Bellwether Vance

Hounds to the Left of me/Jokers to the Right

Bellwether Vance

Bellwether Vance
December 31
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Editor’s Pick
JULY 27, 2010 9:43AM

Top Grandmother, Two Recipes

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You can have only one favorite grandmother. Your affections for each might be so close that you’d need a photo finish to determine which velcro sandal or bosom shelf crossed the line first, but one will always edge the other out.

As I child I voted with my belly. Both grandmothers were excellent country cooks. Granny, my paternal grandmother, was famous for her cathead biscuits, tomato gravy and mustard greens. Nannie, my maternal grandmother, countered with prize-winning buttermilk pies and eight-layer chocolate cakes. My very favorites were Granny’s blackberry doobie and Nannie’s fried green tomatoes.

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We ate them during the summer months, when their farms were in high season, when a "Butterbeans - You pick!" sign on the side of the road meant we might get a few new children to play with for an afternoon. Then, when the season ended, the blackberry doobie and the fried green tomatoes disappeared, just like our temporary playmates.

The blackberries grew about a mile from Granny’s house, in the ditches of a red clay road. Granny would send me, my brother Ben, and my cousins Will and Darlene out to pick them, saying, "Y’all take Duke with you." Duke was her homely mutt, black and tan and stubby-legged. We called him "Wiener" because sometimes his wiener would roll out like a tube of honky tonk lipstick and get stuck that way for half a day or longer. When he wasn’t distracted by his faulty privates, he dutifully protected us from unlikely strangers and probable snakes.

Headed back with our full pails and badly scratched limbs, we always argued about whether it was safe to eat a few -- surely some animal had peed on them. Inevitably we’d arrive at the house with stained mouths and half the berries we’d started home with, hoping there were enough blackberries left for Granny to make her blackberry doobie – a sweet blackberry broth, thick with tender dumplings, topped with vanilla ice cream that quickly melted, creating a creamy purple soup. It was all the more delicious because we had picked the blackberries ourselves and had the laborers scars to prove it. (Duke/Wiener got a bowl too. He did his part.)

Nanny’s fried green tomatoes were easier to come by, though she often seemed reluctant to make them. I think she felt it somehow wrong, sneaky, picking a tomato before it reached its promised hue. But if I followed Nannie out to garden, and if I begged her to make the fried green tomatoes, she’d pluck three or four real quick, before the other tomatoes could see and wither themselves with worry about dying young.

In the kitchen I watched her slice them and dredge them – first in seasoned flour, then in buttermilk and egg, and finally in crackermeal -- before she slipped them, one by one, into a large cast iron skillet shimmering with hot oil. As they sizzled and popped, I hovered like a gator over a turtle’s nest.

At the table, Uncle Odie, who was pastor and lone parishioner at the Church of Uncle Odie, gave the blessing as if he was capable of writing a book every bit as long as the one God wrote. I let the eye that faced Uncle Odie pray, while the other eye searched the platter for the darkest, crunchiest fried green tomato. My mother would want that one too, and I’d need an advantage if I was going to get to it first. By luck or prayer or my mother’s indulgence, that gloriously crispy tomato usually landed on my plate. And others, just as tasty.

As hard as it was to choose between them, between their kitchens, I did have a favorite, but I can’t bear to say the winner’s name out loud for fear that Granny and Nannie might somehow hear. Now that they are gone, I miss them both equally. I truly do. I’m glad I have their recipes, and that I can share them with my family and with others.

Maybelle’s Fried Green Tomatoes

This is the fried green tomato recipe. I wouldn’t make them any other way.

2 large green tomatoes, or 3 medium

1 cup flour

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk or milk

1 Tbsp Crystal hot sauce

1 sleeve of saltine crackers, crushed thoroughly

2 Tbsp brown sugar

kosher salt and fresh black pepper (Nannie used table salt and canned pepper. You can too if you like.)

peanut oil for frying

Sprinkle the flour into a shallow dish. Add salt and pepper to the flour until you can distinctly taste the salt and the pepper. In another dish, whisk together the egg and the buttermilk or milk and the hot sauce. In another shallow dish, mix together the crushed crackers and the 2 Tbsp of brown sugar.

Heat about two inches of peanut oil in a large, heavy skillet.

Slice the green tomatoes into ½ inch slices. Dip the slices first into the flour, coating both sides, tapping off any excess. Then dip into the egg/buttermilk mixture and then into the cracker mixture, coating thoroughly. Fry until they are golden brown, turning once or twice. Drain on paper towels. They taste best if they’ve had a little time to cool, but are still quite warm. Serve with homemade buttermilk dressing or remoulade for dipping.


