When I was a little girl, my mother served pear salad, a popular recipe from the 1960s that involved a maraschino cherry. Back then, that little cherry made the dish very glamourous, just like my Momma in her strapless kaftans and stylish up-dos.
Of course, now that I’m an adult, a canned pear topped with a dollop of mayonnaise, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, and a maraschino cherry doesn’t seem very glamourous. I would probably get laughed right out of my supper club if I served pear salad. I will admit that I really like to eat pear salad like most Southerners who grew up in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
My sister Deana sent me a photo of pear salad the other day, and it had me thinking about all the dishes I grew up on that are now out of fashion. The chefs on the Food Network would turn their noses up at some of these old fashioned Southern dishes that bring me back to my grandmother’s kitchen table.
Some time when we were kids, my sister Stephanie told my grandmother she liked her salmon croquettes. This was a big deal because Stephanie was such a picky eater and practically lived on mayonnaise bread, Cool Whip straight out of the tub, and Hersey bars.
So from that minute, any time we joined my grandparents for dinner, my grandmother served salmon croquettes. When Stephanie and I, both in our 20s at that time, were driving down to Eudora to have dinner with my grandparents, Stephanie told me she was burnt out on croquettes, and yes, as much as we ate dinner with my grandparents, it was a little monotonous.
But what we would give to have a plate full of those croquettes today. They cannot be duplicated but we can try.
2 can(s) pink or Alaskan salmon (boneless and skinless)
2 large eggs
1 medium onion, finely minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
Drain the salmon Put salmon in a large bowl and add eggs, onion, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. Mix together until well blended and form into patties. Pour oil into iron skillet and heat on medium-high heat. Fry about 3-5 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towel lined plate for a few minutes before serving. Serve with ketchup or tartar sauce. Yields about 8 or 9 patties.
Another nostalgic dish my grandmother used to serve was Country Ham with Co-Cola Gravy. My grandmother used chopped ham that was formed like a loaf, and she covered it with pineapple and maraschino cherries (another glamourous recipe). She made gravy out of Coca Cola (that she called Co-Cola) to use as a glaze.
Ham with Co-Cola Gravy
5 pound ham
1 cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups Coca Cola
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rub the ham down with brown sugar and pour Coca Cola over the top. Bake for three hours until internal temperature of 140 degrees.
After church on Sundays growing up, we often went to eat at Morrison’s Cafeteria in Whitehaven. I loved Morrison’s, especially the fried chicken and apple dumplings, but it blew my mind that my mother always opted for the carrot salad at the buffet. I mean, when you could get homemade macaroni and cheese and broccoli and cheese, Momma chose carrot salad.
Don’t get me wrong, I like carrot salad, although I pick all the raisins out, but it is a dish you don’t see on many tables anymore.
4 cups shredded carrots
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons milk
½ cups chopped pecans
In a large bowl, combine carrots and raisins in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar. Combine mayonnaise and milk, mix with carrots and fold in nuts. Refrigerate for three to four hours prior to serving.
These days, when I order fried okra at a restaurant, every slice of okra comes perfectly battered and golden brown. None of the crust comes off and the grease cooks the little rounds through perfectly without scorching a piece.
For those of you who grew up with a Momma that cooked okra in an iron skillet, the pieces of okra had a charred look with the crust falling away in some places. It was utterly delicious, and the little crust droppings were a delicacy fought over by my sisters and me.
We didn’t, however, fight over who was going to pick the okra off the vine. It had the same texture as pink insulation and left the same kind of itching rash.
Southern fried okra isn’t golden brown. It’s half charred, half green, and it still has a little crisp to the vegetable.
Southern Fried Okra
2 pounds okra, sliced
¾ cup corn meal
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
Rinse okra in a colander and let drain. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss the okra to coat evenly and transfer to the skillet using a large slotted spoon to shake off excess. Cook in batches, allowing to fry on one side until lightly browned, then begin to stir fry, moving the okra around the skillet and scraping the bottom of the skillet to avoid burning. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve hot.
My grandmother and Momma made the very best fried corn on the planet. The corn was grown in my grandfather’s garden, and it was picked fresh before the kernels were cut from the cobs. I remember watching my grandmother using a knife to cut the kernels off the cob, then scraping every last drop of juice from the cob before discarding it. That was their secret to great fried corn.
Southern Fried Corn
2 cups fresh corn
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper (My Momma peppered hers pretty good.)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup butter
½ cup water
1 tablespoon flour
¼ cup milk
In an iron skillet, mix together sugar, butter, and water. Add corn to skillet and stir to combine. Cover and simmer 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Be careful and don’t let it stick. In a small bowl, whisk together flour with milk, blending until smooth. After corn is done simmering, reduce heat to low and stir in flour and milk mixture to thicken the corn. Cook five more minutes, stirring constantly.
What are your favorite recipes that went out of fashion? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.