A group of people standing around a table with food.

Southern Cookin’

Southerners love to cook.  Especially we love those community gatherings where everyone brings their favorite dish and we all sample “just a bite” of everyone’s.  My earliest memories of thisA person sitting on the ground in front of water. were “Dinner on the Ground,” and it literally was on the ground.  Thinking about it now, I’m amazed we kept the kids from stumbling into the spread – and maybe we didn’t..

I have such  wonderful memories of that food – and no matter how many times I try recreating their recipes, they just don’t comeA person sitting on the ground in front of water. out the same.  Uncle Henry’s fried chicken,  Miss Nina’s coconut cake,
Miss Ethel’s peach cobbler, Aunt Minnie’s A person sitting on the ground in front of water.chicken and dumplings,  Miss Edna’s buttermilk biscuits, and of course, Aunt Annie’s fabled deviled eggs.

Eventually we graduated to folding tables and chairs and finally to a real Fellowship Hall equipped with all the modern conveniences.  Much more comfortable but in nostalgic moods, I wonder if we were better off in those days.  We were blissfully unaware of the dangers of sugar, gluten, lactose, saturated fat, cholesterol, and vegetarians were, well, just weird.  There was no guilt associated with a hamburger and a coke for lunch.

A person sitting on the ground in front of water.

We had no idea the trouble we were in.

My rational self remembers  how it was   to lose relatives to diet-related disease, especially  heart disease and  diabetes.  These could be  devastating for a family, since health insurance  was essentially non-existent in those days; health care  was pay-as-you-go.

Southerners will always   love our  community food get-togethers, although today we make at least a token effort to prepare healthful food .  However, if  the occasional slice of coconut cake happened  to sneak in, well.. just a bite couldn’t hurt.

A person sitting on the ground in front of water.


MoMo’s Teacakes

Watching my grandmother (MoMo) make Teacakes is one of my most cherished childhood memories. A person sitting on the ground in front of water. And I loved getting the spoon to lick, (or sometimes the bowl!) while the aroma of the cookies baking filled the kitchen.  (Nowadays cake mixes carry warnings about not eating raw dough.  Really? )

Since MoMo didn’t need a recipe for Teacakes, all that remains is what I can remember.  Below is the recipe I use for my own grandchildren or for anyone needing serious comfort food.  It’s a combination of other traditional recipes and what I remember.

Flour was always sifted to make it lighter and more uniform.  Also it had no preservatives, and therefore could have weevil larvae and other undesirables (preservative-free enthusiasts, take note). Since she churned her own butter, she added a little salt.  Flavorings were purchased from the “Watkins Man.”    (Watkins is still the best vanilla, in my mind.)  Electricity  wasn’t available in our part of the country until after her death,  so she relied on an icebox for the most perishable items; milk not being among them.  Cows were milked every morning to provide milk for the day.  Cream was skimmed for churning into butter and excess milk was “soured” for cooking.

4 cups white flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour milk (or buttermilk)
1/2 pound soft butter
Pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
1 teaspoon flavoring; vanilla, lemon or almond


Using  a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl.   In another bowl mix the sifted flour, baking soda, and baking powder and add to creamed butter in thirds. Then add eggs, milk and flavoring.  Mix until a soft dough forms.

Roll out dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes and bake in a moderate oven (350 deg) until light brown, about 10 minutes. Dust with sugar and let cool.  This recipe  will make about 2 dozen “cake-like” cookies.  They are best when one or two days old, served with cold milk.