Lois’s Blackberry Doobie

This is a great recipe for wild blackberries, which tend to be seedier than grocery store blackberries. It’s truly scrumptious!

For the blackberry broth:

2 pints of fresh blackberries, about 2 ½ - 3 cups (I’ve never used frozen, but I imagine you could.)

Water to cover

½ cup of sugar (or more, depending on the sweetness of the blackberries)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Place the berries in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover the blackberries. Stir in the other ingredients. Simmer over medium heat for fifteen minutes - tasting for sweetness/acidity along the way. Set aside to steep and cool slightly, about fifteen minutes. Strain using a fine-mesh strainer, and return the strained juice to the saucepan. Heat to a low boil.

For the dumplings:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small cubes

½ cup buttermilk

You’ll also need a pint of good vanilla ice cream.

Combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with your fingers until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk, kneading it into a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into strips that measure (roughly ) 1 ½ inches wide and 2 ½ inches long.


Drop the dumplings, one at a time, into the bubbling broth. Once all of the dumplings are in, lower the heat slightly and let it simmer at a slow bubble for 10-12 minutes, stirring gently every few minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit for at least 20 minutes to cool and thicken. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

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I love foodie Tuesdays!
I'm running down here to be First! because I need to gather my composure (change my underwear) to continue reading the post. You undid me with your description of Weiner.
Oh my I love foodie Tuesdays too, especially yours. Fried green tomatoes, yumyumyum. And what, my friend, are cathead biscuits with tomato gravy? Next week? Please?
I had a foodie Tuesday already to go. Instead family stuff got in the way.

Glad to see a normal family and LOVEEEEEEEEEEEE these recipes.
HUGS to you this morning
Great writing and great recipes. My grandmothers biscuits were the best. They could almost float around the kitchen they were so light.
Cathead biscuits are as big as a cat's head!
What a yummy write-up! I have fond memories of picking and eating wild blackberries when I lived in the opposite corner of the continent (Vancouver, B.C.). Love those things! You make me wish I had a Southern grandmother or two.
I do love it when you go all Southern childhood; I am incredibly jealous, and always vaguely imagine you living in "Fried Green Tomatoes" or "Steel Magnolias." I have never ventured fried green tomatoes, but yours sound sturdier and more substantive than some i have eaten in Florida and Alabama. I like the idea of eating them with remoulade. i like the idea of eating anything with remoulade. I am wondering if you think the doobie (which makes me think of high school, for some reason) could be made with other berries? Blueberries? We just don't get a lot of blackberries here, and when we do they are wicked expensive. Did I remember to say that this was written wel enough to be worthy of M.F.K Fischer?
I love Foodie Tuesdays, too, especially when Bellwether chimes in! How blessed you were to have Maybelle and Lois and I love that their cooking traditions continue. I've never heard of a blackberry doobie - I'll leave it some other clever soul to make a joke out the name. Excellent post!
Hooray!!! Our family just watched "Fried Green Tomatos" for the hundredth (or so) time this weekend, and were thinking about trying to make some. Now we have the definitive recipe for them!
Sublime! Marvelous story-telling - and recipes, too! The dumplings remind me of "sliders" my mother used to make for chicken soup. YUM! Can't wait to try BOTH of these recipes. xxoo
Gabby -- Sorry about that. Poor Duke, we teased him unmercifully.

Greenheron -- Cathead biscuits are "as big as a cat's head." Like Gabby said! Tomato gravy was something I requested every time we visited. I'll post the recipes soon.

Linda -- We had our share of dysfunction (i.e. Uncle Odie). Hugs to you too.

Sixty -- Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Scanner -- I do miss biscuits. I don't make them very often. The biscuits I grew up eating denser, thinner, chewier (with crispy edges) than the light and fluffy versions I've had. I like them both.

Felicia -- One of the things I've mourned about urban sprawl is the loss of wild blackberries. They used to be everywhere. Gone, now.

Ann -- Our accents were a lot less genteel than the ones in those movies. Think Jerry Clower rather than Scarlett O'Hara. I imagine you could use any berry or fruit (peaches!?) you'd like, though I'd lean toward those that have some tang, otherwise it might get too sweet.

Lucy -- It is a pretty obscure dessert. I found some references to it on a couple of other sites when I googled it, but it is very good and a good way to use up fruit that for some reason is unuseable raw or whole.

