May 4, 2011

Mississippi and An Affectionate View of "Pappy!"

I received a lovely surprise gift from Sweet Melissa this week..."Every Day by the Sun...a Memoir of the Faulkners of Mississippi!" Be still my heart...not only do I LOVE biographies, I love William Faulkner and Mississippi...everything about my birth state....everything.....from the beautiful southern accent, (and it is nothing like Paula Deen's accent...nothing), to the vibrant azalea's, the towering pine trees, to the best food in the south, and the roots of the Mississippi Delta! I can just envision visiting up in the Delta where everyone knew everyone and the Bourbon over ice clinked in the highball glasses,  as "our people", refined and southern, reminisced about old times!

When living in the little town of Oxford, Mississippi in the 1970's, Darling and I used to ride our bicycles to Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home, who happened to be one of the greatest writers that ever lived.  We would stroll around the grounds of the primitive-style Greek Revival house he purchased in 1930, and would sit on his front porch to rest before we rode our bikes back to campus. This is the place where he wrote the novels that earned him a Nobel.

Never mind that Faulkner was, arguably, America’s greatest writer. Never mind that the house has been restored with such sensitivity that you get the sense Faulkner just walked out the back door, in search of a pack of smokes and a drink of whiskey.

We would peer through the windows in our attempt to get an up-close look at Faulkner’s bookshelves, his bed, his kitchen. You could almost imagine him sitting at his desk writing and sipping a morning cup of coffee! In reading about this interesting character of a man, I learned of a cook, in the employ of the Faulkner family, who refused to clean and cook doves that he shot, for she knew in her heart of hearts that upon death, doves bear souls to heaven. It is said that Faulkner’s favorite dish was salmon croquettes, and that the recipe he favored was easy to come by.

 Sockeye salmon. Red salmon. And yes, pink salmon. My daddy favored all of these and used to eat this canned Salmon on saltine crackers....as I child I thought this was disgusting, but later learned how delicious and healthy salmon can be. There was no single can that contained pink salmon and came with a recipe printed on the label, but I did spot a can that looked like a holdover from Faulkner’s era.

One of my "go-to" cookbooks is  Martha Foose’s, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. (Like Faulkner, Foose is a Mississippian.) Her recipe is of the Community Cookbook School. It involves crumbled saltine crackers. And minced onion. And dill pickle relish. It somehow recalls Mississippi in the 1950s, when Faulkner was in his salmon-croquette-eating prime.

Mississippi Salmon Croquettes
1 16-ounce can pink salmon, drained and picked clean of stray bones and skin
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
Dash garlic salt
2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
1 teaspoon dill pickle relish
12 saltine crackers, crumbled
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the flour and vegetable oil. Gently shape into 6 to 8 cakes about 1/2 inch thick. Refrigerate for an hour. Heat a large skillet to medium-high. Sprinkle the croquettes with flour. Add the oil and cook the croquettes for 6 to 8 minutes, or until brown, turning them halfway through.

Southerners rarely suppress the temptation to cultivate eccentricity;
“Half of us,”
a Southern editor once said,
“have natural rhythm and the other half is just naturally nuts.”

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