I am watching the sun come up on this beautiful Saturday morning and it is hard to believe that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Everything looks normal but our country right now is so abnormal. Spring is in the process of springing, flowers are blooming, birds are singing and I am still sneezing from the pollen but it is Springtime. We live in a area where we can still experience the changing of the seasons and going from dark and dreary Winter to Spring is truly a reminder from God.
Spring is also the start of planting season. I always think of my grandmother this time of year, Addie Griffin. The oldest of old school. A renaissance woman. Snakehunter, fisherwoman, gardener, quiltmaker, lover of birds, hater of cats, journaler, painter and poet. She could ring a chicken’s neck with the best of them and cook with the worst of them but cooking meant you have to be inside and that was where “Nannie” hated to be. Having lived through “The Great Depression” she was a expert when it came to getting every drop and morsel out of anything she cooked. Oatmeal in ground beef, watering down ketchup, the kitchen sink in soup. A kitchen was not for her. As a side note every October 12th, which is her birthday in honor of her for breakfast I cook saute onions, add Neese’s Livermush and scramble eggs. I’ll give you the recipe if interested……… Anyone? Like clockwork, I can count on Rebecca gagging one time a year. “Nannie” was more comfortable with a straw hat, old woman dress with a fishing pole or a hoe in hand or her snake killer 22 rifle. That is the way she is remembered and everytime I see a Bluebird her paintings of them she put on canvas are seared in my mind. Yeah I love springtime.
My grandmother had a total of seven brothers and sisters, each have special memories. Her sister Alta being one. She reminds me of springtime, she reminds me of Chow-chow. Traditionally chow-chow is an end-of-season recipe that makes the most of any veggies left on your backyard vines. A way to preserve summer flavor. What exactly is Chow-chow you ask? It’s a North American pickle relish. It is made from cabbage, green tomatoes, onions, green and or red peppers, vinegar and spices. These ingredients are pickled in a canning jar. After preserving, chow-chow is served cold but better at room temp. You can put it on anything. Pinto Beans and cornbread, green beans, butter beans, turnip greens, black eyed peas but to me it is best served on collard greens. It is like peanut butter and jelly, french fries and ketchup, pumpkin spice and a trash can. They are made for each other. Aunt Alta was the Queen of Chow-chow. It is amazing how you remember things as a kid. Somewhere you went, a smell or a taste of something. Aunt Alta’s Chow-chow was one of those things. For twenty or so years whether it was a birthday or Christmas present I could always depend on a Mason jar full of that wonderful concoction of heaven on earth. I have searched the south over in trying to find a replica of Aunt Alta’s Chow-chow. I have had some that has come pretty close. Asheville has a festival in September, Chow Chow Culinary Festival. I plan on going this year and continue my quest for the Chow-chow of my childhood. I can’t think of a better place to continue my quest. Growers, farmers, chefs, tastings, demonstrations. A Chow-chow heaven. The reality of it all is my search will probably last the rest of my life. Seriously why would I want to find any as good as hers and squash the memories I have of Aunt Alta and the nectar of the Gods she would send to me. The truth is, I never will and that is fine with me.