Some of my fellow Times of Israel bloggers specialize in purple prose. You won’t get any of that here. No sirree Bob.
What you will get is a festival in beige.
I had an aunt whose sister in-law, no relation to me, was married to a Potter Palmer. I’m told that she wore only beige and that her house was decorated all in beige and that she had exquisite taste and it all looked absolutely stunning. I have no doubt this is true because my mother told me so.
Well, I am not married to a Potter Palmer, I am not wearing all beige, nor is my (rented) home decorated in beige. But today, as I was cooking for Shabbos, I realized that just about everything I was cooking was (wait for it) beige.
The fried chicken was beige bordering on golden brown. The potato
salad and coleslaw, with nary a bit of carrot for relief, were beige bordering on white. The mashed potatoes were a yellowy-beige speckled with black pepper, the salad dressing was white with a touch of cream, and the (parve) whipped cream was white on white.
Sure I paid lip-service to color. I made a side of green beans and a tossed salad. Oh, and there are chocolate chips in the banana cake. But overwhelmingly, the food I prepared was, er, beige.
I had a hankering for Goy Food this Shabbos. I mean no slight by this. I
like Goy Food. I like it a lot. When I speak of Goy Food there is reverence in my voice for the sheer amount of white, fried carbs packed with sodium those goyim can pack onto a plate. You’ve heard of Italian, Chinese, or Mexican food? Well, you can have them. Just give me Goy Food.
I see a number of similarities between the Lithuanian Jewish cuisine I know from childhood and Goy Food. Take Bob Tzimmes. It’s just limas, chicken fat, salt, pepper, and sugar. I don’t see much difference between Bob Tzimmes and the ubiquitous Southern butter beans. Both are beige carbs with not much else to the picture except for a bit of unhealthy fat, salt, pepper, and sugar. Carbolicious.
Back in the summer of 1988, my mother sent me her copy of the July/August Cook’s Magazine. There was an article by Craig Claiborne called Craig Claiborne Entertains Southern-Style. Just about every recipe in the article was beige or white and I just knew I wanted to cook them all. At least the recipes that didn’t contain pork, that is. After all, I’m NOT a goy. I’m a Jew. And I keep kosher.
Tears Of Joy
I began with the Southern Fried Chicken. He soaked his in milk. I soaked
mine in soy milk. He fried his in lard. I fried mine in corn oil. Guess what? It was and still is the best fried chicken I have ever eaten. Bar none. I have to stop the kids from eating the bones. The flesh is whiter than white, and the coating is so crunchy it brings tears of joy to your eyes. My kids wanted to know my secret blend of herbs and spices. I told them, “Salt and pepper.”
Only Hellman’s Mayo
I’ve also made and enjoyed Claiborne’s Goldsboro Potato Salad and Goldsboro Coleslaw, in the style of Goldsboro, North Carolina (Claiborne was from Mississippi, but don’t let that confuse you overmuch). The main ingredient in both these salads is
Hellman’s Mayonnaise and apparently, it was after Professor Higgs tasted these salads that he first theorized about the God Particle.
The poor Cook’s Magazine photographers tried their darnedest to inject color into the photos accompanying the article with these delightful (beige) recipes. They laid sundried tomatoes like so many shriveled digits around the edges of the potato salad and plunked a sprig of basil in the center. It just looked . . . wrong. The piled some chopped curly parsley in the center of the slaw. It just looked . . . dumb.
There was a large photo of the Craigster (RIP) himself in front of a large
painting (oh, the need for color!), standing behind a table laden with all these brown and beige recipes, many of them based on a good stiff (creamy beige) foundation of Hellman’s Mayonnaise. Craig himself specified that only Hellman’s must be used in Southern cooking and he cautions the reader, “One could never go on a steady diet of Southern cooking.”
Oh really, now? Just you try and stop me.
Varda’s Southern Fried Chicken (based on Craig Claiborne’s Southern Fried Chicken)
1 liter unsweetened soy milk
½ teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
2 cups flour
Salt and ground black pepper
2 ½ cups corn oil
PREPARATION: Cut each chicken into 8 pieces and put in a large bowl. Add enough soy milk to cover and stir in the hot red pepper sauce. Refrigerate overnight.
In a flat dish, mix the flour with 1 tablespoon salt and 4 teaspoons pepper.
COOKING AND SERVING: In a large frying pan, heat oil to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Dredge half the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, add to the hot oil, skin side down, and fry until golden brown on one side, about 8 minutes. Turn the chicken, reduce heat, and continue frying until golden brown, 15-20 minutes longer. Drain on several layers of paper-toweling. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Serve chicken hot or at room temperature. (Can set cooked chicken aside up to 8 hours.) MAKES 8 SERVINGS