Just yesterday, I was telling a friend about this blog and they asked me what “Joha’s Table” means. Why name the blog that?
And my initial reaction was one of sarcasm and silliness – I wanted to snidely remark that my wife’s name in Joha and food is on a table. And as the words fell out of my mouth, I stopped and decided to answer in a different way.
“The table is about food, sure,” I remarked. “But it’s also a place where families sit and talk about their day. A place where friends share stories.”
So many things happen at the table. Many times, it’s where life is – and that’s really what this blog is supposed to be about. Not just food, but life.
When I was growing up, the dining room table was cleaned and removed of debris only a handful of times throughout the year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, when important people came to visit. But most of the time it was full of schoolbooks, homework and projects in development.
The table was covered with these items because my older brother, my younger sister, and I were homeschooled.
Every morning, my father would venture off to work – as we owned a carpet cleaning business – and my mother would wake us up. We would go to the living room and have a daily devotion and prayer, we would eat breakfast, and then get to school work (sometimes still in our pajamas, but we usually got dressed).
My parents decided, even before my schooling had begun, that they wanted to homeschool us. They cite the fact that they wanted a controlled environment of learning where they could focus efforts on needed areas, and allow us to spread our academic wings in areas where we were advanced. They had done their research on curriculums for different subjects and what would best suit our individual needs.
People often tell me, when I tell them I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, that they can’t believe it because I “seem so normal,” or I “have people skills.”
I attribute that to the reason my parents chose to school us at home. It wasn’t for religious reasons. It wasn’t to keep us away from people or groups or “danger.” It was mostly for academic reasons (probably some financial reasons as well, as sending three kids to private school while owning your own small business doesn’t bode well on the pocketbook).
I maintained relationships with other children in my neighborhood, through extracurricular activities such as community sports, and my involvement is organizations like 4-H and my church and youth group.
I think if my mother were asked what was a great advantage of homeschooling, she would mention the fact that sometimes she could create a curriculum based on the state’s criteria for learning in a specific subject.
Like Home Economics. In schools all across Mississippi, students took Home Ec and learned about cooking and food and sewing and whatever they teach in those classes.
My mom used Home Ec as an opportunity to teach us about cooking – and then she’d make us cook dinner. As we got older, she worked less. Her curriculum began freeing up her time because our schooling was to cook and clean!
There’s got to be some kind of law against that, right?! haha
I remember we started a garden in our backyard. We started growing tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, okra and several other vegetables. We watered and weeded and cared for the garden everyday and saw great harvests.
Those gardens were incorporated into a curriculum created by my mom, and they taught us so much. Those gardens taught us about preparation and planning – we had to till the ground and plan what to plant and where to plant it; planting , maintaining and overall responsibility – we had to put the seed in the ground and take care of each of them every single day by watering and removing weeds; failure and success – we had bountiful harvests many times, while other times things didn’t grow at all or died.
We learned a lot through those gardens.
Many times it was the garden itself that taught us lessons, other times mom dished out the knowledge. Like when the harvests began to flow, she showed us how to cook different vegetables.
There were years where we had so much coming from the garden, we began taking vegetables to church to give to other families – she taught us the importance of giving and generosity.
I remember growing zucchinis that measured out to be nearly two-feet in length. When these massive vegetables and great harvests would occur, my mother would plan meals with as many vegetables as possible. For a few years, I remember it seemed like everything had zucchini, squash and eggplant in it.
Spaghetti with zucchini, squash and eggplant. Soup with zucchini, squash and eggplant. Pizza with zucchini, squash and eggplant. Chicken with a side of fried zucchini, squash and eggplant.
But we learned to cook with these items, and learned to enjoy show creativity in the kitchen by cooking certain vegetables in a variety of ways.
Tomatoes were a mainstay in the garden, so we always made salads and often simply combined tomatoes and cucumbers in a bowl with vinegar, salt, pepper and herbs and had a healthy snack.
During those times when the tomatoes started growing, mom would pick some of the green tomatoes to fry them. Fried Green Tomatoes is somewhat of a popular southern (United States) dish. The unripe tomato slice stays intact while being fried, unlike a ripe tomato that would fall apart as it begins to heat up; and the sweet and sour flavor of the unripe fruit when fried is undeniably delicious to many palates.
In fact, the thought of my mother’s fried green tomatoes makes me hungry. I don’t have her specific recipe, but I cooked the dish and brought it to another level of southernry (I know it’s not a word, but you understand what I mean when I say it) with some pan-seared shrimp, all drizzled with a remoulade sauce.
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (feeds 2)
2 Green tomatoes (Actually you can make more than 2 tomatoes with this amount of flour mixture)
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp paprika
dash of oregano
dash of basil
salt, to taste
Place vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to medium-high heat
Slice green tomatoes to desired thickness
In a bowl, mix egg and buttermilk.
In a separate shallow bowl or pan, combine all dry ingredients
Dip tomato slices in egg mixture (to double coat, which makes it more crispy, drudge tomatoes in all-purpose flour, then dip in egg mixture)
Transfer dipped tomato into flour/corn meal mixture and coat tomato slices.
Place slices in heated oil and cook for about 2 minutes on each side (4 minutes total), or until golden brown.
Remove tomato slice from oil and place on a paper towel-covered plate to catch dripping oil.
Sprinkle salt, to taste, on hot tomatoes.
½ cup Mayonaisse
1 TBSP brown mustard (whole grain is best)
1 TBSP ketchup
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP Lemon juice
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
2 stalks of freshly chopped parsley
1 strand of thinly sliced fresh green onion
½ tsp pepper
dash of your favorite hot sauce
combine all ingredients and chill for an hour for best results, but you can actually use the sauce right away.