Tamale Pie

Tamale pie is made by all kinds of people for all kinds of occasions. The bones of controversy in this dish (and I assure you that there will always be an absolute skeleton in any given bowl, plate, or skewer of anything) involve the use of cheese in the bread and beans in the chili. Me, I bake plain cornbread batter over a pan of mild chili with beans and call it tamale pie.


Hot Hominy

This old buffet dish is perfect for a group brunch . Most recipes call for white hominy, but yellow or a blend is pretty.

To four cups drained and rinsed hominy, add a small jar of pimentos, a chopped mild banana pepper, and two cups mild cheddar cheese sauce.

Make your own; you can do it.

Some people add sausage, bacon, or ham, but that’s totally superfluous; likewise with jalapenos. Season with salt and white pepper. Bake at 300 for about 20 mins.

Roasting Garlic

 What a wonderful aroma! Slice tops off garlic, soak in olive oil, and place in a hot oven until soft and browned.

The Velvet Wok

After years of shaving and marinating meats for a stir fry with mixed results, I discovered velveting. With this tenderizing technique, you coat thinly-sliced meats with a slurry of cornstarch,  white vinegar, soy, and egg white.

Not much is needed; 3 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of corn starch to one egg white, and enough vinegar/soy to make a thin paste for a pound or so of meat. Some people recommend adding baking soda. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, and I it doesn’t seem to make much difference. Treat meats for about a half-hour, rinse, and drain well before cooking.

This method also works with shrimp and lobster  but in either case I consider it superfluous.

Moon Cheese

Use cheddar of any type, Edam, Gouda, Colby, “Swiss,” or Monterey Jack. Cut into cubes of less than in inch, and arrange on an ungreased baking sheet.

Here’s where I tell you not to crowd the cheese bits, but it seems no matter how meticulous I am, I usually end up having to break them apart. Place in the upper rack of a low (250) oven until it’s thin, crisp, bubbly, and greasy. Cool completely before removing with a thin spatula to drain.

You shouldn’t have to salt these, but some people like paprika or cayenne. I don’t. Eat immediately; they’re too fragile to keep.

Poppy Seed Pound Cake

A friend from Texas—east Texas, mind you—now living in Maine said their neighbors considered pound cake Southern because the ingredients are cheap.

Well, dear hearts, those are the very reasons Americans have baked this cake well before Burr shot Hamilton. This recipe is a felony with fruit, a mortal sin with ice cream.

Preheat oven to 350 (a crucial step). Grease, line, and set aside a 10-inch loaf pan or Bundt. Cream 2 cups sugar with a cup of softened butter. Stir in two tablespoons of poppy seeds, a cup of buttermilk, 4 beaten eggs, and at least a tablespoon of vanilla extract.

Sift 3 cups of plain flour with a teaspoon each of baking powder and soda. Gradually blend with liquid mix until smooth. Bake for an hour, then turn the oven off and leave the cake in until the oven has cooled. Rest on a rack an hour before slicing.

Wood Vinegar

Chances are you have a bottle of liquid smoke parked in your spice pantry, and it’s also likely that you know a grill professional—or a fanatic amateur—who’ll suggest exorcism and ritual burning if he or she  finds out.

Liquid smoke has been around since people began been making charcoal. Condensing the hot, moisture-filled smoke from low-oxygen burning charcoal produces a watery liquid (pyroligneous acid) that for centuries was called wood vinegar and was customarily used in everyday cooking–not just your occasional Renaissance barbecue–much as you would any other kind of vinegar.

Methods for making wood vinegar were refined in the 17th century. In 1895, E. H. Wright inaugurated the era of commercial manufacture and distribution of wood vinegar as liquid smoke. Batch smokehouses use regenerated atomized liquid smoke to process meat, cheese, fish, and other foods.

Liquid smoke is a fast, easy way to make good smoky foods and barbecue-style meats. Detractors—and there are many—seem to have a lot of reasons for not using liquid smoke, but most of their objections center around a negation of the “barbecue experience,” by which they mean the quasi-ritualized time and effort it takes to prepare and smoke meat.

Using liquid smoke takes practice and an understanding of the less-is-more rule. My standard is no more than a teaspoon in a cup of sauce or marinade.


This labor-intensive recipe works well on those occasions when you can commandeer others to help.

For the filling use about a pound of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed. With fresh spinach, use two pounds blanched, drained, and chopped.

Sauté in olive oil a large, finely-chopped onion and a cup of chopped scallions. Cool and add a half-cup chopped parsley. Season with dill, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Mix in a cup of crumbled feta and a half cup of a hard grated cheese such as Parmesan. Combine with spinach, salt to taste, and fold in four well-beaten eggs. Refrigerate.

Place filo sheets between slightly damp paper towels before use. Spread a single sheet across a lightly-oiled sheet pan–I use the bottom–brush with oil, fold in half, oil and fold again into a strip.

Have you ever folded a flag? The procedure here is the same. Fold a corner over about 1/4 cup of filling, flip, and keep flipping to the end of the sheet. Refrigerate pastries before cooking.

Brush with oil before baking in a medium oven.

The Welcome: A Review

With this new edition of The Welcome, University Press of Mississippi casts a light on the undeservedly shadowed Hubert Creekmore, a prolific writer, scholar, critic, and member of Welty’s brilliant Jackson salon whose work fell into obscurity after his death in 1967.

