Food, cooking, and the gathering together of family and friends is an essential source of sustenance and life beyond the kitchen and dining table. Consider the role food plays in our all things house that make a home life. Over the prepping, preparing, plating and partaking of a meal we connect with family and friends, build and strengthen personal and business relationships, indulge in the art of expression and discovery, and create delicious and lasting memories. Food for thought.
J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, debunks five common Southern cooking myths over on the Garden & Gun blog Daily Shot. I was surprised to learn… Click on the link below for details.
The welcome mat at Places In The Home is working overtime. Several of our family members are taking to the spring holiday road, and our house is do drop in central. Good visits begin with good hosting and good hosting begins with a stress free host or hostess. Entertaining is supposed to be a fun for guests and hosts alike, isn’t it? I know I have a much better entertaining experience if I access and assign a theme, go with the entertaining with ease flow and keep the focus on comfortable surroundings, inviting touches and relaxing times.
Texas times and family memories will be a hot topic of conversation. Our company’s travels begin in Texas Bluebonnet country, and with Texas being the common denominator of our family tree, I played it up in theme and setting. Farmhouse chic makes an effortless foundation to build your theme upon.
A simple arrangement of carnations mixed with greenery and placed beside an even simpler arrangement of apples and bananas in a milk glass center bowl provides a nice centerpiece in a farmhouse chic kind of way.
Fresh flowers from the floral department of the local grocery store are my weakness, and when the word clearance enters into the picture my shopping cart runneth over. You really get your money’s worth with carnations. Carnations can last for weeks with an every other day water change and a quick stem trim. I use tepid water, scale back leaves from the stems to prevent contact with the water, and place a couple of drops of food coloring in the water.
From recipes to table setting decor, I like to source from within meaning I like to use what I have on hand. A great home decor clearance sale and dollar store items purchased in bulk can provide all the entertaining with ease elements needed for a well designed themed tablescape.
art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.
Into each case of design and decorating a little if kitchen kitsch is wrong, I don’t want to be right will fall. The method to my madness lies deeply rooted in the from which I came from principle. I picked up several sets of rooster dish towels at the local dollar store back during the holidays knowing full well they would come in handy. Paired with copper napkin rings I found on clearance at Dillard’s a couple of years ago, the dish towels made great dinner napkins.
The Places In The Home gang comes from a long line of hen on nest dish collectors. The women of our family felt no respectable kitchen and/or breakfast room decor complete without the addition of at least one hen on nest dish.
On the menu front I aim to please. Round our dinner table, quality rules over quantity which lines up perfectly with easy menu planning. As long as the iced tea is sweet and I keep the serving sizes in just a bite territory it is all good and tasty. The culinary rule of KISS (keep it salad simple) always applies.
I set up a salad buffet for first course serve yourself ease. Individual Mason jar salads layered with shredded iceberg lettuce, fresh tomato, chopped ham, green onion, Feta cheese crumbles, homemade buttermilk dressing and a dash of kosher salt and fine black pepper were a hit with the just a bite crowd.
It may be a coincidence, but it seems the senses become heightened as the days shorten, colors deepen, spices and aromas entice and the tones and textures of nature engage us by sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
The dinner table tells a story. Gathered in regional reverence, devout worshipers of the dining divine keep time to culinary tradition-nourishing the soul as well as the body. Taking a meal at the Southern dinner table is a multi-layered celebration weaving through generations, tradition and culture. A sudden wave of news copy on the popularity, rediscovery and dare I say appreciation of Southern foods has not only resonated with my taste buds, but my memories of times spent gathered around the Southern dinner table.
I surely don’t believe nor make the claim that the South holds the patent on dinner table philosophies, but sitting down to the Southern dinner table is an intended event. It doesn’t matter if the table is set for cornbread, red beans and rice or chicken fried anything with all the fixings- eating is far from simply a practice in sustenance. From Southern farm, garden, market or waterway to Southern dinner table, the prepping, cooking, baking, frying, boiling or grilling is a culinary event.
Culinary tastes, rituals and traditions of cooking and dining vary from state to state, dining table to dining table across the South, but the core principles of preparing and sharing good food is uncomplicated, simple and basic. If you cook, bake, fry, roast, barbecue, boil, grill, can, preserve or pickle it, they will come.
The differences between the ways of my Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana relatives always seemed to warrant a they don’t do it like this in whichever two states you were not breaking bread in. The shared commonality between the Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana masses boil down to simple dining vocabulary.
Dinner is the meal eaten in the middle of the day.
Supper is the meal eaten in the evening.
Breaking bread with the Texas family came with rituals and a throwback vibe all its own. The dining room table was for the adults, and the kitchen table was for the kids. Soft white bread on a china bread and butter plate was as close to a bread basket as you were gonna get. My Aunt Sis was as full of sass as she was wit, and lightening quick with an answer and a serving spoon. This firecracker’s table came equipped with its own GPS system.
Grease. Preserves. Salt.
