Recipes from Ohio, by way of Tennessee and Indiana

This mural was wrapped around Thanksgiving.  I met with the principal and a few teachers before the holiday to brainstorm ideas for the theme.  The mural design was cranked out before my trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where both a turkey and I were stuffed.  As soon as the holiday was over, I found myself back at Hubbard Mastery School and again facing a wall.

But, Thanksgiving had unexpected culinary adventures.  No, I didn't have coffee at the Bluebird CafĂ©.  I did make a pilgrimage past the place, but it wasn't open in the middle of the afternoon.  However, if you ever find yourself in Nashville, you are supposed to go to Hattie B's Hot Chicken.  It's what you do in Nashville when you aren't at the Grand Ole Opry.  And, Hattie B's is open -- and very crowded -- in the middle of the afternoon.

Now, I have lived all over the world and tasted a lot of hot food.  I eat hotter food than anyone I know in Mexico.  It took me three months to eat food in Liberia without crying, but I got used to the hot peppers in the cooking.  But, I have to say, that Hot Chicken at Hattie B's is the hottest food I've ever eaten.

Chicken served in Nashville comes in a variety of fire levels.  If you don't do hot, you can have "Southern fried chicken".  There are people who do that at Hattie's, including unnamed relatives of mine, but I would never do that.  One step of fire above that is their "mild" recipe.  And then, they jump directly into the hot stuff.

I listened, skeptically, to the advice of the guy behind the counter.  With his advice, I had two piece of "hot chicken" and a third called "d@#! hot".  Okay, I could eat both of them, but both of them were too hot to really enjoy.  No food needs to be that flaming.  I ate both of my hot pieces.  I was already full when I started the "d@#! hot" piece.  That's when I told myself, (and I do talk to myself), that there was no reason to eat something that hot when I was already miserably full.

Yep, it was the hottest food I ever had!  I learned my lesson, and I will never do that to my mouth again.  But, if you don't care about your stomach, and you can eat anything no matter how hot the flame, Hattie B's serves up another recipe that is even beyond their "d!#! hot" chicken.  It's called "shut the cluck up!"

My Thanksgiving meal had no flame, no fire, and nothing I said no to whatsoever.  All the traditional goodies were there with the glaring exception of mashed potatoes (my favorite food).  But, there was no room for complaining when there was turkey, dressing, cranberries, squash, bean casserole, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and a whole lot of seconds.  Hmmm ... I guess if you have a whole lot of seconds, it probably goes into thirds and fourths.  No comment.

In addition to the usual cast of cuisine, there was one dish I'd never seen before.  This Thanksgiving, I was introduced to Sweet Potato Crunch.  Yes, when you hear the word "crunch", you know there will be a lot of sugar and butter in the recipe.  Still, even with that little bit of knowledge, I was shocked when I saw the ingredients.  It's kind of like yams and marshmallows.  There's all kind of sugar, sweetness, and calories in the dish, but only once a year doesn't seem all that bad.  Well, when you see the recipe, you may think that even once a year is too much.  But, you'll have to admit, it is bound to taste magnificent.

Sweet Potato Crunch
Cousins Joy and Helen, from grandpa's stompin' ground in Indiana

The Insides:
2 15oz cans sweet potatoes
1  cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
4 beaten eggs
1 stick melted margarine
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Mix it all together.  It doesn't take long for the beaten eggs and sweet potatoes to hide all that butter and sugar.  If they can be hidden so quickly, so can all the calories.  And, you haven't even seen what is in the topping yet.

The Topping:
2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup flour 
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 stick melted margarine
Mix this all together and place it atop the other cup of sugar/margarine mixture.  That's right mix up two more cups of sugar and, at this point, you might as well make it an entire stick of margarine.

Bake at 325 degrees for 50 - 60 minutes.  While it is cooking, it might be a good time to start an exercise video -- just in preparation.  Now, did I mention earlier about seconds, thirds, or fourths?   I plead the fifth, and you can interpret that any way you choose.