Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Fit for a King

As you probably know, Elvis Presley was fond of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

The Presley PB&B* is made with buttered white bread, peanut butter, and banana. The sandwich is pan-fried and served piping hot.

I don’t know if the PB&B is an Elvis thing or a Southern thing. I haven’t tried one, either. But it got me to thinking about some of the favorites over the years in my thoroughly Southern family.

The topic bubbled up last week when I was making lunch for my two-year-old granddaughter Sarah. That day, she had fruit juice, grapes, a fistful of Goldfish, and half of a peanut butter sandwich.

As I spread the peanut butter on the bread, I briefly considered peeling a banana, whipping out a pan, and surprising her with a hot PB&B.

But it was just a fleeting thought. I didn’t do it. I knew Sarah would rat me out to her mom and dad.

Dustin and Leslie serve the kids peanut butter freely, but not jelly. Maddie and Sarah undoubtedly will forever think of peanut butter on wheat bread as THE basic sandwich. Everything else will be considered a lesser variation.

When Dustin and Britt were growing up, PB&J was the standard in our house. A plain peanut butter sandwich simply wasn’t an option. Without jelly, especially strawberry preserves, one’s sandwich was unfinished.

Going back a generation, to the Leave-It-to-Beaver days when I was a lad, a different sandwich was our staple.

Forget PB&J. Peanut butter was a luxury and a rarity. Our basic sandwich was the B&J — butter and jelly. On white bread, naturally. That and pumpernickel were the only choices in those days.

Of the store-bought jellies, grape was the family favorite. The jar of apple jelly was opened only after all the grape was gone.

Our B&J sandwiches, by the way, often were accompanied by a filling and nourishing drink that has long since fallen out of favor: egg milk.

To make egg milk, Mom filled a glass with whole milk, added a teaspoon of sugar, broke a raw egg into the glass, and stirred vigorously with a spoon. Mighty tasty.

Salmonella? Is that a kind of sandwich?

And, reaching another generation back, Mom said that her family had its own standard sandwich when she was young: the B&S.

The B&S was a single slice of (you guessed it) white bread, on which was spread butter or oleo, and atop which was sprinkled sugar. Mom said all the mothers in Macon, Georgia, served B&S sandwiches to their families.

I tried it once. It was crunchy.

To me, all of the above sandwiches — B&S, B&J, PB&J, PB, PB&B — are too sweet. I keep PB in the pantry, but only for visiting grandkids.

My taste runs to another type of sandwich that has, down through the years, loomed large in Smithdom.

It’s a sandwich that is simple and elegant and which nobody doesn’t like: the excellent and delicious tomato sandwich.

The classic and, in my humble opinion, preferred tomato sandwich is made with room-temperature tomatoes, white bread, mayo, salt, and pepper.

Variations exist, to be sure. Mom’s practice was to trim off the crust and toss it into the dog’s bowl.

Wheat bread is a perfectly acceptable alternative to white. Some people chill the tomato first. Or toast the bread. Or turn their sandwich into a BLT.

Some persons of a less refined palate even substitute Miracle Whip for mayonnaise.

But no matter how you slice it, a tomato sandwich is a delightfully satisfying culinary experience.

As Mom often pointed out, “Even a bad tomato is better than no tomato at all.”

Bon appétit.

The divine fruit in sandwich form.

The divine fruit in sandwich form.

A classic PB&J.

A classic PB&J.

The Presley PB&B.

The Presley PB&B.

* Elvis Presley’s Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich:

2 slices of white bread
2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter (not the reduced fat stuff)
1 banana
2 tablespoons of butter

Toast the bread slightly and cool. Spread the PB on one slice. Slice or mash the banana and put it on the other slice. Melt the butter in a pan. Put the bread slices together. Fry in the hot butter until both sides are browned.

Read Full Post »


I love a good puzzle. Sudoku, crosswords, anything — I love ’em all.

I had lunch in Jefferson last week, and after the meal, the waitress dropped off my check. I picked it up and looked it over.

Huh? Talk about a puzzle. The check was written in a cryptic code that made no sense. I was so fascinated that I whipped out my cell phone and took a picture of it.


Now, you don’t know what I had for lunch, so you’re at a disadvantage.

But I, still in the process of dining, was clueless, too. The hieroglyphs on the bill were baffling. un? OK? crbd?

I sat there, drumming my fingers on the table, reading the entries over and over. I didn’t have any real reason to noodle this out, but the challenge was… challenging.