Owl - It's the best one. As Ann said, more substantial that some I've tasted. The breading stays ON and gets very crispy, and I like the thicker slices of tomatoes to match the studier crust.

M.Mckenzie -- Good to see you! "Sliders" must mean "strip dumplings." I never knew there were any other kind until I was grown.
Foodie Tuesdays are fun when you post! Green tomatoes? My garden is FULL of them. As though they just refuse to turn red. I'll show 'em. I'm gonna fry those stubborn green tomatoes up but good.:) _r
Oh, these look good! Loved this: "I let the eye that faced Uncle Odie pray, while the other eye searched the platter for the darkest, crunchiest fried green tomato." My country grandmother was a wonderful cook, too.
No competition between my grandmothers. One was a hungarian dumpling- all adorable and loving ,and and one was a beak nosed harridan who made life hell.
That said, I bet these recipes are wonderful and I bet you add your own charms to them to make them even better.
With grandmothers like yours, you can have two favorites. As usual, your writing is winsome, I mean "honky tonk lipstick"? !
I love stories of your childhood. They're always great! My Nanny made dumplings just like the ones your grandmother made, but she cooked them as her "chicken and dumplings." I'm anxious to try this dessert version. I wish I had a blackberry patch I could send my kids to -- it might keep them busy for a little while and we'd get dessert out of the deal! Love the looks of the fried green tomato recipe, too. Mine often lose their breading, so I'll give these a try and see if it'll stick a little better. Yum. Thank goodness I read this early so I have time to go to the store before dinner!
My grandma used to make FGT, too, but they NEVER looked as delicious as that pic. I think I'll give my tastebuds some exercise this week and see if I can't make them'll be worth all the splatter on the stove, I'm sure!
Well, I have to say that I've heard of crisps, crumbles, buckles, cobblers and slumps, but I have never heard of a doobie, at least not in relation to blackberries!

You love foodie Tuesdays, and I love reading about southern cooking. I can do pinto beans, cornbread and sweet tea really good now, but I've still got a ways to go. I have found a really great restaurant here (Southern Bred) that does fried green tomatoes better than I ever could. Even so, I may give Maybelle's recipe a try.
Eight layer chocolate cakes trump all. You convinced me. I'm packing a suitcase and taking an eating tour of the Deep South.
oh my GOSH! I can't wait to get out of work and into my kitchen to try these out. My mouth is watering in public... embarrassing... yet so good :)
Oh how I miss fried green tomatoes. I now live in the desert of the Las Vegas area where anything you garden, except rocks, are burned before they can grow and it's almost impossible to find green tomatoes at a grocery store. All I can do is salivate at the site of your ptictures now :-)
I love the stories and down home cooking. Your recipes are well worth trying, Belle. Just got a batch of fresh local blueberries - the question is to eat them as they are, or to make a Blueberry Doobie? Hey, what's a foodie if not adventurous? ~R
Perhaps my all-time favorite EP! Congratulations. I grew up visiting my grandmother's farm: the early country breakfasts, the long parson's table, the Sunday crowd. Your post brings a beloved memory, and a nostalgic tug on the heart. I loved it. Good, good post! Thank you.
I never have saltines in the house. Is it okay if I substitute wheat germ?
Congrats on the EP and cover!
I heard first about fried green tomatoes from the movie from the same title. Never had them though. But my mouth is watering already, both on how good they look and the sheer loveliness of this writing:
"if I begged her to make the fried green tomatoes, she’d pluck three or four real quick, before the other tomatoes could see and wither themselves with worry about dying young."
Bell - I called it and knew they'd screw up the title. Whoever is renaming the posts SUCKS at it. I'm all in for 'Fried Green Tomatoes and a Doobie'.... I mean, who wouldn't read that?
Love fried green tomatoes. A new restaurant in town sells them now and I get them a few times a week. Can't get enough. :)
Man would Iove to try those fried green tomatoes. never had them (saw the movie, of course). but since you've left the recipes I betcha I could rustle some of those up. the blackcberry doobie sounds suspiciously entertaining, Bell(e).

"I think she felt it somehow wrong, sneaky, picking a tomato before it reached its promised hue..." that is precious.

thanks for the trip around the garden and kitchen.
Kateasley -- Weigh in BEFORE you cook and eat! It's a good recipe, tried and true. Let me know if you try it.

Joan -- You show them who's boss!

Sophieh -- Glad you liked the post. Uncle Odie was "something else." Prayer was an ordeal.

