Published on October 19, 2021
Country folks know how to conserve
By Shirley Prihoda
Growing up on a sharecropper’s farm offered me a different perspective on this living, breathing world that was bequeathed to us as a sacred trust. The earth and the fullness are a gift from the Creator to His creation. It was a “One Owner” to another conveyance.
It seemed like an easy “quick claim” deal. No lawyers, notaries, or property tax assessments entities were needed to record the transaction. The instructions upon transfer were simple: Enjoy the beauty and majesty, take care of it and treat others who share it with you as you would like to be treated. How hard could that be?
Nothing was ever wasted on the farm. As with anything worth knowing, this was a learned process. At three years old, frankly, I didn’t see the value of gathering cow patties for fertilizer. Now at 73, I’m paying $10 a bag for them. It was a learned process. My mother was a firm believer that no matter the state of any broken item, it could be useful for something. And it usually was. Young people, anyone 50 and under, think they invented recycling. Country people know they just came late to the party.
Nothing was more indicative of this than the purchase of a 12-pack of Mason canning jars. These jars held a favored place on the farm, and their life changed with the seasons. They may hold speckled butter beans one spring and canned tomatoes the next. They were washed and stored with the utmost care at the end of each season. As more kids came, so did the addition of another 12 pack, and the kids and jars grew up together. When Maw and Paw passed on, so did the jars - to waiting family members.
Country people are inventive, mainly because they had to be. The day’s work began while it was still dark. Animals had to be fed, the cow milked, and all this in semi-darkness. The milk, still warm from the cow, softened the strong-perked coffee and the kids’ oatmeal. Any leftover milk was covered with a tea towel, which was a remnant of a flour sack and bore little resemblance to anything English.
The milk was left on the kitchen counter overnight to “bloom” until the next morning. I’ve often wondered who the brave soul was who decided there had to be something useful for that spoiled milk? It was probably a mama. My mama called it “clabbered” milk, and it smelled as bad as it sounds. It may have reeked of the outhouse, but it awakened each day and bloomed in biscuits and cornbread.
The reasoning by some that country people are “less” than those who chose the academic route has always eluded me. There may be country people out there who look at academic people with disdain, but I haven’t ever met any. Technology, manufacturing and the sciences are held in high regard by people who tend the land.
Why it’s not reciprocal is an enigma. Perhaps this enlightened culture will change when the only thing left to eat is their computer.
You can’t get any more country than fried green tomatoes, unless it happens to be fried okra! Basically, country people will eat almost anything if it’s battered and deep-fried. If the tomato vines have quit, but the zucchini and yellow squash are still producing, just use them!
Fried Green Tomatoes
3 Green Tomatoes
Slice the tomatoes 1/4- to 1/2- inch thick. Set on paper towels and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Let rest for 5 minutes. Beat together the milk and egg in a small bowl; set aside. Set aside 1/3 cup of the plain flour. Whisk together the remaining flour, cornmeal, cracker crumbs and Cajun seasoning. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
Dip tomato slices in the plain flour, shake off, then pass through milk, letting excess drip away before finally dredging in the flour mixture, coating both sides and edges. Place immediately into the hot fat, frying for about 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown, turning only once.
Cook in batches and don’t crowd the pan. Overcrowding will cool down the oil and make for greasy fried green tomatoes, so give them plenty of room! Remove to a wire rack over paper towels to drain.
(To contact Shirley, please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)