Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fessie and Beck

Goodness, what a fish! You don't see very many of this size today. How much do you think this flathead catfish weighed? The Penningtons plundered many a fishing hole in the Tombigbee River, which was within easy walking distance of their home in Peaceful Valley. There are lots of family stories about the fish caught in the "Big Hole" of the river, and just as many stories about the ones that got away.

Beck was a master fryer - chicken, of course, and pork chops and squirrel - but her fried catfish took the prize. She was liberal with the salt and knew just the right amount of coating for the fish. Sometime in the 1960s, Fessie had a couple of ponds built and stocked them with catfish. From then on, there was a steady supply of fish for Beck to fry. If there were more fish than mouths to feed, Beck froze the fish in half-gallon, waxed milk cartons that she saved for just such purposes.

Most of the time, Beck fried the fish in black skillets on the stove, but for big crowds and special occasions, the fish was fried outside in a big, black cast iron pot over propane heat and under the shade of a big tree. One of the things I remember too is that she and Fessie ate their fish with a mixture of ketchup and yellow mustard, a little of both swirled together on their plates. Add basic slaw, hushpuppies and plain ole french fries and you've got a master meal. I miss those days.

Along with fish, the freezer was usually stocked with deer meat. Beck knew how to marinade venison to prevent it from having a gamey taste. And like her fish, she knew exactly how to season and cook the deer meat. Being the master fryer she was, her fried deer steak was my favorite venison dish. And as long as I am reminiscing, let me add mashed potatoes, butter beans, creamed corn and biscuits to that meal. Another crowd favorite was Beck's chili made with ground venison.

The photo with the deer was made in January 1963. Note the jacket that Fessie is wearing? My son came in the house the other day wearing this jacket, having gotten it from my mother. He was quite proud of it even though the sleeves reached barely beyond his elbows! I think the jacket must have been washed one time too many!

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Great pictures and story.I miss the old days and big meals,also.Keep the stories coming.