Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning to Fry Green Tomatoes

The view from my mother's kitchen window looks out over a reservoir that is more like a small, darling little pond. Southern Utah's famous red bluffs rise up behind the pond and on a clear day you can see Zion National Park in the distance. My mother is a woman who appreciates a room with a view. The day she moved into her little house on the pond she stood looking out her kitchen window and burst into tears.

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 When I visit my mom we take her little dog and my little girls on walks around the pond. As you probably know, little dogs aren't so very different from little girls and you must watch them closely to be sure no one jumps in, is thrown in, or goes potty where they aren't supposed to. I find walking with little kids and little dogs excruciating. We were maybe ten feet from the house before someone wanted to be carried, needed a drink, or suffered the keen injustice of not having a turn to hold the leash.

So one day we left the kids and dogs at home with the men and my mom and I set out, just the two of us. That was the first time she went all Last of the Mohicans on me. We broke off of the main trail and forged through the sage brush. I'm a city slicker and worried about critters. My mom is a country girl and hoped we'd see some critters. She stopped half a dozen times to point out and identify animal tracks, plants, and Indian campground markers that my untrained eyes would have missed. How do you get to be thirty-two years old without knowing or noticing that your mother could build a summer home in the forest swamp and live quite happily, building her own cottage with a porch and a hammock, and catching her breakfast each morning with a homemade spear?

She came to visit a few weeks ago and inspected Farmer Jeremy's little garden. I'm pretty vain about our  tomatoes this year and it warmed my heart that it took us three trips to transfer all the ripe tomatoes into the house. She snagged a couple of green ones too. "They aren't ripe yet," I said, feeling stupid. "I know," she said. "But they're perfect for fried green tomatoes."

She made biscuits and sausage gravy from scratch and fried green tomatoes for our breakfast. Watching my mom move comfortably around my kitchen preparing a true country breakfast felt the same as when I was eighteen years old and stood watching my dad adjust my crampons when we were climbing in the Alps. Evidently there are lots of people who possess these hidden talents and skill sets that aren't applicable in every day life. When I lived in Utah a member of our bishopric invited Jeremy and I to go camping. We watched him set up camp as effortlessly as if he'd invited us into his livingroom. We watched him prepare dinner in a cast iron skillet and marveled at his buttery, golden cobbler. When we stumbled out of our tent the next morning he'd been up for hours and had walked miles in order to "watch the deer." He demonstrated various animal calls that he'd mastered over the years until his wife finally set down her paperback novel and said with a wry smile, "Really, he should've been born a hundred years ago."

Since I'm as mystified by my mom's Indian Warrior Princess abilities as I am by Twitter I suppose that puts me somewhere in between the era of horse drawn carts and the age of the internet. It's fun, you know, living in a world where there are so many surprises and unknowns, even within your own family. My mom's recipe for fried green tomatoes is exactly the kind of recipe that I love. Estimations instead of measurements, a little of this, a little of that, and then you FRY it. Delicious.

Kay's Fried Green Tomatoes

Pick two or three good sized green tomatoes. The reason you want them green is they are firmer and won't disintegrate in the pan.

Wash and slice the tomatoes into rings. Beat an egg in a bowl and dip the tomato slices in the egg. Then dip the eggy tomato slices in a mixture of flour, panko breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Fry them over low heat for about six to eight minutes on each side in a hot, buttery skillet.

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I'm told that once she finished frying her tomatoes my maternal grandmother, Grandma Lumpy, used to add a couple tablespoons of butter and flour, and a little milk to make a white sauce to drizzle on top. I haven't tried that yet, but I sure love the image of Lumpy standing in her old farm house in Western Pennsylvania making fried green tomatoes with white sauce. It is one of life's certainties that good food and timeless recipes bring people closer together.

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