My Dad — The Renaissance Man.
Maybe I should have saved this story for Father’s Day but after doing my Savory Pecan post, I started thinking about all the things I remember about my dad and his life. Growing up, my mother did most of the cooking unless it was bbq, fish or game and then that was my dad’s department. But, as they got older and retired, and my mother’s health declined, our dad started sharing the kitchen with our mother. He would experiment with all sorts of cooking and gardening techniques. At one point he came up with this hushpuppy recipe on his own and that’s the recipe I have decided to share.
Long before my parents got into cooking up their own recipes, they would buy frozen hushpuppies; the ones that looked like hard little football shaped things that seemed even harder once they were fried. Then my mother started making homemade hushpuppies which I always thought were the most delicious ones ever, especially with a little butter smeared on them. Then in my dad’s later years, he added some yeast to the recipe and the rest is history. Sometimes I might add a little corn or even jalapeño to the puppy mix but they stand alone without any of the extras as the best hushpuppies I’ve eaten.
I don’t know about you but I can shut my eyes (I really don’t have to do that) I can hear my dad laugh, picture my mother’s smile which she had for everyone, hear my grandfather clearing his throat when he came in the door for lunch (they lived next door to us) and hear my grandmother saying “you need to put t-shirts on those babies”; we never forget those who meant so much to us do we.
Hope you will enjoy reading some of my memories about my dad, The Renaissance Man. And, if you are not tired of reading, there are a few pictures of him at the bottom of this post.
THE RENAISSANCE MAN
Gardening and Cooking: He would try to grow just about anything; one year he grew Jerusalem artichokes just to see how he could use them. They pickled everything, made his own dry rub for years, grew, dried and ground his own peppers and he loved to talk about his garden. He dehydrated all kinds of fruits, veggies and made his own jerky. When it came to canning he even canned some fish once and used to make fish cakes (I never tried those).
Marijuana — I think this is one of my funniest stories about my dad. He was a gardener extraordinaire. I don’t remember if this was in the 70’s or 80’s but here’s how the story goes. My dad always had the best garden and he would attempt to grow anything, always with success. As he told it, one day he heard on the radio where an 80-year-old woman was arrested for growing marijuana. Well, like I said, he always had an extraordinary garden. Someone had given him some marijuana seeds and he decided to see what he could do with it just for the fun of growing it. After hearing the story on the news, he cut all his marijuana, piled it into his truck and took it to the river and dumped it — he had so much of it in the bed of his pickup that he had to weight it down so no one would see it. I love that story.
The electric garden — After moving his garden to their lake place in Tennessee he finally got tired of dogs and other varmints running amuck in his beautiful plants which were taller than he was. So what he did was to put up a homemade electric fence and that took care of that problem, although he did get zapped a few times.
The Birds — He loved the birds in their yard and had a lot of purple martin houses. He even had gourds that he made into bird houses and hung them from a large flag pole. One day he saw a snake winding its way up the flag pole. So guess what he did, another electric thing around the pole which took care of those creepy snakes.
Water Pump — Now, he was way ahead of his time when it came to conserving water. At their lake house he rigged up a pump and pipe line from the lake to water his garden and he never used chemicals or fertilizer on his garden; he made his own garlic spray to get rid of bugs. He was organic before it was fashionable.
Brick Smoker — He was the best smoker/BBQer I ever knew and he taught my husband everything he knows about smoking meat. He took an old upright freezer and turned it into a smoker (he bricked on all sides of it so it didn’t look too ugly in their backyard). He used this smoke for years. To adjust the temperature of the smoker he used his “Dr. Pepper” cans over the smokestack, with different size holes in the top to regulate the temperature.
In the Navy — I remember him telling me a story about coming up with some kind of clip to use on one of the guns on board his WW II ship. One day when he was showing it to one of his superiors, they wanted to take it so they would get credit for it, well my dad wasn’t going along with that so he just threw it in the ocean. Maybe he shouldn’t have done that, I don’t know; I probably would have done the same thing though. He served the Navy in all 4 war theaters during WW II – Pacific, Europe, Africa and even served on a Chinese ship.
Trap shooter — He was the best trap shooter and in fact won the Senior State Champion in Tennessee and Arkansas the same year and he was in his 70’s when he did that and he went to Nationals in OH. Even in his 80’s he could still shoot 98 out of 100 traps; and I’m sure on a “good” day he probably got 100/100. He loaded his own shells to get the exact pattern he wanted. He loved to duck hunt too. When he died, we decided to slip clay trap in with him. So, I’m sure he’s still enjoying his trap shooting days.
Tall tale teller — What can I say that he had some pretty good fishing stories. Thing is, I’m sure most of them were true.
Fisherman extraordinaire — After my dad retired, they moved from the Missouri side of the Mississippi to Reelfoot Lake which is on the Tennessee side of the Mississippi. He had all his favorite fishing spots. When my husband was still in high school he would go fishing with my dad and they would come back with coolers full of fish, no kidding, and huge channel catfish when they went blocking on the river. When fishing on Reelfoot Lake, it was nothing for the guides to seek my dad out to see where he was fishing. He could catch fish when no one else could. A TV station from Memphis once sent one of their sports news guys to fish with our dad for a day to film what he knew about the history of the Lake (and where to fish). Frog gigging the same — we would have dinners with a huge piled up platter of frog legs.
Boats — He made two that I know of, one was actually a small speed boat. I remember him forming and bending the wood for the hull of the boat and we can’t ever forget the two car hoods he welded together to make a canoe for frog gigging in the ditches and bayous. He loved being on the water.
And my little bro reminded me of an old school bus that our dad turned into a camper to take hunting. He also made my husband his first fish fryer by cutting and welding a steel plate onto a fish pot, rigged up a burner from a old water heater and a stand from a steel Sealtest milk container – we still have it!
I kind of mixed up my ingredients. The bag was supposed to be the self rising flour and I had two kinds of cornmeal out. I corrected my mistake before mixing my ingredients.
Add all the dry ingredients including the dry yeast.
Mix the egg and buttermilk and add to the dry ingredients along with the onion and jalapeño.
The key to not having batter stick to the spoon is to dip in water each time before adding a spoonful of batter to hot oil.
First ones in.
First ones out. Couldn’t resist trying a couple.
- 1 c. plain cornmeal
- 3/4 c. self rising flour
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 egg
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 1 pkg. yeast
- 1 small onion, minced (about 3/4-1 cup)
- 1-2 large jalapeño, chopped fine
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- Mix all the dry ingredients along with the yeast and seasoning. Stir in the onion and jalapeño. Mix the egg and buttermilk together and stir into the dry ingredients just before you are ready to start frying. My mother always said do not restir after the original mix because they will fall flat.
- Heat oil to 350°. Use a teaspoon and dip in water before dipping up each hushpuppy into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, flipping over with a slotted spoon as they fry and start to float. Drain on paper towels.
- Enjoy and think of my dad when you do.
Who are those cute little twins (hey, that’s me and my sister up in Canada on fishing trip. I loved those little sailor hats we had. The other man is my grandfather’s brother.
I told you he caught big fish.
My parents at one of my dad’s shoots.