Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Food With a Difference

This year at Magna cum Murder my panel assignment was…well…uh, I can’t remember the precise title, but we discussed the difference between New York authors and Midwest authors. None of us knew what might separate us other than distance, since no one on the panel except the moderator was from New York.

Is there a real difference in the way we write or only a perceived difference?
We still don’t know.

But then, toward the end of the hour, the topic of food came up. Our wonderfully witty moderator, Julia Pomeroy, author of COLD MOON HOME, clued us in to one vast difference between east coast and Midwest that has nothing to do with writing. According to her and others in the audience, we eat differently. And disgustingly.

Who knew?

Did she mean that she doesn’t eat mashed potatoes with a dollop of canned creamed corn, that she has never salivated over porcupine balls when growing up (those ground beef balls with rice popping out), wasn’t nursed back to health as a kid with a hot toddy, brandy and all? In the Michigan Upper Peninsula we grew up arguing over which kid would get the chicken heart as the prelude to the weekly chicken dinner. We ate pasties drenched in ketchup. Pasties, as you MUST recall, are a mix of ground beef and/or pork, diced potatoes, onions, carrots, rutabagas ( an important addition if you are Finnish or Swedish) and whatever secret ingredients your family is known for, all wrapped up in a sort of pie dough, then baked until brown.

What’s wrong with New Yorkers? What’s wrong with Julia?
I bet they don’t even dunk their toast in hot chocolate, for cripes sake.


Joe Moore said...

Hi Deb,
"Is there a real difference in the way we write or only a perceived difference? We still don’t know."

Buttermilk cornbread
Turnip greens with pepper sauce
Southern Fried Grits
Red-Eye Gravy
Sliced sweet potatoes fried in butter and sprinkled with sugar
Fried mullet in cornmeal

Just a few of the things I grew up with in the South. Do they affect my writing? No, but reading the list sure makes me hungry.

And do Southern authors write differently than our Northern counterparts? Well, in South Florida, we have to crank the AC down to fool us into thinking we’re writing in the winter.

BTW, red-eye gravy over buttermilk biscuits for breakfast is as close to heaven as this Alabama boy can get.

Let's eat and then write!

julia pomeroy said...

Okay, in my defense, Deb, there was that dish at the restaurant the night before our panel. Listed as an appetizer, it should have been called Gilding the Lily:
A wheel of brie, coated in caramel and served with pita bread. Now I love brie, but what is that?
One more example:
The meals at the Magna convention center were generous and often, but the butter, served with the little squashy dinner rolls, was full of sugar! When I politely threw up, my fellow diners looked at me in surprise and said, "oh, that's honeybutter." As if a pretty name made it okay.
See, I think that was my problem. So much sugar where I didn't expect it!
But when we're down in Alabama, maybe we'll get some real southern food. I'll try a hushpuppy...(I think)

Deb Baker said...

Joe, Julia and I are on our way. The menu sounds yummy.

caryn said...

That panel was a surprise to me. I figured the authors would talk about thigs like the geographical settings of their books being influenced, or the ethnicity of the characters or something, but nope,it was mostly all food once it was establised that really bad things can happen anywhere.
One of the great things about living is St. Louis, is that Missouri as a whole and to a lesser degree St. Louis, thinks of itself as "sort of " southern. So, sweet tea(yes Julia here's that sugar again), grits, greens and biscuits with red eye are fairly common. The fried sweet potatoes though need sugar AND cinnamon.
Back the the St. Louis angle-so while we have all this southern stuff, we also have The Hill which is to this day a mecca for the Italian families in the area, complete with wonderful bakeries, markets and restaurants, the Polish and German communities and the newer immigrants Bosnian and Serbs with their foodie hangouts.
And of ocarse there is that wonderful St. Louis specialty toasted ravioli....Yes we eat well.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Okay, try this: a butter and sugar sandwich. Hey, I didn't eat it, but my dad would make it. That and kidney bean salad. Real trailer-park delicacy, that stuff. If you dump all the purple goo, you can't make the salad.

But on to St. Louis, Caryn, what about gooey butter cake? YUM. Although I'm glad I missed the "fried brains" that went the way of the Edsel when mad cow broke out.

Monica Ferris said...

Hey kidney bean salad is wonderful -- if you dump the goo! My late Aunt Velva (rest her soul) taught my mother to make it, and now I do it. Two cans of dark red kidney beans (rinsed), chopped hard boiled egg (two), chopped sweet pickles (about four), chopped sweet onion (a quarter of a really big one). The sauce is a quarter cup cider vinegar, a half cup of sugar, and a cup of sour cream, mixed well. Even better with leftovers the next day!

Monica Ferris said...

Oh, Aunt Velva was from East Central Illinois, which to my surprise, has folks with southern accents. ("Crick" for creek, for example.)

caryn said...

I think there is still a place or two in South City that serves fried brains.
Yes, I forgot gooey buttercake. The chocolate ones are the best IMHO.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Wow, I'll have to try that receipt (in South Carolina, that's what they call 'em) for kidney bean salad. I just use mayo, and I don't rinse the beans. I let some of the goo form the sauce.

About those fried brains, Caryn, I once had "sweetmeats" which I think is another word for brains, and it was great until I heard what I'd eaten. Yuck. Somethings should remain a SECRET.

Chocolate gooey butter cake? Tell more.