By Sherman Shifflett
Not long before Mom passed away in 2003, I asked for some of her recipes. She replied, “I don’t have no recipes. I just throw stuff together”. Then it dawned on me that I had never seen her measure anything, but I remember some of the things she did.
Mom put a pinch of sugar in everything she cooked: A pinch of sugar in boiled potatoes; a pinch of sugar in boiled cabbage (maybe several pinches), etc. I never asked why.
Many cooks use biscuit cutters. I never saw her use one. I’m not even sure she had one. Mom used a jar ring or the top of a drinking glass to cut biscuits. She did have a rolling pin when she rolled out the dough for biscuits.
When we had family gatherings, I could tell what potato salad dish was hers. She always used homemade sweet pickles, red potatoes cut in large sections (with peels), and she always put tomato wedges in her potato salad. I’ve never seen anyone else do that. For whatever reason, she always used the same brand of mayo – Duke’s. Mom also put pineapple in her coleslaw.
Not long ago, I had mashed potatoes for dinner and had some left over. I remembered that Mom often took leftover mashed potatoes and made “potato cakes” for breakfast. We loved those. I never actually watched her fry them, but I decided to give it a try. Mine tasted good, but fell apart. I rolled the patties in flour, but I think maybe Mom may have also stirred in an egg.
Sometimes Mom would add a few kernels of corn to cornbread. And, sometimes she would sprinkle paprika on the cornbread before she stuck it in the oven.
During the spring she would prepare what we called “wilted lettuce”. She would take loose, leaf lettuce and dice up spring onions, including the tops, slice a few radishes, mix and stir-fry it all in bacon grease and bacon bits. Probably wasn’t good for us, but we fought over it.
One time the cornbread stuck to the bottom of the cast-iron skillet (no Pam in those days). Mom took a damp cloth and held to the bottom of the pan. It worked. Mom would not make cornbread without buttermilk. Seems she made buttermilk herself by adding some vinegar to milk. (I think). Sometimes she fried cornbread on the top of the stove, “fritters” we called them
We used to dry fruits and vegetables on our hot tin roof. We placed the items between two screens. We’d come home from school and grab a piece of dried peach/apple. Really good. We also dried green beans. They were called “leather britches” and they were awful.
We once had a small peach tree that Dad called “Indian Peach”. The peaches were small (golf-ball size) and the peaches had dark, red skins, with red flesh. Not very good for eating out of hand, but mom picked those and they were delicious.
Where we lived the soil was red clay and not conducive to raising watermelons; when we bought watermelons, mom made “watermelon rind preserves” and they weren’t bad.
We also ate lots of pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread, and to this day, I love that combination.