Southern Comfort

I’ve been buying three packs of meat for a tenner at Marks & Spencer when I’m in town during the week.  One of my picks this week was pork loin chops to have with a couple of sweet potatoes nestled in our root vegetable basket.

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 I’m feeling Southern tonight for no apparent reason, so made myself a Suthun-style meal.

Just thinking back to my childhood, both of my parents were from the South, but two very different Souths.  My Mom was from a fairly middle-class, forward-thinking family in North Carolina.  Her Daddy ran a printing business out of an office next to the house and also owned farmland and hired people to pick the crops.  When he built a house in town in 1928, he had it wired for electricity, even though electricity did not come to Conway for another few years.  My Dad, on the other hand, was an Okie from Muscogee, OK.  His mother had died young, after a short, hard life and he was raised by his aunts and his beloved full-blooded Muscogee Indian grandmother.  To quote him, “we were poorer than the poor Blacks, but I always had clean clothes to wear and I got an orange at Christmastime.”

So I grew up eating Southern food, but of wildly disparate types.  My Mom tended more towards country ham, potato salad and fresh lima beans.  My Dad seasoned everything with bacon fat and fried most of it.  My parents were separated from my age 3 until I was about 10.  She went onto a major health food kick.  This was Southern California in the 1960’s, but it was still an oddball thing to do.

They were on and off until I was 16.  That’s when my Mom died and my Dad moved back in permanently to look after me the more-or-less best he could until I went off to college.  What does this have to do with pork chops?  Oh yeah.  Tonight I cooked them à la Dad.  His style of Southern cooking was not ‘Southern Living’ pretty.  In fact, there was nothing pretty about it, but boy was it good!  He kept a Crisco can of bacon grease next to the stove and the cabinet it sat on and the walls adjacent to the stove were rimed with a matte layer of bacon fat.  I can remember coming into the kitchen and finding a paper towel draped plate with such fried delicacies as sweet potato slices, okra, cornmeal crusted green tomatoes and pork chops just waiting to be picked up and eaten, with fingers.  My Dad and I didn’t get along very well, but the memories of food are good.

For reasons I won’t bore you with, I’ve been eating gluten-free for the past week.  I would normally dredge my chops in flour, but decided to use cornmeal instead.  They came out crunchy good.  I also toyed with the idea of frying them in lard, then I thought, ‘What would Frank do?’  First choice – bacon fat, of course.  Sadly, English bacon isn’t fatty enough to produce much bacon grease.   So, it would have been Crisco.   I used Trex, the English equivalent.  I made ‘homemade’ buttermilk from milk and lemon juice.

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Cornmeal Crusted Pork Chops

4 ½” thick pork chops
½ cup milk or buttermilk
½ cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup vegetable shortening or bacon grease

Soak the pork chops in milk for 30 minutes. Stir together the cornmeal, thyme, salt, cayenne and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge the pork chops in the cornmeal mixture to coat. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the pork chops for 3 to 5 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve.

I mashed the sweet potato and dressed it with butter and brown sugar.  Cooked frozen spinach completed the meal.

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Not pretty, but pretty darn good!

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