Because our classic Mississippi Moments episode this week is about Greek cooking and holiday traditions, we thought we'd ask USM Historian Andrew Haley to discuss his field of study and give an opinion as to how Mediterranean culture and cuisine has influenced our food ways.
Dr. Haley studies class, culture and cuisine in the United States from the Gilded Age through the 1950s. His first book, Turning the Tables: American Restaurant Culture and the Rise of the Middle Class, 1880-1920, is the winner of the 2012 James Beard Award for Scholarship and Reference.
Haley has conducted an in-depth study of Mississippi community cookbooks exploring such cultural aspects of these historic artifacts as immigrant integration, civic engagement, and the empowerment of women through shared recipes.
We then revisit a classic episode from December 2015 with Kris Gianakos discussing Greek Cooking and the holidays.
Many Mississippi families raised hogs for food and would cure the meat in a small shed called a smoke house. In this episode, Natchez native Charles Wright explains how neighbors would help each other out during hog-killing time.
Among the many pork products, Wright’s family would make with the meat from their hogs, was hogshead cheese. Hogshead Cheese is a cold cut meat product that originated in Europe during the Middle Ages. He remembers how his family would prepare Hogshead Cheese as a Christmas treat. Each Christmas, Wright’s family would gather at his great aunt’s house in Bude. He recalls the wide variety of wild game, fish and home-brewed beverages everyone would bring.
When Wright’s family assembled for the holidays, there was always an abundance of love. He gets emotional thinking back on those days when they could all gather together.
PHOTO: Bude, MS, depot. http://www.thetracksidephotographer.com
Ellen McCarley grew up near Port Gibson, the youngest of twelve cousins living on Drake Hill. In this episode, she recalls her idyllic childhood and the games they played to pass the time.
Before automobile ownership became common, Mississippians would travel to neighboring towns by train. McCarley remembers riding the train to Vicksburg to go Christmas shopping with her mother. Every Christmas Eve, the Drake family, would gather together for the lighting of the tree. She describes how her mother worked to make it a special time for all.
McCarley’s aunt ran a boarding house on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans in the 1930s. She recounts visiting her aunt during Mardi Gras and witnessing a parade and dress ball.
Dorothy Wilkins Fraley was born on a farm in the Fairview Community outside of Brooksville in 1918. She was in her 82nd year of life when she sat down to record her oral history in October of 2000 as part of the Noxubee County Oral History Project. This episode is a continuation of one we did in September of this year (MSM 587) about her memories of growing up on the family farm.
As the holiday season is now upon us, we wanted to revisit her interview and recollections of Christmases past. The first recalling family Christmas traditions of her childhood and the last, the family Christmas traditions that she and her husband forged with their own family in Macon. In the middle, come two clips detailing the arc of her marriage and career.
During WWII, women took jobs normally held by the men who were off serving their country. Fraley explains how a part-time job at the sheriff’s office led to marriage and a new home in the county jail. After Sheriff Fraley’s term in office ended, the couple decided to open their own grocery store in Macon. Dorothy Fraley recalls the challenges of those early days and how the business grew along with their family. Fraley and her husband bought a large home in Macon across from the Dreamland Theater. She describes her family’s Christmas traditions and how everyone was made to feel welcome.
For many of us, family holiday traditions become cherished childhood memories. In this episode, Robert St. John recalls the Hattiesburg Christmas Parade, his family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal, the annual shopping trip to New Orleans and Maison Blanche’s perennial snowman, Mr. Bingle.
Family Christmas traditions cover everything from how the tree is decorated to when the presents are opened. St. John remembers his Christmas mornings growing up and reflects on how couples blend old traditions together to form new ones.
Season’s Greetings from Mississippi Moments!
PHOTO CREDIT: Mr. Bingle in the Krewe of Jingle parade. (Photo: Julie Dermansky) GoNOLA.com