I got to thinking tonight about the strange foods or, in our case, combinations of foods that families eat and enjoy that seem to be indigenous or endemic to that particular family. I will share our odd food fetishes, but hope that this will be a trade-off as I would love to know some of yours!
1) Crackers in Sweet Milk. The crackers must be saltines and only one brand will do: Nabisco Premium Saltines. I hate to plug a particular brand unless it is absolutely necessary, but in this case it is -- all other varieties simply get too mushy too quickly or are not crisp enough to begin with, and believe me, in an effort to save a dime or two, I have tried them all. In defense of crackers in sweet milk -- this is purely comfort food for the weary. It is also a quick and easy supper that is very filling although the health conscious among us would be hard pressed to find any decent representation of the food groups. To prepare this culinary delight, take one large glass and fill with almost one sleeve of crackers; crushing the crackers slightly to get them to the brim. Then pour sweet milk (translate that to regular milk because in the Deep South any milk that is not buttermilk used to be called sweet milk)two-thirds of the way to the top of the glass. Immediately begin squishing or crushing the crackers down into the milk with a spoon. Once you have reached the desired consistency, eat immediately. The beauty of this dish is that there is no cooking involved and clean-up is minimal. If Julia Childs had known about this culinary treasure, it probably would be famous.
2) Field Peas with Mayonnaise. In addition to milk, butter, and sweet tea, the next most important food group in the South would be mayonnaise. I don't know why my Opp grandparents started putting mayonnaise on field peas, but folks in my family have been doing it for 80 years or so. Field peas are not readily available outside of Lower Alabama. I know because I spent more than a few years hitting all of the farmers' markets in Tennessee looking for field peas. Well-intentioned farmers tried to sell me crowders and purple hulls and even tempted me with limas, but I know a field pea when I see one, and I wasn't having any of it. There is a variety of pea that is close enough (the Lady Pea) that if I get desperate, I can boil me a batch and be relatively happy, but when I head home to Lower Alabama, you can rest assured that I will soon be eating some field peas slathered in mayonnaise...just the way I like them. If you would like my recipe for field peas, just let me know. Oh, and it does involve another favorite Southern food group: bacon.
3) Spaghetti Sandwiches. Somewhere along the line my family developed a taste for spaghetti sandwiches. I have two theories about this odd combination. The first one is that I simply forgot to buy the obligatory french bread that is usually served with spaghetti and simply threw some white bread (this was in the days BEFORE wheat bread was all the rage) on the table and told my kids to eat it with the spaghetti and since the bread was so soft, it was easier to just spread the spaghetti on the white bread and roll it up like a little sandwich. The second theory is that spaghetti was always a terribly messy meal at my house (four children, three of them boys and three kids under the age of four at one time -- can you call this insanity?!) so in desperation, I made a little spaghetti sandwich for whomever was the toddler at the time and the others decided that they would like to try it as well. Then it was a "Hey Mikey, he likes it moment," and the rest is history. As a side note, spaghetti sandwiches are a great way to stretch that little bit of spaghetti you have left over that is not quite enough to make a second meal out of. And we all know that spaghetti is even better the second time around.
I hope this post will get you thinking about the strange foods that your family likes to eat. I am sure that we have more, but at the moment all I can think about is running to the kitchen for some....you guessed it, crackers in sweet milk!