Dialogue, Disclaimers, and Diarrhea

ForestPathWhat do dialogue, disclaimers, and diarrhea have in common? They’re three of the topics of my most popular blog posts for 2013. Just over half the articles were related to writing, the rest included recipes and one remedy for – yes – diarrhea. If you missed any of these, here are the top ten posts from my blog for last year.

  1. Ten Favorite Country Sayings – Wisdom (or country wisdom, anyway) must have been on many people’s minds this year, evidenced by my No. 1 blog post.
  2. Writing the Memoir: Disclaimers – Most works of fiction include a disclaimer to help ward off potential lawsuits, and it’s even more essential for a memoir. I include examples of different types of disclaimers and a link to where to find disclaimers for many kinds of fiction and nonfiction books.
  3. Writing a Memoir Like a Novel: Dialogue – The fourth post in my Writing a Memoir Like a Novel series discusses how to write natural dialogue.
  4. Free Resources for Writers: The Basics – This is a short list of free foundational resources that continue to help me in my writing journey.
  5. Southwestern Recipe: Green Chile Sausage Gravy – The flavor of green chile is popular both inside and outside of the southwestern United States. Here’s a recipe shared by a New Mexico fireman that never fails to keep the firehouse happy.
  6. Country Remedy: Diarrhea Relief – Who knew this country cure would be so popular, but AJ Jackson says this simple remedy has never failed to provide relief from diarrhea.
  7. Writing a Memoir Like a Novel: Story Arc – The first in the series of Writing a Memoir Like a Novel, this article discusses the beginning-middle-end structure of a memoir.
  8. 5 Tips for Retrieving Memories – An excellent article by Lisa Hase-Jackson (reprinted with permission) originally titled “Five Tips for Retrieving Memories and Developing Your Memoir.”
  9. Country Recipe: Old-Fashioned Tea Biscuits – This is one of AJ Jackson’s favorite family recipes that makes a ton of cookies.
  10. Writing the Memoir: Consider the Consequences – Three important things to think about before deciding to write a memoir.
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Country Recipe: Kefflins (Butter/Almond Cookies)

(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

My mama (Vinnie Arella Jackson) made Kefflins only for Christmas. She would make them the day after Thanksgiving so they would have time to cure. We had them every Christmas and we never knew where Mama hid the crock, because if we had found it, there would not have been any cookies left for Christmas day. All these years later, I still don’t know where she hid that crock.

Kefflins

1 pound butter

1 cup ground almonds

1 cup sugar

4 cups flour

powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar, add almonds and flour. Mix and knead with hands. Roll into crescents. Bake at 375̊ on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly browned. Layer in a crock (or a sealed container) with powdered sugar, and seal for at least a month to cure before eating.

I’ve posted this early in the holiday season so you might have a chance to plan ahead and have enough time for your cookies to cure. What recipe do you make every year as a family tradition?

Country Recipe: Sweet Potato Pie

(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

CharlieBullock3I’d like to dedicate this post to my brother-in-law Charlie Bullock. He passed away at the age of 87 on March 13, 2013, the morning we posted his recipe for cough syrup (also see his remedy for diarrhea relief). He was born and raised in the hills of Alabama, and was a down-to-earth kind of guy with a great sense of humor. I’ll miss him. This photo of Charlie was taken years ago, but I never thought it looked quite like him – he’s wearing his teeth. Charlie carried his teeth in a shirt pocket everywhere he went but hardly ever put them in, even to eat. He grew his own sweet potatoes and one of his favorite desserts was Sweet Potato Pie. Try this recipe out and let us know what you think.

Sweet Potato Pie

  • 1 lb sweet potato
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Boil the sweet potato whole (in skin) for 40 – 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato and remove the skin.

Cut up the sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter and mix well with a mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, spices, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth, and pour the filling into an unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 350° (175° C) for 55 – 60 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The pie will puff up and then sink down as it cools.

Country Remedy: Cough Relief

Woman Holding Cup of Water and Lemon(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

This remedy for a cough came from my brother-in-law who grew up in the hills of Alabama. He is now 86 years old. Like most country remedies, I never measure the ingredients for this cough syrup. It’s always been a by-guess-and-by-golly thing, but I’ve given my best guesstimate in the directions below.

Cough Syrup

honey

lemon juice

whiskey

Take a small juice glass and add about three tablespoons of honey plus just enough lemon juice to thin the honey. Add a tablespoon or two of whiskey to the honey/lemon mixture and stir. Sip it throughout the day or night. It stops the cough for a short time, enough to let you get some sleep at night.

What’s your favorite way to calm a cough?

Country Recipe: Kefflins (Butter/Almond Cookies)

(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

My mama (Vinnie Arella Jackson) made Kefflins only for Christmas. She would make them the day after Thanksgiving so they would have time to cure. We had them every Christmas and we never knew where Mama hid that crock, because if we had found it, well, there would not have been any cookies left for Christmas day. All these years later, I still don’t know where she hid the crock.

Kefflins

1 pound butter

1 cup ground almonds

1 cup sugar

4 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar, add almonds and flour. Mix and knead with hands. Roll into crescents. Bake at 375̊ on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly browned. Layer in a crock (or a sealed container) with powdered sugar, and seal for at least a month to cure before eating.

We posted this early in the holiday season so you might have a chance to plan ahead and have enough time for your cookies to cure. What’s your favorite holiday recipe?

Country Recipe: Old-Fashioned Tea Biscuits

(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

Grandaddy Edwards (my mom’s papa) would place these cookies in a sealed jar with a few slices of apple to keep them soft. They would pick up a slight apple flavor. I grew up on these cookies just like all my aunts, uncles, and cousins. There was a bunch of us. Looking back, I think Mama and Grandmama always made this recipe because it makes a lot of cookies.

Old-Fashioned Tea Biscuits

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 cup sour milk*

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

7 cups flour

Mix and roll out 1/2 inch thick, and cut out cookies with a biscuit cutter. Bake at 375̊ on a greased cookie sheet until lightly browned.

*To make sour milk: add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to one cup milk and let stand for 5 minutes.

Make a batch and let us know how they turn out for you.

Country Know-How: Testing Oil for Frying

(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

Some people who like to fry food rely on an appliance like a Fry Daddy to set the oil temperature. Others use a thermometer to judge when the oil is hot enough or they toss in pieces of battered goodies to test it out. If the oil isn’t hot enough, though, the batter slides right off into the grease. But when it is ready, the batter is sealed to the food and cooks to a golden perfection.

If you’re one of those people who tests the oil until the samples cook up just right, there is a better way – and there has been ever since the invention of wooden matchsticks.

Years ago, my sister Jeane and her husband used to fish for catfish with their neighbor and friend, Frieda, who grew up in the bayou of Louisiana. The know-how to use a matchstick to test the readiness of hot oil had been handed down to Frieda, and she taught Jeane the trick. I rely on this same matchstick test whenever I get a hankering for fried anything.

Jeane’s Matchstick Test for Hot Oil

You’ll need wooden matchsticks (not paper) and oil for frying. Heat the oil in an appropriate pan until you think it might be hot enough, then drop an unused (unlit) wooden matchstick onto the top of the oil. Watch closely. The striking end will flare up briefly when the oil is hot enough, and die out right away. Remove the matchstick from the oil before frying your chicken, fish, fries, or whatever’s on the menu. And don’t worry about catching the oil on fire with the match, the tiny flame doesn’t stay lit.

I love tempura-battered veggies, what’s your favorite fried food?

Country Remedy: Diarrhea Relief

(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

Fifty years ago, my brother-in-law (whose family comes from the hills of Alabama) taught me to make “burnt flour” to stop my baby daughter’s diarrhea. After mixing up the remedy, he heated the end of an ice pick to burn a bigger hole in a bottle’s rubber nipple so the concoction could flow through. I’ve used his recipe time and again over the years, and it’s never failed to work, no matter the age of the one needing relief.

Charlie’s Diarrhea Remedy

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup water

Cook the flour by itself in a hot skillet (we use cast-iron) until dark brown, but not black. Add the “burnt flour” to the water, stir until dissolved, and drink it down.

This remedy gets rid of diarrhea faster than a store-bought solution or a doctor’s prescription. Cheaper, too. And no one’s ever needed a second dose.

Let’s hope you never have to use this remedy, but if you do, let us know how it works.

Country Recipe: Grandmama’s Bread

(From Vinnie Ann “AJ” Jackson)

I learned to make this bread from my mom and she learned it from her mom. When my Grandaddy and Grandmama Edwards came to New Mexico from Choctaw Nation, Tennessee in a covered wagon, this is the bread Grandmama made. It didn’t take milk or eggs, things most people didn’t have on a trip back then. Life was very simple and they made do with what they had. I still make this bread today and so do my children.

Grandaddy and Grandmama Edwards

Grandmama Edward’s Bread

2 cups lukewarm water

1 package yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons oil (Grandmama & Mama used bacon grease)

6 cups flour (or enough to make a stiff dough)

Stir the yeast into the lukewarm water. Add sugar, salt and oil. Add flour to mixture one cup at a time until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. The amount of flour needed depends on the weather. If it’s raining, it takes more flour. Knead until smooth. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a dish towel, and put in a warm spot to rise. Let rise until double in size. Punch down and shape into rolls or a loaf, let rise again. Makes 2 regular size loaves or one large. Bake at 350̊ in a greased pan until golden brown, about 1/2 hour.

For a change:

Make the dough and roll it out, spread sweet/hot mustard on it, add ham and cheese, then roll it up jellyroll style and bake on a cookie sheet. You can also put minced onion and/or garlic on the bread before baking it. I have even done it with pizza sauce and pepperoni and cheese. It’s like a ready-made sandwich.

Give Grandmama Edward’s bread recipe a try, and let us know what you think.