Sunday, April 15, 2018

Anatomy of a Southern Meal

I had a rare weekend with zero plans this past weekend (my favorite kind!), so I decided to drive home to Jonesboro to visit my family. My Granny had a fall last week, and she's recovering nicely, but that seemed like a good excuse to spend some time with both grandmas.

But before we stopped by their houses for brief visits, my mom and dad and I sat down for very Southern, totally vegan dinner prepared by my mama. I requested beans and cornbread and fried potatoes, and she came up with the rest of menu. This meal is a good representation of the way I ate daily growing up in Arkansas. I went vegetarian at age 14, so most of my meals looked very much like this.

I thought I would briefly dissect this very Southern meal, just for fun. So here goes:

Beans & Cornbread — In the South, we ALWAYS eat cornbread with our beans. The beans are typically "brown beans," meaning pinto beans. But other beans, like white beans, can be substituted or mixed with the pinto. They're cooked from dry beans in a slow cooker with plenty of spices. I plop my entire cornbread slice atop my bowl and use a spoon to cut off pieces as I scoop up beans and juice. Others crumble the bread into the beans and stir to combine. Some eat their beans in a bowl with lots of juice (like me and my dad), and others (like my mom) strain the beans from the juice and eat them on their plate with everything else.

Fried Potatoes — Cubed potatoes fried in oil until brown and crispy. This is achieved by cooking the potatoes in the hot oil without stirring for quite awhile. That allows the crispy edges to form. Fried potatoes are best enjoyed with chow chow (a mix of picked veggies with a hint of sweetness, as seen here on my plate).

Greens — Collards, mustard, and turnip greens are most common. But my granny always made rape greens, which come from the canola plant. These greens here are rape greens that my granny cooked and put up in the freezer, and then she gave some of the frozen greens to my mom. Greens MUST be slow-simmered for about 40 minutes or more with a generous bit of oil and hot sauce. Bonus tip: Liquid Smoke gives the greens that signature soul food bacon-y flavor.

Fried Corn — Fresh corn cut from the cob is cooked on the stovetop with plenty of vegan butter, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. 

Tomato Salad — The best way to enjoy juicy summer tomatoes! My mom used cherry tomatoes here since tomatoes are still out of season, and the cherry ones tend to have the most flavor in the winter. But big slicer tomatoes are great for this when they're in season. This is made with tomatoes, onion, vinegar, olive oil, and sugar. You can also add fresh cucumber and bell pepper if you want.

And then there's dessert! Growing up, we had meals like the one above nightly. But we didn't typically have dessert. That was for special occasions. But when we did, my favorite was always my mama's homemade fruit cobbler. Last night, she made a Strawberry Cobbler using some strawberries she put up in the deep freezer last season.

The filling is just strawberries, sugar, and a little flour, and it's topped with a flaky pastry crust, dusted with sugar. Best enjoyed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or (as we did last night) with a little So Delicious CocoWhip.

And of course, all of this must be washed down with sweet tea!


Cadry said...

Yum! This looks like my perfect dinner. How nice that you were able to go see your grandma. I hope she's on the mend!

Unknown said...

This was really helpful! I’m not from the south and haven’t visited much of the southern US (regrettably). I didn’t know about the cornbread AND beans or soupy beans preferences. How lucky that your mom cooks so much and so many veggie dishes- i would love to have that plate as dinner every night!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a recipe for the slow cooker pinto beans? I'm always looking for new bean recipes,but haven't tried southern style beans yet!

Hillary said...

I agree with Unknown. This was really helpful because I haven't had a lot of Southern food! I would love to dive in to that plate of food!
And the cobbler looks fantastic! I hope your grandma is getting better everyday!

Susan said...

I loved this run down of a Southern dinner. So many parts!

Unknown said...

what spices do you put in the beans?