The Taste of Country Cooking: 30th Anniversary Edition
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In recipes and reminiscences equally delicious, Edna Lewis celebrates the uniquely American country cooking she grew up with some fifty years ago in a small Virginia Piedmont farming community that had been settled by freed slaves. With menus for the four seasons, she shares the ways her family prepared and enjoyed food, savoring the delights of each special time of year:
• The fresh taste of spring—the first shad, wild mushrooms, garden strawberries, field greens and salads . . . honey from woodland bees . . . a ring mold of chicken with wild mushroom sauce . . . the treat of braised mutton after sheepshearing.
• The feasts of summer—garden-ripe vegetables and fruits relished at the peak of flavor . . . pan-fried chicken, sage-flavored pork tenderloin, spicy baked tomatoes, corn pudding, fresh blackberry cobbler, and more, for hungry neighbors on Wheat-Threshing Day . . . Sunday Revival, the event of the year, when Edna’s mother would pack up as many as fifteen dishes (what with her pickles and breads and pies) to be spread out on linen-covered picnic tables under the church’s shady oaks . . . hot afternoons cooled with a bowl of crushed peaches or hand-cranked custard ice cream.
• The harvest of fall—a fine dinner of baked country ham, roasted newly dug sweet potatoes, and warm apple pie after a day of corn-shucking . . . the hunting season, with the deliciously “different” taste of game fattened on hickory nuts and persimmons . . . hog-butchering time and the making of sausages and liver pudding . . . and Emancipation Day with its rich and generous thanksgiving dinner.
• The hearty fare of winter—holiday time, the sideboard laden with all the special foods of Christmas for company dropping by . . . the cold months warmed by stews, soups, and baked beans cooked in a hearth oven to be eaten with hot crusty bread before the fire.
The scores of recipes for these marvelous dishes are set down in loving detail. We come to understand the values that formed the remarkable woman—her love of nature, the pleasure of living with the seasons, the sense of community, the satisfactory feeling that hard work was always rewarded by her mother’s good food. Having made us yearn for all the good meals she describes in her memories of a lost time in America, Edna Lewis shows us precisely how to recover, in our own country or city or suburban kitchens, the taste of the fresh, good, natural country cooking that was so happy a part of her girlhood in Freetown, Virginia.
the rest of the food was served up, the eggs were ready, beautiful, and looked as if they had been poached. They were placed upon a platter and decorated with delicious crisp bacon, or placed surrounding the ham. Pan-Fried Sweet Potatoes Fried sweet potatoes were as popular as white and the flavor always seemed enhanced by frying. We enjoyed them most served for breakfast or with a light supper. Sometimes they were boiled, left overnight, then peeled, sliced, and sautéed in butter. But they had
gravy and serve hot along with the fried chicken. Rendering Lard from Pork Fat For a special meal with hot biscuits and fried chicken, try rendering some lard for that special occasion. Ask your butcher for some clean, fresh pork leaf fat or pieces cut from the loin. Sometimes it is found in supermarkets. Two pounds of fat will make enough for both the biscuits and to fry the chicken in. To prepare the fat, first cut away any lean part. Wipe or scrape off any residue from the butcher’s block
Ham and Sweet Potato Breakfast An Early Summer Lunch of the Season’s Delicacies An Early Summer Dinner of Veal, Scallions, and the First Berries A Prepared-Ahead Summer Dinner Midsummer Sunday Breakfast A Busy-Day Summer Dinner Putting Up Fruits and Vegetables, Pickles, and Wine Wheat-Harvesting Midday Dinner Making Ice Cream on a Summer Afternoon Sunday Revival Dinner A Cool-Evening Supper The Night for a Boiled Virginia Ham Dinner Fall Introduction Breakfast Before Leaving for
cabbage ⅓ cup tender green scallion tops, cut into �-inch slices 2 cups boiling water, or preferably stock from boiled pork shoulder 3 tablespoons freshly rendered fat from bacon or ham Salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 3-quart saucepan To prepare the cabbage, trim away the outside leaves and cut the head into quarters. Cut away the core, leaving just enough to hold the leaves intact. Place the pieces of cabbage in a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes or so to wash out any dust or
Turnip-Top Leaves, Beet Tops) Boiled leafy greens are not fully appreciated because most people don’t know how to prepare them. First of all, they need not be greasy. The most delicious cooked greens we made were cooked with pork, except for spinach, and we usually served them with a white sauce. Some varieties of leafy greens we would gather and cook every day, mostly because we knew instinctively that they were of nutritional value—an instinct that comes from our African heritage, I’m sure.