Southern Fried Green Tomatoes #SOL22

Tradition is only about what people have or have not done; it’s not about what they are capable of doing. And it’s not about what they will be doing in the future.

from Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Monday I had several food=themed conversations:

While shopping in T. J. Max my favorite sales associate Jose and I talked about food traditions after I mentioned my trepidation about our upcoming trip to Missouri for my forty-fifth high school reunion and an aunt’s and uncle’s sixtieth wedding anniversary celebration. Jose doesn’t like eating goat, a delicacy in Mexican culture.

An attendant at the Costco gas station and I chatted about travel while I filled my car’s gas tank. He asked if I’d eaten anything unusual during our recent trip to Iceland. We did not eat puffin, but I have a friend who did during her summer trip to the land of fire and ice.

My husband and I chatted about changes to our diets–specifically his diet–and the best salt substitutes now that he’s on a low sodium diet following a minor heart attack in the wee hours Saturday morning.

I am obsessed with food. This obsession has increased the past couple years as I’ve considered the rhetorical importance of food traditions and read several texts featuring food symbolism and food as both community and family tradition.

At NCTE21 I delivered a presentation on FOOD STORIES and included thoughts on food as a force for reclaiming and preserving culture, as a force for social change, and the importance of food memories.

Sometimes the dead appear in my kitchen. / I feel my grandmother’s hand patting mine when I make cake…

from Kitchen Ghosts by Crystal Wilkinson

Late summer and early fall bring a return to food I loved as a child, and so I’ve been indulging my love of fried green tomatoes. Fortunately, a local farm accommodates my request for green tomatoes when we go to purchase corn. Someone is always willing to jog out to a field and find some green tomatoes, and I am happy to pay the same price they post for ripe fruit.

I’ve prepared fried green tomatoes three times this month and will agin this afternoon. I’ve adapted the recipe to make it slightly more healthy than the deep-fried green tomatoes I loved as a child. Instead of flour, I use a combination of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. I dip the tomatoes in egg first and sauté them in a small amount of olive oil instead of deep frying the tomatoes in crisco.

Even though I’ve changed the recipe slightly, my fried green tomatoes honor family tradition, so I wrote a poem I hope captures these sentiments.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Some day I will cook like Aunt Fern
I will pick green tomatoes 
grown in my garden & 
pluck their adolescent 
orbs from their viney 
homes before summer sun 
kisses their pudgy cheeks red.

I will slice, dredge, & sauté 
firm green tomato fruit in 
my black iron skillet the 
way Aunt Fern dipped fleshy 
fruit in flour & fried green 
tomatoes for family & friends. 

I will hold memories 
rounded by time like 
yesterday’s unripened 
green fruit cupped in the
open palm of my 
outstretched hand 

Glenda Funk: September 19, 2022

9 thoughts on “Southern Fried Green Tomatoes #SOL22”

  1. Fried green tomatoes bring memories of my childhood summer table, too. My brother was the one who loved them most… how could we forget seeing him polish of a whole platter and then declare “Well, they were good, but not as good as the last time.” He was lucky there was a next time!

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  2. I loved this post. I am a sort-of transplanted southerner (reside in Ca but both parents and entire family from North Carolina). I have also modified the fried green tomato recipe. 🙂 I agree w/you wholeheartedly recipes (especially family ones) carry on rituals and traditions. I love looking at my little dog eared “Pet Milk,” 3×5 recipe cards and looking at my grandmother’s looping scrawl.

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  3. Glenda, I read something recently about someone who loved fried green tomato sandwiches but only recently realized the main ingredient was actually green tomatoes. (I wonder if I read it in one of our writing spaces.) Anyway, I too have never tried such a simple food. Your revised recipe sounds amazing and healthy. Peace to you and your hubby. I’m so thankful it was a minor (although attention-grabbing) heart attack.

    I love this: “I will hold memories
    rounded by time…”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness, Glenda – I am so sorry to read about Ken’s heart attack! You just slipped that tiny reference into all these wonderful words about food and travel. That is earth-shaking. May he heal well, may he stick to low sodium. I’m not sure that fried green tomatoes will be the best food for him, that’s for sure! What a lovely poem – I especially adore every word of the last stanza. Be well, dear friend.

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  5. Glenda, your presentation on food stories intrigues me so much. Yes, food is absolutely such a cultural element; I think it’s a big part of travel – – eating the food of the place to get the flavor not only of the dish but the living as well. Your poem is blissful. You have an Aunt Fern? I love that name. The fried green tomatoes make me want to go back to the Whistle Stop Cafe, although fried green tomatoes are on many menus in my town here in rural Georgia. I’m glad you love them and I’m glad you are finding new ways of making things with less salt. Hope you and Ken are both doing better. You’ve been on my mind.

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