Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From Drive Thru to Dinner Party

A Different Graduation for a Recent College Student

I’ve recently come to realize that summer is slowing uncoiling from my grasp- soon kids of all ages will be back in the hustle and bustle of school and for the first time in my life I will not be one of them. I entered summer with a college diploma and ended my summer with a wake up call to reality – a job. “You mean I work nine to five and I don’t have homework?” This is still a common conversation I have with myself from time-to-time. My busy life has changed from: classes, work, different social events, and cramming for tests to: work, cleaning my house, and making sure I have clothes for work.  My eating habits have changed also from the drive-thru diet of the college student to cooking in my own kitchen.
            I have time to cook? Who knew! I don’t cook just anything. I have been on a mission to master the culinary roots of my new North Mississippi home. I’m a Missouri girl which is not necessarily the South, but I was lucky to have a Momma raised in the Mississippi Delta. I was spoiled on home made anything! So I have enjoyed learning that I do have her ability to cook. I don’t know the recipes by heart, and I won’t feel truly accomplished until I can make gravy from scratch. Until then, I’ve decided to stick with the recipes my mom did actually write down, and when I can’t find what I want from those I go for my copy of what has become my favorite cookbook; Square Table.
This isn’t just any cookbook, it’s my community’s cookbook, but one with a collection of recipes all from Oxford, Mississippi. I’m learning about my community’s traditions with recipes and stories told from famous Oxford chef, artists and authors.  The home cooked meals I create entertain my friends and fellow co-workers. You definitely feel more grown up once you’ve hosted a dinner party or proudly brought a dish you have cooked to a social function.
The friendships I made in four years of school now live as far away as Baltimore, South Florida, or Utah. When those friends visit I want to be able to give them a meal that really captures my new hometown, in all it’s flavor. I like to call it the Yoknapatawpha Special. The appetites are worked up after we’ve toured Faulkner’s house Rowan Oak, left an empty Wild Turkey bottle with a note on Faulkner’s grave, walked the historic square, and heard great live music. The meal that makes the trip is called Supper at Rowan Oak: smoked ham, red potato salad, sweet slaw, sweet onion pie, buttermilk biscuits, and pecan squares. I always serve it with Yoknapatawpha Tea seasoned with a little Wild Turkey whiskey.  

Yoknapatawpha Tea
4 English Breakfast tea bags
12 large fresh mint leaves
3 cups boiling water
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
6 cups water
Sprigs of mint
Orange slices

Place tea bags and mint leaves in a 3-quarter pitcher. Add 3 cups boiling water and steep until cool. Discard tea bags and mint leaves. Add orange and lemon juice, sugar and 6 cups water to tea mixture, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Serve over ice and garnish with mint sprigs and orange slices.
3 quarts for Serving

*Permission to use Square Table Cookbook’s “Yoknapatawpha Tea” recipe granted by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council

The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council can be reached at (662)236-6429

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