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Well. Just six weeks ago my husband and I moved from one side of the country (east) to the southwest again. Now that the move is over fro...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life in the Heart of Dixie

B'Ham can be compared in many ways to Dallas now. The life in the city is fast, the downtown area is considered dangerous. The weather can change at the drop of a hat. The weather is moderate, it can snow at times, but it is a place where the terrain is lush. People in this part of the country are steeped in the traditional values of the old plantation life. While it is composed of a number of smaller cities engulfed by the larger city, as B'ham  evolved there are a few things which remained within the structure of the foundation of the lifestyle in the south. This is an industrial city built on the sweat of the south's iron and steel mills with roots in the model of the captured and dependant labor supply namely that of blacks built squarely upon the plantation life. Once freed the labor supply was able to finally break free of the lowly positions, obtain required education to build better lives for themselves. So while there is excellent education in Alabama, life in the south is steeped in tradition. Life continues to revolve around the church, the local community, family and the local community (yes, this repeated again for EMPHASIS).

"What church do you go to?", is a common question here.

"What brought you here?", is the second question.

There are things which are steeped in life in the south, such as which churches are frequented. If you and others in the south do not cross paths often it is because your churches do not intermingle. The southern hospitality is that of making strangers feel welcome and extending hospitality but not to the extent that they let them into their communities unless they are affiliated with the local church. So, there is a bit of cultural separation if your communities and churches do not intermingle. There are neighborhoods considered better than others as far as local neighborhoods go. Homewood in B'ham is akin to the SMU area in Dallas. There is black side of town as there is a brown side of town. There are places which you do not visit alone or at night if you are a woman. Huntsville is akin to Austin, TX. Mobile, AL and the Gulf Shores areas are aking to Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, TX. There is nothing (no like city) like Houston, TX in Alabama.

Women in the south are homemakers, caretakers of the family, home decorators, nurses, gardeners, very good cooks, maids, volunteers, seamstresses, baby sitters and jacks of all trades while maintaining a cool, calm stylish demeanor. Add to this mix when a woman works -- the additional role of professional, or out of the home worker. They are much more resilient that they appear, and yes appearance is everything here.

"Simply put", as a friend of mine in Austin, TX used to always say, there is an unwritten code of politeness in the south. People are always stylish, calm, and composed. They travel locally, not much outside of the state as the state is not a wealthy state. The rural people you will find are salt of the earth people.

Barbeque in this part of the country is PORK.

In Texas we all know it is Beef.

But in both places you will find also Chicken Barbeque.

Below you will find a link for a great link to a traditional style recipe for a southern favorite: Cornbread. (southerners consider cornbread with sugar to be a northern style cornbread, So much for Texas cornbread which contains sugar):


Hispanic folks enjoy making  barbeque too, but it is called ASADA. In San Antonio, TX there are these FABULOUS Anticuchos which are grilled shish-k-bobs served at this great huge Fiesta called NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio). I grew up eating these, and learned how to make them. They are PERUVIAN shish-k-bobs. Delicious and virtually foolproof.

Here is the basic recipe.


1 part red wine vinegar
3 parts water
2 Serrano Peppers
Cubed Meat
Whole Black Pepper
1 teas garlic salt
Pinch of Oregano
Pinch of Comino

Add all ingredients in a blender, but hold off on adding meat for a bit. Blend well, pour over meat. Cover 1 -2 lbs cubed meat. Marinate 24 hours. Skewer meat cubes with Bamboo skewers. Do not reserve the Marinade as it will contaminate.

Cook over hot coals, baste skewers with butter.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Basic Sofrito

So what is Sofrito?

Think chopped seasoned vegetables which are seasoned and lightly sauteed. This is used in cooking many Latin American foods as the "base". Try this simple Sofrito. Other cultures use this cooking method, also known as epis (Haitian), Guiso (Colombian), it is also used in Mexican, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, as well as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Caribbean cuisines and so forth.

Once you have learned to make Sofrito. Add vegetables to your taste and proceed to make the recipe your own - based on your likes, dislikes, local fresh vegetables available and recipes you wish to incorporate the Sofrito in.

1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, devoid of membrane, chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, devoid of membrane, chopped (may substitute an orange bell pepper)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, devoid of membrane, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1 t salt
1 t fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 - 1 t fresh cumin, ground
cilantro to taste, chopped or crushed (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)

Heat the oil, add the peppers and onions. Cook until onions are translucent, add salt and pepper. Stir and mix well. This will take about 10 minutes. Add your cilantro and allow it wilt. Stir and use immediately, or you may keep in the fridge for about 4 days or better yet, freeze any you are not using for up to 2 mos.

