“Whiskful Thinking” is a weekly column that explores the very Southern concept of food as a vehicle for history and storytelling. When recipes are included, each ingredient is a snapshot of time gone by, and the finished product conveys the spirit of that moment. “Whiskful Thinking” is written by Le Cordon Bleu graduate Jeremy Green.
In the unspoken hierarchy of Southern family meals, there is no clambering to find a place or make a statement. You sit where you have sat-where you were told to sit for most of your life. You enjoy the same wonderful food made by wonderful women each and every time, according to what the occasion is. Winter’s buffet of great white cakes becomes Spring’s hams and hopeful pies. That is, of course, until without your own knowledge, you become a grown up.
In my large, eccentric family, women’s voices dominate the auditory landscape. When I was very young, there were maiden aunts and dowager cousins who rattled about in great, dusty houses. These days, those voices have changed a little bit-and do not hesitate to weigh in about anything via iPhone-but the spirit is the same. And you know what? Those women teach you to cook. Moreover, they teach you why to cook. To feed hearts; to hand a story down. “Now this is what we ate when I was young,” they would say. Or, “This was your Nana’s favorite supper.”
The happiest times I can recall were filled with those voices. In the strange, under-water way those memories have, they cycle through years and years: different colored hair, different styles, and different houses. But the voices remained the same as they taught me to cook, and taught me stories that I privately call a legend.
So, it was with great shock that I realized that-at the age of 25-I had finally become a grown up. I was messing around in the yard of my tiny starter house planting coleus and pulling weeds when my phone rang. I can’t ever remember who’s voice was on the other end of the line. Was it Aunt DeeDee’s honey and tobacco sound or Aunt Beth’s bawdy trills of laughter that never let a smile stray too long from my face? Was it (my heart thrills a bit to even think of it) Grandma Eunice, our own matriarch? That would probably be too grand.
The voice on the other end burst right into conversation. That’s how it is in this family. You say “hello?”-and the other person takes right off into a landslide of a conversation. “Jeremy how are you I need your pork recipe what are you doing and …” “Pardon me?…you wanted a recipe? “ “Yes! That pork you made!”
Y’all hold on a second while I pick that phone up off the grass again.
I must have said something like “ok, you got it” with incredulity. The caller kept dropping bombs, however, in an apparent effort to prevent me from ever raising a pan or a pen again. “So Jeremy, what are you making for Easter Sunday? I’ve got a few things that need cooking.” There’s no telling what I agreed to make.
So, I handed over this recipe for my pork. I think I came up with it by mashing several recipes together. And with that came a sudden change: when I arrived at the door for Easter dinner, I was brought right into the kitchen, into the fold of steam and secrets. And when it was time to eat, I was no longer left to children’s tables or adolescent couches. No. I sat with the grown ups.
Grown Up Pork
1 Boston Butt Roast
Vegetables To Fit Your Pot: carrots, celery, onion, potatoes white and sweet.
1 Apple, cut
2-3 Tbs Brown Sugar
2 capfuls Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to season (about a tablespoon each)
3 Leaves Sage, Whole
2 Leaves Sage, Chiffonade
¼ cup White Wine
Place Boston butt in a large, oven safe pot (I use a Le Creuset Dutch Oven). Arrange vegetables and fruit around the pork and season everything liberally with salt and pepper. Pour in the white wine and cider vinegar. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and whole and chiffonade sage.
Cook at 325 until it is very tender and can be broken apart with a fork-usually 2.5-3 hours depending on size.
Let it sit a little bit so it’s juicy when you serve it. And when you do so…sit at the grown up table.