The Cracker Kitchen: It's Not Just Road Kill
|Courtesy of Scribner|
This is how Janis Owens defines the original, pioneer crackers: "We mostly settled along the southern half of the eastern seaboard, long before the War of Secession, but we never darkened the doors of Tara or Twelve Oaks unless we were there to shoe mules or work as overseers. We lived and thrived outside plantation society, in small towns and turpentine camps and malarial swamps. We're the Rednecks, the Peckerwoods, the Tarheels..."
That's how the North Florida author introduces her people in The Cracker Kitchen: A Cookbook in Celebration of Cornbread-Fed, Down-Home Family Stories and Cuisine. The modern cracker is someone "more attached to a rural lifestyle."
Let's not cue up the "Free Bird" and get carried away with Southern romanticism here.
|Janis Owens in Newberry, Florida|
In her "Wild Game Days" chapter, Owens begrudgingly shares some of these recipes. She tells you how to make fried rabbit "if you must" or baked armadillo, which she finds so "attractive that I really couldn't find the words to tell you how to butcher one." In her lifetime, Owens has consumed all of the meats described, including rattlesnake, but she's over eating anything that has to be skinned in front of her. "My distaste is the modern distaste. I can go to Publix and buy chicken. I don't have to eat what I trap in my yard."
Owens decided to include the recipes to pay respect to the old traditions, but her writing also reflects her own modern sensibility: "I don't go around all of the time trapping possum and eating them now. But it's a big part of the culture here. My brother is hunting in the woods and he won't show up until the hunting season is over. Back in the day, Crackers and pioneers ate anything. My daddy said that my great-grandmother used to go out and shoot blackbirds for supper. They would eat osprey. They'd eat anything they could bring down. They'd dress it and eat it."
|Courtesy of Janis Owens|
There is also more quotidian fare, based on the Cracker essentials of butter and pork: "Yer basic smothered pork chop," orange pie, tomato gravy, and crunchy sweet potato casserole. Vegetables make an appearance in dishes like fried greens, Texas caviar (with a base of black-eyed peas), and wilted country salad (with bacon).
Here's are recipes for Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce and Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding for the Thanksgiving or Holiday table.