Thursday, April 30, 2009

Staples of Southern Food: Pyrex dishes and third helpings

Through the years, I've learned a few things about my people. First of all, I call them my people. Not everyone does that.

My people taught me a lot. Some taught me through example and others taught me through direct instruction. (Thank you, Mama and Granny.)

Most of what they taught me involves food. No big surprise there.

Here are a few things I have learned.

1. A rule in our family is that no one can ever leave hungry.

They don't necessarily have to arrive hungry. This means that anyone who arrives on the property and sits down for more than 15 minutes must be offered a drink, then some food. If they come for a meal it is mandatory to prepare at least twice as much than can be consumed.

2. This should have been number one. A Southern woman's number one fear is to run out of food. Some people could blame this on The War or The Depression. Who really knows.

I can tell you this, the only thing worse thing than running out of food is not looking natural at your funeral. This makes sense because most Southern women would rather die than suffer from the humiliation of company not having a third helping of broccoli casserole.

3. Southern women are not allowed to sit down while people are visiting. Once the meal is on the table, it is proper to sit long enough to share in the blessing, but the Southern woman must be in a seat close to the kitchen. In every Southern woman's chair is a hidden spring that makes her hop up and down and fetch tea and more rolls for everyone.

And butter, of course.

4. Southern women love to make things in Pyrex dishes. We give them as wedding gifts in sets of various sizes. After many years of keeping (no kidding) about 8 Pyrex dishes, I decided I didn't need them all. Even if a person has two ovens, there is a limit to the number of casseroles I can bake all at once.

I kept a few of them and donated the rest. Somewhere in a Goodwill store there is a Southern woman blowing the dust off a 9 x 11 and saying to herself, "Jackpot!"

5. All Southern women have at least 2 recipes for broccoli casserole. Some of us prefer Cheese Whiz and others prefer shredded cheddar. You can see us at the church potluck sitting on opposite sides of the fellowship hall.

6. We also like to make a 7 layer salad. Salad is a misleading name because layered salad includes mayonnaise, bacon and sugar. If we could put butter on it and keep the iceberg lettuce from wilting we would.

7. You could make the layered salad in a 9 x 11 or in a nice trifle bowl, another common wedding gift for the Southern bride.

And that, my friend, is just a taste of the many food rules of my people.

In case you're wondering, I prefer shredded cheddar. Medium, not mild or too sharp, and freshly grated.

(Edited to add: I don't have two ovens. If I did, I would have kept all of my Pyrex dishes.)


pcb said...

Love it.

Number 3: I never saw my husband's grandmother, wife of a farmer, sit at the dinner table. She had a folding stool (one of those old kitchen ones) in the corner of the breakfast room (table could seat a dozen) so she could jump up and get whatever was needed.

Number 5: my mother-in-law has two broccoli casserole recipes and the family is divided! She insists one goes with beef and the other with ham. For the record, I like the one with shredded cheddar.

Number 6: Who doesn't love the mayo (combined with a tad of sugar and vinegar) slathered seven layer salad? Who came up with so many high calorie items in a combination and had the nerve to call it salad?

This post has so much truth in it!

Roxanne said...

My people prefer the Cheez Whiz. My mother is here. She said that there was a story about a little girl who was supposed to take something to school as a symbol of her religion.

She took a casserole dish.

pcb--you REALLY cracked Momma and me up with #5.

Susanne said...

LOL. So fun to have a look into the life of your people! And I think I'd fit in very well with them. ;v)

His Doorkeeper said...

Don't forget the green bean with mushroom soup topped with onion rings casserole! A must for every Southern special dinner!