GUEST COLUMN: Like biscuits and gravy
Monday, 21 January 2013 by Mark Magnan
Well the holidays are over and so is all the holiday food. (I sure write about food a lot, perhaps I should apply for the food columnist job here) Why is it that holiday food is just for the holidays? Why shouldn't we have these meals at other times during the year. Perhaps it is the combination of the holidays and the special foods that go together. There are a lot of food combinations that go together as well, some just seem inseparable.
Things like peanut butter and jelly. You never hear of a peanut butter and mustard sandwich. Just like certain chips and their own accompanying sides. Potato chips do certain dips, but not salsa. Corn chips do bean dip. Tortilla chips handle salsa or picante sauce. Those combinations don't seem to be interchangeable. The light weight of the potato chips limits the dips you can use. While the texture of the other chips seem to blend with their most common sides.
Holiday meals consist of turkey and dressing. It just seems impossible to imagine another combination that would work. Turkey stuffed with fried okra, two of my favorites, but I doubt they would blend together. It seems like the only time we get to enjoy pumpkin pie is during the holidays as well. Why wouldn't that work in the middle of summer. I mean you use "cool" whip on pumpkin pie.
Then you have the more obvious parings. Bacon and eggs, a breakfast natural. Pickles and eggs just wouldn't start your morning off the same way. Another breakfast favorite is biscuits and gravy. Of course biscuits with either butter or jelly, or both is acceptable. But for me why waste a biscuit by putting jelly on it when you can cover it in good cream gravy. It would seem like some sort of food sin to put something else on a fresh hot biscuit if you had gravy. Also gravies are not all created equal, morning gravy should be made after cooking some good bacon, or sausage.
A New Years tradition in the south is black eye peas and cornbread. Now good southern (Texas southern, not southeast southern) cornbread is not sweet, it has the flavor of the corn meal not sugar. And to make the best beans (this works for pinto beans as well) you need to drop in as much smoked pork parts as you can, perhaps even equaling the measure of beans. If I was ever forced to move to Austin and become a vegetarian, I could probably live on beans and cornbread, removing the pork before I consumed my meal of course.
Of course we have dozens of other combinations of food, but how did these get started. Cookies and milk. Hamburgers and fries. Pie and ice cream. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Perhaps evolution of cooking styles has formed these specific pairs of food, and I am sure that different regions also contribute to some of these tastes. Recently I went to a restaurant and ordered chicken fried steak, clearly a Texas staple. The waitress asked for my two side dishes. She should have known that I expected mashed potatoes to be on the plate as well. With chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes should come standard, not as an option. That actually should be a food law somewhere. I certainly wasn't on a health kick when I ordered the chicken fried steak, so the mashed potatoes should be included. Skipping the potatoes and ordering broccoli and brussel sprouts would be ridiculous, not to mention completely un-Texan.
Hot chocolate chip cookies and cold milk, no matter what age you are, this has to be one of the great comfort foods of all time. At some point during the middle of the year we need to cook a big turkey and all the fixings. Bring a little bit of the memorable holidays back into our summer schedules. Perhaps we could find a way to bring something else into those summer holiday meals, turkey and potato salad, ham and fried okra. I am up for some progressive thinking when it comes to new foods, just let me take a chance.