Monday, June 4, 2012

Culture and What We Eat

Okay, this may be a strange blog, but I am often reminded that the things I eat are unheard of to others. To me they are things I grew up eating and thought everyone out there ate. Until I was told otherwise by many of the military children living in my neighborhood. I was lucky enough to live in a neighborhood on the border of the air force base. So, this meant I was introduced to the culture of many others, as well as my constantly shocking them with mine.

So, everyone has heard of Elvis Presley's banana and peanut butter sandwiches. This was never a big deal to me because my father ate them regularly. Although, I myself never ate one because I do not like banana's. It was just an ordinary thing to me to see my dad come home from work slice up a banana and slather peanut butter on his bread and sit with his paper eating his treat.  Some night my parents would toast this treat for themselves after they had sent us off to bed for the night. Who knew one day, people would rage over this strange concoction that was made famous by Elvis.

On hot summer days as a child we would play outside all day and sprinklers were a must in the balmy south Mississippi heat. My favorite cool down treat was by far a large glass of extremely cold pickle juice. I thought nothing of drinking pickle juice, except that my mother would monitor the jar and fuss if it got halfway down because, you had to leave some in the jar to keep the pickles! However, one day some of the kids not native to the area asked, "What's that your drinking?" "EWWW!" they exclaimed when I told them. "Why would you drink that?" Why not? I asked, Don't ya'll? This is how I found out that not everyone drinks pickle juice.

My brother and I even made specialty drinks with koolaid and our pickles. We would take a large pickle and dunk it into our glass of koolaid, slowly drinking and taking bites of the pickle. "Eww gross!" the kids would say then they tried it, and before you knew it we were all doing it.

I never liked sandwich meat. I can not abide a ham sandwich. For lunch each day my mother would pack me my favorite, a butter and sugar sandwich. Yes, really! Simply two slices of bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with sugar. The kids sitting next to me said they could hear the sugar grinding as I ate. So? I did not care. Then for a switch I would have mom pack me a syrup sandwich. YUM! Just bread with plenty of cane syrup. I mean that was good stuff to me as a kid. As I grew up I became aware that not too many people had ever heard of these sandwiches much less eaten one.

I cannot for the life of me coax my children or my husband into trying one. Last year, I brought a butter and sugar sandwich for my lunch and my coworker was shocked. I told her well, I am shocked that you have never eaten one. I mean back in the depression this is what our families ate. Apparently they did not pass them on to their children as my grandmother did to hers.

I became desperate then to prove that this is an actual food. So, I went to the internet for help. Sure enough I found several people talking about these kinds of sandwiches, so I was not alone. I feel a little more normal now!

Then there are the things my family eat because we are Creole. Such as, paneed pork chops. Pronounced, pi nade, or pon ayed. I love this dish more than anything. In fact when I was dating my husband and wanted to impress him with my cooking skills I made this dish for him.
Paneed in french simply means breaded and pan fried. So, in essence it is just a fried pork chop. However, in my house it was paneed. My husband said, "What?" I was shocked he did not know as his family are of Creole descent as well, although more of a country folk and my grandmother was born and raised in New Orleans. So, maybe this is why he didn't know. I began asking other people, and they too had no idea what paneed was.

To make paneed pork chops, you simply need:
About 6 thin sliced chops
an egg
salt and pepper
Italian bread crumbs
oil for frying

Break the egg in a shallow dish or bowl and scramble slightly, salt and pepper a chop, and swish through the egg mixture coating the chop, and then lay on a dish filled with the bread crumbs, coat in crumbs, and fry until crispy.
This dish is excellent served with a side of crispy onion rings, and some cooked apples or sliced pears.

I had every Saturday morning what I called ba'yans. Now, this is the way it was pronounced in my house, so when I went with my husband to the French Quarter and we sat down to eat a hot plate of freshly cooked beignet's at the famous  French Market Cafe. I remember saying, Yum, b'Ah y'Ahn's and having my husband promptly look at me like I had two heads and saying, "You mean ben-yay's". Whatever dude! My grandmother was after all from New Orleans and I said many things differently which I am often reminded of.

One thing my husband and I both had in common growing up was we both ate galette's. Pronounced guy-uh-let's. Once again, I thought everyone ate these. We even had them for supper some nights. It is simply fried biscuit dough slathered with butter and cane syrup. My dad called them hoe cakes.

Now, one thing that for the life of me I cannot change is the way I say mayonnaise. I can never get a waitress to understand me when I say it to them outside of Louisiana. I simply say mayo to them because it is easier. You say Mayo naise, and I say Mon asze.

Just eating a bowl of chicken and dumplings is different for me. I eat mine the way it was done in my household while my husband wrinkles his nose at my dish. I eat mine over white rice with plenty of pepper sprinkled on top. It is the Creole way, to eat rice with nearly every dish. I suppose this is why I do so, it just doesn't taste the same to me without rice.

So, after my sister's friends in Connecticut had a huge gross out over the fact that we actually drink pickle juice I began to seriously think about the many things that people eat that are affected by locality. I mean clam chowder to me is...well, just not that appetizing.

Ya'll can keep your clam chowder thank you, and I will eat my shrimp gumbo any day maybe with a side of pickle juice.

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