Tag Archives: Okie food

SPAM Party!

As I mentioned a few days ago, The Man and I had a nice little SPAM party recently, for two. A SPAM party is when you have the pleasure of introducing one of America’s finest canned meat products to someone who has never tasted it before, such as, The Man.

I have fond childhood memories of fried SPAM sandwiches, followed by fond adult memories of SPAM sushi in Hawaii. They love SPAM in Hawaii. Who can blame them?


SPAM: It's "Crazy Tasty!"

First, naturally, The Man needed some information. So, we inspected the can.

The can is chock full of interesting SPAM-toids (factoids for SPAM), such as the thickness one might cut the slices, and the direction in which one should cut the slices.

In addition, there are instructions for making a “SPAMburger” and some other fantastic product copy. For example, once you know how to make a SPAMburger: “You wield a delicious skill that has far-reaching consequences. Do not use it for evil.” SPAM writer, if you are reading this, well done! Oh yeah, and SPAM is gluten-free.



Some choice quotes from The Man as he inspected the can: “What’s in it? Is there liver in it?” (turning can around in his hands, looking for the ingredients list). “Pork with ham…” (contemplative expression), “Whatever that means.”

Next up, cooking technique. I’m sure there are dozens of ways to cook SPAM, or not cook SPAM (“You can eat it raw, right?”), and create a tasty meal. In fact, here is a collection of tantalizing SPAM recipes to peruse. “Polynesian Bake” sounds like a real winner. Let me know if you try that one.

In my family, we always cut the SPAM into slices (“Infant” width according to the label) and then fried them in a skillet for sandwiches, like so:



Then, depending on one’s mood, one would either slap the slices onto sandwich bread with mayo, catsup, and/or mustard, or get real creative and make SPAM appetizers with Ritz crackers and cheddar cheese. This made a fantastic snack for sitting in front of the TV watching American Bandstand or some PBS documentary about Florida’s Okefenokee Swamp, again, depending on one’s mood.



The Man’s final verdict? “Not bad. Not great. I was expecting it to be more…bland.”

I’d say that’s a great compliment to SPAM.


Filed under Cooking, food, Food allergies, Glorious Food, Recipes

Okie Beans

I’ve been meaning to write this post since Christmas, when I finally got my dad to show me start to finish how to make beans. My parents are from a small town near Bakersfield, California, a place I tell my friends is just like Arkansas or Texas, although it is rapidly changing, like many other places. When I was growing up in the 70s, this town was a weird paradise for me, filled with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and twenty-three million cousins (approximate figure). We would drive out there a lot from our sprawling Bay Area suburb. Then my parents would drive my older brother, sisters, and I around their hometown in our big, old 1967 diesel Mercedes to all their old haunts: the car hop, the high school, so-and-so’s brother’s place, various churches, cemeteries, the lake in the dusty, gold hills, and the restaurant downtown where you sat in the cellar and ordered turkey nuts, a local specialty. This place and my memories of my relatives and good times there continues to be a place of dreams for me, a place where I am young and well loved, and my granny is still alive.

And so it is with beans.

I grew up on beans. It is the meal I can say without hesitation is the meal we ate the most. My dad often made them in a pressure cooker whose hiss and sputter marked time while my brother and I vegged out on Hogan’s Heroes and Gilligan’s Island reruns in front of the television after school (my dad worked an early shift, so he was the main cook in our house). An hour or two later and we’d be sitting down to beans, cornbread, and milk. Mmm-hmmm!

Here is my dad’s recipe without the pressure cooker. I followed him around the kitchen taking pictures while he made this. Weirdly, we only had pink beans, so you will notice that the beans in the photos aren’t pinto, but you yourself should use pinto beans if you want the full experience. This certainly isn’t the last word in how to make Okie beans, but this is exactly how my dad makes them, and believe me, he’s the real deal.

