What Do You Eat & When?
At Easter, Robyn and Scarlett were chatting. Scarlett was saying how much she missed the springtime weather of the south coinciding with Easter. Flowers bloom everywhere, and warm temperatures, and sunshine. Then, they began to talk about the menu. At the top of the list was ham. Always ham. The sides were green beans, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, fresh pea salad, radishes, and homemade rolls. Dessert would be pound cake with fresh strawberries or graham cracker pie. The only drink on the table was sweet tea. You can count on this!
Robyn continued to turn this over in her mind. Why do we have specific foods for specific holidays? Some we never eat at any other time. Think about dressing. Only served at Thanksgiving. Robyn said she could remember dressing with baked chicken a couple of times. Very rare.
Why? There are many factors in the answer. A lot of it goes back thousands of years. Certain foods were only consumed for special occasions. Not all people had meat at every meal. What was available at what time was a determining factor. Pigs were slaughtered during the cool weather of the fall. They were cured in a shed or smokehouse. Then, one of those hams made it to the Easter table. Turkeys were hunted in the fall. This gave them time to reproduce and raise those chicks to ensure more turkeys next year. Hence, turkey at Thanksgiving. Vegetables and fruit were preserved and placed in a cellar for winter. In Spring and summer, you ate from the garden and replenished the cellar. Regional traditions in the US vary depending on the immigrants who settled there.
Robyn says here are some things that are true of her family and the South in general :
Memorial Day- In the old South, this was called Decoration Day. It was the time when families gathered to clean up the family cemetery and place fresh flowers on the graves. The meal was a feast. Ham, pot roast, potato salad, macaroni salad, collard greens, and assorted vegetables from the garden. Every mom and grandmother brings her special dessert. Later on, the holiday was hailed as the beginning of summer. Break out the grill! Hamburgers & hotdogs with all the fixings, potato salad, baked beans, and blackberry cobbler.
July 4- A repeat of Memorial Day but the grilling gets serious with the addition of ribs and brisket. Barbecue! Homemade ice cream and peach pie are on the menu now.
Labor Day- The end of summer. A repeat of July 4th. We savor the last of those big slicing tomatoes.
Thanksgiving- It is all about eating. Turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, homemade cranberry salad (no canned stuff), homemade rolls, and pumpkin pie.
Christmas- It could be turkey, ham, or both. Trimmings were more or less like Thanksgiving. The addition to the menu was mincemeat pie. This is one of Robyn’s favorites. Now Scarlett requests it when she visits. Robyn’s in-laws grilled steak on Christmas. This way, her mother-in-law spent a lot less time in the kitchen. Robyn quickly adopted this tradition.
So, what do you eat and when? It is interesting to ponder but in the end doesn’t matter. If you are with friends or family, it is all good.
The many flavors of the holidays from the 50’s thru the 2020’s are full of colorful memories for The Thoroughbroads!