Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Metaphorically Speaking

Since I moved to the South 20 years ago, I have eaten things I would never have dreamed of eating, though I've always considered myself to be gastronomically adventurous.

As a teenager, I was a hardcore Francophile and so, in an effort to completely embrace the French culture, I deigned to eat snails at a French restaurant where we journeyed on a field trip. They weren't bad. A little chewy, a little....bouncy. But deliciously seasoned. If I hadn't known I was eating snails, I could have enjoyed it a lot more. As it was, I couldn't get past the idea of eating snails, and thus, it was a singular experience. I did not eat snails when we were actually in France. I did eat cheese that smelled and tasted as if it had been scraped from between the toes of a hobo.

I grew up in Wisconsin and anybody who lives there will tell you that Wisconsinites eat some darn peculiar stuff. One of my father's favorite indulgences is pickled herring. I don't know who came up with the idea to submerge raw, very fishy tasting fish in a substance that could strip the chrome off a Buick, or why people thought it would be a good idea to then eat it. But it is quite the delicacy. The store shelves are bursting with it during Christmas and New Year's.

Headcheese. Now there's a concept. Boil a head. Eat the resultant gelatinous mass. Re-volting.

Braunshweiger. As a child I thought this was possibly the most disgusting things I had ever been made to eat, with the exception of peas and tongue. I still can't stomach peas or tongue, but surprisingly, I quite like the taste of Braunschweiger as an adult. I don't know if I would slather it on bread and make a meal of it, but spread thinly on a Ritz, it's amazingly palatable.

As long as I can remember, my parents have hosted a New Years Eve party. And for as long as I can remember, someone has brought cannibal sandwiches. For those not in the know, cannibal sandwiches are sort of like steak tartare, Wisconsin style. It's simply raw seasoned ground sirloin, usually served on rye bread, and topped with sliced onions.

It's amazing what people will consume based on the regional availability.

I've eaten Crawfish. Once. If you don't know, the way to eat Crawfish (which are amazingly ugly creatures) is to boil them whole, crack them in half and then suck the offal out of them.

I've eaten squid and enjoyed it, although admittedly, that was before I was given to understand that "Calamari" was in fact, deep fried tentacles. Again, the taste was eclipsed by the concept.

But in the deep South, there are culinary practices that really make no sense whatsoever, particularly since they are widely regarded as gastronomically delightful.

Collard greens, which are usually cooked until they are the consistency of papier mache, taste like feet. I don't care how much fatback you put in there. Giblet gravy looks and tastes like organ flavored snot. In the truest sense of the word, I don't think it really even qualifies as gravy. Cornbread dressing has the texture of sand. Boiled peanuts are simultaneously slimy and mushy and they taste like dirt. Pork skins...I don't even understand why someone would do that to skin. Chitlins (hog stomach and intestines) are quite beyond my ability to contemplate as a foodstuff as are pig's feet and hog jowls. And I'm mystified by the belief that anything can be improved by the liberal application of Barbecue (BBQ, Bar-B-Que) sauce.

But, there is one dish that I have been able to fully appreciate and indeed, form a profound fondness for. I even learned to prepare it myself, which is really saying something since usually, I eschew recipes that don't involve Cambell's soup and/or breadcrumbs. I loathe cooking.

What is this culinary wonder? It is the fried green tomato.

The crisp tartness of the early tomato combined with the delicate flakiness of the breading is a contrast that is delightful and delicious. Unfortunately they are, frankly, a huge pain in the ass to make. The dredging is messy, the frying is a delicate matter. The oil must be just the right temperature to prevent greasiness, and one must know exactly when to take them out of the pan so as to avoid overcooking the tomatoes and turning them into deep fried mush. For that reason, I don't often afford myself the pleasure.

We ventured to SmallSouthernTown this weekend, and patronized a place that looked as if a visit from the Health Inspector might be in order. It features a buffet, and I usually avoid buffets like the plague, for a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with communicable diseases. But we had eaten in this particular establishment before, so I knew that the food really is home cooked (as opposed to home cooked in an industrial kitchen, flash frozen, transported 700 miles, stored in a walk in freezer for an indeterminate length of time and then blasted into edibility with microwaves) and amazingly good.

And I knew that their fried green tomatoes are absolutely out of this world; perfectly seasoned, cooked to flaky perfection, without a hint of greasiness,tart and crisp and wonderful.

I can't tell you how many of those things I ate. Enough that my father in law laughed at me.

