Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen
By Francine Bryson
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Francine Bryson: I'm Francine Bryson and my newest cookbook is Country Cooking From a Redneck Kitchen.
Suzy Chase: All I had to do was flip through Country Cooking From a Redneck Kitchen and I was immediately transporter to the south. Tell us how this is a celebration of your family's history.
Francine Bryson: It's sort of like coming home. A lot of southerners know these recipes and have ate these recipes all their lives, but then a lot of the other parts of the country have never seen any of it or they've seen it on TV and didn't think it was real or had seen it on the Beverly Hillbillies but my thing was, I just wanted to bring the family back to the table. Bringing old traditions back and simplifying them to where it's easy for people to ... Where you're not in the kitchen all day long over a hot stove and cooking all day long to have a good meal on the table.
Suzy Chase: You've won over 200 baking competitions. How did you get your start on the circuit?
Francine Bryson: I actually started with savory. I was 16 and I used to cook a lot after both my grandmothers, they passed away within a couple of years of each other and my dad just kept me in the kitchen. It actually started with a savory which is in the recipe. It's the apricot stuffed pork loin. That was a fluke. I had never competed, didn't think about competing, and didn't have a desire to but we're very competitive people. My dad was very competitive. He says, "Oh just put it in there. Let's see how it does." Oh okay. I walked away and beat the grownups and the other kids and I was like, "Okay. I could get behind this. This is something I could do." That's where it started. It was a family effort.
Without my family, I wouldn't have ever done it because they were number one, my guinea pigs and they were total support no matter what I did but the food ... I think they liked the food competition because all the trials and errors they got to eat.
Suzy Chase: Here's my favorite line out of your cookbook. "It's not the fancy stuff served up with sprigs of whatnot and a spoon of sauce artfully drawn on a plate all to make you forget the food ain't good or plentiful." That is so true.
Francine Bryson: I love five star dining as much as everybody. I love the four and five course meals at the fancy restaurants in the city and things like that, but when you get a plate of food in front of you and it's like a sprig of lettuce and a lump of mushrooms and it's got this little artfully drawn design under it, it's like, "Is it art or are we eating here?" It's pretty in pictures, but you don't want to spend $100 on a meal and walk away, go, "You know what? I think I just need to get a cheeseburger." It's true and I think a lot of the fancier places, we go to the fancy places and you'd have 14 forks and 13 spoons and 12 plates and it's all a waste. Give me a buffet with some fried chicken, some mashed potatoes, and send me on my way.
Suzy Chase: What's your favorite family story out of the book?
Francine Bryson: I really can't pick one. I think the one about my daddy's chili is my favorite. Everybody's like, "Why do you go to that?" Because I'm a daddy's girl. Have always been a daddy's girl. He was a very, very [monumentous 00:03:32] part of my life and my food life and he introduced me to ... Daddy's idea of fun was he'd say, "Oh, I'm in the mood for pistachios." I'm like, "Okay, well, let's go to California." He'd say, "You know what? I really need some pretzels," and we'd go to Pennsylvania. That was his idea of fun for me. I've traveled this entire country eating all the way across from one seaboard to the other and it's all because of my dad.
Suzy Chase: Let's talk about squirrel. You have a recipe for squirrel pot pie. Squirrel to me is kind of in the frog category. I'm always wondering how much meat you can get off of it.
Francine Bryson: Not a whole lot.
Suzy Chase: Yeah. How many squirrels do you need to make a pot pie?
Francine Bryson: It depends on how big of a pie you're making honestly and it depends on what time of the year. You don't want to eat them in the spring because they're breeding up and they're skinny and everything. You want to get them in the fall which is usually squirrel season. There's no dedicated season like there was for deer or for turkey or for doves or anything. It just depends on how fat they are and where they was raised. Now, the cool thing is I don't know about other parts of the country, but I know here you can actually get squirrel and rabbit in the grocery store. It's blister packaged and it's raised to eat so they don't have any of the wild gaminess to it or anything. I like the gaminess. It's not really gamy. It's got a richness to it. It's not gamy. It's rich.
The only reason that one's in there is because they wouldn't let me put no more because I had deer recipes and rabbit recipes. They said, "Okay. One's enough." I'm like, "Oh wait a minute." I'm like, "Look. You gotta think about it. It's organic."
Suzy Chase: Right.
Francine Bryson: People have been eating organic before the packaging and I put that in the book with the squirrel pot pie was people don't realize that all of us that hunt and fish and everything, we've been eating organic all our lives, but now it's trendy which is a shame but then even though ... I've had people that are like PETA supporters and stuff say, "You know you shouldn't hunt and everything. You need to buy your meat in the grocery store." I'm like, "Okay. Do you know know how those animals are raised to be killed? Seriously?" If you're hunting, you're keeping down the wild population. You're keeping it from overtaking everything and you're keeping the balance. The food chain balance and the quality is what I think. The squirrel, it does taste like chicken to a point.
Suzy Chase: I was flipping through your book and landed on your fried liver with onion gravy recipe. I love liver and onions. My mom used to make it, but I can't seem to make it without it being dry. How do you make liver that's not dry?
Francine Bryson: You do it just like you do barbecue. Low and slow. You can't cook it too fast. That's what dries it out. A lot of people eat fried chicken livers and stuff but then you get them one place and they're really good and juicy and you get them at other places and they're really dry.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Francine Bryson: You have to cook it low and slow. Medium heat. You don't want to flash fry it. Liver is not my favorite thing and I said so in the book. It was a Thursday night dinner with my mama and I grew up hating it and then when I got cancer and was going through chemo and stuff and your iron platelets are down so low, that's one of the greatest things in the world to eat to build your body back up is liver and I hated it.
Suzy Chase: Yeah this recipe saved your life.
Francine Bryson: It did. It did. If it wasn't for liver and actually having to get it down, I wouldn't be here. Honestly I would not be here right now.
Suzy Chase: A few nights ago for dinner, I made your recipe for shrimp and grits on page 102. Now, this-
Francine Bryson: I saw that on Instagram.
Suzy Chase: This was the first time I've ever made grits. They were amazing. The cream corn really made a nice sweetness.
Francine Bryson: I'm glad you liked it. I love shrimp and grits. That's one of the dishes I judge restaurants by is if they can do good shrimp and grits.
Suzy Chase: I want to know about the working grits mill in your town.
Francine Bryson: It's over 100 years old and they still grind them and they're what we call stone ground which is a bigger grit. Singular which is the little pieces of corn that turn into the grit and it's actually just ground down corn is all it is. They run it ... I think it's the third Thursday of every month. They have the big hoedown days and they had the ... It's a agricultural active center where they actually have people there who weaving thread and making quilts and making bowls out of wooden pieces of log and they run the grits mill that day and you can see them grinding and the big water wheel on the outside is running the wheel and everything.
Then they have the stone wind up and everything. It's actually taking a piece of corn and putting it between two rocks and knocking the crap out of it. It's what it does. It's something that we've always had. We've survived on grits for years and years and it's a shame that there's parts of the country that can't get them because they're great.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web?
Francine Bryson: Just Google my name. Honest to goodness. Everything is just my name so Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
Suzy Chase: Well, thanks Francine for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Francine Bryson: Thanks for having me. I'm glad you liked the book.