4th July: US Independence Day

'The waves that wrought a century's wreck
Have rolled o'er Whig and Tory;
The Mohawks on the Dartmouth's deck
Still live in song and story;
The waters in the rebel bay
Have kept the tea-leaf savor;
Our old North-Enders in their spray
Still taste a Hyson flavor;
And Freedom's teacup still o'erflows
With ever fresh libations,
To cheat of slumber all her foes
And cheer the wakening nations.'

From 'A Ballad of the Boston Tea Party' by Oliver Wendell Homes (1809-1884)

Apologies for the absence, I’ve been away in France and I forgot my ipad - quel disastre! Anyway, I'm home now and normal service is resumed.

I’m going to a 4th July party on the 6th July this week. There are quite a lot of people from across the pond down here in the far west, so it’ll be a good party and I’m really looking forward to it. In the meantime I’ve been reflecting on the cuisine of the USA and thinking about what to cook for a little independence party of my own. 

I’ve got a number of cook books from the US in my collection; Martha Stewart – of course and Emil Lagasse and a facsimile edition of the ‘Williamsburg Art of Cookery or the Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion’ first published in 1742. ‘The Settlement Cook Book’ published in Milwaukee in 1915 by Mrs Simon Kander is a treasure of Jewish American food, but my absolute favourite is the wonderfully named ‘Hot Flashes, Sinkin’ Spells, Fits and Cravins’ by Ernest Matthew Mickler – the author of ‘White Trash Cooking’.

The recipes are divided according to the occasions on which they might be useful; so Chapter One contains dishes for ‘Foot Washins, Prayer Meetings, Creek Baptisms and All Day Sings’. In the chapter on funerals and wakes, the author warns us that Candy Silcox’s Confetti Eggs might not be appreciated at some wakes because 'they’re way colourful’.

My favourite chapter however is ‘Sinkin Spells, Hot Flashes, Fits and Cravins’ – restorative dishes for those times in life when one might need a little pick-me-up. It starts with a cautionary tale about Mis’ Minna’s Aunt, Jeanette Belle Pink. Poor Aunt Jeanette was such a martyr to hot flashes, that whenever she was overcome by the rising tide of heat she tried to unbundle not just herself but everybody else too. I know the feeling.

Here’s an extract:

‘Everybody knows that she’s got a nightgown with breakaway buttons all the way down the front. Some nights you can hear her all the way to my house. She’ll jump out of bed, scream and run while ripping off her gown, then land spread-eagled on the top of the cold Formica kitchen table. She told somebody it was the only thing in the house that could really cool her off…..’

One day, a phone call demands immediate assistance at the supermarket because Aunt Jeanette has had a faintin’ spell. She's lying on the floor, two mysterious bulges under her long coat. Closer investigation reveals the lumps are two bags of collard greens. Aunt Jeanette was espied acting strange and opening her coat in front of the tall freezer cabinets. When challenged, she said she was ‘jis done tryin’ to get cool’ and then she slithered to the floor in a dead faint. Her coat flew open and revealed nothing underneath, except ‘high heels, panties and a brazier’. It was then that the bag boy rushed over and to preserve her modestly, placed bunches of greens over her chest and her ‘female organs down there’.

‘I done seen it all now’ was Mis Minna’s comment.

Collard greens were there none, so I’ve made a chowder and cornbread. Happy 4th of July.

Cornbread à la Liz

4oz plain flour
4oz fine cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp fine salt.

2 large eggs
9fl oz milk
2oz grated cheese

fried bacon bits
chopped fried chilli
spring onions (scallions)

 Heavy based skillet. Oven 210 (fan) (230 non-fan)

Decide on your flavourings and sauté gently in the oil until soft but not brown. Mix the dry ingredients together and add the liquids, cheese and flavourings. Pour into the skillet and bake for 25 minutes.

This is infinitely variable and very delicious.

'Won't cha come with me to Alabammy, 
Back to the arms of my dear ol' mammy, 
Her cookin's lousy and her hands are clammy, 
But what the hell, it's home. 
Yes, for paradise the southland is my nominee. 
Jes' give me a ham hock and a grit of hominy.'

From 'I Wanna Go Back to Dixie' by Tom Lehrer (born 1928)


Toffeeapple said...

‘high heels, panties and a brazier’

I reckon she would have been fine if she had just left off the bazier...wn

Toffeeapple said...

Ha, that'll teach me - the 'wn' was part of the word verification...