Why I am I writing about the fried green tomato? I don't know. In some ways I think they are a metaphor for my life in the South. Most of it is either mushy and flavorless or wholly distasteful. But sometimes, there are moments of pure, perfect deliciousness that I try to replicate not in the kitchen, but on the written page.

I'm inspired, because I have finally, finally had an epiphany about how to write my book. I finally know what to do with this story.

I hope, in writing it, I can do justice to the Fried Green Tomatos of Southern heritage. And I can only hope, that someday, it will be consumed with as much relish as they.

To make this fun, tell me about the most unusual or disgusting thing you've eaten.

45 Comments:

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger Blogversary said…

    I have had homemade fried green tomatoes once and really enjoyed them.

    Seriously, the most disgusting thing I have ever ate were the pizza burgers my grade school in Wisconsin used to serve. A round piece of meat with some boogery cheese substance in the middle.

     
  • At 5:55 PM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    I made my own worst thing I have ever eaten, much to my chagrin.

    It was Orange-Leek Soup. I got the recipe from a guy at Farmer's market and thought "Wow, that sounds so strange, like it couldn't possibly be good! Yet, here is someone handing out a recipe for it!"

    I made a huge vat. I took one taste, and it EXACTLY reproduced that flavor you get in the back of your throat when you are about to throw up.

    BILE! I made bile soup. I threw every single bit of the rest of it away. Moral of the story: trust your first instinct.

     
  • At 5:56 PM, Blogger Magi said…

    I lived in the South from 3-38. Those disgusting foods you mentioned? I concur completely and refuse/d to eat them. I have eaten some things people would consider gross. I love escargot, raw oysters, and enjoy eel on sushi. I've eaten alligator. It was okay. The weirdest thing was probably a rattle snake. It was on a camping trip.

     
  • At 5:56 PM, Anonymous pinks & Blues Girls said…

    Isn't it always the place that's on the verge of being shut down by the Health Dept. that has the tastiest food? Hmm...

    I'm not a very adventurous eater. I never thought I'd try sushi, but I was kind of bullied into it, so I've eaten raw fish. Something I never thought I'd eat, absolutely. But I love it!

    Jane, Pinks & Blues Girls

     
  • At 5:58 PM, Blogger Magi said…

    Oh, and you're right. Fried green tomatoes are awesome! I had them in one restaurant that used them as a base, then covered them with fried crawfish and a light cream sauce. It was delicious.

     
  • At 6:32 PM, Anonymous jennie said…

    The worst thing I ever ate was in Paris. I don't speak French, so I picked the meal that looked like it bore the closest resemblance to the word "veal" in Italian. I figured - it had to be veal, how bad could that be? Then, when my mom spotted our waiter delivering it to our table and screamed, I knew it would be much worse than I'd imagined. I'd ordered veal BRAIN. An entire brain, served to me on a plate, covered in some kind of cranberry sauce. I WAS HORRIFIED. I tried it, but could not get past what it was. My mom offered me some of her meal, but it was no consolation since she'd ordered pigeon. And I thinmk everyone knows that is a rat with wings.

     
  • At 6:59 PM, Blogger Alley Cat said…

    I can't top Jennie, but I can tell you that raw sea urchin can ruin your entire night.

     
  • At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Wendy said…

    There is a rhyme and reason to Southern cooking. Much of what you mentioned could be described as slave cooking. As they were not afforded the best of anything, they had to make do. They did what they had to to make the food go down a little easier. It takes great skill to make something that others would throw away into something one can eat.

     
  • At 8:39 PM, Blogger Student of Life said…

    This may not be unusual, and it's certainly not disgusting...BUT...

    I'm also a northern girl transplanted in the south. Until I served my sentence (so-to-speak) in the state of Mississippi, I had never heard of fried pickles.

    It sounded terribly disgusting, and it required quite a bit of coaxing for me to try, but I was hooked after the first bite.

    Note: only eat fried pickles at good, home-cookin' establishments in the south. I've tried them elsewhere and they suck monkey balls.

     
  • At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    When I moved to the south 26 years ago, I would have nothing to do with grits or black eyed peas, but now I love'em and would eat them every day. I stil don't see the point in okra - ever. But other than that and beets, I'm not a picky eater, I'll eat just about anything.

     
  • At 8:51 PM, Blogger Terri said…

    I've lived in the South all of my life and do not care for many traditional southern dishes such as collard greens. Yuck!

