Fried Green Tomatoes from Bobby Flay

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food—Paul Prudhomme

Have you ever fixed a dish and, not exactly wanting it to fail, but just not wanting it to be as good as your traditional way of cooking the particular dish so you could say to the uppity chef, “See our way is better.”?

Well, this happened last night.

I love fried green tomatoes and nothing says “southern cooking” to me like a good plate of fried green tomatoes. The love being doled out by the operator of the iron skillet in preparing this delicacy would fill up a number two wash tub.

Usually there is some combination of eggs, flour, and cornmeal for the coating and of course the thinly-sliced green tomatoes have to be in just the right place in the space-time continuum on its way to ripeness. I have been frying these up for years, sometimes using only the frothed egg white for adhesion or the whole egg. Sometimes I use only cornmeal for coating but never just flour. Most folks in the south have their traditional way of serving up this dish, but no matter which way you fry your green tomatoes, you always felt it was the best way…because of tradition. Your mom did it this way or your grandma, or even your great-grandma, or just a kindly neighbor.

But along comes Bobby Flay, that brash New York chef who grew up in Manhattan. What would he know about frying green tomatoes? Well evidently, a lot. I really hate to say it but these are the best fried green tomatoes I have ever eaten.

I want to apologize for that last statement to all the southern cooks who have lovingly fed me fried green tomatoes over the years and have helped guide me into maturity at your tables, of course Mrs. Big Surf is saying that is still a work in progress.

Mr. Flay uses flour, BUTTERMILK???(not any part of the egg), and PANKO???(no cornmeal…someone help me I’m feeling infirmed). The combination of flour, buttermilk, and especially the Panko elevated these fried green tomatoes to a level of Southernness, like no other.

Sorry Marita. (Who served me the first fried green tomatoes I ever ate as a young lad and until last night, the best I had ever eaten.)

Okay Bobby, just work on losing that New York attitude and accent and I will feel better when I fix these fried green tomatoes again.

Ode to West Liberty

The nice thing about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you are doing, someone else does.—Immanuel Kant

I never knew Immanuel Kant grew up in West Liberty, KY.

The above photo is of West Liberty, KY, my hometown. I was born there. I lived there till college, graduate school, work, marriage, and parenthood…then moved back again for the next twenty-eight years…until last month.

I retired from my profession of thirty-eight years and moved to Indiana to be closer to my daughter’s family and of course, grandchildren. When I moved back to West Liberty twenty-eight years ago, I never thought I would leave again.

I had a professor in graduate school in Houston, TX that was from Sandy Hook, KY about twenty miles from West Liberty. He told me a man needs to live where his roots are. It took me a long time to figure out what he meant, but he was right.

I never understood the folks that left the Kentucky mountains for work and lived in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois for thirty or forty years and then moved back home, leaving their children and grandchildren. But I think I will understand a little better in a few years.

I loved being from West Liberty, KY. Yes, it’s small. Yes, there isn’t a lot of opportunities for young people. Yes, stores don’t stock many international foods. Yes, people always know your business (see above quote). Yes, it is physically isolated somewhat from larger cities. But it is and will always be home.

The residents of West Liberty, past and present, understand this.

Growing up in West Liberty was magical for me. I wanted my children to have the same experience and I had to convince my wife to move from her hometown to let our children grow up in West Liberty. I will always thank her deeply for allowing that to happen. I feel if you grow up in a small town, you learn to get along with people because you can’t hide from them. You will see them or their relatives at every turn. It is easier to make the transition from a small town to a city than from a city to a small town.

As mentioned earlier, I never thought I would leave again. But alas, after over two hundred years of someone in my family tree living in that community, I was the last remaining leaf to be a resident of West Liberty. But don’t get me wrong here, the people of West Liberty would have been enough to keep me there, for they are wonderful people. The beauty of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains would have been enough to keep me there also. However, we missed our family and Indiana had what Kentucky didn’t have…my daughter and grandchildren.

So West Liberty, I am sorry to leave you. You will always be my home and my love…my roots.