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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Comparing foodways in town to foodways in the country

Nannie Pharis again discusses the foodways of her working community. Here, she focuses on contrasting foodways in the country and in town, arguing that in town she was much more reliant on cooking fatback meat for her family. In addition, she describes how her move into town affected the kinds of food available.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
So you didn't start back actually cooking for a family again until….
NANNIE PHARIS:
I married. We had some pretty good meals, though. But fat back, you did kind of depend on it. I'd soak the salt out of it. Wrap it and get the moist out of it all I could. Then batter it in flour and fry it. Get it real crisp. Then make me a gravy and pour over it. Sometimes I'd leave it out and we'd eat it crisp. It was real good. Homemade biscuits, buttermilk biscuits all the time. That's something you seldom see nowadays.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were there some other ways you'd cook that fat back meat?
NANNIE PHARIS:
I'd boil it with the vegetables and beans and things. Sometimes the shortening out of it, the grease, I'd season potatoes and things with that. Fry potatoes. Do a lot of things with it, scramble eggs.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What's the egg gravy?
NANNIE PHARIS:
I'd make the cream gravy and I wouldn't put so much flour in it. If I used the eggs that would supply the thickening. I'd beat up the egg and stir it in the milk gravy and pour that over it and we'd eat that. The biscuits was the main thing. Good old country butter that you never see anymore.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You ate more fat back meat when you were living in the mill than when you were living on the farm.
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes, lots more.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why would that be so?
NANNIE PHARIS:
The side meat at home, my daddy made it so salty and it had lean in it. But that fat back was white. You could buy the rib side too, it would have a streak of lean. But it was terrible salty, so I very seldom bought it. But I did use fat back. It wasn't like it is now. It was thick and pretty then. Now it looks like just skin. I use some now, not much.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were there other things you would have bought to eat, when you were working in the mill, that you wouldn't have bought when you were working on the farm?
NANNIE PHARIS:
That's right, we didn't need it on the farm. We bought it when I was living in town.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What kind of things?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Well, everything. We'd buy string beans when we didn't have them in the garden. Dried peas, dried fruit, had a lot of that then. Different things.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You would buy dried fruit?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes we would. Then I got to drying my apples and peaches and things myself.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about milk, would you have to buy that?
NANNIE PHARIS:
As long as my mother lived she always brought us fresh buttermilk and butter. When we didn't have that we'd have somebody else in the country to supply us with it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you just drink buttermilk, or did you drink sweet milk, too?
NANNIE PHARIS:
We liked the buttermilk better because they raised us on that sweet milk. We didn't like it so much after we growed up. Sounds fantastic, but that's the way it was. I know we was happy then.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You say you bought more fresh meat when you lived in the mill town.
NANNIE PHARIS:
In town, oh yes. We didn't have to buy any meat when we lived in the country on the farm because we always had plenty of what we cured in the fall and winter.