    I'm not a particularly adventurous eater, but I have had escargot, calamari, frog legs, and sushi none of which disgusted me, but none of which I'd rush out to eat again with the exception of sushi. The most disgusting thing I can think of eating is something rather ordinary. It's cottage cheese. I cannot in any way make it palatable. Whenever I try to eat it I am so revolted I gag. I think it is a combination of taste and texture. Whatever it is, I find it truly disgusting stuff.

     
  • At 9:55 PM, Blogger margalit said…

    I've only lived in the south for two of the longest, most depressing years of my life and in that time I never had one southern food because EVERYTHING was cooked with bacon, and that Kosher thing kinda put a damper on the bacon.

    But I am Jewish and we eat some pretty disgusting things. There's the infamous gefilte fish, which I make myself. It's honestly not horrible, in fact we all love it, but it does take some getting use to, especially since you boil the fish bone in, which makes the sauce gell like creepy aspic.

    And of course we love herring, especially in sour cream. YUM!

    But the topper on things that I've eaten that really make other people turn green is my mother's famous tongue in blackbery sauce. Oh, it's to die for. It really is good. But she made the tongue herself, meaning she would bring home this gigantic tongue, boil the living hell out of it, then peel off this gray thick tongue skin which...ugh. UGH. But underneath was this succulent meat that was just the most amazing squishy soft texture, and then she'd make this amazing sweet and sour sauce with blackberries.

    Sounds really disgusting, but man, it was good eating.

    I think I still have the recipe if anyone wants it. :-)

     
  • At 10:22 PM, Blogger nina said…

    Chicken Feet - you pop the knuckle and suck out the marrow. Tastes just like chicken... well of course it IS chicken so...

     
  • At 10:37 PM, Blogger Cathy said…

    There's a place here in Arkansas that makes them - yum!

    I was going to offer my own list, but was too overcome by the thought of crawdads (love 'em) and cornbread dressing (can eat three helpings, easily)...

    How do you feel about grits?

    Biscuits with sausage gravy?

    Or, going back to my Texas roots -- breakfast tacos with chorizo? (the best dish ever created)?

     
  • At 10:49 PM, Blogger Amy York said…

    I love fried green tomatoes! I liked the movie too... have you seen it? When we lived in Georgia, we partook in boiled peanuts. I'm not sure what possessed the person who invented them to do that with a peanut but it was by far the nastiest thing I've ever had the displeasure of eating!! Other than the normal ~ hobo toe cheese and calamari, my culinary experience is minimal. Can't wait to hear more about your book though!
    Oh and thanks for stopping by my blog. :) you are one of my favorites and I was honored!

     
  • At 11:35 PM, Anonymous mischief said…

    West Coast kid here. I've never eaten most of the things mentioned here. I'm kind of squeamish and texture-phobic that way.

    But I hate black-eyed peas. Even cooked with bacon - it's simply destroying the bacon!

    And once, while camping/hiking with the girl scouts, I had this ........stuff. Dehydrated ham salad. We had to mix it with stream water and everyone was complaining about it. So I defiantly gulped down a big mouthful and proceeded to throw up everything I'd eaten that day. Never again.

    So.........what's the epiphany? Enquring minds want to know. haha

     
  • At 2:15 AM, Blogger JaniceNW said…

    Lutefisk~fish and lye and only Norwegians know what else. ICK! Tons of Nomrwegians in Seattle. Honestly one of things I hate the most was the roast beef my mom used to cook every sunday night. It mooed at me from the plate. It was purple in the middle. BLARG!

     
  • At 3:45 AM, Anonymous DSW said…

    I can't say that I have eaten a lot of the foods you have mentioned. But I can share a few experiences from living in the UK:

    Deep Fried Mars Bars are sold at some fish and chip shops in the UK. I saw them for years and finally decided to try one- I am sorry I did. It was horrible. Disgusting. Maybe if I liked Mars bars to begin with it would have been OK.

    Mushy peas, on the other hand, served with fish and chips in Norther England can be quite yummy.

    I had to eat Spotted Dick at my first chance in the UK, because it sounded so naughty. It tasted OK, though I would prefer to spend my calories on Trifle, or Sticky Toffee Pudding.

     
  • At 7:47 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    Ummmmmm, thanks. I have now sworn off eating anything.

     
  • At 8:36 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    I love the grits!

