5@5 - John T. Edge
November 30th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

What once was old, is new again - especially around the holidays. ‘Tis the season to disregard the glossy food magazines and opt for the comb-bound Junior League cookbooks and stained index cards to recreate Aunt Myrtle's sweet potato casserole circa 1954.

As John T. Edge, says:

These dishes aren’t goofs. They’re good. I don’t serve them with ironic detachment. I serve them with gusto. I realize, in this moment of local this and artisan that, they’re kind of retrograde. By my lights, that means they're well suited to the holiday season now upon us, when all seem inclined toward retro-pleasures.

Along with penning numerous food-centric books, John T. writes a monthly column, “United Tastes,” for the New York Times, is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun magazine and a columnist for the Oxford American. He was also a contributing editor at Gourmet before the beloved publication folded in October 2009.

He has been nominated for five James Beard Foundation Awards, and in 2009, was inducted into Beard's "Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America." John T. is also director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, an organization that documents, studies and celebrates the soul of Southern food - old and new.

Five Retrograde Holiday Dishes: John T. Edge

1. Grits with Smoked Oysters
"When I was a boy, my father would cook roller-mill grits, puddle them with butter, and pock them with smoked oysters, straight from a grocery store tin. The resulting dish was as funky as a Hammond B-3. Nowadays, I use stone-ground grits. Nothing is lost in translation."

2. Oysters Johnny Reb Casserole
"I’m not fond of Johnny Reb, the Confederate. But I’ve long loved this oyster stew-like dish of pre-shucked oysters, swaddled in cream, and topped with oysterette crackers. As a boy, I recall that celery seed was a prominent flavoring. Now I make it with celeriac, which some people call oyster plant."

3. Catfish Relish Tray
"Better catfish joints used to serve relish trays with their fried fish platters. Along with a brace of hushpuppies, you’d get house-made bread-and-butter cukes, maybe some hot-pepper-pickled okra pods. That style of catfish service is now on the wane. I’d love to bring it back for a number of reasons, including the way vinegar runoff from those pickles plays off a fried fish platter. If you’re not doing your own pickling, I like the Wickles brand."

4. Cheese Boxes
"My wife, Blair Hobbs, adapted this recipe from a Chi Omega cookbook that she discovered in her mother’s closet. 'At an engagement party for my niece, Miriam, I fell in love with a greasy little appetizer that we have called cheese boxes ever since,” she says. 'These are great right out of the oven when the topping puffs up, and would be perfect little trashy treats with a bloody Mary.'

We included this one in the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook."

Makes about 24 boxes

8 ounces extra sharp cheese, grated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard
Dash of Tabasco
1 large egg white, beaten to stiff peaks
6 slices good white sandwich bread, crusts trimmed off, cut into quarters to make 24 squares

Stir together the grated cheese, butter, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cayenne, dry mustard, and hot sauce in a bowl until well mixed. Fold in the egg white. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

When ready to serve, preheat the broiler. Top the bread squares with the cheese mixture. A generous topping is good. Arrange on a baking sheet and broil until puffy, bubbly, and browned, about three to five minutes. Serve warm.

5. Bessemer Punch
"I got this tea punch idea from Dave Wondrich, the cocktail savant. Wondrich and I were at a party together here in Mississippi. I needed a drink to serve in quantity. He surveyed the bar and prescribed a tea punch. In the months since, I have dumbed Wondrich’s very smart recipe down. No matter, it still drinks beautifully."

1 gallon sweet tea, preferably Milo’s (a pleasantly viscous brand, brewed in Bessemer, Alabama, and distributed throughout the South)
1 fifth Tennessee whiskey
10 splashes bitters, your choice
10 lemons, juiced

Stir and squeeze and splash and pour over ice. Serves a party.

Sucker for a strawberry Jell-O pretzel salad, or fancy a fondue? Share your favorite throwback dishes in the comments below.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Holiday • Recipes • Retro • Think

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Rum Balls

    December 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  2. Huguette White

    I would like to correct Mr. Edge's comment to the effect that celeriac is also called oyster plant. It is salsify that bears the name oyster plant, and indeed it does have a flavor reminiscent of oysters.

    Huguette White
    Ontario CANADA

    December 1, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  3. HackSaw

    I like chicken.

    December 1, 2010 at 2:37 am |
  4. InTheDarkhea

    Your article describes recipes about which my revulsion is indescribable. Retro?? Horrid sounding concoctions. I hope for your sake this was a joke.

    December 1, 2010 at 1:07 am |
  5. Jenn

    No lime jello salad?! With the pineapple, cottage cheese, and marshmellows? Loved it when Grandma made it when I was a kid, and I still make it every year now! However, I never have and never will touch her escalloped corn! UUGH!

    December 1, 2010 at 12:29 am |
  6. carolinago

    Besides "cheese boxes" (and possibly the grits with oysters), I can't imagine any of these dishes being in either of my grandmothers' recipe boxes. Where are the mid-century gelatins? Pastries (meat, fruit, and plain alike) oozing with butter and other deliciousness? Creamy salads and ham baked with cloves and apples? Not trying to be a debbie downer, these particular dishes just didn't do much for me. They kind of came off as hipster meets long lost southern relatives.

    December 1, 2010 at 12:05 am |
    • InTheDarkhea

      Couldn't agree more.

      December 1, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  7. indi

    I hate it when the main page photo does not show up in the article. that orange jello thingie looked good. how can you just talk about food and not have a freakin picture!

