Big surprise here–I am not as Southern as my family is. Oh sure, I can throw a y’all around like it’s nobody’s bidness,and I love chatting with strangers. But when it comes to Southern cuisine I am a grits and biscuit gal, not a gumbo and aspic gal.
So did I just hear a couple of you ask, “What the fark is aspic?” Pronounced ass-pick, aspic is a dish that has been around since forever. (Seriously. And you call yourself a foodie.) This is the godfather of jam and Jell-O. Once upon a time, people didn’t eat wiggly strawberry squares filled with floating fruit cocktail; they ate slabs of meat aspic. Aspic is made out of the gelatin of meat bones or cartilage and ingredients like veggies, eggs, or meat is suspended in the stuff. The gelatin actually kept bacteria from rotting the meat–not a bad thing in the 14th century.
My family was more of a tomato aspic family than a meat Jell-O family. My grandmother had a recipe that involved using packages of unflavored Knox gelatin, tomato juice, tabasco and green olives served in a ring. This aspic was at every Christmas Eve dinner because it was just so darn festive with all of the green and red going on.(This recipe, fantastically named Mrs. Dull’s Tomato Aspic Funeral Food Dish, is pretty close if you want to give it a go.)
The amusing thing to me is that I grew up with aspic at every major holiday meal and yet not one person at the most recent holiday meal I attended had ever heard of it. The conversation began as we talked about how fantastic it is to be in charge of your own holiday meal planning (as opposed to having to endure a generations-old feast featuring foods that are familiar but not necessarily fine). Obviously we laughed about green bean casserole. And obviously we laughed about veggies in general. Then I said, “And we don’t have to eat aspic!”
The next thirty minutes became a scramble of hunting and gathering definitions and images from my phone to explain what this Southern cuisine is. “But do you EAT it?” asked someone from across the table. She was looking at a particularly impressive aspic featuring an egg. And while I joined in on the “EW!! GROSS!!” chorus, there was a small moment where I felt ashamed for kicking in the shins a dish that was a part of my heritage–even though I never ate it.
Regional cuisine. We’ve all got our stories. I want to know what was served in your home.