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Jowls & Such

Jowls & Such

Jowls & Such

Throughout human history, the strong, the wealthy, and those with cunning traits have preyed upon the weak, the defenseless, and the poor members of their tribe, clan, town, city, and country. Yet, the human will to survive has compelled those who have had their basic needs denied, taken, or destroyed to find a way to live and to continue to add their DNA to ongoing human societies.

When, it comes to food, don’t get the idea that those denied only ate garbage. On the contrary, they learned to find nutrition in overlooked meats and vegetables. They learned to clean, cut, season, and slow simmer wild vegetables and meats, neglected portions of domestic vegetables and meats gotten at the food markets, and they learned to use aromatic wood smoke (like hickory, pecan, and mesquite) to flavor food while cooking it.

From the woodlands in the southern United States, the colonials, backwoodsmen, and field hands got mushrooms, chestnuts, black walnuts, tubers (roots), seeds, wild (muscadine) grapes, freshwater crayfish and bluegills, dandelion greens, black cherries, wild blueberries, wild strawberries, and wild honey. Indentured servants, sharecroppers, and slaves, got those things and they also got a portion of food they cultivated for a landowner, as well as whatever food that the landowner failed to sell for profit or was deemed unsuitable at his table. Today we like to watch food preparation shows on TV like “Iron Chef,” but there have been incredibly talented chefs throughout human history, most of whom were called some local name that meant Mama or Grandma.

Jowls (cheeks) of a hog are differentiated from bacon (belly) of a hog mostly because the fat content is higher in the jowls and the jowl meat is thicker so that you won’t get long strips of meat like you do with bacon. But, smoke jowls and fry them up like bacon and you won’t see too much difference and they taste the same. Because of the higher fat content, your body gets more calories by eating the jowls. Grandma learned to capture the flavor in the fried fat and blend it with the greens (tops of turnips), to season and flavor them, and the greens were chock full of vitamins, calcium, and iron.

The landowner valued the turnip because it was a tuber (like the potato) and he tended to ignore the greens. The field workers could have all of the greens on top of whatever sharecropping arrangement that he made with them, plus the jowls did not market well like the ham, the bacon, and the casings used to make sausage. Black-eyed Peas did not market well either because they tasted bland when cooked, but they could be grown by the field hands in unused spaces of land and they tasted just fine when combined with hot peppers, also grown in small spaces, and with fried jowls.

Jowls, greens, black-eyed peas, and a host of other foods, like cornbread, crawdads, wild rice, and hot chestnuts have come to be known as “soul food.” Southern American Soul Food excites the taste buds, nourishes the body, and you can share it with your friends on Sunday afternoon at your house after you join your friends at church. Our souls need the word of God to help us do the good things in life. You can share Biblical scripture alongside food, to keep your friends and yourself close in faith and on track with God’s purpose.

God cares for you, like you care for your friends. He nourishes your soul with his grace. “Whenever two or three gather in my name, there am I with them,” Jesus said (Matthew 18:20).

Resource Box: Pray to Father God. Ask him for his grace in your life. Web search what you want to know about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and other subjects in the Christian Bible at the online Bible Gateway, [] You can always make a change for good in your life.

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James Sumo

Sumo as his friends call him, is an renissance man, he loves to learn and loves his food even more. When you find him, he is usually curled up studying the world around him.

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