouth of Walter, that he was more concerned with spending his money partying- alas, with his great knowledge of the world, and of his living in Europe for 15 years, I suspect that his playing down of his intellectual pursuits to partying and making merry, were merely parts of his fantastical made up, or doctored up reality. The master of southern story telling, I/we need to assume that the original story or original appearance of anything isn’t worth examining unless it can be doctored up to be better for entertainment value. I love it. I love irony, and I also like the better version of anything. Face value doesn’t have much value does it?
I would like to do a more in depth research project on Eugene Walter- he’s like a happy version of Capote, though, I doubt that he is as a rotten of a person as Capote is purported to have been. I want so badly for Eugene Walter to cross that threshold into sharp writing some of the others, but his style of writing and tone has a lovely languid rhythm, and sounds as he would speak it. Like Gore Vidal, his syntax reflects that of his own speaking. Eugene Walter is a sweet-heart, and I think I am intellectually beating him up for something that he isn’t interested in. He is a creator of fantasy and whimsy and he is always- regardless of the publication strives to entertain with joy and humor, and a little sly wickedness but in good-favor, sort of attitude. I want to be like Eugene Walter. Funny indeed, how that blogging is like the intestine- whittling down and figuring until the recession. Blessed#
Southern people are notorious, though to grin, bear it, and go on- and this sort of tolerance for uncomfortable situations has made for some great and interesting tales. Tolerance, boredom, humdrum-ness, living in abusive situations, toxic work conditions, anything that bears negativity direclty to you, on a daily basis; these trials, they create one thing in people- not just southerners: creativity. The mind has to wander. The mind has to travel. Regardless of situation, the mind is always creating to protect us in many situations. Think of the monumental work that has been produced when people have nothing to lose, or live for- they create in their minds: situations, stories, anything but the reality they live in- unless one is to create/imagine in that fashion. Though, escapism and whimsy, or something better than the current situation- the creation of those things seems to be more common in which Eugene Walter shares, informed, with imagination, versus someone more real and clinical such as Percy Walker, or matter-of-fact like Eudora Welty. Validity in my own assumption is subjective- though, from the circles I am in and the people I am around, those are my perceptions.
Colleagues of Walters say that when it came to matters of personal heart and feelings and less than savory moments, that Walters would abruptly or sharply cut off that part of a conversation. He made mysterious of his persona in many ways.
Eugene Walter is myriad in engagements, skills, and knowledges- a self didactic survivor. Sometimes, I see myself in his shoes through his narrations. His tragedies of the sad kind are never met with rue, or regret, or concern, he turns them into adventures, such as practically being a vagabond, and homeless essentially earlier in his young adulthood. My thoughts and words and readings on Eugene Walter are many, though there is so much more research to do on him- I highly recommend the beautiful movie/documentary: Last of the Bohemians
I can go in philosophical circles about the conundrums and ironies of southern writing. Or for that matter, Southern Life. Southern life in literature isn’t as charicature-esque as many people think. The main mis-impression that I believe that non-Southerners perceive through literature is that we all have these long bizarre drawn out accents. Most of us do, yes, but not all, and our dialiects are just as diverse as the communities that we all were raised out of (some still dwelling)..
Watch these fascinating documentaries on the Alabama Dialects- some filmed in my hometown:
Journey Proud: North Alabama Dialects
Journey Proud: South Alabama Dialects
In my life- I grew up with a pretty standard idea of good, farm-to-table food, and seasonal ingredients. While my own family weren’t really interested in culinary excursion, they did let me stay with anyone I wanted to and I would experience with different family, friends, et-cetera, their ideas of what Southern Supper was- they were all similar, usually, besides my dining scene at home. At home, both of my parents worked, so, we often went out to eat. Mom has a very picky palate, and so we all just got what we wanted wherever we wanted. Though back to sentence one- albeit my immediate family was a family of dining out mostly, we were indeed in semi-rural Alabama. Farms and fresh vegetables, and animals are just within a mile or two, if not less from town. While the option of prepared food is always there, we always had access to excellent farmed food nearby, and we all know someone, if we don't have ourselves, that have gardens.
Southerners like sliced tomatoes at every meal usually. I love a tomato at breakfast especially. The relish-tray is still strong in the south. A plate that usually accompanies lunch and dinner will have sliced white/Vidalia onions, or green onions or ramps in some places, and a hot pepper or a Longhorn pepper sliced up (most of us keep the seeds in them- we like the heat and texture), and then the blessed fruit that we wait so patiently for each year, and are often disappointed, the hallowed Tomato.
If I am to have tomatoes as a side dish, or in the relish tray, I like for them to be peeled (preferably by a right handed person- I cannot peel a tomato without the assistance of blanching)- then cut, and chilled until extremely cold. Then of course, I eat them with everything else, usually with lot's of black pepper and some salt.
*Be sure that when you cook or serve with tomatoes that the vessel in which holds the tomato isn't reactive-like aluminum. I made an aspic once and the aluminum mold in which the aspic was formed made a metallic taste.
The Tomato: Should be as deep red as possible- if it is to be a red tomato. Whatever color that tomato needs to be, it needs to be as deep of that color as possible. I hate a pink tomato- what’s the point. Grainy. Just because it fills out space doesn’t help me.
I will omit In this first blog on the southern table, or perhaps, my idea of my southern table- an amalgam of experiences collected, I will share about staples perhaps of the southern evening supper. Sometimes, the table is standing over the sink with a tomato sandwich. We can get into the mayonnaise debate later. Sometimes, southern supper is the biscuit and ham, on your cigarette break at the plant, or such- in all ways, I think we can all agree, our produce this time of the year is always a treat!!!!
The exception to under-ripe, or supermarket (generally) tomatoes, is I suppose to chop, or use as decoration, or as an ingredient in something. Sometimes in a pasta dish, the non-over-ripe tomato is certainly useful in my book.
Humans eat food on a daily basis, generally assuming. Sometimes, ruby red tomatoes aren’t available. I’m curious to know how many people ONLY have the red at the reddest? Or does one go without until it’s the season? Or, does one just eat tomatoes whenever without judicious speculation? I like tomatoes all the time, though, just not super under ripe. I find those little cherry tomatoes to be really good all year round.
Cherry Tomatoes Surprise
Christopher-Joel Carter, 2023
Coat the tomatoes in olive oil, sprinkle a tsp of sugar on them.
Sprinkle 1tsp of Tarragon or Balsamic vinegar in there
Pour in lot’s of black pepper, and a little salt
Add the garlic and coat it all together with the oil.
Bake on parchment paper in a big cookie sheet- probably about 275 F, for an hour and a half or two, until they are caramelized and gooey.
Serve with anything or salad, or whatever- delicious. My friend makes these, and his are cooked less than mine, though, his are delicious and probably a nicer recipe.
I like the tarragon vinegar- it’s like licoricey or something. The tomatoes go will with a good sturdy grilled fish. Fish tenders of Praise.
I enjoy so, this Pablo Neruda poem "Ode to Tomatoes"
Ode to Tomatoes
filled with tomatoes
through the streets.
it enters at lunchtime,
its own light,
Unfortunately, we must
into living flesh,
populates the salads
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
of the roast
at the door,
the table, at the midpoint
star of earth,
its remarkable amplitude
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
of fiery color
and cool completeness.