Cooking Fiori Fritti with Martha Foose
September 19, 2014
On a recent motorcycle trip through the Mississippi Delta, Bianca (my 2009 Moto Guzzi v7) and I had the pleasure of being guests of the great Martha Foose at her home in Pluto, MS. A partner-in-crime and companion of mine, Jon Mallard, had secured the destination through his life-long friendship with her and she welcomed our party with a krewe of Dionysian cohorts.
Perhaps this just happens in the Delta, yet the decision of what we would like for dinner was sent our way several days before our arrival: Pork Chops or Chicken and Dumplings, yes, capitalized. Because I was never taught how to turn down C&D from a southern chef, that was my vote. Those that may envision a sticky, creamy, or heavy commitment of a meal will be delighted to learn that Martha’s version was as light as Sunday service. I secured legendary status by putting away three bowls, much to chagrin of my trip-mate Cary, who missed out on a bowl and a half while talking to a pretty Southern Belle. Priorities.
The culinary bonding continued on night two when I spotted a row of rogue zucchini plants lining the porch outside the backdoor. I mentioned the possibility of cooking the flowers in the fashion that Nonna does that evening. The offer was accepted, and my nerves immediately started their creep towards causing me to mess up the recipe: It’s not everyday that you cook along side a James Beard Award winner. Luckily, there was a long-forgotten Tacate in the fridge that set my constitution and also provided the pep in my batter.
Martha came to me with her first book, pointing out she has a recipe for zucchini flowers. I politely set about reading the recipe, preparing to cook them in that manner, when she snapped the book closed in my face.
“You can’t see it yet, I want to know how your grandmother does it.”
Crap. There goes my out.
Slowly, my hands did the work making the paste and frying, my messy cooking style overruling my instinct as a guest. Martha began prepared the pasta that would be the main course. Nonna’s zucchini flowers, despite my anxiety, were a hit with the crowd. Thankfully, the participant’s judgement was surely sound because they definitely didn’t have way too much to drink… ahem.
Later on, I requested Martha be Yvelise Limoncello’s official recipe advisor (which really just means were going to drive to Mississippi as much as possible for Delta dinners). Not a bad gig if you can get it. We’ll also post photos of anything she cooks for us, or we try of hers on our Instagrams. See: Apple Butter Porkchops for the first Saints game.
Check out Martha’s two books, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea and A Southerly Course.