We all grow up with misconceptions that are sometimes shattered as we grow. I can remember a humorous story of a first grade child being absolutely shocked when they ran into their teacher in the grocery store and saw her chewing gum. In the child’s mind, teachers weren’t allowed to be chewing gum, or smoking or having a life outside the classroom. Similarly, as kids we expect that certain foods should always fall within specific parameters of tastes and textures. Apples can be crunchy and sweet or cooked into a mush and are sometimes tart but it would be a real shock to most of us if we were served some apple dish and it was spicy like a jalapeño.
A fun side of experiencing different things is sometimes learning that you like a food that your thought you hated or had always refused to try. I can remember my Aunt Esther sitting me down to a piece of pie but refusing to tell me what kind it was. It had the same flakey crust that her mother had taught her to perfect and I detected a hint of cinnamon along with a filling that was sweet and tart. It reminded me of a good apple pie and I told her I liked it. With that determined, she released the secret that it was Green Tomato Pie. Wow! I never would have thought of eating a green tomato and still had a bit of concern that it was something that might give me a stomach ache. I trusted my aunt and finished the pie. It was an interesting turning point because she had allowed me the decision to continue to eat the pie or turn it away if the idea of its contents were too disturbing because of my pre-disposition of what I thought of green tomatoes. I ate the rest of the pie very thoughtfully and by the time the plate was clean I had decided that green tomatoes had uses other than sitting on a window sill in early autumn waiting for the hopes of a pale blush to make them edible.
Having misconceptions shaken up can be little unpleasant. I always though mailmen were cheerful on their route and that nothing could ever sway their composed work ethic. It was disturbing to me when I saw our mailman jump a foot into the air and rightfully yell in an angry manner when a loose dog came at him aggressively. My thinking that mailmen had nothing to fear and were always glad to walk the street was clarified when I saw that happen.
My mother was raised in the south, deep south. You can be sure her emphasis on the word “insurance” will still be on the first syllable and she still says “ya’ll” but with a Yankee accent. I grew up in a house that knew what black-eyed peas and cornbread were. We also knew grits were something to look forward to at breakfast and not something you poured out of your shoe or sanded wood with. One of the most unpleasant culinary shifts I have had to endure has been that I live in an area where they add sugar to sweeten cornbread. The initial piece of that cake sweet stuff I ever tasted sat one my plate untouched after that first unfortunate bite. I have forever since been very skeptical of being served cornbread at a restaurant. Even the chain that brags of its country style cooking Cracker Barrel sweetens their cornbread. They must think that it’s all right to do that because they add pork drippings to it. Ugh!
I raised my own family with my idea of what grits and cornbread should taste like, no sugar added just plain corny goodness. I have given cornbread my own twist now and then by making a cornbread stuffing or a pan baked cornbread with hot peppers that my dearly departed Aunt Dorothy introduced me to. My son grew up knowing that the stuff they call cornbread in local restaurants was not to be trusted. It helped even my dutchy born husband to refer to it as corn cake so that initial sweetness was not a rust-your-teeth type shock.
I knew I my cornbread expectations had rubbed off on him totally last evening when ordering at a local Cajun restaurant. My husband ordered the vegetable jambalaya while I ordered the red beans, rice and corn bread. When my meal was served to me the beans and rice were nestled between two corn-golden wedges that had been painstakingly blackened with lovely grill marks. It was beautiful and he confided to me that he had been considering the same entrée that I had ordered, “…and then I became really afraid of the cornbread.” We both tested a nibble of it expectantly and then broke into knowing grins. I had been served Cajun blackened corn cake.
reposted from my private blog 5/15/2008