Thursday, August 28, 2008

There's Nothin' a Belle Likes Better'n Good Solid History. Except Maybe Good Solid Fatback. But That's Another Post.

We woke up this morning to a gray sky and the promise of rain, and rain it did, with an unseasonably chilly wind thrown in for good measure.

So Jackie and I did what any two forty-somethin' Southern women in their right minds whose domecile's already fairly bustin' at the seams with every kinda foodstuff imaginable would do: We declared today to be Cookin' Day and we loaded up all three of the chiddren and drove up to the grocery store to lay in (many more, and very necessary, ahem) supplies.

Yes. With a block of leftover lasagna as big as our heads still cooling on the top shelf of the fridge and enough food in the freezer to feed the Owlhaven gang for a month, we managed to discover a long list of missing "staples" we couldn't live without another minute and thus were able to justify a trip to the Joowel-Osco and a full day in the kitchen.

All I can say in our defense is that, well, that is just how the mind of the Southern female works, people.

We also hit Tom's Farm Market, and listen to this y'all. We just got done puttin' up 24 ears of sweet corn for the FriedOkra family to enjoy throughout the harsh winter months. Every time I pull out a frozen bag of half-ears, I'll be unwrapping a dose of late summer, and if you've lived through a Midwestern winter you know how welcome that taste of warmth and sunshine'll be long about f-f-f-f-f-February t-t-t-t-t-2009.

Are y'all non-Southerners familiar with the term put up in reference to processing fresh produce for consumption later? We Southern ladies use it in place of the words canned or froze. It's sortof a catchall phrase -- one that preserves a hint of grace and humility and gentility, since "put up" merely conjures a vision of a full larder or freezer shelf, and not of the woman herself sweating away over huge boiling pans and racks of Ball jars, up to her elbows in berries and pectin or blackeyed peas.

Even though the work behind it's the same, the make-shift verb put up leaves us sittin' out on the veranda sippin' a mint julep in your mind's eye, and that's how we prefer you to think of us, mostly, even though really we're diligent and efficient and hardworking and feisty and nothin' makes us feel richer than knowin' we've got food stockpiled to last us 'til the second coming and we stockpiled with our own two hands, dadgummit.

I'm lucky enough to have inherited a little one-year diary my mother's mother wrote back when she was a teenager growin' up with her siblings down in Alabama. And although her writings about my own Grandfather as her on-again, off-again suitor and the things he said to her in those first early days of their courtship delight me more than anything about the little volume, I also love to pour over the lists of chores she completed on weekends, which frequently included "putting up" beans and peas and greens - work she completed alongside her own sisters about this time of year. I imagine them back then, much younger than Jackie and I are now, but likely laughing and chatting away as they shucked and shelled, washed and blanched, just as we did today, just the two of us with our kids laughing and playing in the background.

And I feel history. I feel the depth and breadth of where and whom we came from, and I know again, as the smell of fresh, earthy corn envelopes me, who we really, truly are.

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  1. I really enjoyed your post today. I wish I could have been taught how to do some of those things by my grandmother. I'm only 26 but I have a love for family history, and enjoy hearing about other familys ways and traditions. I wasn't passed down any recipes of any kind or any know-hows like your sister and you, so you are blessed.

  2. I thought of you today as Gray and I munched on fried okra... and last night was the first time I have ever heard of fatback... thanks to Jim Gaffigan.


  3. Tom's corn is the best around...I'm glad you've put up a good, healthy stash! You are so lucky to have a sister!

  4. nice posting.Hugs and Blessings.

  5. We can tomatos, salsa and corn too. The tomatos are perfect for chilli. We can add peppers when we can them, and have extra hot chilli during the football games. The corn...oh the wonderful fabulous heavenly fresh corn. I love this part of fall. Hubby's uncle gets two truck loads...yes truck loads and we cook, cut and freeze away for hours. It is the best time. Your hands are red and sore, but oh the corn.

  6. This northern girl know s about putting things up. My Mom spent all summer doing that. I'm not nearly as dedicated.
    I'm proud of you for taking this on, with 2 young-uns and a fairly fresh incision!

  7. We used to live in Southern Ohio, on the border of Kentucky & West Virginia, and there they say 'put up' instead of 'put away'. For example, I taught preschool, and the teachers would say, "It's time to put up your toys now". They also called a shopping cart a buggy, which always struck me as funny. ;)

  8. With my Mum back on this soil and FINALLY getting back on her feet from breast cancer, we're planning a "puttin' up" session over the Labor Day weekend. It's been about 20 years since we've done this. Brings back great memories and I can't wait!!

  9. I have to come out of my usual lurking to say I loved this post! I too, "put up" food for the colder seasons, and we have for generations here in small town GA... In fact, I didn't blink an eye when you first mentioned it in the post, but found myself laughing when the explanation came... I never thought of others maybe not understanding what that meant, but it now makes me grin. I love southernisms!

    When in fight attendant training, close by in Atlanta, the instructors were telling us newbies how to mash the correct buttons on the coffee pot... It made perfect sense to me, but all the girls not from the south were giggling about the term "mash" the button! Again, I didn't blink an eye, but I am sure it did sound different if you weren't used to it!

    Your babies are beautiful!

  10. Um, above in my comment it should read "flight" attendant training... not "fight" attendant training! Still, it isn't too far from the truth!

  11. I takes a lotta food to feed my crew for a month! (smile)

    fun post.