Fernsy -- I remember your post about your grandmothers. The bad one gave me nightmares.

Lulu -- They were both special ladies. I was happy to pay homage to them.

Grace -- I think I might buy a lipstick labeled "Honky Tonk." Or an OPI nail polish.

Lisa -- The breading stays ON with this recipe, because of the flour first. I do think it's important to cut the tomatoes thick because the breading is substantial (but not heavy or greasy) and you want a good tart tomato-to-breading ratio.

Moist -- What's a little splatter? Come on...

Stim -- Nannie's best friend Lizzie always beat her out by making a TEN layer chocolate cake.

Jeanette -- Southern food is addictive! I've tried many recipes for the FGT over the years, and I keep coming back to this one.

AryJ -- Thanks for stopping by. I hope you will try the recipes. They've been family favorites for years.

Boomer -- That's terrible! I hope you can find a source for them soon. It seems as if it should be possible to freeze green tomato slices. I wonder why no one has done it for the mass market?

Fusun -- I envy your blueberries. They are very expensive down here.

2mcwork -- Good to know that your finals...are final. Something fried sounds like just the celebratory ticket!

Scupper -- These posts are bittersweet for me, all those memories that can't really be recreated, on created anew. I'm so glad you liked the post and that it reminded you of happy times with your family.

Geezer -- I've never fried with wheat germ. I'd be afraid that it would brown up too quickly? Honestly, I don't know. I have seen plenty of fried green tomato recipes that use cornmeal or a combination of cornmeal and flour for the final breading.

Vanessa -- I'm sure you have plenty of Puero Rican dishes that we'd love to try and that would make us instantly nostagic. Well, not hell...

Gabby -- They do need to run all future cover titles by you first. You're a natural!

Tomversation -- Glad you found a supplier for your addiction. We used to have to go across the border to Mexico - or am I thinking of something else?

Scarlett -- Not as entertaining as you're imagining, but delicious just the same!
One eye on Uncle Odie and the other on the tomatoes. Duke's honky tonk lipstick. Tomatoes withering with worry about dying young. If I could write stuff like this I'd die happy. Right now, tho, I'm gonna print me out some recipes. I have blackberry jam on toast for breakfast EVERY morning. And I love the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. There. That covers just about everything.
@Abby - I just read your comment about the title. You're right, of course, but shame on you!!
Love the story, I'm tempted to make the tomatoes. I haven't felt like cooking in months, definitely tempted by how good they sound in the story.
Mommy Dearest being a southern belle would only use a tomatoe that looked like a beefsteak but when ripe turned slightly yellow. The seeds were carefully saved from year to year and are now lost. She swore thesee were the only proper ones to use. They were sweeter and not as acidic somewhat like the yellow ones.
scrumptious - i think i've put on weight just reading this! laughed out loud over weiner's weiner, your uncle's long prayers and "she’d pluck three or four real quick, before the other tomatoes could see and wither themselves with worry about dying young." delightful.
Wow. I grew up with the Russian version of this, but with only one grandma to choose from. You had me at fried green tomatoes, which I only learned of thanks to the book , but you completely won me over with the sweet version of a traditionaly savory dish - dumplings. My grandma made wild blueberry tarts from her pryahi recipe that was traditionally savory. OMG. We ate as many a day as she could make. My blackberry season is done, but there is always next year.

I have a garden full of green tomatoes right now, and I will give your recipe a try because I think I will have too many as they will all ripen at the same illustrious hour.
Good lord, but you can write! I'm reading every paragraph making notes of lines I want to cite as being brilliant (starting with the first). So I'll say this: please re-read this. Did you see every sentence? Those were the ones I thought were great.
I'm just online after a storm and can't believe I missed this. I'm a fried green tomato fanatic and will try this with friends this evening. In my part of the south, the tomato plants are suffering under the heat by this time of the summer so green are actually better than red. Yum.
"We called him "Wiener" because sometimes his wiener would roll out like a tube of honky tonk lipstick and get stuck that way for half a day or longer." Oh how I love this sentence. Almost as much as I love the recipes.
Matt -- Abby did nail it! I'm happy you enjoyed the piece.

l'Huere -- I always hope a food story will enhance the recipes. (I've had periods like that too, when the kitchen yells "I'm Closed!")

Wschanz -- I hate that those seeds are lost. I wonder how many others like them have vanished. I'd love to have tasted your mother's fried yellow tomatoes!

Maria -- I try not to fry things too often, because fried foods are my weakness. At least there's no lasting after effects to simply reading about fried green tomatoes.

