Film gives new life to Southern dish of fried tomatoes

February 05, 1992|By Heather McPherson | Heather McPherson,Orlando Sentinel

With the release of the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes," a side dish that had almost vanished from menus and home kitchens and throughout the South is on the comeback trail.

The movie, which is about family and friendship in the rural South, taps into the relationship between community and cuisine. The script is full of references to Southern culinary favorites, but it is Ninny Threadgoode's (Jessica Tandy) reminiscing about fried green tomatoes served at the Whistle Stop Cafe that gives the movie its name.

Cookbooks about Southern cooking and culture abound, but finding one that has a recipe for fried green tomatoes is another story. Perhaps because the side dish is so simple to prepare, seasoned Southern cooks think the notion of writing the procedure down is tantamount to writing a recipe for buttered toast.

Simple as the basic recipe is (sliced tomatoes are coated and fried in oil), most home cooks probably don't have a clue about how to make fried green tomatoes from the name alone. And even if they do, they might miss the nuances of various coatings.

In "The Heritage of Southern Cooking" (Workman Publishing, 1986) Camille Glenn writes in the introduction to her recipe for Southern Fried Green Tomatoes of Autumn: "Green tomatoes dipped in cornmeal, you ask? Of course. Dipped in flour would be blasphemy. Where are you from, my friend?"

She wrote those words facetiously, but, if she had recalled an actual conversation, Glenn's "friend" would have likely been from the Midwest or the Great Plains. Cooks there have been known to coat sliced tomatoes, green or ripe, in seasoned bread crumbs or flour.

The recipe below is from food stylist and writer Cynthia Jubera, who worked on the movie. As the food stylist, Ms. Jubera supervised the preparation of the foods the cast ate on film. Ms. Jubera, who writes about food for the Atlanta Constitution and Journal, recommends adding a pinch of sugar to offset the tartness of the tomatoes.

Cynthia Jubera's friend green tomatoes Makes 4 servings.

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

Oil for frying

4 or 5 firm green tomatoes, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

In a shallow bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour and sugar Dredge both sides of the tomatoes in mixture. Press slices firmly into the corn meal mixture to make a good coating. Add oil to heavy skillet until depth is 1/4 inch. Heat oil over medium high oeat. Fry tomatoes, a few at a time, about 2 minutes on each side. When both sides are golden brown remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

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