    November 30, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  8. pats

    jeez, I'm so sick of all this trite "foodie" stuff. So hip it makes me want to eat meatloaf and mashed potatoes and be done with it! All of a sudden food is hip. It's food! jeez.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Stick around. I think you'll see that on Eatocracy, we're pretty much the anti-hip. We honestly just love food.

      November 30, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • justin

      Don't you mean pancetta wrapped kobe beef meat loaf and fresh herb and garlic fingerling potatos.

      December 1, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  9. Earl Hatleberg

    shredded carrots in orange jello mold

    November 30, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  10. Mary

    Warm homemade gingerbread with a yummy lemon sauce. Also loved the orange or vanilla sauces grandma and mom made for gingerbread. Wish I had those recipes. Or how about homemade popcorn balls; homemade chunky applesauce or applebutter over pancakes on a cold winter morning!

    November 30, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  11. Earl Hatleberg

    Actually, about ten years ago we all made a deal that no one would ever bring it again, but that people could ask for some of it when plates were being served "...and may I have some Green Bean Casserole, too, please?" and whoever was serving would simply answer, "no".

    November 30, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  12. Phil, Ohio

    Thank goodness!
    He didn't mention the dreaded green bean casserole slop that everyone has showed up with for the last 50+ years!

    November 30, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
    • Earl Hatleberg

      Oh ! and don't forget Green Bean Casserole...

      November 30, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • Mary J

      Green bean casserole is great. I could make a meal out of that and yeast rolls. Yum!

      November 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  13. Mary J

    I'm not so sure how I feel about Milo's Tea being mixed with other things. I love it the way it is. Matter of fact, I am having some right now.

    My uncle makes an oyster casserole every year. Not really my thing though. I am a fan of sweet potato casserole or pie though. :) Also, fruitcake gets such a bad rap, but is very good when done right.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  14. Kim

    Have had a recent hankering for that classic dessert that my mother used to make – chocolate wafers with whipped cream in between and all over the top. It would soften in the refrigerator and melted in my mouth. And don't forget jello cake!

    November 30, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  15. William

    Having to visit my wifes family every year i guess its now a tradition for me to throw back a whiskey.
    No, really, im not joking.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
    • Earl Hatleberg

      At Thanksgiving Dinner while in high school, my brother Mark was going to demonstrate how a cowboy in the movies throws back a shot of whiskey, but neglected to bring the rim of the glass into contact with his bottom lip, and threw an entire glass of milk into his own face. Thanks for the memories, William.

      November 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  16. anabel

    Indian pudding wouldn't be the greatest ending to a big meal like Thanksgiving, but any other time I love it. Not easy, however, because first you have to catch the Indians, and there aren't many around these days! But served hot with vanilla ice cream - nothing like it. Try it sometime at Durgin Parke in Boston!

    November 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  17. Lynn Walker

    Celeriac is not oyster plant. This columnist is thinking of salsify instead which bears no resemblance whatsoever to celeriac. I have grown both, so trust me on this. (How do you get a job writing about food when you can't tell the difference between two vegetables?)

    November 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • InTheDarkhea

      I can't imagine how this author has received the accolades noted.

      December 1, 2010 at 1:15 am |
      • John T Edge

        Thanks for the gentle reminders that oyster plant is the colloquial name for salsify, not celeriac. I should have checked my OED, vegetable edition.

        December 1, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  18. fob

    I was looking through one of my recipe books today and came across my grandmother's handwritten recipe for raisin cake. I have never made it, but loved it when she did. She would top it with some Jello lemon pudding mix she cooked with water and then a little extra water. So delicious!

    November 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  19. AuroraDawn

    LOL Oh ok Michael...I will leave your cutout for Bob. Although, I think I'm the last person on the planet he'd have a shrine of! LOL I am finishing up some work so will,place you at his desk on my way out!

    November 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Michael Symon@AD

    Aurora, would you please not maim my cutoout, as I think Bob would be very interested. Word is he has a shrine in his home to both you and I...

    Sweet dreams there darlin'

    November 30, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  21. AuroraDawn

    .....I'll let someone else hit that

    November 30, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
    • Sir Biddle via the mobile

      Hoped you'd say that.

      Talk to you tomorrow.

      November 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Michael Symon

      I'd hit that!

      November 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
      • AuroraDawn

        LOL Well, in that case Michael....our torrid romance must come to an end!!! You will find your maimed cardboard cutout in the dumpster near my parking spot!! LOL I wish you and John T. Edge all the best,just so you know it conjures an image that makes my minds eye...poke itself.

        November 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  22. :)

    Retro classics around my family... sausage cheese balls (I think there is bisquick in the recipe), beer biscuits, "green fluff" as my mom calls it (some concoction with shipped topping and green jello), peppermint salad, I'm sure there are more.

    November 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Mary J

      Sausage balls are so awesome!

      November 30, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  23. Sir Biddle@truth

    by seconds...damn you!

    November 30, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • Truth@SirBiddle

      I actually had someone in my office talking to me, and just as they turned to leave, I hit refresh...
      Timing is everything!

      November 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
      • RichardHead@Truth

        Well played gents.

        November 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
      • Sir Biddle via the mobile

        I heard my manager coming and picked up my phone to make it look good. Oh well. Rather lose this way than to a hot one.

        Talk to you and RH tomorrow.

        November 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  24. Sir Biddle

    I would NOT hit that!

    November 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  25. Truth

    I don't wanna hit that...

    November 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
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