Monday, February 6, 2012

Hoe Cakes and Charge Plates How Traditional Use Of Words Fade Through Generations

One of the reasons my heart led me to become a seller of antiques and vintage items is that I love nostalgia, all things nostalgic.  My fondest memories are those of visiting my great grandmother in Atlanta as a kid.  Stepping through her front door was like stepping through a time warp into the 1940's.  Her home decor, old ice box refrigerator full of cold glass bottle Coca Colas, her pink lucite vanity set and of course how could I forget her huge metal bee hive shaped hair dryer chair on her back porch.

My grandparents, both maternal and paternal, lived and worked in the city of Atlanta.  I was raised full blooded %100 Southern.  Proper Southern that is.  The food, the manners and what strikes me the most, the language which is still very much a part of me.  I will never forget visiting my best friends family in Staten Island New York in the mid 90's.  Here mother, who is very Italian American, told me she imagined the South as something one would see in Gone With The Wind.  Plantations, hillbillies with a piece of straw hanging from their mouths and women strolling around moaning "Oh I do declare".

 I often think about how my parents and grandparents spoke, the words they used, foreign to those who were not deep seeded Southern proper. For instance, my favorite word my great grandmother, we called her nanny, used was ear bobs, of course referring to what we knew as earrings.  She caught my attention immediately upon using the term ear bobs.  As a little girl growing up in the 1980's earrings were a scary thing.  Neon colored massive hooped monstrosities donning tacky gold nuggets and splattered paint.  My great grandmothers ear bobs were a completely different story.  Rhinestone diamonds of all colors, simple, clean and elegant.

My grandmother, Dorothy, often used a term that you absolutely never here in today's market or economy.  While shopping she would reach into her leather Aigner pocketbook and pull out what she called her charge plate, credit card to you and I.  I delighted in this term because she was the only human being on earth I had ever heard use that term and cannot say I have heard anyone since use the term charge plate in referring to their credit card.  Why use the word plate?  Simple, credit cards or charge plates used to me made of plated metal, hence the term charge "plate".  Our 21st century latte drinking, texting blogging selves tend to forget plastic was not so readily available around the turn of the century.

The reason I was inspired to write this post about my favorite Southern nostalgic memories was I fixed my daughter a corn tortilla today for lunch and I absolutely cannot eat a corn tortilla without thinking of what my great grandmother called hoe cakes.  Similarly made like corn tortillas these were made of simply corn meal and water.  The name "Hoe Cakes" comes from farmers and farm hands actually mixing the batter and frying the cakes on the hot summer hoes they used to farm with.  They are very similar to pancakes only they are of a different consistency used with corn meal instead of flour.  My great grandmother would fry them in a cast iron skillet and serve them hot with melted butter on top, fried chicken and collard greens.  Well bless my heart and oh my stars how my mouth waters by just the thought of it.

These are just a handful of my favorite memories I have of  two very special ladies in my life, my maternal grandmother and great grandmother.  These are memories held dear to me due to the uniqueness of their choose of words, which like most generations, tend to fade over time being replaced with other terms or use of certain words.  So let me not forget another important lady in my life, my Mother.  A true Georgia Peach.  Ms. Georgia Peach to those who know her well enough. I find her choice of words endearing and important.  Important because words in the English language do eventually expire, lose their flare and die out. Especially regional traditional words and phrases.  Many Southern traditions you find in Atlanta you might not find in the Appalachian region of  North Carolina.  "Heavens To Betsy",  "Oh My Stars" and "Goodness Gracious Alive".  Using the word "ugly" not to describe how one physically looks but  to describe someones nasty behavior.  I make it a point to use these Southern phrases around my kids only in the hopes that they too will pass them to their children.  One can only hope.  

I will continue to post about my family, our traditions, recipes and particular Southern phrases that just make me smile and remind me of where and who I come from.  In a world where technology rules, the pace is faster than ever and life slips through our fingers tips so very fast our family traditions and memories are worth holding on to and passing on to the next generation.  

Here is the recipe for Hoe Cakes.  Enjoy!

  • 2 cups corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • oil for frying (Cast iron skillet recommended).
In a large bowl combine the corn meal and salt. When the water boils, measure it in a metal or tempered-glass measuring cup. Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal and stir it up. The cornmeal will swell up, absorbing the water, and making a very thick mash.
Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. You can use as little as two tablespoon of oil per panful, but it is a little easier to use 4 or 5 tablespoons of oil for each panful. Use your waistline and frying skill as the final judge. Now scoop up a little of the cornmeal mush (about 1/4-cup) and shape it into a patty. It will still be warm from the boiling water, so be careful not to burn yourself. You can let it cool down some more first if you like. Plop the patty into the hot fat, and get it to frying. Make some more, until you have a whole pan full. I usually cook about 4 or 5 at a time. When the underside is crispy brown, turn them and cook the other side. When both sides are crispy and brown, transfer them to a plate to keep warm, and start another batch. This recipe makes about 12 hoe cakes.
Recipe from HillBillyHousewife.com

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