Hard Fry and Beaten Biscuits
As I’ve said, Going to Solace is a novel, but there’s plenty of real-life flavor in its pages as well.
There are all kinds of gifted food artists out there now re-creating the best ideas of Southern and sub-regional cooking. Each pocket of the South developed its own culinary culture. Appalachian South is not plantation South; coastal South is not inland South; northern South is not delta South; African and Native American and Creole heritage bring different traditions than Scots-Irish heritage, etc. But cool, new chefs are now both distinguishing and blending these flavors while reviving the use of heirloom, farm-to-table ingredients. Take, for instance, Sean Brock. Vogue Magazine ran a great article about his work at Husk in Charleston, SC.
But that’s not my personal heritage. Like many of us, the cooking in my family (passed down orally, stove-side) was all about doing the best you can with not very much. The opposite of food artistry, it was artful food sufficiency. Hard-fried chicken (none of that battered stuff), hard or beaten biscuits, cornbread to be sure, but not the fluffy-muffin version, rather a pretty darned dense mass of meal and not much else. Aspics, yes. Okra, absolutely. Boiled peanuts? Well, my mother was partial to them, but I found them to be an acquired taste I never acquired.
I’ve found a great family in Georgia whose homegrown business, the Sunrise Grocery, will ship you a bunch of real Appalachian fare if you’d like to try some. Peach butter. That good Sourwood honey (real honey from real bees!). Relishes and meal and grits and sorghum. They’re the darned nicest people at Sunrise — no relation at all to me and no kickbacks or nothing — but if you want to explore some new tastes on your plate, you might take a look at their treasure trove. Put some of their corn relish on a beaten biscuit and you’ll be good to go.