Okie Beans

2 c pinto beans

1 red onion

1 T oil

1 hamhock

8 c water

Salt and pepper to taste

Serves a large family

  1. Sort through the dried beans and remove pebbles. Rinse the beans in water in a colander. Put the beans in a bowl and cover with water, one inch above the beans. Soak overnight.
  2. The next day, rinse the beans and set aside.

    Soaked beans

    Soaked beans

  3. Coarsely chop a red onion.

    Coarsely chopped red onion

    Coarsely chopped red onion

  4. Heat up the oil and then saute the onion until it’s soft.
  5. In the meantime, get your frozen hamhock out of the freezer and make cuts in the side of it all over.

    Cutting into the frozen hamhock

    Cutting into the frozen hamhock

  6. Place the hamhock into the microwave and defrost it. It’ll look something like this when it comes out.

    Defrosted hamhock with cuts

    Defrosted hamhock with cuts

  7. Pour 8 cups of water into the onion pot and place the hamhock and beans in there as well. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours. Adjust for salt and pepper.

    Beans cooking

    Beans cooking

That’s it. You serve this with cornbread. There’s a good recipe on the side of the Alber’s cornmeal box. To be traditional, one would butter one’s warm cornbread and then put the cornbread into one’s milk, but most normal people scream with terror when I tell them about this Okie custom. I do guarantee, however, that if you try it for yourself, you will be thanking me forever. If you can’t stomach that, cornbread is also good dumped into one’s beans.


Filed under Cooking, family recipes, food, Food allergies, Recipes

Okie Food, Home

Note: There is an interesting follow-up to this post on my About page in the Comments. I can’t figure out how to move those Comments to this post. If you want to comment about Okie food, please do it here. Thanks! -mj

Might as well get this part over with: I’m a California Okie. Some of you may not know what that means. I’m not even sure myself sometimes. But I do know that people from the San Joaquin Valley who are originally from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and even Illinois, ala the Dust Bowl, have a distinct culture. That means we talk funny, eat funny, have funny religions, and used to dress funny. Most of my family still speaks with a strong accent. Growing up I’d tell my friends that venturing into the Valley was like going to the south. It’s still true.

My family is from Texas, which means they are actually “Texies” in the Dust Bowl parlance. However, most people who were migrants simply got called “Okie” no matter where they were from; we have always called ourselves Okies though no one is from Oklahoma. You can trust me on all this information because I wrote my dissertation about it.

Okie foods are things like biscuits and gravy, pinto beans and ham hocks, skillet cornbread, tortilla pie (that’s probably a distinctly Texas dish, and besides I think my dad just made it up), red hots, peanut patties, lemon pie, walnut pie (I think of this as a California Okie adaptation), chow chow, all manner of pickles, black-eyed peas (which of course we had on New Year’s Day), fried okra, squash pancakes, fried pork chops, fried chicken, fudge, and lard. Some of these are just plain southern dishes, but some of them are distinctly Okie. Of the aforementioned, my single favorite dish is beans and ham hocks with cornbread and milk.

What is cornbread and milk? Cornbread and milk is sent from the Lord, and it is when you plop your warm cornbread into a big glass of cold milk, accompanied by your bowl of beans. I have so many fond memories of this as a meal. One old friend still talks about her first introduction to this meal at my house, and her total surprise. Try it some time. You won’t be disappointed. It goes hand in hand with two other Jennings favorites, popcorn and milk, and rice and milk (with sugar, naturally). Yum! Yum!

In fact, I should start posting some of my grandmothers’ recipes. Though maybe I should save those for the Okie cookbook that I should someday write.

All this to say that when I was home visiting the folks, we had a lot of great food made by the head cook, my dad. Here is my dad’s favorite breakfast, biscuits and gravy with Jimmy Dean sausage. (I should note that my dad feels my mom is the superior gravy-maker.)

If you want to make these biscuits, I believe it’s just straight from the Bisquick box recipe. If you want to make them fancy and impress all your friends, toss in some cheddar and scallions.



Filed under Cooking, family recipes