Here are a few options to consider:
  • Tomatoes
  • Bay leaf
  • achiote (annato seeds)
  • pork
  • ham
  • lard
  • capers
  • turmeric
  • cardamon
  • Oregano 
  • Habaneros or other chile

Makes approximately 2 cups of Sofrito.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fusion cuisine of the south and the resurgence of southern food

Living in the heart of Dixie has introduced me a few new foods, better renditions of old time favorites and introduced me to a melding of cuisines.

With the recent changes in laws in Alabama many Hispanics have left the state for neighboring states with less strict immigration laws. So, Alabama is going the way of Arizona and other states cracking down on illegal immigrants. Migrant workers have made their exodus out of the state state of Alabama and taken their labor to other states. This course has led to a civil uprising of sorts in the state, much as what happened to the blacks in the 70's. Hispanics are congregating in capital cities, meeting amongst themselves and the lessons learned of the southern civil rights movements the blacks faced in the south are being brought forward yet again. Some of those moments of civil right bursting forth into the light of attention worldwide such as the bombings in Montgomery, Dr Martin Luther King and the freedom riders are etched in our history, locally as well as nationally.

Some people do not wish to dwell on what is happening in America. Uneducated Americans are stating that the Hispanics are taking their jobs. But as we all know, those are jobs others feel themselves too superior to take on - as they are service related jobs. Hence fruit and vegetables are rotting in the fields of states taking this stand, and service jobs have been affected around the nation. Hispanics are fearful of reprisal and ugly confrontations with people who wish them harm.

Quite frankly, the Hispanic population has been exploding over the past few decades. More and more Hispanics or Latino numbers are growing and will continue to grow. The unrest experienced in the states adjacent to Mexico is spilling into the neighboring border states. As of 2011, or even as early as 2010 it is not safe to go as a visitor to the border cities in Mexico which in our youth we visited to buy cheap Mexican jewelry, kitchen ware and for weekend vacations during summers. Mexican Americans with families in Mexico now must fly into cities further in Mexico or risk being shot at in border towns of Mexico and the US.

This exodus of Hispanics in Alabama has left the remaining Mexican - Americans, "born in America" Hispanics, South American's or Latin American's facing daily challenges of dealing with prejudiced outrage and unusual scrutinization of darker skinned peoples. School children are dealing with the changes in laws at school as well, which should be a place of learning not separation because of their skin color. Announcement of pedigrees is common place in the South when meeting new people as is the faith/church you attend.

I am going to intersperse recipes belonging to the South American peoples this year to document some of the recipes being shared with other Hispanics and people born in countries outside of America as I have been invited to some of these gatherings. Learning that some of the ingredients may be somewhat the same but some much different than the Tex-Mex we are familiar with.

There are a large number of Mexican-American's, Guatemalan and El Salvadorian communities remaining in Alabama. As I am exposed to their recipes I will be posting them starting today with the recipe(s) below.

Salvadorian Enchiladas

1/2 c corn oil
2 large eggs
2 medium white onion
1 medium bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
8 corn tortillas
2 T olive oil
3/4 teas Chipolte Chili powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 head Iceburg lettuce
3 Roma tomatoes
12 stems of cilantro
8 oz ground Pork
3 oz Pecorino Romano (or Monterrey Jack)

Heat Corn Oil in pan. Line baking sheet or big plate with paper towels. Dip tortillas into the hot oil, and brown for about a minute, transfer to pan with paper towels and drain. Repeat for each tortilla.

Place eggs in small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil. Then turn off heat and let them sit for about 15 minutes.

Dice onions, bell pepper and mince garlic cloves with a bit of salt.  In a separate pan heat the diced onion, bell pepper and garlic with olive oil add chili powder and cook for about 5 minutes or until fragrant and onion is soft. Add pork to the mixture, cook until the no pink remains, chopped the meat as you cook it, stir it into the mixture. Discard the fat and taste seasoning with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Shred the lettuce, slice tomatoes into 16 slices. Coarsely chop Cilantro. Drain eggs, crack them under cool water and let them cool. Then slice eggs into 8 pieces.

Arrange two tortillas on each plate. Divide pork among them. top with lettuce, egg, tomato slices, pecorino and cilantro.

Makes 4 servings, serve with black beans, sopes (similar to a gordita) and fried plantains.