And now for something completely different. White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler. I came across this by chance (understandably it’s not as well known in England) and added it to lucky Mrs Aitch’s Christmas stocking. Ernie Mickler was born in Palm Valley, Florida, the son of a shrimper and a filling station attendent. White Trash Cooking was first published in 1986, to cult acclaim: “A marvelous and genuine book’ (Vogue), “a sociological document of such beauty...” (Harper Lee), “ a delight” (New York Times Book Review).
I’m fascinated by American Food, and especially the food of the Southern States, with its intriguing mix of English, Irish, Scottish, French, Caribbean and African flavours. And I’m fascinated by White Trash Cooking, which does exactly what it says on the tin- sorry, can.
If anything, it’s slightly edgy, subversive, even. American Gothic. And I’m struggling to find anything that looks, even remotely, appealing. The Russian Communist Tea Cakes, perhaps? Or Mamma’s Brown Gravy? Sheba Spann’s Mock She-Mock Crab Stew? But then I’m probably missing the point. To get you in the mood, here’s one of the best:
Mama Leila’s Hand-Me-Down Oven-Baked Possum
After you kill the possum be careful not to let him get away. While you’re talking and planning how you going to eat him, he’s going to be slipping right from under your nose. All he was doing was playing possum. Skin him and clean him before you go another foot, then the mess is gone and he won’t get away.
When you get him home, rub salt and pepper all over his body then run a mixture of vinegar and brown sugar over the salt and pepper. Wrap up the possum in a good baking pan and let it stand in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning put the pan with the possum still in it (hopefully) on top of stove. Add 2 or 3 spoons of bacon fat and sear him on all sides. Then add chopped onion (2 of them). Put in the oven and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Pull him out and roll him over, and now you can add your sweet potatoes (just surround him with ‘em). Put back in the oven and bake for another 1 ½ hours or until he is tender and juicy.
“Possum is tender and mild regardless of what other people think” Mama Leila say, “but you’ve got to watch ‘em cause they’ll slip away.”