When I was growing up, my dad’s Kentucky roots were very evident in our kitchen, especially the summertime meals he prepared. I can still see him at the stove preparing those Southern specialties: a mess of green beans and ham, corn fried in a skillet, fried okra, hot stuff (a mixture of tomatoes, onion, and hot peppers), fried round steak and gravy, and fried green tomatoes. While preparing the dishes, he would often cut the end of a hot pepper and coax us to stick our tongues on the end. “It’s not that hot.” It always was, and we fell for it every time. He thought it was hilarious.
It was the fried green tomatoes we all looked forward to the most. The well-seasoned cast iron skillet that came from my Granny’s collection, fried to perfection: light brown with just the right amount of crisp.
We all waited impatiently for the first sizzling green slice to hit the pad of paper towels. That first bite was a delicious combination of lightly sour and tangy with a flavor like none other.
Years passed and so did my dad’s feast of country dishes. When the summer vegetables were ready, I would fix many of them and take a portion to my parents to enjoy. But not the fried green tomatoes as they were best right out of the hot oil.
My dad passed away in February of 2005. As summer approached and all the fruits and vegetables were beginning to ripen, I just didn’t have the desire to fix any of the dishes I had been eating since I was a little girl.
While working one day at the candy gift shop that I owned, I shared the stories of the country meals my dad would fix with the ladies who worked for me. “I’ve never had fried green tomatoes!” they exclaimed.
Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder from Heaven, “Marla, you need to make some for your friends.”
The first of many Fried Green Tomato Parties was in the works. I joyfully prepared the Southern spread I had been enjoying my entire life—green beans, fried corn, hot stuff, a mix of appetizers, and yes, fried green tomatoes.
We shared a toast with a bottle of wine I had been saving for a special occasion. “We have much for which to be thankful,” my dad would often say. As my kitchen table filled with ladies close to my heart, I was beaming with joy and thankful . . . very thankful.
With each bite of the Southern spread and each sip of wine, we disconnected from the world outside. It was an unforgettable evening with dear friends enjoying lively conversations, sharing stories, giving support, lifting spirits, a few tears, and loads of laughter.
What began with the memory of my dad’s thinly sliced fried green tomatoes became so much more. Over the years, the connections made around my kitchen table are some of my happiest and everlasting memories. I am forever grateful I noticed the gentle tap on my shoulder.