Mom was a Northerner, born and bred; she took Yankee magazine* for years. Dad's father's people had hailed from Missouri. His mother was part "Cherokee or something," which counts for exactly bupkis with the Cherokee Nation (they make the reasonable point that tribal membership is as much about continuity of culture as who your ancestors were, and require stringent proof of descent as a first step after which, well, they'll get back to you. Or not) and her cooking was quite Southern. While the flour up North is different, cornmeal is cornmeal, recipes are recipes† and she made cornbread that certainly did not rely on sugar for any hint of sweetness in it. Mom learned from her to cook foods my Dad enjoyed, and home-made cornbread from her kitchen was distinctly different from any mix.
The stuff from the store is good, but it's not like home-made -- all the more reason I need to buy a new kitchen stove.
I made a kind of goulash last night, very much without measurement, starting with a flank steak marinated for a few hours in my usual mixture (soy sauce, bit of lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, a dash of hot sauce, tiny bit of sugar and ginger, garlic) with added paprika and parsley. I was hoping to use turnips as the main root vegetable but all the grocer had along those lines were some huge, ungainly rutabagas. I like them, but they can be tough, and cutting one up very nearly requires a hacksaw. I managed to get it peeled and cubed with a large kitchen knife (mind your fingers!) and gave it a nice dusting of paprika, za'tar, and a very small amount of ground cloves and nutmeg before adding it to the pot shortly after starting the meat.
After fifteen or twenty minutes, a parsnip followed, along with a red onion, a small fennel bulb, carrots, celery and the last of the mixed purple and white fingerling potatoes, cut into discs. I take my time with the vegetables and did other tasks while I was adding them, so the last of the potatoes went in at least a half-hour after the parsnips and I followed up with some fancy fresh mushrooms. Thirty minutes after that, I snipped in three pickled Spanish peppers with some heat to them, and the whole thing bubbled along under low heat until the meat had been cooking for about two and a half hours. I had to add enough bone broth to cover all the vegetables but the natural broth was the bulk of the liquid.
I removed and sliced the meat, and served it up almost like a pot roast with plenty of broth; it would have been just as good had I diced the cooked meat and added it back in as a stew.
It was tasty -- but it should have included some kind of fresh peppers. The ones in the store just looked too tired to me. Nevertheless, a fine treat and one I will make again this winter.
* A nice little magazine. As far as they are concerned, "Yankees" are from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont; the rest of the North is somewhere else. It's full of history and country living with a very large dash of seacoast and seafood and can make even a Maine winter sound charming and cozy.
† Except when they're not, exactly. My maternal grandmother came from the cooking tradition in which an old mug plus a tablespoon and teaspoon from from the everyday table service were as much "measurement" as anyone could want. Her first cooking stove with a thermostatic oven control came along long after she was a woman grown, and probably burned kerosene; gas or electric arrived in her kitchen much later. Much of her cooking was done in a way that appeared magical to onlookers. My mother's family background included a lot of northern Indiana immigrants from Germany and a wonderful tradition of baking (which generally calls for careful measurement). The collision of kitchen cultures resulted in far more synthesis than disagreement, thank goodness, but anything that got written down was likely to be in Mother's hand and not her Mother-in-law's