What I love about going back to Mississippi is eating the food of my childhood. Here are a few things we sampled, in no particular order, during my three-day visit:
Shrimp and grits, onion rings, cheese dip, crab dip, Diet Dr. Pepper and Nabs, brown butterbeans cooked in fatback, turnip greens cooked in fatback, cornbread muffins, cornbread sticks, fried okra, okra with tomotoes and onions, ice tea, redfish cooked in "Wooster" sauce, melba toast with butter, Mile High Coconut Pie, yellow squash cooked with onions (and fatback), Rendezvous Sausage Platter.
That's about all I can even bear to remember right now without jumping back on an airplane and going back for the Two Sisters fried chicken we missed in Jackson.
On the way back to New Jersey, I had lots of airplane time to read and was glad we'd picked up the latest Oxford American at Turnrow Books in Greenwood (more on that later also, maybe with pictures). One of my favorite things about returning to the South is sampling and remembering the food. And my absolute favorite food writer in the world is John T. Edge. If you've never read his books and essays, you're missing something almost as good as actually being there. I've reviewed his books including this one about DONUTS.
In the summer 2008 Oxford American, Mr. Edge writes about Middendorf's, a place our family never missed when we traveled from Mississippi to New Orleans: "...for three generations women have worked with cutlass-tipped knives, shaving fish into vellum filets that... emerge from the fry vats...tasting like the lovely and raspy offspring of a bag of Lays and a net of channel cats."
Now, you can't get much better than that. And I don't just mean the catfish he's just eaten.
The last time we stopped at Middendorf's it was too early in the morning to eat catfish but we were showing my Yankee offspring what it is I love about the South and did the tourist drive-by of this nearby market:
Yes, that's a sign advertising coon meat, which I have never knowingly eaten and don't intend to, and alligator meat which I suspect I have eaten, well disguised and not lately.