Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poke and Grits

I recall a recent conversation with a desk librarian at the library we visit quite frequently. She asked me if I had ever heard of the phrase “poke and grits?” I wasn’t sure what she was referring to, so asked her where she had heard this term. She said her mother always told anyone who asked what they were having for supper that they were having “poke and grits.” As a young girl she was curious to know where the expression came from so she asked her mother about it and her mother said it was her mother's expression. So the next time her grandmother came to visit, her grandma told her,  “poke your feet under the table and grit your teeth,” meaning “get ready to eat.”

I don’t recall that my mother ever saying this to us, but I do remember her telling us to wash up right before she brought the food to the table.

In David’s family, the saying was "come to the table before the food gets cold,” which sometimes meant wild greens –young poke sprouts, lambs quarters and burdock, fried morel mushrooms (YUM! 😋), fried wild meats like squirrel, rabbit, fish, frog legs, turkey, eel, coon or tame meat and vegetables. Often there was wild grape or elderberry jelly to spread on Grandma Marie’s homemade lightbread and sometimes wild blueberry pie or custard pie to eat. And like us, they didn't eat grits except as a hot breakfast cereal.

I asked my mother after we were married, why our family never ate wild things and she relayed a story about how after the first winter after her grandparents moved to Oklahoma, they were starving for fresh greens in the spring and gathered a big bunch up, cooked them and about poisoned all of themselves to death, not knowing the proper plants to pick in that area. After that time, her family stayed away from picking wild plants to eat. My dad, however, loved to hunt deer and we fished (mostly catfish) at Grandpa's pond on the farm.

And my husband's family also has another saying in their family about eating -- "chickie fly high, no good eat." A wandering gypsy, tramping through their part of the Ozarks, in his broken English, told them that one must be careful about what wild birds one eats -- certain flying birds were not edible -- one had made him sick! 😛

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1 comment:

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