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Gertie's Got the Goods on Cookin'!

Southern cookin' help is here! From Potlikker, cornpone, collards, and varieties of potato salad to breakfast ideas (and recipes), I have something for you!

Dear Gert,

What's the proper edicut (manners) to eat a fried pork chop? Is it correct to gnaw it? Lick your fingers? Are the grunting noises acceptable at a table? Once it's polished, do you give it to your dawg?

Alice in Alabaster

Dear Alice, it all depends on who else is sittin' at the supper table with you. If it's just you and your beloved, then lick, suck, gnaw, burp, and grin with your mouth full all you want. If you have the preacher over, then use a fork and knife. If it's relatives joining you to break bread, then daintily pick up the chop (with pinkies extended), and politely bite off small portions. As far as the bones go, if nobody's looking, slip one under the table to the dog -- well, unless you have a teething baby, then you give the bone to him or her.

Dear Gravel Gertie,

I'm new to the South and I need for you to explain to me about "Pot Liquor." The Pastor's wife was mentioning it at church this past Wednesday and I really didn't know what to say. Do all Southerners get drunk at church?

Jennifer in Macon

Hi Jennifer, nope, the preacher's wife wasn't talking about alcohol or drugs. She was referring to the vitamin-rich liquid left after cooking greens, peas, and pot roasts. It's the best thing in the world. I serve it on the side (even for breakfast) with cornpone.

What's cornpone? It is cornbread except we leave out the eggs, shape the thick batter into small handfuls which we either fry or bake. The more uppity folks have these fancy little tins that are shaped like ears of corn that they use.

Dear Gertie,

I want to learn how to cook Southern! How do you to make collard greens? What are collard greens?

Vera in Sioux City

Dear Vera, oh my. Collards are part of the cabbage family, but when it grows, it doesn't form a head but has these pretty little flower-looking things at the top of the stem. It looks a lot like kale (you know, that green stuff that restaurants put on the side of your plate to make it purty). The way I cook collards is to boil them with a chunk of bacon drippings or fat back with a chopped up onion, and salt and pepper to season. I serve 'em with pepper sauce on the side.

Dear Gertie,

When I fry okra, it just doesn't taste the same as my mother's okra. What's the secret?

Annie from Greenville

Dear Annie, the secret to frying okry is bacon grease. Say, if you're using an 8-inch skillet, use about four or so good-sized tablespoons of bacon grease to fry your okry in. Get the grease real hot before dropping in your okry. As far as the breading, sprinkle corn meal, salt, and pepper over your cut okry and toss to coat (as you see me doin' in that photo up yunder). Dab your finger in it and taste to see if you have enough salt. Momma'd be proud.

Dear Gravel Gertie,

What exactly is a clove of garlic?

The Bull in Birmingham

Hi Bull! Ok, there is a head or bulb of garlic that looks like an overweight onion. When you peel back the skin, you'll see segments/sections kinda like an orange has. A segment is the same thing as a clove. Make sure you use a CLOVE of garlic not a BULB of garlic or Alice won't let you near the kitchen again!

Dear Gertie,

What's the difference between German Potato Salad and regular potato salad? My new boyfriend said he likes the German kind. Do I have to make that stinky sour crap?

Tootie in Tennessee

Dear Tootie, I think you mean sauerkraut, not sour crap, but in my book, they're one and the same. Anyways, about this potato salad business, regular tater salad is cooked, diced/cubed potatoes mixed with chopped onion, green peppers, celery, seasonings, and a mayonnaise or sour cream based dressing, where German potato salad is the same fixins except it is mixed with a vinegar-bacon grease dressing. Some folks serve German potato salad warm.

Dear Gert,

I've tried and tried but I just can't get my gravy to turn out like Momma's! How do you make gravy?

Ellen in Nashville

Dear Ellen, don't get upset, hon. You didn't say what kind of gravy your are talking about, so I'll assume you mean sawmill gravy - the kind you serve with biscuits or with chicken or chicken-fried steak.

Gravy is very tricky to make. For those of you who know how to make a roux, then, this will be easy. (For you rednecks out there, a roux is a hot mixture of fat and flour -- I just recently found this out so I like to show off my new vocabulary to impress you.) Anyway, this recipe will (possibly) serve about 4 or so people (depending on how big and how hungry they are).

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat up about *6 (or more) tablespoons hot bacon grease (or you can use sausage drippings with pieces of sausage in it). Add about *6 (or more) tablespoons of self-rising flour (*NOTE: the amount of flour should equal the same amount of the grease you use) and bring to a hearty simmer and cook until the flour is golden. If you undercook this, your roux will taste like flour and grease, yuck. Season with salt and pepper.

When you are satisfied with the color of your roux, reduce the heat to low and slowly add your milk - about 2 or 3 cups - depending on how thick you want your gravy.

Stir this mixture constantly. If you don't, you will have lumpy gravy and your family will never let you live it down (just like the time you left the guts in the turkey, right?).

Bring this roux-milk mixture to a simmer; after about 5-10 minutes or so, this mixture will thicken. If it firms up too fast, remove it from the heat, add a little milk or water, and use a whisk to thin it out. If it turns out too thin, continue simmering until some of the liquid is cooked off. Next, re-season it if necessary, and pour over your biscuits.

Hi Gert,

I'm cooking for my boyfriend for the first time. What can I make to impress him?

Traci in Cleveland

Hey Traci, now's the time to steal his heart. Make a salad with some homemade oil and vinegar dressing (make sure you use some of those garden tomatoes, and whisk in some fresh minced garlic). Bake some potatoes (scrub them hard, rub 'em down in bacon grease, sprinkle with garlic salt, and poke holes with a fork, then wrap in aluminum foil and bake), and make sure to get the thickest t-bone the butcher can get ya. About ten minutes before throwing that hunk of meat (the t-bone) on the grill, fork it several times, and then splash some Worcestershire sauce, salt, and coarsely ground pepper on it. For dessert, heat up a slice of Mrs. Smith's® apple pie and serve it your sweetie with a big heapin' scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Dear Gravel Gertie,

I have all kinds of melons. What can I do with these?

Margaret in Milledgeville

Hey Marge, I do hope you're talking about the mush melons, cantaloupes, watermelon, and honey dews -- I'd hate for a male reader to get all anxious and stuff. I made a recipe page full of idears for the garden-variety type of melon at Gravel Gertie's Melon Recipes. If you're talking about the human form of melons, well, ah, you got the wrong web site, sugar.

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