Growing up in the fifties as I did, I was taught to cook, clean, and help my mother take care of my younger sister and brother. I had many lessons at the old black stove in my grandmother’s kitchen as she made her from scratch meals and canned her harvests from her garden each summer. I learned to make jellies and jams and pickles and just use everything that came from hers and my mother’s gardens. I remember not being tall enough to reach the top of her Sears Roebuck stove and standing on the little box my grandaddy made me to eat on at her long plank table and to stand on to reach things I needed to get to. I have always been somewhat limited in the height department as fully grown I have always been exactly five feet tall. Think about a yard stick is only three feet and I am only two feet more. And I married a man six feet tall. I have always needed my little box to reach things I needed to reach, even him.
I learned from an early age to make biscuits in an old dough bowl. I now have my grandmother’s, but my biscuits have never been as good as hers. She taught me to make “red-eye gravy” using cold coffee, how to thicken sausage gravy, and to make her delicious chicken and dumplings. But guess what? I still can’t make those tender fall apart pastries in the chicken broth the way she did. Not after sixty years of trying. I remember helping her can tomatoes in the summer and seal them in those big mouth Mason jars as my grandaddy would always ease by and taste the bubbling red juice, pretending he needed to be sure we were doing it right. She even taught me to perfect mine and my mama’s poke sallet dishes. I will give you all this recipe at the end of this article. My daddy would never try the delicacy as he thought it to be toxic and would kill him.
The way I cook now is a throwback to those days. I cook from scratch and even if sometimes I might use a cake mix or some premade food, I ALWAYS enhance the dish. For instance I always use extra eggs, butter instead of oil, buttermilk instead of water or regular milk, sugar in my vegetables with bacon drippings, add 3 drops of real vanilla to my coffee water, add a teaspoon of sugar to my biscuit flour and use half and half instead of milk, cook bacon on a rack but sprinkle the slices with brown sugar before cooking in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, and always make my creamed potatoes with mayonnaise and pet milk. These are just simple ideas but will be remembered by those sitting at your table.
Nearly every night before supper my husband will ask, “Did you enhance tonight or just plain cook?” He never knows what I will try out on him on any given day.
POKE SALLET GREENS = one bunch of tender leaves of poke sallet Parboil in enough water to cover and drain and rinse. Cook a second time until very tender and drain water once again. This removes the extra Vitamin A which may be toxic. In a skillet cook 8 -9 slices of bacon and save grease and sauté 1 medium chopped onion and add drained greens, break 4 large eggs into the greens and add all together and mix well. You are going to want some crunchy cornbread with these.