     
  • At 9:29 AM, Blogger thailandchani said…

    The strangest thing I've ever eaten... well.... I've put things in my mouth that I would have sworn were inedible when I was in Thailand. Roasted lizard is probably way at the top of the list.

    And, no, it didn't taste like chicken. :)


    Peace,

    ~Chani
    http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

     
  • At 9:40 AM, Blogger jchevais said…

    Two gross things, both in Paris:

    Rognons: Kidneys. Didn't know what they were when I ordered but the texture made me want to gag.

    Tripes: Intestines. Argh. I don't want to talk about the veiny look of them...

    Jennie's veal brains experience made me laugh. Impossible to top! I would like to reassure her now. I just asked a French colleague and rest assured, you can no longer eat calf brains in France. Something about mad cow, or foot in mouth, or some disease involving sheep but veal brains are off all the Parisian menus from now til eternity!

    And hopefully, come Feb 2008, no more smokers in restaurants! Hooray!

     
  • At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Chicken feet soup with unformed chicken eggs. This is just the yolk before the white and shell are formed...

     
  • At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Jann said…

    My mother used to experiment a lot when I was a kid. Once she made peanut butter potatoes...baked potatoes, emptied the skins, whipped the innards with peanut butter, scooped them back into the shells, and served them up. Absolutely the most disgusting taste combination I have ever come across, and it didn't look so appetizing either!

    Recently I made a recipe that sounded wonderful. It included all things I like. Crusty bread, jalapenos, mayo, yogurt, cilantro, pepper jack cheese, green salsa, green tomatoes...ground turkey. I could not eat it. I might have done something wrong, but I felt like I followed directions. The ground turkey was like mush, and I will not be eating it again for many years. The very thought repulses me now.

     
  • At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    I too like Braunschweiger, only on crackers. I was awed once to see someone eat a slab of it on a sandwich. It's not the healthiest anyway, but to eat that much of it?

    I'll have to try some fried green tomatoes. I just can't get them around here (St. Louis), but I can get fried dill pickles. Those are heavenly.

    Probably the most daring thing I've eaten is pan seared ahi tuna. It was raw in the middle, and it was divine. Though that doesn't make me any more adventurous than a regular at a sushi bar.

    My ex-boyfriend once had me try Rocky Mountain Oysters without telling me what they were. Until after I ate them. Then he said it's cow's balls. Oh yummy. I nearly gagged. They were fatty, greasy, and I didn't like them before he told me what they really were.

     
  • At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    Oh, and feta cheese smells like feet and makes me gag, too.

     
  • At 10:59 AM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    I'm kinda repulsed just reading these comments, quite frankly. ;)

    But so, so happy that you've found the way into your book!

     
  • At 11:48 AM, Blogger flutter said…

    I have the best fried green tomato recipe EVER, I might have to blog on it. You will need to eat them with cornbread, however.

    I ate a brain taco once....that was pretty fucking foul.

     
  • At 11:54 AM, Blogger Miguelina. said…

    Your book! Congrats.

    I told you, a loong time ago, that you would find your way to becoming published. I knew it!

    (I don't want to jinx it, so I'll shut up now.)

    (I also ate escargot as a young francophile. Meh.)

     
  • At 11:55 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    While in Australia, I tried both emu and kangaroo meat. Tastes like chicken.

    When I lived in Charleston, SC, boiled peanuts were sooo popular. You described them perfectly, BA. Gag.

     
  • At 12:47 PM, Blogger painted maypole said…

    so glad you have had an epiphany about your book! Exciting.

    I like Crawfish, but I admit that I have only sucked out that strangely yellow fat once, to say that I did it. Otherwise, I just pull the meat out and eat it. It's good, but as my husband says, a lot of work for not a lot of payoff. I usually buy them peeled and make etouffe or crawfish monica instead.

     
  • At 1:00 PM, Blogger Veronica Mitchell said…

    Haggis.

    I love how you describe fried green tomatoes, even though I've had them, and just thought, "Meh."

    But cornbread dressing is delicious.

     
  • At 2:17 PM, Anonymous mel from freak parade said…

    I am apparently a culinary weenie. I haven't eaten any of the things you mentioned....or things mentioned in the comments. I have always been a really picky eater, I guess. Brains of any kind....ewwwww.

     
  • At 2:26 PM, Blogger LizardBreath said…

    Oh great, now I really wanna taste green fried tomatoes! Hmm, wonder if they're any good in TX?

