... something about fried green tomatoes ...
When my parents were married on July 2, 1927, a college friend gave them an expensive set of cookware. Over the years the pieces have disappeared, save for the “Spider,” a round, flat griddle with a handle. The handle went up over the griddle, somewhat like a rainbow.
All these years later that Spider, now without its handle, is part of my present cookware. Looking at it reminds me of the delicious meals my mother prepared on that griddle. For one thing, we had pickled tripe, dipped in a batter and fried to golden perfection. I have tried over the years to learn the derivation of that dish. My ancestors were English and they loved it. My first husband, a first-generation Irish American, loved it, too. My friend Christine Binnall, also of Yankee stock, enjoyed it, as did my friend Muriel Taylor. The only place I know of these days where one can buy it is at the Country Girl Diner in Chester, Vermont.
In short, fried pickled tripe was one big delight we had from the Spider. Other treats were pancakes, of course, and fried garden vegetables. My mother was a graduate of Simmons College where she majored in biology and chemistry. She always needed to grow vegetables and flowers for her inner contentment. I’m afraid I did not appreciate the fresh-grown produce she lugged up the hill from the garden, sometimes shuddering because she’d seen a snake.
At any rate, the Spider produced gastronomic treats such as fried eggplant, fried summer squash, and fried green tomatoes. All of them were cooked in bacon fat, of course. It was economical to save the fat from frying bacon, and oh, boy, did that fat render the vegetables ever so tasty!
I don’t know how my mother came to prepare green tomatoes in that way. From the book and movie, 'Fried Green Tomatoes' we can assume it must be a dish with Southern origins, but my mother never traveled in the South. I noticed during my recent winters in Florida that green tomatoes can be purchased as a matter of course in supermarkets, whereas I never see them in northern markets.
Southerners prepare them by dipping them in beaten egg and seasoned cracker crumbs. My mother did not use a batter; she merely sliced the green tomatoes and sautéed them in bacon fat, resulting in a slightly acidic treat for the taste buds.
My sweet mother died at age 73 from angina. All that bacon fat had hardened her arteries. In preparing meals in my kitchen, I try to be aware of the dangers of frying food in fat. But, once a year, in September, I throw caution to the winds and fix myself a mess of fried green tomatoes. It’s good for the morale, if not for the health!
September 5, 2008