Grease was the answer for everything, a pressed glass compote dish filled with homemade pear preserves never left the center of the table, and salt was not an acquired taste- it was a required taste.
The ladies in both my Texas and Louisiana family subscribed to the take down the china, fill the crystal to the rim and put a hint of silver on the situation school of thought. When questioned why a middle of the week dinner called for a fine lace tablecloth and a china pattern worthy of royalty, Sis would shoot back with a, “Well, hon, what’s the use of having the stuff if you don’t use it?” I knew there was wisdom in her words, and they resonate with me to this day each time I open the doors to the china cabinet.
Life is too short not to use the good china, crystal and table linens every day.
Does any of this ring a familiar dinner bell with you? In continuation and reflection of the traditions and tastes of the Southern dinner table, my Tennessee family round the Southern dinner table traditions will be the subject of my next post.
I’ve been cheating this week. Not at games, on my taxes, or on Dave the Builder. I’ve “cheated” in a culinary sense for three excellent reasons, imo.
1. My parents are on vacation in East Tennessee which cuts the diners by two.
2. It is just too hot to cook, let alone eat heavy meals.
3. I’m a one pan, two bowls kind of girl.
We have been busy worker bees this past week in and out of the house. I get in the groove of my routine and before I realize it ten o’clock is staring back at me from my computer monitor. Eight o’clock is about the latest I will push serving dinner, and it’s a struggle to meet that deadline most nights. Today was my pseudo secretary day for my brother (the family that works together…) and I was still typing contracts at eight o’clock. The sounds of the seventies were cranked up in the background, and as some Southern rock anthem played it served as the catalyst in helping me decide tonight’s menu. It’s amazing where your dinner ideas will come from.
Dave the Builder stirs the pot!
Grits are comfort food central for us. I bring about two cups water and one cup milk to a boil. I don’t measure the grits but stop pouring them out of the box and into the pan when the whisk hits resistance. I give them a constant whisk until desired thickness is reached. The bowls, butter and pepper are standing ready. You’ve got to move relatively quick with grits to avoid over thickening. Tonight we dined on grits in their natural state (butter is a natural state, isn’t it?), but the add on options are many. A few of our favorites are shrimp, green onions, bacon, cheese, fried or scrambled eggs. I also substitute chicken broth for water on occasion.
With our Paula Deen proud pats of butter and a respectable Louisiana pepper content, we dined on quick, inexpensive and delicious hominy goodness.
If you’re a TV child of the 70s, it’s probably safe to assume you remember a particular question from a little show long on corny and short on my do we really have to watch this nerve. As much as I tried to forget the corny antics of the Hee Haw gang throughout most of my teenage years, invariably I hear “Hey, Grandpa, What’s for Supper?” in my ear every time I ponder what’s for dinner supper ideas.
Hee Haw was a Saturday night must see TV staple in our house. Country music, silly skits and rounds of pickin’ and grinnin’ rang out from the Zenith. Yes. I did chuckle when Grandpa Jones answered the “Hey, Grandpa, What’s for Supper?” with his here’s what’s on the menu tonight menu monologue. Speaking of questions, here’s another question for you. Dinner vs. supper. What say you?
Talking on the telephone to my best friend is a nightly ritual. The topic of conversation eventually turns to our modern-day version of what’s for supper/dinner. If I had a nickel for every time…
Apples don’t fall far from family trees. During a recent phone conversation, and surprised by the words coming out of my mouth, I asked the question “Hey Grandpa, What’s for Supper?” You could have heard a corn shuck hit the floor. I waited for my friend to graciously excuse my gaffe and overlook my slip of the retro tv tongue sin. It appears great television kids of the 70s think alike. Without missing a beat she answered the question beginning with the words, “Here’s what’s on the menu tonight.”
Regardless of how the question is posed, it is asked so we can glean info and culinary ideas from each other. All cooks at one time or another draw a blank when it comes to tasty, healthy, easy and appealing menu ideas to suit and set the family round table. As I stood in front of the pantry wondering for the 8,629th time what to make for dinner, I spied a package of taco seasoning mix and connected the dots to the rotisserie chicken in the refrigerator. Rotisserie chicken served in the traditional entrée sense is good for a one time only offering around the Places In The Home dinner table. Time to get with the culinary inspiration program!
Chicken taco lettuce wraps it is. Shredded leftover rotisserie chicken, taco seasoning, one heaping tablespoon of onion flakes, 2/3 cup water, and the juice of one lemon hit a waiting skillet. Over medium high heat, I stirred all the ingredients together until heated through. I put the butter lettuce wrap logic in motion and built my taco house upon it. Believe me, I know I didn’t reinvent the wheel, but I did put enough of a spin on the average hard shell or soft chicken taco to please. These tacos were olé hell yeah good! Guess what my friend served her family for dinner the next night? The power of palette persuasion is the what’s for dinner supper ideas point. I think even Grandpa would be proud to shout this menu from his window on the cornfield. Yum-Yum!