Southern women know how to cook. It’s in our blood. Our mothers and their mother’s mothers all know how to win over the hearts of friend or foe with food. It’s also something that brings people together – especially women. We laugh, cry and tell deep stories over a plate of apple pie or a bowl of chicken ‘n dumplings. We also share memories and relive life experiences with the food we bring to the table. It’s inherently a part of us. And it’s not a passion for just any food… It’s southern food. It breaks through all boundaries of socioeconomic class, race, or gender, and it goes straight to the soul. It feeds the soul, keeps us strong and helps us help others.
In the book and recently-released film, “The Help,” several southern women come together and share their life stories in the midst of the 1960s civil rights era in the South. It’s a southern woman’s world, revealing the relationships between the African American help and the women for whom they work. A young girl decides to write a novel from the perspective of the help and asks some of her closest friends’ maids to join her in this dangerous task.
The film, The Help, tells about southern traditions, friendship, forgiveness, love, and life. Fortunately, it also has a tasty, heaping helping of down-home southern food.
The Help: Southern Food – This is a great piece in Food and Wine Magazine. Read an excerpt here:
“About 20 minutes into the movie, you’re craving fried chicken,” says director Tate Taylor. That movie is The Help, the new film based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel; it stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer and costars platter after platter of incredibly delicious-looking Southern food. The Help examines the complicated relationships between African-American maids and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi, and since the story crosses race and class lines, the cooking does too. There are scenes of ladies’ luncheons with tomato aspic and cocktail meatballs, and scenes calling for soul food like collard greens, black-eyed peas and, of course, that craveable fried chicken. “Food is just everywhere,” says Taylor.
Martha Hall Foose, author of the acclaimed Southern cookbook Screen Doors and Sweet Tea and the new A Southerly Course. Foose made fried chicken for the film based on a recipe described in the novel, prepared by a maid named Minny who’s revered for her talent in the kitchen. The secret: Crisco. (Minny praises Crisco thusly: “Ain’t just for frying. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair, like gum? That’s right, Crisco. Spread this on a baby’s bottom, you won’t even know what diaper rash is. Shoot, I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on they husband’s scaly feet. And after all that it will still fry your chicken.”)
In honor of the film (Go see it!! It’s in theaters now!!), and from one particular scene in the film where Minny helps Celia learn to make fried chicken, I cooked up some buttermilk fried chicken and garlic mashed potatoes today. Using Crisco in a large cast iron skillet, I made fried chicken to go alongside fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. It was soooo delicious! It reminds me of the fried chicken and mashed potatoes my Momma makes. Hopefully Minny would be proud of my southern cookin’!