Peanut Butter and Preservation

One of the desserts that kept cropping up in the cookbooks Kinsey and I looked through was peanut butter cookies. For some reason, this surprised me. I don’t immediately think of the South when I think of peanut butter cookies, or anything to do with peanuts for that matter. It does make sense, given that peanuts were one of the crops promoted to present an alternative to cotton. But sense and association apparently do not always mix.

On a completely different note, preserving food is one of the pillars of southern cooking. You’re probably tired of hearing me talk about it, but it is the truth. I have to wonder whether it is this tradition of preserving food that has led to the South’s ability to preserve so much through food-tradition, culture, and family.

Tennessee Tomatoes

I think it’s fascinating that even though we can now eat many foods out of season, we still associate certain foods with their original seasons. Certain foods just “taste like”. Cinnamon and apples are distinctly fall, winter is most definitely a bowl of good chili, and tomatoes, tomatoes taste like summer. Not canned tomatoes, not cooked tomatoes, fresh-ripe-straight-off-the-vine-and-sliced tomatoes. Big, red, juicy, warm, and delicious. It’s like biting into the sun. No matter how much food I eat, no matter what other delicious things remind me of summer, there will never be anything quite like the tomatoes from my halmoni’s garden.

~Dakota White

All Around the World: Turnips

While reading through Foodways, I discovered that turnips were one of the main Southern vegetables. What tickled me about this is that while I grew up partially in the South (bounced between Baltimore, MD and Chattanooga, TN) and I ate turnips, I never thought of turnips as Southern.

Here’s why: my father’s mom, my grandmother, my halmoni, is Korean. When my grandfather, my hal-abeoji, was stationed near the DMZ in South Korea in the early 1960s as a classified courier, he met my halmoni and brought her back. My halmoni learned everything she knows about American culture from soap-operas and everything she knows about American cooking from my hal-abeoji’s mother who was a true Southern woman. I grew up on a fantastic blend of kimchi, rice and seaweed, buttermilk biscuits, and fried fish. So, when my halmoni cooked turnips, she made kimchi out of them. For those unfamiliar with the dish, kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made out of various pickled vegetables. The vegetables of choice are stuffed in jars with fish, garlic, vinegar, and more red pepper than anyone ever needs and then let to ferment. It’s glorious, and it means that turnips were always a Korean dish for me rather than a Southern one. Although, I do associate my halmoni’s cooking with Chattanooga, TN, so maybe it’s a little bit of both.

~Dakota White