Sunday, May 17, 2009
Land of Sweet Tea and Poke Salad
Sweet tea, found in the refrigerator of all true southerners, must be sweetened ( meaning LOTS OF SUGAR) while the tea is still hot. It is sacrilegious to add sugar after the tea is poured over ice ! During my recent visit to Missouri, my cousin introduced me to "Ready to Drink" gallon jugs of pre-sweetened tea.
This product, extremely popular in the South, tastes similar to homemade. Sweet tea is served year round in the South. It is assumed that if you ask for tea, you mean Sweet tea, and you only designate "unsweetened" if you don't wish to have the traditional tea.
We stopped for lunch at Poke Salad Annie's....a delightful little restaurant in Humansville, Missouri, recommended by the desk clerk at our hotel in Bolivar. After being seated and ordering our iced tea (sweet tea for me, of course), I ask the server why they chose the name "Poke Salad Annie's". She told me the restaurant was named after a song. It's true..there is a famous song Tony Joe White wrote in 1969. He is definitely a Southerner...using his first & middle name...Tony Joe....like Jim Bob or Troy Lee. He and Johnny Cash sang "Poke Salad Annie" as a duet, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6diOn540Ws , and then Elvis Presley delivered his rendition in 1970...absolutely vintage Elvis..the way I remember him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9d_LCGalZ1I&feature=related.
Poke Salad Annie's menu features regular items like Black Angus steaks and unusual specialties; frog legs & crawdads on Friday & Saturday nights. My favorite lunch time "claim to fame" is Doc's Gourmet Fried Bologna, advertised as "Not your momma's fried bologna". All my life, I believed my Grandmother was the only one who ever fried bologna. I learned not to discuss eating fried bologna in California because people looked at me like I must be from another world, which of course, the South, especially the Ozarks, is a world unto itself. But then, here, at Poke Salad Annie's, was fried bologna, in black and white, on a restaurant menu !!
Poke Salad, though, was not on the menu. Poke Salad, is made from Pokeweed, www.pokesaladfestival.com/plant.htm , a weed of great distinction in the south. My mother told me about gathering "poke greens" in the spring with her grandmother. Turns out, poke weed is toxic and must be prepared only by those carefully trained to do so. My understanding is one gathers the young green leaves in the early spring, and then the leaves are boiled for 5 minutes, rinsed and re-boiled. Most southerners add a bit of bacon grease to make a tasty substitute for spinach or collard greens. Bacon grease, like Sweet tea, is a staple in all Southern kitchens .
Poke Salad, (Polk Sallet, Poke Sallet, Poke Salat) is so revered in the south, that several towns celebrate this spring time green with a festival. The festivities are as distinct as the spelling of Poke Salad. In Gainesboro, Tennessee, not only do they choose a "Miss Poke Sallet", but the highlight of the party is the Outhouse Race , www.gaineboro-jcchamber.com. In Blanchard, Louisiana (near Shreveport), the 35th annual Poke Salad Festival rates a parade and it's own website: www.pokesaladfestival.com. Poke Salad recipes and folklore and Important Health Information can be found at http://www.rockytopgen.com/polksalad/index.html .
You may never eat Poke Salad, but if you are in the South, you will be ask if you'd like iced tea. (Meaning Sweet tea !)
May all your infusions be sweet,