FIRST, AN EXCERPT FROM Jericho Road:
"Are you hungry?"
"That's a dangerous question! I might get slapped if I tell the truth!"
"Come on!" She smiled at him and swam toward shore.
"You go ahead," he told her. "I think I'll just stand here a minute and compose myself!"
The current chose that moment to change to a chilling cold and that helped considerably.
By the time he got out of the water, everything was back to normal and she'd retrieved the picnic basket from the car and was waiting for him.
"Shall we eat out here or would you rather we went inside and sat at the table?"
"Let's go inside." He glanced at her face. "You're beginning to look just a little pink."
After changing into his clothes, he came out to find Lindsey in her little green shift and the table set with a small banquet.
"Go ahead, sit down!" As he did so, she spooned potato salad onto a paper plate already heaped with potato chips, two kinds of sandwiches, and a crisp-fried drumstick, and handed him a plastic fork and a paper napkin.
"What--no chit'lins?"
"Chit'lins?" She made a face. "Surely you jest!"
"Just what are chit'lins, anyway? This ignorant Yankee wants to know."
"No, believe me, you don't!"
"That bad, huh?"
"Worse!" She held out a styrofoam cup.
"Ice-water?" He took the cup from her as he sat down. "Southerners must be the only people in the world who keep pitchers of water in their refrigerators." He set down the cup. "Dad is always teasing Mom about that. It used to make her furious when he'd drink all the water and leave the empty pitcher in the fridge."
"We have a rule. Last one to drink fills the pitcher," Lindsey said.
"So do we," Logan took a long swallow, adding, "but no one ever follows it."
"I think maybe you're more of a Southerner than you realize, Logan Redhawk."
"With a Southern Mama, how can I help it, Lindsey Conyers?"
"Eat your dinner," she told him.
"Yes'm! Sho' 'nuff!"
Lindsey groaned and shook her head. One thing Logan hadn't inherited from his mother was her accent. His voice was totally Yankee, clipped, and precise.

Logan isn't the only one who wants to know about Southern food, and so... My blog today is about--ta-da!--some of those oft-ridiculed and most misunderstood of Southern delicacies.

Would anyone like to tell me what chit'lin's, cracklin's, and grits are? No volunteers? Is it because no one, outside of a genuine true-blue Southerner knows? They spoken of, laughed about, but hardly anyone North of the Mason-Dixon Line (and nowadays, few below it) know anything about them. So, here it is! The Awful Truth!

Let's take them in order of importance, shall we:

GRITS: Sometimes called "hominy grits" after the North American Indian words auh('u) minea (yes, really!) which was maize hulled and broken and boiled in water and first seen by the English around 1629. Grits is a coarsely ground hominy, boiled and sometimes fried, eaten as a breakfast dish or as a side dish with meats. The word comes from the Old English gryt (900 AD)

A word of warning: grits are never eaten with sugar and milk--only butter and sometimes gravy.

BRUNSWICK STEW: A gustatory delight! A stew that usually contains chicken, rabbit, or squirrel meat cooked with tomatoes, onions, early garden peas, and shoe-peg corn. It appeared around 1850 and is named after Brunswick County in Virginia. A traditional side dish to accompany barbequed pork, which is marinated in sauce rather than basted. Ahhh! (Stop drooling, Toni.)

CHITTERLINGS (CHIT'LIN'S): Something I have never eaten and never intend to! This is the smaller intestines of swine, etc., dredged in flour and deep-fried. It originated around 1200 and comes from a diminutive of Old English cieter, intestines. Wonder if it's anything like haggis?

CRACKLINGS (CRACKLIN'S): comes from a little higher up on the hog, and is the crisp residue left when fat is rendered, what we today would call pork rinds, but chewy. It derives from a 1540 obslete Dutch word kraeckelingh. Cracklin's are usually sprinkled into white cornmeal to make "cracklin' bread hoe cakes" which were originally cooked on the blade of a hoe held over an open blaze, then crumbled into buttermilk and eaten with a spoon.

So now, you know--the secrets are revealed. And, for the piece de resistance: Southern fried chicken:

It's simple: Dredge cut-up chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper, and fry in a skillet full of liquid lard, preferably a cast-iron skillet. When crisp and cooked through, pile your plate high with grits and gravy, buttered cracklin' bread, and a couple of drumsticks, and ENJOY!