Finally, a light bulb came on. My lunch included a side of fried okra. The OK must be shorthand for okra.

If that were so, then the Li must stand for those tasty lima beans.

crbd? No telling what that meant. I’d have to come back to that later.

I studied and puzzled a while longer, and then — aha! My meat dish had been hamburger steak! HBS was hamburger steak!

But the -O still had me stumped. Hmmm… what could -O possibly mean?

Then it hit me. HBS-O was hamburger steak with onions!

That accounted for everything but the drink, so… the un in the margin undoubtedly stood for my unsweet iced tea!

Okay, I was on a roll, but the crbd still had me stumped.

Wait! I didn’t have a roll, I had cornbread! crbd meant cornbread!

Puzzle solved. I wouldn’t have to ask the waitress to decipher it after all.

It’s entirely possible that abbreviations like un and crbd are universal and familiar to waitpersons throughout the English-speaking world. I wouldn’t know.

The only food service job I ever had was in college, when I was in charge of keeping the bowls full at Ma Dean’s Boarding House. That gig didn’t involve handing people a bill.

Anyway, the next time I go out for lunch, I think I’ll try something different:




Mmmm. I can hardly wait.

HBS-O -- order up!

HBS-O -- order up!

Read Full Post »

Got Milk?

A note dated April 15, 1993…

Imagine a thick wedge of butter cake, rich and fluffy, prepared in a tube pan using fresh apples, chopped pecans, brown sugar, and a hint of nutmeg.

So light in texture that it crumbles away from the fork, yet somehow is moist and… so very fragrant.

Picture how the caramel glaze, freshly drizzled down the golden brown crust, solidifies as you watch.

Savor the moment as you press the edge of your fork carefully into the wedge, and steam rises through the silver tines.

That was my selection from the dessert table Saturday when I lunched at the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, North Carolina.

I wanted to run back and eat more with both hands, but I didn’t. I simply cut myself a slice of fresh blueberry pie.

High Hampton Inn


Read Full Post »


One time, a friend asked me to write something to go on the menu in his barbecue restaurant. He wanted it short and upbeat, but also informative. Scholarly, even. I did some research and came up with this.


June 1995


They say that the art of barbecue cooking is so natural, it practically invented itself.

Some believe that the word barbecue originated with the Spanish conquistadors, who learned from native Americans how to cook game on a green-wood grill over a trench of heated stones. Barbacoa, they called it.

Others credit French buccaneers in the 17th century, who introduced barbe à queue — literally, “from whiskers to tail” — as a way of roasting whole animals over an open firepit.

Whatever the origin, the word and the technique quickly found favor in the American South. Barbecue cooking was the perfect way to preserve meat in the damp Southern heat. Smoke did for the pioneer families of the South what salt-curing and pickling had done for their European forebears.


The same way that Europeans added honey or molasses to temper the pickling brine, Southerners learned to balance the rich flavor of the pork, lamb, or beef with sharp sauces that added sweet, sour, and hot to the seasoning.

The familiar tomato-based sauces, by the way, are a recent innovation. Most early cookbooks based their barbecue sauces on other ingredients: mushrooms, walnuts, oysters — even anchovies.

Those older cookbooks, however, contain very few barbecue recipes – perhaps because Southern barbecueing traditionally was done by men, who were not inclined to share their preparation secrets.


So it was that in the South, barbecue flourished as a noun, a verb, an adjective, and a social event. At the community barbecue, any man could demonstrate his prowess with the fork and the basting mop — a ritual that survives today in Fourth of July picnics, church meetings, political rallies, and family reunions everywhere.

So strong are these traditions, with their spirit of community and celebration, that barbecue has come to mean quintessential Southern cooking — and the abundant hospitality that goes with it.

Y’all enjoy!



Read Full Post »


Here’s a great recipe for gurkensalat (cucumber salad):

3 medium cucumbers
1 large onion
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup oil
Parsley, fresh or flaked

Peel the cucumbers. Score with a fork and cut into thin slices. Thin-slice the onion into rings.

In a 2-quart container, arrange the onion and cuke slices in alternate layers, sprinkling each layer heavily with salt. Cover this with ice water and refrigerate for several hours.

Drain the mixture and rinse it under running water. Return it to the container. Marinate the mixture in the oil and vinegar for several more hours. Overnight is okay.

Drain the mixture. Pour it into a clean container, and stir in the sour cream and pepper. Sprinkle the parsley and paprika in your hair.

No! No! Stop! I meant sprinkle it on the gurkensalat!


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts