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Of red-eyed sots and fat backs

In the third chapter of my cozy mystery, “Murder on Sugar Creek,” amateur sleuth Maggie Morgan joins her parents for a breakfast of biscuits, gravy, raspberry jam, country ham, and red-eye gravy.

Two gravies, you ask?red eye

Well, that depends.

When prepared traditionally, red-eye contains two ingredients – the grease from country ham and black coffee. Some cooks refer to it as gravy while others call it a sauce.

Although it’s written as red-eye gravy in the book and above, I’m stingy with gravy and sauce accolades in my personal life. So, for me, it’s simply red-eye. For years, I called the scrumptious sustenance red-eye sot. I did so until I realized the rest of my family was saying sop instead of sot. Sop, obviously, comes from the ability to sop up red-eye with one’s biscuits.

Some people prefer to slather a piece of ham with red-eye, but not me. I don’t want my ham and red-eye to mix, so I soak the ham in paper towels to remove as much red-eye as possible. Yes, I realize the absurdity of performing this activity prior to or directly after I ingest scraps of biscuits doused in red-eye, but I’ve got to be me.

You should not confuse this fried country ham with the cured ham that produces deli meat and Christmas dinner. You also can make red-eye on pork chops, but I consider ham more tender and easier to pull apart. It must have something to do with all that time hogs lie around on their huge backsides.

Speaking of pork, when I’m feeling really crazy, I’ll try a couple pieces of sausage, but only of the canned variety. Canning sausage involves spooning balls of seasoned, cooked pork into Mason jars. The clear jars make the meat more appealing because you can see the grease coagulate in the jar before it coagulates in your arteries.

My friends, even those from eastern Kentucky, seem disgusted by the idea of eating canned meat. The way I look at it, if canned meat didn’t sell, they would have pulled Spam and Treat off the shelves years ago.

As much as I love homegrown pork, I will not eat what my sister and I refer to as “hog bacon.” Yes, we know all real bacon comes from hogs, but we like to differentiate between brought-on bacon, which we devour, and homegrown bacon. We find hog bacon too coarse, salty, and fatty. It’s almost like fat back, which as its name suggests, comes from the back fat of hogs. I struggle to understand why anyone would eat something called fat back, but Mother insists it’s good and explains it’s like bacon without the meat.

I eat bacon only for the meat, so I think I’ll pass on fat back, but I will take some more red-eye sop, please.

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