Monday, August 15, 2011

White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler

Food is all around. Not just as something that we need to survive, but also in the form of books, supplements in papers, food blogs, super star chefs, Michelin starred restaurants, tv-programs, different "schools" and movements being the it-trend (like raw food is the big thing in Denmark right now), other movements going back. And os on.

Old news I hear you say, and you are right. Food blogging is so not my thing, as well as I know next to nothing about food anthropology. Nevertheless, I have a great interest in food, cooking, books about food and that kind of unscientific research you can do by just reading cook books from a certain place or period. I would've posted this Sunday and made it a part of Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking, but since I already made two posts this evening, I thought I would post this today insted.

Anyway. When I look at old magazines with recipies, I have to smile sometimes, thinking: can you believe we ate that in the 70'es. And check out the plates they are serving this dish on and the glass they are drinking from. On the other hand, at least in Denmark there are very classical cook books more than a 100 years old still being used and re-printed again and again. I have some of those old cook books myself. But mostly I have books about food in the Ramsey, Nigella and Jamie-category and books with certain culinary themes like Danish food, Thai food, Indian food, Jewish food, Greek, Moroccan, American...well, you get it. I enjoy reading them all as well as cooking a dish or two.

It is not like I cannot pass the cook book section in a book store without having to buy the latest book, because I can easily do that. But on my recent trip to USA I stumbled upon a cook book that I just knew instantly was a must have: White Trash Cooking. It was published for the first time in the 1980'es and is apparently considered a bit of a classic, re-printed several times since the first publication. And yes, it is written tongue in cheek, but it is nevertheless a real cook book with real recipes, and I find it a charming book. It is not just a funny joke on behalf of an unfortunate group of people. Let us have a look at how the author Ernest Matthew Mickler describes white trash in the intro:
[...] But the first thing you've got to understand is that there's white trash and there's White Trash. Manners and pride separate the two. Common white trash has very little in the way of pride, and no manners to speak of, and hardly any respect for anybody or anything. But where I come from in North Florida you never failed to say "yes ma'm" and "no sir" [...] never forgot to say "thank you" for the teeniest favor. That's the way the ones before us were raised and that's the way they raised us in the South.
In this funny and quirky book you will find recipes for fried and broiled squirrel, fried possum, barbecued alligator tail and swamp cabbage stew. But that is not all. You will also find the most delicious recipes on how to cook shrimp, crawfish, crabs and other kind of seafood that you find in abundance in the South plus lots of cakes and sweets.

The book also states that White Trash-food has less fat (but there is still plenty of calories, though) than  Soul Food and many other interesting facts you can read in the very well written intro.

No, I do not think that I would find fried squirrel a particularly delicious thing to eat. And I don't know what to say about the High Calorie Pick Me Up-drink, which is a bag of peanuts put into a cold coke, so that you can drink and eat at the same time.

But Tutti's Fruited Porkettes (pork chops with sweet potatoes, pineapple and bacon baked in the oven) sounds yummy, as well as Klebert's Cold Crawfish Soup (with onion and potatoes) could easily find its way into my kitchen. I am not here to offend anyone, I truly enjoyed reading this book and leafing through the recipes, and the whole book has been written with much love.

Have you ever cooked a squirrel? Or tasted swamp cabbage stew? I had an alligator sandwich in New Orleans and it was fab.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Working, reading, travelling...

I know I've said it before, but now I say it again. I haven't been around much this year. And I miss blogging here. One reason I haven't been around here much is work. Work does take up a good deal of my time. Another reason is that I am having a slow reading-year. So far so good. But I have also been travelling. Not that much, but I spent most of May this year travelling through the American South, and what a great tour we had!

We flew from Copenhagen into Atlanta and rented a car there. This car took us from Atlanta to Savannah to Charleston, then back into Georgia, to Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and then up to Tennessee from where we drove back to Atlanta.

We saw so much and had so much fun. I am not going to bore you with details or a lot of photos, just wanted to share and say that I am coming back and back and back. And of course I visited several book stores ;o)

The Garden of Good and Evil ;-) Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.

We stayed a night in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Winter's Bone is taking place in the Ozark Mountains amongst poor and violent white trash families, cooking crank in their kitchens and outhoses and living in an almost clan-like society leaving absolutely no room for what they consider mistakes. You pay dearly if you make a wrong move or wrong decision

Ree Dolly is 16 and the main person in the book. She is a tough cookie, who doesn't seem to take no shit at all, at least not on the outside. She is taking care of her younger brothers, making sure they get fed and go to school, and she teaches them to shoot. She is also taking care of the mother who seems to suffer from an almost catatonic pshycosis. Her dad, who has been in prison numerous times, has disappeared. His disappearance is not something that is unusual, because it has happened before.

But this time it is more serious than Ree can imagine, he has jumped bail and used the house as security, and Ree is being told by the police that she, the mother and the two brothers need to get out of the house as soon as possible.

Ree can keep the house if she finds her fater - dead or alive, it doesn't matter - the court just need to know where he is, and if he is dead, they can keep the house. This leads Ree on a regular quest into her large family's darkest and most dirty corners, and while this might sound like a cosy and classic plot for a mystery, I can guarantee that there is absolutely nothing cosy about Winter's Bone.

It is an evil, violent and rough tale and the style in which it is written feels almost like social realism. Unfortunately it is not hard to imagine how life is out there in the middle of nowhere, in a place where poverty has been running through generation after generation. Ree's only bright spots in her life is her dream of joining the army, listening to stress-tapes with soothing sounds and maybe a cuddle with her girlfriend

Mean and icy and extremely well written, the reader will feel the cold and gritty atmosphere. Even thought eh novel is a short one it is a tough read and it is hard core. I liked it. And I am going to watch the movie soon.