I have always loved food and it has loved me. I love even writing about it.
Allow me, please, to start with a fact that most people know: Since the dawning of mankind there has been food. Items or dangerous creatures (dinosaurs) that fed our fore, fore, fore, forefathers. I cannot prove it, but I can speculate that as big as I am, my forefather, four times removed, loved food. He allegedly ate meat, vegetables, and would have caught fish if he had a teacher to instruct him. But plants and dinosaurs were enough. And there has always been another fact about cavemen and cavewomen. In any of the paintings did I ever spot one caveman or woman who was dangerously-overweight. Nope.
Their exercise regiment was easy. When you run for your life most every day, you will be in shape because it's your life of the dino's. I know. I don't want to disregard dino's because they did have intelligence enough to hunt food when they were hungry. All in all, about all that cave person's had to worry about, (no. Strike that. The cave persons didn't know what 'worry,' was) was not starving, staying warm which was most of the time, and staying free from the man-eating dinosaurs. I will go into talking about when the cave-husbands made terrible mistakes as we husbands are wired to do, because even then, cavemen were getting chewed like spearmint gum on a Saturday night from their cave-wives. This explains why cave-husbands went on "Meat Hunts" along with other cave husbands for months because they feared their cave-wives.
Enough of that. I thought that I'd never get to the end about cave-husbands and wives.
Now I take you to the main floor of this project: "Rural Foods That Helped Early Southerners to Live." And I am not about to bash the south or its peoples now, before, or in the future. Mainly because I am a southern guy who loves black coffee, SEC Football, hot wings, and great helpings of the foods that you see in these photos.
Corn bread is not only spoken like it's said, but how it was and is made. I have never been given (the gift of cooking, so I will not mess-up any of these delicious food items or any foods in general. My dad, rest his soul, was a natural cook. He would take a pinch of salt, a glass and a half of buttermilk, and enough corn meal to make a solid "pone" or cake.
The meal is made from yellow or white corn, mostly white. Then the men in the early southern days would take their corn to the local water (or grist) mill and the owner, or "miller," would grind the corn-customer to their specifications because the "miller" always had grooves cut into his two large millstones that a big rubber belt and a pulley system turned the wheels and ground the corn. The corn was packaged, but not before the "miller" checked the meal for its density and collected his money.
Quite frankly, the guys who carried their corn to the mill would hang-around before, during, and after their corn was ground and spend hours talking about current news about families--who was sick or having births, birthdays, and anniversaries. There was hardly any person in these early settlements who were not out of the loop.
The cornbread was cooked in about twenty-minutes and devoured (like myself) with the vegetables seen in these photos. Of course there was a lot more vegetables and bread such as biscuits, hand-pies and along with these families never being without the news of the day or month, they never did without food that was grown and preserved for winter days. Of course the ladies canned the vegetables and the apples, peaches, to make delicious food ideas when it was too cold for any of their family members to get outside to work.
Pepper or as most southerners will say, green garden pepper, because for an American-based vegetable, it is always-known by its hot flavor, but oh, so satisfying when eaten with of these foods: corn bread, black-eye'd peas, creamed yellow sweet corn, as well as the delicious white onions if your appetite is asking for these two to be eaten.
The amazing thing about garden pepper is that when eaten with string beans, butter beans, fried or boiled red potatoes, stewed or fried okra, the pepper only enhances the overall taste. And what southerner would dare turn any of these foods down? None.
Another great idea given by our forefathers who helped settle the early south was the canning of various vegetables and yes, pepper, that will stay fresh and great to eat in the longest winter. Personally, I love the pepper sauce when boiled in hot water then placed in a jar with white vinegar. I've also seen those small tomatoes put in with the pepper sauce, because no matter if one likes the peppers or the sauce, it's all good. Oh yes, the picked tomatoes are delicious.
Does anyone like sweet yellow corn? Sure, a lot of people love to eat sweet yellow corn especially in the summer time when the grills are broken-out into our backyards and when the steaks hit the grill, it's a great food treat. People can lay the ears of corn onto the grill and it is delicious in this fashion as well. Then there is the all-time favorite: boiled sweet corn can be enjoyed by boiling the ears of corn and eat them with a pat of margarine on the corn and get ready to enjoy your taste buds. The tradition of cutting the corn and cooking it in a skillet with a margarine pat on top was derived from the older southerners who loved to eat food that did not take too long to prepare, because they had to work in every available bit of daylight that they had.
White onions are not tricky. You need to wash them and cut them and eat them with peas, green beans, butter beans, corn bread, okra and every food that came from the south or other places. A favorite of mine doesn't have anything to do with corn bread, but biscuits. I loved to eat the biscuits cold and with a slice of onion inside or a long version of the onion on my plate.
Blackeye peas is another southern food favorite. And with little preparation, they can be served for the dinner or supper table. (*in the south, dinner is at late evening and supper is around 11 p.m.). Sure, they carry their own tradition of cooking them on New Year's Day because it is said that the person cooking them will expeience happiness and not see any hunger in the ensuing year. I would throw collard greens into that age-old tradition that says a person who cooks these delicious veggies will have money all of the year long.
All of this work has somehow made me a bit hungry. Who's with me?
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© 2021 Kenneth Avery
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 31, 2021:
Every food you described sounds delicious, Kenneth. I love Southern cooking. Black eyed peas are delicious, and corn bread too. This is m article that made mouth water!
BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on August 30, 2021:
You've succeeded in making me a bit hungry.
I did just enjoy corn on the cob this evening. There is nothing better...unless you think about cornbread.
Probkem is I only have cornbread with beans-n-ham.
Why? I love it.
Vegetables fresh grown are terrific. Nothing better than onions, green peppers, tomatoes & steak strips thinly cut.