     
  • At 2:56 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    I don't think I have had much disgusting or strange food although some people would think soy "meat" is pretty adventurous and disgusting. I simply think of it as food. I'll have to disagree on the Collard greens though, they can be simply divine. However, I make them vegetarian and have no idea how the "traditional" ones taste. Most people say mine are some of the best they have ever had.

     
  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger Mimi aka pz5wjj said…

    I'm not a picky eater and will try most (but not all) things...

    I've had Kangaroo (very yummy) on several occasions, Emu (tough), croc (tasts like chicken), Haggis (not as bad as it sounds). I love pickled herring and escargot.

    But I will not eat frogs legs! Can't do it to Kermit! And while I live down south, I'm not too keen on southern cuisine -- okra, grits, the whole "Cracker Barrel" thing...

     
  • At 4:06 PM, Blogger Jenn said…

    Cafeteria fish sticks.

    Hands freaking down.

    Do you know what is in those things?

     
  • At 5:23 PM, Blogger sheilah said…

    EWWW...some really nasty-sounding stuff. My father grew up on a farm in MN and used to talk about blood sausage. Never saw it. Never tried it. Just EWWWW.

    The most unusual things I have eaten were when I took an oceanography class in college. We had a field trip where we went out on Puget Sound for the day and brought up a netful of 'stuff.' One of the hands on the boat fried up some sea cucumber (not a cucumber at all). Actually not that bad though kind of tough.

    For our final we had a large seafood feast. One of the things we tried was geoduck (pronounced 'gooey-duck')...not a duck and not gooey (it is a large clam-like looking thing). Very firm flesh and kind of sweet-ish taste...not like clam at all.

     
  • At 5:27 PM, Blogger liv said…

    Oh, fried, green tomatoes.....how I love them!

    Hmm? Gross? Different? I ate frog legs that were fried when I was about 12. I got teased by my Dad that I was eating Kermit. They really did taste like chicken!

     
  • At 6:13 PM, Blogger wyo said…

    Woodchucks were always burrowing under the barn door on the farm where I grew up, and when they did, Dad would shoot them. One particularly prolific summer, Mom became disgusted at the "waste" and decided to cook one up; I think she simmered it in the crock pot or cooked it like a roast. Either way, I do recall that it was dark, greasy, stringy, and rather strong in flavor ... like venison that had been left out in the sun for a few days before processing. Way worse than cow tongue, which was also not a big hit with my sister and me.

    Although my parents had long since lapsed from their respective childhood religions, they felt compelled to check the Bible to see if woodchuck was designated "unclean." I can't remember if it was, but if it wasn't, it really should have been ...

     
  • At 7:41 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    I've ALWAYS wanted to try fried green tomatoes. I had some green tomatoes that I didn't feel like ripening in a bag and I contemplated frying them myself, but then thought better of it. After reading this I'm glad I did.

    Strangest food? Wild boar in Italy (loved it!), rabbit, deer (liked the rabbit, hated the deer). Some funky spreads on crostini in Italy, most made with innards from a chicken or duck.

    My husband is a more adventurous eater than I. He once ate gefilte fish on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair. We still joke about the Gefilte Shtick.

     
  • At 11:48 PM, Blogger jen said…

    i loved this. i ate rattlesnake once but it tasted like chicken.

     
  • At 9:33 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    OK, first, I am thrilled that you've had your epiphany!! Wonderful news.

    Second, I have always wanted to try fried green tomatoes. They sound really delicious.

    Finally, I am not sure what is the most disgusting thing I've eaten---I've had crawfish and oysters, liverwurst (which I love). . .Oh, now it comes to me! I was at a Portuguese Festival and I tried their fava beans. Oh my God, I could barely choke that sucker down my throat (and I normally love beans!). Gag.

     
  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger Ldani said…

    I grew up in TN, went to college in Atlanta, and now live in CA. Some of the foods you mention are the foods I miss most. I am so ready to come home (somewhere east of the Mississippi and south of Kentucky) just so I can have something good to eat again.

     
  • At 2:26 AM, Blogger steffj89 said…

    The worst ever was pigeon soup at the finest hotel in Moscow. It came out with the pigeon in it feathers and all. I was 17 at the time on a tour of The Soviet Union with 23 other high school students from Oklahoma. But I also had one of the best foods ever over there, we got it from a street vendor and it was some kind of meat fried on a stick. I havent ever found anything similar or a recipe to try to duplicate it.
    Steff

     

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