The Book: Ernest Matthew Mickler, WHITE TRASH COOKING. The Jargon Society/Ten Speed Press, 1986; 17th printing, 1991. Spiral-bound, good condition; light cooking-related stains
First read: 1995
Owned since: 1995 (approximately)
I don't remember when I bought this book, but do remember making things out of it in the mid-1990s. I don't cook as much as I used to, which is something I feel sad about, and need to fix. I used to cook a lot, and I used to love to entertain, and have done very little of that since moving to Maine. That needs to change.
Anyway, I'm not making anything from this book today, but it's one of my favorites. It is funny but respectful, a serious sociological record of a unique regional cuisine with tongue firmly in cheek. You'll find a recipe for a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich here (one of my uncle Gerry's favorites, according to my mother), but there are serious recipes here, too; one of my favorite pork chop recipes is "Tutti's Fruited Porkettes," a meal-in-a-dish that bakes them with sweet potatoes, pineapple, brown sugar and extra bacon (because I always like a little pork with my pork). The "Easy Lemon Pie" is embarrassingly easy, but the perfect thing to bring to a summertime dinner; the "Lemon Icebox Pie" is just as easy, but can be temperamental and does not work if you use Cool Whip Lite.
In the middle of the book are vivid color photographs of working-class life in the south: clapboard churches, cold-water shacks, roadside vegetable stands. As a Southerner by heritage and upbringing, I am not sentimental about the grinding poverty of the rural South, which all too often goes with willful ignorance and a misplaced pride in narrow-mindedness; but the pictures here also show the dignity, good humor and generosity of the one ethnic group not protected by the culture of political correctness.
Looking at this book makes me feel far from home on this Thanksgiving day, and I'm grateful to the Bragdons for inviting me to share the holiday with them. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.