A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Crowder Peas and A Poorly Composed Meal

We bought crowder peas at the farmer's market. I'd never even heard of them, as interested as I am in Southern vegetables, but Lawson told me his grandma used to grow them. They looked strange and beautiful:

They took me over an hour and a half to shell. And as there will be no more new Harry Potter books to read while I'm shelling crowder peas, I may never shell another crowder pea again. As you would expect, the drier purple pods had harder bean-like peas that fell right out, but the greener pods were spongy and delicate and so, so hard to pull apart to get at the pea inside. It was super-tedious.

Just last weekend I bought this book. I had high hopes: I've been reading reviews of it, and a quick glance showed me recipes for fig preserves and other such Southern foods. But the recipes aren't really Southern in cooking method -- they're more like things I would make out of Southern ingredients if I was feeling really fussy. I really want a solid Carolinian cookbook with Southern cooking methods. Sometimes I'm not a big fan of those methods, but I know there are traditional subtleties beyond just adding a ham hock to everything, as so many cooks do, and I want to know what they are.

Anyway, I used the Lee Brothers' crowder pea recipe, which involves a short boiling and a very basic vinagrette. This disappointed Lawson, who thought I should have tried the real Southern way after spending all that time shelling peas. The real way, you'll be unsurprised to learn, involves a ham hock.

The crowder peas in vinaigrette formed the base of this ill-composed meal :

Everything tasted fine, but nothing fitted; there were too many foods on the plate, cooked too much the same way. The pork chops were marinated in rosemary, sage, vermouth, wine vinegar, and olive oil and then grilled -- my favorite method and one of the first recipes I invented (though in this case the grill died and I finished them in a pan). But then the okra was broiled, as were the figs. The jalapenos were broiled, too, and it did nothing but make them unbearably spicy. Too many foods, too much heat, too many grill marks, too many hot juices running out of things. There were no contrasts. Sometimes meals that fall together out of Lawson's and my brains work out just fine, and sometimes they do not.

My mom is on a trip, in case you're wondering why she's not posting. She, my dad, my brother, and my brother's girlfriend will be here in South Carolina in a few days. There may be a lull in posting, but maybe we'll all throw together a post or two. Because my parents are traveling in a car, without their camper, they will be desperate for homemade food by the time they reach us.

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