Creekmore’s novel received a cool initial response. A review by Lloyd Wendt in The Chicago Tribune on Oct 31, 1948, “Controversial Novel About Bad Marriage,” begins, “One of the most discerning and honest writers in the business, Hubert Creekmore is quite certain to anger a good many persons with his ‘story of modern marriage’.”

“His taboo treatment of an antisocial relationship providing competition for the institution of marriage, discreetly handled though it is, can readily win Creekmore the wrath of male readers. Perhaps his novel will shock readers into a realization of the menace to marriage when the participants contribute too little or bring warped personalities to a marriage union. More likely, however, it will merely shock them.”

In The New York Times on November 21, Warren E Preece states, “As a novel it is a highly readable production; as an examination of modern marriage, it comes closer to failure than it does to success. . . Ashton and the principal characters of The Welcome are hardly typical enough to provide a view of anything but a small section of society.”

It was Diana Trilling, writing in The Nation, on November 27, who hit the nail on the head: “Of all the novels about homosexuality which have appeared in the last few years it makes the most ingenuous and therefore the most disturbing statement of the damage society does by refusing to recognize the prevalence of the homosexual preference and, instead, forcing people to the conformity of marriage who are emotionally totally unfit for it.”

This did not sit well with Creekmore, who wrote a long, searing rebuttal (“A Muddled Reviewer”) that by way of a red herring concentrated on Trilling’s accusations of misogyny. Her reply (“A Fortunate Error?”) was brief, pointed, and dismissive.

In his introduction, Philip Gordon notes that 1948 “saw a sea change in the acceptance of same-sex desire, particularly in print and particularly in southern settings. Both Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar and Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms were published in 1948, both by major publishing houses. Both fixate on the South: Vidal’s novel begins in Virginia; Capote’s is set in his own fictionalized version of Monroeville, Alabama, made more famous by Harper Lee. These novels are often credited as breaking through the proverbial (opaque) glass closet door that had limited previous depictions of same-sex desire in print.”

The Welcome has long been out of print. In his outstanding study, “”Collecting Hubert Creekmore: A Bibliography,” John Soward Bayne writes, “The Welcome is a true rarity. An early novel dealing with same-sex relationships, it evidently has been bought up by collectors of books by gay authors or about gay themes. It is often cited but seldom discussed in books and papers about such works, most likely because who can find a copy?”

According to acquiring editor, Katie Keene, the decision to reissue The Welcome resulted from a group effort. “While I was working with Pip Gordon on Gay Faulkner, we talked a bit about Creekmore’s legacy. I also learned a lot from Mary Knight at the University of Mississippi, who at that time was working on her documentary, Dear Hubert Creekmore.”

Keen said that soon afterwards she received a letter from Dr. Jaime Harker, owner of Violet Valley Bookstore in Water Valley and director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi, requesting UPM consider reprinting Creekmore’s works. Keene presented The Welcome to UPM’s board of directors for publication approval. An agreement with the Creekmore Estate was signed in June of 2021.

Gordon writes that The Welcome is a fixture in bibliographic studies that attempt to identify all the gay-themed works from the pre-Stonewall era, and the novel, along with Creekmore himself, are the subjects of more recent scholarship.

The Mississippi Philological Society published Bayne’s extensive, detailed bibliography/biography “Collecting Hubert Creekmore” online in their proceedings from the 2013 Meeting. In 2017, Annette Trefzer, professor of English professor at the University of Mississippi, published “Something Inarticulate”: Sexual Desire in the Fiction of Eudora Welty and Hubert Creekmore” in the Eudora Welty Review (Vol. 9, pp. 83-100).

In addition to her documentary, Mary Knight published her thesis, “Dear Hubert Creekmore: An Archival Search into the Life of a Queer Mississippi Writer,” and is working on a book about Creekmore, his life and times.

By all means, let’s celebrate Creekmore’s return to the vaunted stage of Mississippi literature with The Welcome. Yet bear in mind that while Hubert Creekmore was what Allen Tate called “a man of letters in the modern world,” a novelist, critic, editor, and more, but first and foremost, Creekmore was a poet, and a fine poet. What could more fitting than to follow a reissue of The Welcome with his book of poems, The Long Reprieve?

Golden Macaroni Salad

Pasta salads seem to come and go, but they’re always here, and the best ones are robust, the pasta providing a springboard for any number of wonders. This recipe has enough and to spare, since the rich and textured binding will embrace many types of additions.

Simple elbow macaroni makes a great salad because it’s fluffier than other hollow pasta, and you can’t beat it for economy and availability. The other ingredients are just as familiar, and the combination is exceptional as well as spectacular. The recipe is also easily doubled, tripled or whatnot. For an evening meal make it in the morning, and for lunch the night before, but mind you this dish doesn’t keep well at all, not more than a weekend, less if it’s handled or kept out very much at all.

Cook 16 oz. large elbow macaroni. Add a cup of mayonnaise, the mashed yolks of a half dozen boiled eggs, and a quarter cup of prepared mustard. Stir in a finely-grated carrot, a half-cup of sliced/diced black olives, and a cup each of finely-diced onion celery, and raw broccoli. Diced meats and pickle relish are an options.