Many of us are Southwest at heart but arrived here from other parts of the country, or even the world. Personally, I (Monica King) dug my feet into the caliche twenty-five years ago. I was born in the south and enjoyed life as a migratory beekeeper’s daughter, thus I have been lucky to enjoy cuisine from many areas with different ethnic backgrounds. Fried green tomatoes has been one of my go-to southern favorites – or so I thought.
I had friends visiting from Missouri, and as I started to make some fried green tomatoes they said, “No way can you out do Missouri Fried Green Tomatoes! We invented them!” I grabbed my heart! What?! No – this is a Southern dish! Could I have been wrong all these years?
History of Origin
Digging into the past is what I do (more about the Prehistoric Collector here). The upshot is that – sadly, yes – fried green tomatoes are NOT Southern! Apparently the first recipes for fried green tomatoes are in 19th century Northeastern and Midwestern cookbooks! The 1877 Buckeye Cookbook and the 1873 Presbyterian Cookbook. A recipe is also found in the 1919 International Jewish Cookbook. The first southern mention was dug up in a 1944 Alabama newspaper! Of course, the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was famous for them at the Whistle Stop Cafe but there is no documentation of this dish originating in the South.
Variations on a Theme
I sampled fried green tomatoes from many families, including Mom’s version, and from cookbooks. Whenever I would taste something different, I’d get excited, “Oh! You used that in there!” Over time my recipe has turned into a hodge podge of this and that, and it may even change in the future. Perhaps you have your own twist to suggest? (Please share your comments!)
I found that the Pennsylvania Dutch used flour, cornmeal is a more recent Southern twist, and using breadcrumbs was an idea from my mom. All I can tell you with certainly is that making any fried green tomatos recipe is – in my opinion – one of the best and easiest ways of using up green tomatoes picked when freezing temperatures hit…….but then I am also one that cannot resist the first green tomato off a new years planting. I guess I just love fried green tomatoes that much.
If you have never tried them, I encourage you to do so. I cheated with this version and used Italian seasoned bread crumbs but add a few other ingredients as I like the heat of the red pepper flakes merging with the twang of the green tomato. The cornmeal gives them a lovely crunch. My husband unfortunately does not share my love for the dish – so I tend to make small batches – just for myself to savor as a snack.
Fried Green Tomatoes
1/3 cup yellow or blue cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
oil for frying
Mix all the dry ingredients together in one bowl, set aside. In a separate bowl, scramble the egg (or eggs depending on how many tomatoes you are using), set aside. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thicknesses. Heat enough oil to coat a frying pan, I use avocado oil. Dip each tomato slice first in egg, then in the dry ingredients, coating completely. Then add to the hot oil. Turn when golden then drain on paper towels when done.