Recycling Ain’t New

– Commentary by Frank Gillispie 1/27/10

On my way back home from a medical procedure the other day, I stopped by Ingles Deli to see if I could find something soft enough to eat. The procedures are leaving my mouth very sensitive.

After placing the order, the clerk ask their normal question, Roll or Cornbread? Now I was raised on cornbread. It is a part of my normal menu. But it is a rough food and not suited for a tender mouth. So I ask the clerk to crumble the cornbread into a little dish and spoon some potlikker over it. She gave me a funny look and said, “I don’t think we have any potlikker.”

“Of course you do,” I answered. “You have it every day.”

About then one of the more experienced ladies spoke up and told her what potlikker is. That is the liquid left over in the pot after you boil turnip greens.

The rural south was so completely devastated by the War for Southern Independence and the atrocities by the Yankee occupiers that they called “Reconstruction,” that they had to make use of every possible resource. And the impact of that devastation was still in effect when I was born in rural Madison County. My diapers and gowns were made from old flower sacks, for example. The major portion of our food came from a large family garden, along with chickens and eggs from the yard, salt pork from the hogs we butchered and preserved in the “smoke house.”

And of course, corn. Corn was a major food for hogs, chickens and people. A common menu consisted of string beans, turnip greens and fatback for lunch. Supper often consisted of another pone of cornbread and the potlikker left over from lunch. I have dined on that delicacy many times.

Another food left over from cooking or processing was cracklings. They went into the cornbread to give it more flavor and a smoother texture. You can still buy cracklings at the grocery stores, but the young clerks have no idea what it is or where it comes from. Cracklings are the bits of meat left over after rendering lard during hog killing time.

Those old quilts that people pay such high prices for at the antique shows? They were made from scraps of cloth left over from our home made clothing, towels and other needed items. Nothing was ever thrown away.

My grandfather, U. G. Gillispie, carried this lifestyle to the extreme. He was a tobacco user. He would chew the plug until he got all the taste possible out of it, then put it on the porch rail to dry. Finally he would crumble it up into his pipe and smoke it.

Scout around one of the old rural home places some time. The one thing you are not likely to find is a garbage dump. Every piece of trash was saved and reused until there was nothing left of it.

Recycling is a big thing these days. But those involved in that cause ought to have been around in the rural south of my childhood. Recycling was not just encouraged then. It was a necessity.

Copyright © 2010 by Frank Gillispie

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