There are four essential food groups in this region

April 14, 2004|SHIRLEY WOODS

I just finished reading a magazine article written for southern readers. It mentioned the four essential food groups in this region. They were: grease, salt, barbecue and bourbon.

I had to laugh; most cooks I know have all of them in their food pantries.

My husband, who is the primary cook in our house now that he is retired and I still go off to work each day, has a panic attack when the grease bowl starts to get low. "We've got to buy bacon," he will say and won't let up until it is bought and cooked and the grease drained off and put into a little white bowl that we keep it in. My husband cooks the best fried potatoes you ever tasted and he swears that bacon grease is the secret. Why, at one time most every household owned matching aluminum containers that sat on the back of the cook stove. The middle one had the word "GREASE" stamped on the front and a smaller set of salt and pepper shakers sat on each side.


That brings us to the next essential food: salt. Most people south of the Ohio River salt the food while it is cooking but that doesn't count; once it reaches your plate, and just after the blessing, you salt again. There are more different kinds of salt shakers made than there are "Carter's Little Liver Pills." If you've heard that before you are at least as old as I am.

Some folks even collect salt shakers. At our house you will find big salt shakers so they don't have to be filled up as often. If we would throw more salt over our left shoulders for good luck and eat less on our food there might be fewer prescriptions written for blood pressure medicine. More likely than not we might live a little longer here in Kentucky.

Then there is barbecue or "Bar-B-Q" (you'll find it spelled both ways). It may be a homemade secret recipe or store-bought but it is used to grilled ribs, steaks, hot dogs, chicken and hamburgers. Around my neck of the woods you'll find it brushed on a pig roasting over a slow fire and in the baked beans that are a side dish.

And last, but not least in some opinions, there is bourbon. You don't have to travel far in central Kentucky to find a distillery. A bourbon that is well recognized is the one with the red, hand-dipped seal. Even though I am a teetotaler I think there's a pint somewhere back in one of my cabinets!

I didn't buy it; my husband brought it in several years ago from a tobacco warehouse that will remain anonymous. It had been given to him, or at least that's what he told me. It has come in handy; I use it to flavor fruitcakes and bourbon balls during the holidays and for medicinal purposes. If someone comes down with a sore throat and cough, a little mixed with honey and lemon does a body good. Chances are you've taken a dose of the leading liquid cough and cold product. Read the label - it contains a large percentage of alcohol.

So, maybe you don't have all four of these "essential" food groups unique to the South but it's a good bet you have three out of four at any given time. Next winter if you find that you need a little "toddy for your body" give me a call; I'm sure that bottle's around here somewhere.

Shirley Woods lives in Lancaster.

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