My fertile imagination got a little out of hand, however, when I suggested that we'd have Burgoo Stew for dinner. To tell you the truth, I've never even seen, much less tasted, Burgoo Stew, just like I never saw Churchill Downs until years after I left Louisville. When they play "My Old Kentucky Home", however, a tear usually rolls down my cheek. (Actually, that 1939 recording of our late Governor, A. B."Happy" Chandler, and his wife, Mildred, singing Stephen Foster's song doesn't quite do it justice.) But they talk about Burgoo Stew as if every Kentuckian sucked it through the nipples of their baby bottles. How can I be a self-respecting member of The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels without having tasted the stuff? So, we'd have to have Burgoo Stew for our Derby Party.
That was before I started looking at the recipes for it. Get a load of this one from the 1850s:
600 lbs. lean soup meat (no fat, no bacon)You mix the ingredients in a big iron kettle, fire up the logs under it, and stir it for 20 hours! My wife's due back in Atlanta this evening and I don't quite know how to break this news to her. She'll have me in an apron for the next two weeks doing all of this. The math alone in reducing this recipe to one for a party of seven could keep me up all night. I don't even want to eat a bloody squirrel!
Squirrels - 1 doz.to each 100 gals.
200 lbs. fat hens, plucked
2,000 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
200 lbs. onion, peeled and diced
5 bushels of cabbage, chopped
60 lbs.of tomatoes, deskinned & chopped
24 lbs. of tomatoes - pureed
24 lbs. of corn, cut from cob
Red pepper and salt to taste and Worcestershire by the pint.
Now, my affair with Belle Waring actually goes back almost a year now. (Adam Kotsko, eat your heart out!) Oh, John and my wife know all about it. It's a public affair between consenting adults. She first linked to me last July, when I posted this great ode to Okra:
"Song to Okra" by Roy Blount, Jr.Belle, I've got a Yankee wife. You're a sensible Southern woman who loves Southern food. I, apparently, have a commitment to serve Burgoo Stew on Derby Day. What to do?
String beans are good, and ripe tomatoes,
And collard greens and sweet potatoes,
Sweet corn, field peas, and squash and beets –
But when a man rears back and eats
He wants okra.
Good old okra.
Oh wow okra, yessiree,
Okra is Okay with me.
Oh okra's favored far and wide,
Oh you can eat it boiled or fried,
Oh either slick or crisp inside,
Oh I once knew a man who died
Little pepper-sauce on it,
Oh! I wan' it:
Old Homer Ogletree's so high
On okra he keeps lots laid by.
He keeps it in a safe he locks up.
He eats so much, can't keep his socks up.
(Which goes to show it's no misnomer
When people call him Okra Homer.)
Oh you can make some gumbo wit' it,
But most of all I like to git it
All by itself in its own juice,
And lying there all nice and loose –
It may be poor for eating chips with,
It may be hard to come to grips with,
But okra's such a wholesome food
It straightens out your attitude.
"Mm!" is how discerning folk re-
Spond when they are served some okra.
Goes down with ease.
You can have strip pokra,
Give me a nice girl and a dish of okra.