Southern Traditions And Ham Salad {The Kitchen Reader}

I remember the first time I saw Paula Deen on television doing the show Ready…Set…Cook! on The Food Network.  She was just so hilarious, and she looked like my aunt and had the personality of my college roommate.  It was like a (crazy) member of my family was right there on the t.v.

Soon afterward, she began starring in her own show, frying chicken and baking cakes and cooking up all kinds of good Southern food.  I was so glad to see the food I grew up with being given the attention it deserved, in a time when, as Paula states, “health-food diet mania” was consuming America.

The rest is history, and Paula Deen is now a household name.  In her autobiography, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, however, Paula proves that everybody seems normal until you get to know them.  I guess I just assumed that she was always a success, but she reveals in her book how she spent many years of her life just struggling to make it through the day.

Growing up in Georgia, Paula says she had an idyllic childhood, with her family, grandparents, aunts and uncles all close together running a resort.  Her teen years were spent being cute, having fun, and cheering.  But at eighteen she met a boy she couldn’t resist, and wanted nothing more than to get married and be a wife and mother.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Paula to realize that marriage wasn’t all smooth sailing all the time, and she began struggling with the fact that she couldn’t make it all better.  As is often the case, I think, being sheltered and loved by her family, and possessing the gift of “Southern charm”, that niceness that girls in the South are brought up with, caused an inner struggle for Paula.  She felt that “if being protected and cherished by my parents was being spoiled, then I guess I was.”

Then as a result of tragically loosing both her parents within four years of each other, while Paula was still in her early twenties she really began to struggle to keep her sanity.  Suffering from panic attacks and agoraphobia while raising two small children tested her every day, until she finally discovered what exactly she suffered from and began to slowly overcome it,  and eventually end her marriage.

As a single mother Paula returned to what she knew best, good Southern food.  Beginning with a catering company and expanding to a full restaurant, she kept up the traditions of the South.  She knew that “the South is all about tradition, and most of those traditions have their origins in the cooking pots and the recipes we pass down from generation to generation” and that “Southern cooking is nothing but Southern – we don’t fly in our ingredients or menus from distant parts of the world. What’s in our pots and on our plates is all home-grown.”  And keeping true to this philosophy has meant nothing but success for Paula Deen.

This book is full of Southern charm and wit, and had me laughing one minute and crying the next.  If you are from the South, you’ll find yourself nodding along with it, and if you aren’t, you’ll hopefully learn a little about what drives a Southern woman.  As Paula says, “Some people call Southern women steel magnolias to show our unfailing survival instinct. Well, if we got dimples of steel, so what. Things have to be right.”

I whipped up this Ham Salad recipe found in Paula’s autobiography, and it turned out to be just right, too.

My Best Ham Salad (Sandwich)

adapted from It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover ham, chopped in a food processor
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 1/4 cup hot pickle relish, drained
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients until well blended.
  2. Spread on white bread to make a sandwich, or serve with crackers.

Printer Friendly Recipe

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Bookstore Score Breakfast Sandwich

Speaking of New Year’s resolutions, was one of mine last year to stop procrastinating?  If so, I did not achieve it.  Most obviously not when I was sitting through twenty hours of continuing education classes in one weekend of December.  I should probably put that on the list for 2010.

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Barefoot Bloggers Croque Monsieur

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Not the most photogenic sandwich in the world, but soooo rich and cheesy.

The Barefoot Bloggers pick this week comes from Kathy of All Food Considered.  This French sandwich recipe appears in Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris cookbook.  It’s basically a seriously over-the-top grilled cheese.  Dijon, ham, Gruyere, and a white sauce with more cheese makes ONE SERIOUS SANDWICH.  Not necessarily something you would just throw together everyday, but after you make it once, you know it won’t be the last.

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The Great Biscuit Debate #3 The Whole Hog

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The biscuits are back.  This time they are made with White Lily flour and half butter, half shortening.  I’ve actually made these a few times, but was just too lazy/busy/forgetful to take a picture.  We’ve been having country ham a lot with the biscuits, my personal favorite biscuit accompaniment.  I’m thinking I must do some research on buying whole country hams, so we can have it more often, but I digress.

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Monday Red Beans And Rice

red beans and rice

Last summer I came across a reference online to a cookbook called Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose, and well, the title had me at ‘screen doors’.  I promptly went to Amazon and ordered it, and it turned out to be even better than I imagined.

This book is full of traditional and contemporary Southern recipes from the author’s native Mississippi and I am slowly making my way through each one.  Since I love to read and to cook, I really enjoy cookbooks like this one that have stories and history along with the recipes. Continue reading