Memories and Musings

Southern Trios…And Quartets


I was reading from a collection of Eudora Welty’s eternally beautiful, ballad-like short stories after coffee and the normal morning chores. I got hungry. The fridge held a small cargo of odds and ends as it so often does from the recipe testing we do before I go to work.

I saw a bowl that was marked “Fat from Grillots” and I was on my way. Grillots are a stew found throughout Southern cooking…even ‘far Southern’ as in the Caribbean Islands. Grillots have a rich history in New Orleans too. The leftover animal fat of things like that can be saved (like bacon drippings) and…used sparingly…give a deeply atavistic reassurance to the things I like to make and eat. They connect us to a more agricultural time that I don’t wish to live without.

I wanted to use up the shrimp I had made a light cream and chicken stock based dish with yesterday that also featured sweet corn from a produce stand we love down in Homestead. Each corn season I buy a bushel worth, cut the corn off the cob and freeze the season’s best so I can count it for months far past it’s harvest here. The sweetness of that corn was exactly the right answer to the smoky fat and lighted the path of whatever I was making. We had picked the shrimp up on the way back from Key West on Monday. Yesterday we served it along with homemade French fries that Janet does perfectly.

The smell of the fat cooking around the roasted garlic, serrano chile, diced onion and bell pepper filled the room. There was a small bag of the leftover blanched ‘fries’ that had not been cooked for the second time in oil. I chopped them up and they became the potatoes of the soup that was developing.

I began to hear the music playing from my play list. Kentucky born Jesse Winchester’s melodic version of “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” reached me where I was stirring and I could imagine Ms. Welty tapping a leather shoe from her rocker in Jackson, Mississippi. The room was getting livelier. But it was just the two of anyone could actually see.

I tasted my soup and it was a bit over amped on the chilies end. That is hard to do for my tastes. I got down another pan and placed it on the stove. The 4 carrots left from the half used bag answered my problem. Now we’d have the sweetness of corn and carrots. I cooked them with a bit of kosher salt and cumin. Cumin and carrots are a favorite of mine. They embrace and circle like old lovers.

John Mellencamp’s song “Big Daddy” came on and Tennessee Williams joined the waltz in his own D-I-X-I-Even Love You way.

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