Eff Muppet -- That's very interesting! I've always wondered about the origin of the Blackberry Doobie. I found very few references to it online, but it makes sense that it probably orginated overseas in another form and under another name. If you try the fgt's let me know how you like them.

Pilgrim -- You make my head swell! Stop! (Don't stop.)

Stephanie -- Glad you survived the storm. I hope you'll try the recipes!

Ladyslipper -- It really was funny. When it first happened, we were certain that something was terribly wrong and that he needed to go the vet right away. Our parents had to explain it to us...
my favorite restaurant serves fried green tomatoes covered with crawfish etouffee :-) ... when I sin, I sin big ...
Bellwether, I was just asking Lucy Mercer about fried green tomatoes, and here you are! I'm definitely trying this, even though you have inserted doubt into my head with this: "she’d pluck three or four real quick, before the other tomatoes could see and wither themselves with worry about dying young."
Nova -- That's...that's...crazy, and yet I can't imagine going another day without eating it. Me. Want. Now.

Linda -- I was always imagining a holocaust where none existed. Go ahead. Eat the green tomatoes. This recipe is good because the breading stays put and doesn't get oily. I DO highly recommend the peanut oil.
Thanks for sharing the stories & recipes of your grannies! I can't wait to try Maybelle's Fried Green Tomatoes first, & then Lois's Blackberry Doobie right after. :)
I hate getting here late because there are soooo many comments ahead and I know everyone will have picked my favorite lines! (I love the first paragraph and voting with your belly and I skim and see that yep, that honky tonk weiner grabbed most of my kindred spirits!) If I get motivated I might even try these yummy recipes. But I'm kinda lazy in the kitchen these days. (R)
Voting with your belly is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. (And I'm voting for Lois.) I avoid relatives who can't feed me adequately. Nice story, nice recipes.
oh dear god I have never had either of these dishes & I see I have been missing out...greatly.
now I am sad.
I can't believe you actually gave "me" (yeah it was just for me) the recipe for fried green tomatoes. Where do I find Crystal hot sauce ???r
This is why you're so darn wonderful: "you’d need a photo finish to determine which velcro sandal or bosom shelf crossed the line first, but one will always edge the other out."
You know they say there's nothing like your Mama's cooking. I say they're wrong, it's Grandmother's who really know their way around the kitchen. You've given me two wonderful recipes, now all you have to do is tell me what cathead biscuits are. :)
Clay -- I'm happy to share. Recipes die out if no one shares them.

Dirndl -- It's the heat, making everyone lazy in the kitchen. Just save these recipes for cooler days.

Steve -- That's an excellent policy. I'm going to make a sampler that says as such.

Caroline -- Really? You've never had fried green tomatoes? You must correct that this instant!

Hugs -- Crystal is a pretty common brand. Very mild, more flavor than heat. Any other mild hot sauce will do.

Caroline -- When I'm a grandmother, I swear I will have neither velcro sandals or a bosom shelf. But my grandmothers did!

Fay -- My mother wasn't a very good cook. My grandmothers taught me everything I know. Cathead biscuits are biscuits that are as big as a tom cat's head. :)
Oh, I love this! My mother made cathead biscuits, too, and they were the best; I loved the crunch. "Blackberry Doobie" made me do a double take, since I think of a doobie as something that might make me crave your grandmother's blackberry dish. God, I love Southern cooking. It's my favorite cuisine in all the world.
Wait--I just saw your explanation of cathead biscuits. We called my mother's biscuits cathead biscuits because they were so flat (like a cat's head when it flattens its ears). They were big, too, though, come to think of it. But the flatness created a nice crunchiness, top and bottom, with a thin fluffy layer inside.
Susan -- yes they were big, but flat and with browned bottoms and sides, quite unlike the delicate biscuits most people know. The "doobie" was a revelation to me when I was researching this post. We ate it all the time but no one else seemed to know what I was talking about. I guess it's a rather lost dessert, but I found a few references to it. Anything labeled "doobie" is a winner in my book.
I always wanted to know how to make fried green tomatoes! What a wonderfully delicious story on so many levels. Thank you for allowing us once again to share in your charming childhood memories. Rated.
The green tomatoes are here, & we finally got to trying your Grandmother Maybelle's recipe. Absolutely delicious! I love the sweetness & crunchiness to them.

The blackberries are mostly just a distant memory by now on our little bush...I guess The Doobie will have to wait 'til next year.

Thanks again for a great recipe! :)