Every good Southern girl learns things about cooking from her mother, who learned them from her mother, who learned them from her mother—things like how to fry okra or make cornbread or brew sweet tea.
Bless her heart, my daughter-in-law Katie did not learn Southern cooking from her mother. Diane is a fabulous cook, having once owned her own catering business, but these are West Coast girls, and Katie spent most of her growing up in Los Angeles and Seattle.
So when she and Brent purchased some purple hull peas at a farmer's market in Savannah, where they now live, Katie turned to the queen of purple hull peas, my mother, for instructions on how to prepare them. As Katie tells it, the conversation went something like this.
Katie: Mema, I bought some purple hull peas, and I need you to tell me how to cook them.
Mema: Well, you season them and cook them in water for about two hours.
Katie: Two hours?!! Oh, then I guess we won't be having them for dinner tonight. I thought you just had to heat them up good.
(Note: This conversation took place about 6 p.m. one evening.)
Katie: I guess I'll just cook them and save them for tomorrow night. So how do I season them?
Mema: Well, you season them with a little salt. I also used to put bacon drippings in mine, but after all the talk about cholesterol a few years ago, I started using oleo. So just sprinkle in salt to taste and add some oleo. Bring them to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover them and simmer for about two hours.
Katie: So that's all you do?
Mema: That's all.
Katie: Just one more thing, Mema. What's oleo?