I grew up in Southern Louisiana, so I already know that the world down here revolves around food. When I went on my camping trip this weekend that I have dubbed my Redneck Immersion Experience, I was prepared to eat. Pam called to tell me who was coming on what days, and it all revolved around what they were cooking. “Cricket and Mary are coming on Wednesday with Doc, and they are picking up shrimp and stuff. We’ll have a hog on Thursday and hamburgers on Friday,” she said. There was nothing about what we were going to be doing. In fact, I had to call her later and ask if we’d swim or float down the river or what. The food was the main plan for the weekend. Pam joked on Thursday about Russel’s project planning around the side dishes for the hog. She kept asking him what side dishes she should make, and he kept saying not to worry about it and adding, “We’re having a hog!” Luckily she took the initiative and prepared some side dishes.
Down here, the men are the cooks for events. Sometimes the women will cook the side dishes, but the men cook the meat, the gumbo, the jambalaya or whatever is grilled or smoked. There are sections in cookbooks down here for The Men That Cook. The recipes usually feed anywhere from 20-100 people. Cooking is an event. And, it’s an event that involves plenty of beer.
On our weekend, the women slept in – except for me because I can’t – so the men made the coffee and breakfast, too. I was a little afraid that first morning when Russel was making coffee, and he lifted up a red solo cup. “When they say a cup, do they mean one of these or 8 oz.?” he asked. Oh, Lord…. I just knew this coffee would be sludge. I walked over and Bam Bam had the Community Coffee bag upturned to pour the coffee in the percolator. There was no measuring. That coffee was black as onyx just like I like it, and Community Coffee is so smooth that it doesn’t matter if you put in too much. It just takes on a deeper flavor. I saturated it in half and half and drank a bucketful every morning. Yeah .. I’m back hooked on coffee. I’m lucky it’s just coffee. Down here, if you don’t smoke, drink, eat fried food or heavily fatted meat, you’ve got nothing to do. I may as well drink the coffee.
The first night they boiled crawfish and shrimp. They also loaded the pot down with wieners, heads of garlic, corn on the cob and red potatoes. I had my fill of that stuff. The corn was so spicy it’d make you want to slap your Mama. They poured it on the table on newspapers, and we put our elbows up and dug in. It’s messy. Juice runs all down your arm, and there are paper towels on the table to wipe yourself up. A bunch of young people came up and partied that night later, and they munched on what we had left. There was plenty of beer for everybody who wanted it, and it got pretty wild and crazy with dancing and singing karaoke. Our friend Tony had brought his computer and his karaoke stuff, and we sang – very badly – the songs that we danced to as college students in the Brown Door. It was a hoot.
Every morning we drank coffee for an hour or two and then Russel would cook us breakfast. The first morning, the gas grill had not arrived yet, so we plugged in an electric percolator, two large grills, fans and music. Just about the time he got all the food on the grill, the power blew. All the guys went to work trying to find the breaker for the outdoor kitchen. They followed electrical lines all over the place and found three breaker boxes before they found the right one. We had to unplug the coffee pot for awhile to make room for the grills. But, we had breakfast. Pam made biscuits, and we had bacon, link sausage and sausage patties. Russel fried up eggs, and Pam made some salty down home gravy. Everybody drank water like crazy to make up for the sodium in all the meat and the gravy, but it was delicious.
After breakfast, the guys started working on the hog which was cut up into pieces to make it cook faster. They finally got it in the smoker around noon, and proclaimed that it would be ready at 4 PM. Well …. I guess when you’re dealing with smoke, it’s hard to calculate what was going to happen. There was a lot of worry about the ETA of the smoked hog because the inside temperature wasn’t rising like it should. Four o’clock came and went with no idea of when it would be ready. The cursing started about them. Pam started telling them to let her know when it would be ready in an hour and half so she could get the sides ready. We were out in the water talking about boys a good deal of the time. But, there was still no hog. I don’t know what time we ate, but I think it was getting close to 7 or 8. We were starving. Pam had cooked a mega bunch of side dishes included some squash balls that were a big time hit. It even got one visitor on the rampage of starting a business of growing squash. They were good. The hog was good, too.
I found out that when men cooks get mad at a hog for not cooking quick enough, they get vicious. They left the pieces of the hog that we didn’t get to on the grill. That hog cooked until it was morning. We kept laughing all night about that hog sitting in the grill getting its “what for.” It was charred beyond recognition. We all looked at it and laughed the next morning.
The next two mornings Russel added some pancakes to the breakfast menu. I had brought some blueberries, and he added some of them to the batter. This was apparently a new discovery for him. He loved the blueberries in the pancakes, and we had blueberry pancakes with real butter and Log Cabin syrup both days. I went for seconds the second day and then fell asleep on the beach in a carb stupor. They were delicious. The last two days we had a gas grill, so the cooking went a lot faster, and there were no electricity shortages. So, we turned the music up and the fans on to keep the bugs away. Breakfast was … and is … always my favorite meal. Give me some good coffee, good friends and breakfast food, and I am one happy gal.
Throughout the weekend, different people brought different snacks in. We had cherry dessert, potato chips of all kinds, fritos and dip and all kinds of homemade snacks to munch on. The beer and the diet coke ran freely, and the party went on into the wee hours every night. As the night wore on, one by one, people would disappear to go to sleep, but there was always someone up to greet 3 AM as rumor has it. And, I hear the young people in Liberty MS got a somewhat wacky education from one of our school principals. He decided to show them a new use for smoked sausage. I’ll just let the picture speak for itself.
I could also use this one to illustrate the Redneck Fashion Blog, but I think it fits in the food blog as well. Rednecks apparently play with their food as well as enjoy it at mealtimes. I don’t know if it was the beer or if it was just normal, but the cooking section of RIE was extremely enlightening. I learned several things about Redneck cooking:
- It takes a long ass time. Bring plenty of beer and snacks. There is no telling when you’ll eat.
- It’s not exactly hygienic. I was watching Russel as he swatted a mosquito with the same spatula that he turned the pancakes with.
- Beer goes with everything…. even breakfast. If there is leftover alcohol of any kind, it goes with coffee.
- If you can catch it, shoot it, trap it or wrangle it, you can cook it.
- Side dishes are optional.
- If your food makes you mad, burn it to a crisp. Then, let the flies have it. You are in charge.
- Watermelon is an everyday, every meal kind of dessert.
- Solo cups measure everything. They double as a shot glass, too.
- If there’s fire, you don’t need electricity. And, fire is preferable.
- If all else fails, drink more beer.
I wouldn’t try this at home, folks.