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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Alice, Harriet, and Fried Green Tomatoes

Some of you know that Jim and I have a newly emptied nest, with our youngest at school in California, our middle guy off starting his life in Washington, DC, and our eldest having been on his own for some years now, living and working elsewhere in NJ.
So what do you do with an empty nest?
You fill it.
With birds.
Meet Alice and Harriet, more formally known as Alice and Harriet II. The original Alice and Harriet were our daughter's pets when she was 7 or 8 years old, named for Alice-in-Wonderland and Harriet-the-Spy. In hindsight we guess they were not particularly healthy, as they died just a few weeks after we brought them home. We had a proper funeral, which Addie, our daughter, remembers. It was raining and dreary and one of her brothers played taps on his trumpet as we laid the birds to rest in a corner of our garden.

We are pleased to say that the new Alice and Harriet appear to be healthy and full of personality and very much serving the purpose of adding life and noise into our little home.
Alice, blue, is the curious one (fancy that) but Harriet, green, is the more brave.

And I nearly killed them today.

I'd stopped at a farm stand for locally grown fruit and vegetables, and decided I would finally try making some fried green tomatoes- which I've been talking about doing ever since reading the book "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg many years ago. (You may remember the movie, made in 1991, called simply "Fried Green Tomatoes", starring 4 excellent actresses- Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary-Louise Parker, and Mary Stuart Masterson. If you haven't seen it, invite some friends and indulge. It's a wonderful movie filled with great performances.)

So, as this is my 50th year and I am working hard to actually do things rather than merely talk about doing them, it was time to try frying green tomatoes.

I found a recipe online which was pretty simple- cut the tomato into thick, 1/2 inch slices, season with salt and pepper, dip in milk, then flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, and fry in olive oil for 4 to 6 minutes on each side.
I sliced and they looked delicious already.
I coated and I was getting hungry.
I fried- 4 minutes- and burned. Scorched. Blackened. Crisped.
And then....... the smoke.
Dense thick smoke filled the whole floor and all I could think was "Respiratory systems! Birds have teeny little respiratory systems! They can't breathe; they're gonna dieee!"
And I ran and opened every window and door and yelled for Jim to bring me a fan, then grabbed the smoking pan and took it outside, where it continued cooking for a few minutes while I wondered if the neighbors were watching and if I was a bird murderer and how would I break the news to Addie.

Well- the jury is out. The smoke has cleared, the birds appear to be ok, but if they die in the next day or two we'll all know the quilty party. Fortunately, as Jim pointed out, they are under warrenty for another 13 days. And if we do have to get another pair, I'll be soliciting some new name ideas.

As for the fried green tomatoes? I can't believe I hadn't tried them sooner. Burned as they were, they were delicious. I will surely make them again, but with the heat set a bit lower, and a fan in the room at the ready.


  1. Sounds like a interesting experience. Those birds are so cute.

  2. Oh, my dad caught a magpie chick and they raised it. It learned to talk (in my mom's voice) and laugh (in my mom's voice), he would even call the dog (in my mom's voice) and peck its nose. Sadly, my dad went to preheat the oven and left the stash of baking pans inside. Thick smoke and the bird dropped to the bottom of his cage! Poor bird! My parents were devestated.

    That's why they used to use them in the mines.

    You're brave to admit (and photograph) the burnt dish.

  3. Wow Outraged that's really sad! As for bravery, well, I'm not exactly known for my culinary skills so it's ok. I have other talents :-)

  4. Since you have umpty bazillion hits on your amazing "letter" post, I decided to comment here. I chose this post because I've tried to make fried green tomatoes, I did so after learning about them in the Fannie Flagg book and because mine smoked too! It must be the northerner in us; we are genetically incapable of making this particular delicacy.

    I have passed your letter on to my daughters, my nieces and my daughters by other mothers (a/k/a my daughters' best friends). It struck a chord with me, as my oldest daughter--who I refer to as Eldest in my blog--attempted suicide in the spring of 2009 just before her 16th birthday. It has been a slow climb out of that particular hell...but she is happy and healthy and moving on in life today. Thanks for telling all those kids out there what they need to hear. And I hope they hear it before things are too dark for them to find their way out.

  5. Happy to hear that Alice & Harriet are well - we had a few tense moments the other night, when DS just **HAD** to fire up the fog machine, to start getting in that Halloween-y mood, dontcha know?
    All the instructions swore that the fog was non-toxic, but I still took the bird outta there!

    (Ditto on loving your daughter's-letter post)

  6. P.S. & FYI - it's not that birds have "teeny" respiratory systems, it's that they have EXQUISITELY SENSITIVE respiratory systems (not to mention exquisitely EFFICIENT; think about the O2 transfer needed to sustain the power of flight!)
    Anyway, a bird's air sacs (which are like accessories to their lungs) extend all the way down the sides of their bodies - Google "avian radiograph" & you'll see what I mean...