Man, that's finger-lickin' GOOD!

(Toni V. Sweeney is a true Daughter of the South, having been born in Georgia and lived there for thirty-two years of her life. She's always regretted leaving.)

12 comments

  1. Beth Trissel // June 11, 2009 at 11:23 AM  

    Great post, Toni. I'm taking notes.

  2. Edie Ramer // June 11, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

    My mom always baked chicken. I tend to do that, too, though I will cut up chicken breasts and saute the bite-sized pieces in olive oil with garlic and Italian seasonings. That's my idea of yummy. You can tell I'm not Southern.

  3. Mona Risk // June 11, 2009 at 11:58 AM  

    Interesting and educative, and yummy.

  4. Mary Marvella // June 11, 2009 at 1:08 PM  

    You're making me hungry! When I taught in Boston I gave a woman from Brooklyn my recipe(like Toni"s) and instructions for Southern Fried Chicken. Her husband loved it so much she had to fix it four days in a row!

    Grits are also good with a dash of garlic salt and cheese.

  5. Mary Ricksen // June 11, 2009 at 1:33 PM  

    I wish I'd never had to leave the place that is home to me too. Maybe some day Toni. You can't take the Southern out of a Southerner.
    The only one of those I'd eat is the grits, which is just like the cream of something cereal. So just butter, skip the milk. I first had grits in Florida at the Cracker Barrel.
    What do you miss eating, that you ate as a kid?

  6. Judy // June 11, 2009 at 3:01 PM  

    Yum! Sounds good to me. I love grits. But I always add a dash of salt to them with a bit of unsweetened butter. Pork rinds I've had. Chittlin's no...And Southern fried chicken? Well, that's the best. Thank you Toni... and the Colonel! (For KFC) LOL

  7. Barbara Monajem // June 11, 2009 at 8:30 PM  

    I'm a transplant to Georgia - I'm originally from western Canada. I love grits and like Brunswick stew, too (now that would be a good way to use rabbit... I like rabbit, but I haven't been too successful cooking it). I avoid fried chicken (only because it's so fattening) and I don't know if I've ever had cracklings. I'm tempted to try chitterlings some day, just for fun. I eat tripe, so why not chitterlings? Another food that I've really enjoyed since coming to the South is greens - collards, mustard, and turnip greens. Yum.

  8. Dayana // June 12, 2009 at 7:14 AM  

    Hi, Toni.

    Very interesting post. None of those Southern delicacies interest my tastebuds, though LOL

    I love the picture, my dream house! How'd you know? *grin* Is it your home? Whose ever it is, it is absolutely beautiful.

    However, not sure what part of the country claims these but flapjacks were my favorite as a kid. My grandmother would make them on a grill no less and they were delicious. Something like a pancake but I've no idea what they were.

    Mom-mom is gone now, so no way to find out either. Miss her dearly:)

    Dayana~

  9. Toni V.S. // June 12, 2009 at 12:10 PM  

    Barbara, I had fforgotten all about tripe. Probably because I don't eat beef now. I use to like it fried but sooo chewy! Judy, salt is always a requisite to just about anything. My son eats grits without salt but I have to have it! Dayana, the house is a picture from www.fotolia.com that I used in one of my trailers for Jericho Road. I had to take it out of the trailer because a glitch wouldn't let me put a caption to it.

  10. Scarlet Pumpernickel // June 12, 2009 at 12:46 PM  

    Toni,
    Enjoyed the excerpt and the walk down memory lane. Since I still in the south, many of those things you mentioned are on the menu in my neck of the woods. Never cooked Chit'lin's myself, but my mother in law had it down to a science. Think my SIL still does. DH will have to go to her house to enjoy them! Anyone ever had sweet potatoe biscuits? That's my favorite from childhood. Along with teacakes! We should take a day to post our favorite recipes!

    Scarlet

  11. Helen Hardt // June 12, 2009 at 1:23 PM  

    Oh, sweet potato biscuits -- yum, Scarlet!

  12. Joanne // June 12, 2009 at 6:11 PM  

    Thanks for the post, Toni. I'm a southern transplant. I lived in NY state most of my life, then we moved to SC 12 years ago. Recipes are very much appreciated, also.