Friday, October 04, 2013

Suppertime - Remembering Daddy

I've been working on a project and you have seen parts of it with these posts. I've also been recording friends as we talk about Suppertime - family time around the table, recipes and remembering how life used to be for all of us.

After I finished a gig today I stopped by the nursing home where my Mom lives these days. On the way there I bought her a couple broasted chicken legs, broasted tater wedges and a roll. Though the food at the nursing home is healthy, it is pretty bland and they never have anything like the lunch I took her today.

We talked about a lot of things as she ate; my Daddy, food, what he liked and didn't like.  Daddy wanted meat and potatoes at every meal. According to Mom, "Most men from down in the mountains were like that. They wanted their meat an' taters."  I laughed and remembered that even when she fixed breakfast Daddy wanted bacon, sausage or even steak with his breakfast. Fried potatoes and gravy along with biscuits were a given.

"Your Dad didn't like macaroni and tomatoes. It was more of a main dish than a side dish. He didn't mind it, but it wasn't meat and taters.  I made it every now and then, but I had meat with it. Maybe a pork chop or chicken."

She really was enjoying the broasted chicken and tater wedges. After one chicken leg and one big tater wedge she decided she was full and put the rest aside for the aides to store in the kitchen till supper.

She reminded me that Daddy wasn't like a lot of folks. He didn't talk much as he ate. He was a serious eater.  Head down and fork in hand, Daddy went after food in a serious way.  Daddy wasn't ever much of a talker. 

Last time I ate with my Daddy was in mid March of 2004, just two months before we lost him.  I know it was just a day or two before my birthday which is March 16.

Mom had sinus surgery and started hemorrhaging after they arrived home.  After spending the day at the emergency room we were told she would be staying overnight.

I took Daddy home and on the way we stopped at Captain D's to get two country style catfish dinners. Daddy had sat by Mom all day and only left her side for bathroom breaks. I took him a sandwich around noon that day, but that had been seven hours before.  When we sat at their table he attacked that country style catfish dinner, eating his hush-puppies and mine. I said grace, of course. We did have time for that before we ate.

As we ate I said, "Boy, this catfish is sure good."

Daddy's only words as we ate, "Yeah man".  He ate every single bite of that dinner, catfish, fries, Cole slaw and hush-puppies all devoured quickly. He never talked when he ate. "Yeah man" was a lot for him to say.

I stayed the night with Daddy that night and took him to get Mom the next afternoon. We had Corn Flakes the next morning. Corn Flakes were Daddy's meal of choice most of the time when he worked 2nd shift. They had to be Kellogg's Corn Flakes with no sugar.

Daddy got sick quickly after that night I stayed with him. He was diagnosed with cancer on April 4th, 1984. He lost his battle 41 days later on May 15th, 2004. I had no idea he was sick when we sat at that table and ate. When I got into bed that night in their spare room, turned off the light and told him good night... well, I wish I had known I would lose him so quickly.

I've often thought God gave me that one last "Suppertime" with my Daddy. I was blessed to sit at his table one last time, hold his hand and say grace, thanking God for His blessings.

I suspect that each of us, if we could go back one more time and sit at the table with family and friends, would jump at the opportunity to share just one more suppertime.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Suppertime! Cracklins, Lard Renderin' an Cracklin Bread

Let me just start out that cracklins are not the same thing as pork rinds city folk an' Yankees buy at the Quick Mart. Pork rinds start as little ol' pieces of pork skin that are quickly fried in hot oil to allow them to expand as they fry. They do not contain pieces of meat or fat as cracklins do. NOT the same!

Cracklins are a wonderful byproduct of renderin' lard. Folks don't just up an' make cracklins. When you butcher a hog you cut off the fat an' render it out to make lard.  
renderin' lard
As the hog is butchered, each piece of meat is cut appropriately. Hams might be rolled in a mix o' salt an' sugar an' laid on a board to be covered with the mixture to make country hams. Bacon meat from the belly area, the hams, the jowls, the hocks might be hung in a smokehouse an' hickory wood started below to smoke for days to preserve.

Small pieces of meat are cut as the process continues an' set aside for sausage. Spices will be added an' the sausage may also be hung in the smokehouse.

As the lard renderin' process starts, a lard pot is heated up over a fire an' the pieces of hog fat are thrown into the pot. There are three kinds o' fat on a hog; Leaf lard is inside the loins of the hog an' is often processed first an' separate. It is used for bakin' an' tastes the best. Fatback is from between the skin an' muscle and caul fat is inside the belly an' around some of the organs. The fat is liquified as the pieces of fat in the pot heat up. This is stirred constantly with a long wood stir.  Sometimes folks used the same stir that they use for apple butter.
apple butter stir

As the fat was cut, pieces of skin an' meat was left on the fat. This also cooks as the lard is rendered an' becomes a treat called cracklins for them folks that take the time to constantly stir the lard. Y'all don't want the lard to scorch, do you?

The cracklins are dipped out as they begin to float. Most folks put them in a bowl or on some newspaper to cool an' drain.  Seasoned with salt an' grabbed up by the handfuls, they quick like
cracklins ready to eat
disappear. Cracklins are best when fresh out of the pot with a bit o' salt an' pepper thrown on them.

Cracklin Bread
Another treat to make with cracklins is cracklin bread!  Not just cornbread, but a rich an' wonderful treat durin' hog killin' time.
It is a simple recipe so I won't repeat the basic cornbread recipe.

cracklin bread in skillet
Heat up your cast iron skillet in the oven at 400 degrees as with regular cornbread
Mix up the cornbread recipe
Add 1 cup of fresh cracklins - chopped into small pieces.
Add a little extra buttermilk if batter is too thick
Pour into hot skillet an' bake 35 to 40 minutes

Serve with Soup Beans, onions an maybe some greens!