By Twinkle VanWinkle, LIN Lifestyle Expert
Living in the big city for the last five years, I often long for visits home to Mississippi.
Of course there is family to visit and so on, but really I yearn for the garden-fresh food, the farm-to-table Southern buffet on my grandmother’s dinner table with stacks of fresh-sliced tomatoes, plates of hot cornbread and her ancient Dutch oven filled with black-eyed peas.
It’s seriously better than a beach vacation.
More than just the food, though, is the history, stories and chit-chat that comes with taking a seat at the long, wooden table, handmade by my grandfather’s grandfather in the early 1900s somewhere around Neshoba County, Mississippi.
I’ve learned manners, etiquette, table settings, heard town gossip and as many (or more) prayers as I ate my peas and cornbread and sipped many a gallon of iced tea.
It’s where I’ve spent 40 holiday dinners, countless birthdays and of course, sat for endless hours as a child when I didn’t want to clean my plate.
And always, the table was filled with a rainbow of colors – fresh pickled beets, homegrown tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, pan-fried squash and onions, black-eyed peas, vinegary greens, buttered corn bread, crisp fried chicken, sweet potatoes, chowchow, sweet pickles, sliced onions, homemade buttermilk dressing … I’ll just stop right there so you can pick your mouth up off the floor.
Food is crucial to being a Southerner, and oftentimes meals were perfect for any modern-day vegetarian to slide right in without a worry. Folks were poor, and growing vegetables was how everyone ate, during hard times in the mid-20th century.
My Great Aunt Inez once recalled heading south from Iowa to visit my grandfather during the 1930s and how overjoyed she was to eat so many vegetables.
And so it goes. As farm-to-table becomes more important to everyone across the country, Southerners rejoice in what they’ve always known, and grown.
Mamaw Jesse’s Skillet-Fried Summer Squash (Crookneck)
Note: There is no breading in this recipe; it’s basically a slow sauté. But, I would never argue technicalities like that with my Mamaw.
- 3-4 medium crookneck squash
- 1 large Vidalia onion
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Well-seasoned iron skillet
Slowly heat up your iron skillet on medium-high. While your skillet is heating, slice up your squash into circles, about ¼ inch thick. Same for the onion, slice into ¼ inch thick rings.
Add your oil to the skillet, swirl around so bottom is covered and place your squash and onions in. Get a quick sear and turn down heat to medium-low.
Let squash and onions cook for about 10 minutes. Onions will start to caramelize – this is what you want.
Salt and pepper generously to taste.
Mixture of zucchini squash and crookneck pictured above.
*My granddad always loved when the squash blackened a bit on the bottom, but once the squash gets soft, it should be ready to serve.
Twinkle VanWinkle has over 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks. She baked apple pies for the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and has appeared on Food Network’s “The Best Of…” Along with producing dynamic lifestyle content for LIN Media, she is a mother, urban gardener, chef, musician and social media fanatic.