A Great Book, Home Cooking . . . and Fried Walnuts!

     In this case home cooking means Southern party foods straight from a book that explores Mississippi Delta customs and comfort foods.  Although its focus is an unlikely topic, BEING DEAD IS NO EXCUSE, The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, this book by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays is one that will make you laugh and smile. According to the authors, funerals are just another opportunity for a social gathering in the South. They not only keep you entertained but well feed.

     I enjoyed this book so much that last year I reviewed it for a literary group and provided refreshments straight from its recipe pages. Then, Barry and I offered a cooking class titled -- LIFE IS GOOD:  A Great Book & Home Cooking at the former Martha & David’s in Salina.
I’m sharing just one of the recipes and recommend you run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore. Because, I believe the authors just might offer these words of advice:  “You never know how much time is left!” Besides that, their recipe for Lowry’s Fudge Cake is awesome. There are no less than six recipes for pimiento cheese – the paste that holds the South together. And, you won’t want to miss V.D. Spinach (Visiting Dignitary Spinach).

Fried Walnuts     Makes four cups of the three major food groups: salt, fat, and sugar
According to the authors, “You can’t bury a self-respecting Southerner without certain foods.” And, although Fried Walnuts did not make their list on The 10 Top Funeral Foods,” they earn high ratings in my book. I do have to admit that “fried” in the title almost scared me away but it also intrigued me to give this recipe a try . . . and the results were worth every little bit of effort I expended.
The authors provide this information, “This recipe comes from the Beyond Parsley Cookbook, which was put out by the Junior League of Kansas City. Fried walnuts have become such a standard feature of the St James’ reception that few remember their origins do not lie dip in Delta culinary history.”  (p. 41, BEING DEAD IS NO EXCUSE)

8 cups water
4 cups English walnut halves (A pound of walnuts equals 4 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Cooking oil

1.     Bring water to a boil, drop in the walnuts, and boil for one minute.
2.     Drain the nuts in a colander. Have water running very hot, or use a kettle of boiling water, and rinse. Drain the nuts well again, immediately place them in a bowl, and coat with sugar.
3.     Have the oil hot, and place the walnuts in the oil about one cup at a time, depending on the size of the pan. Fry until golden brown.
4.     Remove with a slotted spoon, drain, and place on wax paper in a single layer.
5.     Sprinkle with salt.
6.     Cool and store. These can be frozen in an air-tight container. Left at room temperature, they remain tasty for a week.

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