(Photo used with permission by Patricia Bradley)
Evelyn Couch: I never get mad, Miss Threadgoode, never, the way I was raised, it was bad manners. Well I got mad, and it felt great. I felt like I could just beat the shit out of all those punks! Excuse my language. And then when I finish with those punks, I’ll take on all the wife beaters like Frank Bennett, machine gun their genitals,
[imitates machine gun]
Evelyn Couch: eh-he-he-he-he-he!
Evelyn Couch: Towanda will go on a rampage, I’ll slip tiny bombs into Penthouse and Playboys so they explode when you open them. I’ll ban all fashion models who weigh under 130 pounds! And I’ll give half the military budget to people over 65 and declare wrinkles sexually desirable.
–script from Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg
When I first started thinking about this post, I thought I’d be writing about mindful eating. And I will at some point in the future. But I got waylaid by a photo posted on Facebook by my cousin, Patty. The photo, which I’ve copied above, is of her crop of green tomatoes.
If you’ve never read Fannie Flagg’s book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe, or seen the movie, I highly recommend it. The powerful “ism’s“ of the south are woven into a multi-dimensional story of strong women and strong friendships. I read the book and watched the movie many years ago and when I saw Patty’s beautiful photo, I decided I wanted to refresh my memory. The movie isn’t available on Neflix but I found it on Amazon video. Jim and I watched it together and it’s still as rich and relevant today as it was in 1991.
The current Republican presidential candidate used the p-word in his “locker room” rant with Billy Bush. Why did I bristle so much? Maybe because I identified with the movie protagonist, Evelyn Couch, and her search for self-confidence and respect. While Evelyn was in mid-life crisis during the 1980’s, I was having my own life crisis – trying to balance marriage, baby, career, and graduate school. It was a stressful time for the beneficiaries of the Women’s Liberation movement. We were frustrated by the conflicting expectations of young women and we struggled to be “all that we can be.” We female baby boomers were supposed to be empowered but we should always put our husband’s needs first. We were supposed to have careers, but also have the perfect home and requisite 2.5 children. We were supposed to be successful in the workplace but never be a “bitch” or land on the mommy track. As I reflect back on those years, I don’t know how my friends and I kept our sanity. It is interesting to note that the 1980’s was also the decade when Prozac came on the market.
Has anything changed since the 1980’s? Do young women today feel less stress and guilt than we did? Jim and I went back to the D.C. area last week to visit family. I was struck by how different my daughter’s life is than mine was at her age. My daughter experienced stress of different kind during her twenties – the death of her father and drug addiction. The “super woman” syndrome never surfaced for her. Rather, she is all about trying to survive, doing what she enjoys, and finding peace. And btw, she has done all three! While I’m sure that there are many young women who struggle with others’ expectations, I also hear many stories about how millennials make choices that we would never have dreamed of. Young women today can marry or not; have children or not; start their own company or climb the corporate ladder; and follow their dreams. Now that my daughter is in her thirties, she still makes decisions based on her own values, not what our culture expects from her. I am pleased and proud that she feels truly empowered and free to make her own choices.
The p-word conversation that the presidential candidate had with Billy Bush is disrespectful of how much we baby boomer women have overcome. As Evelyn contemplated her own struggle, she wondered:
“What was this power, this insidious threat, this invisible gun to her head that controlled her life … this terror of being called names? She had stayed a virgin so she wouldn’t be called a tramp or a slut; had married so she wouldn’t be called an old maid; faked orgasms so she wouldn’t be called frigid; had children so she wouldn’t be called barren; had not been a feminist because she didn’t want to be called queer and a man hater; never nagged or raised her voice so she wouldn’t be called a bitch … She had done all that and yet, still, this stranger had dragged her into the gutter with the names that men call women when they are angry. Evelyn wondered; why always sexual names?”
–Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe
Our legacy to our daughters is freedom of choice, not only of their reproductive systems, but of who they want to be. Unlike Evelyn, our daughters don’t even get mad when they hear the insults to women. They just laugh and remark, “He’s crazy!” We, mindful baby boomers, can feel really good about our role in making that attitude a reality!
Enjoy the following recipe from the Whistle-Stop Café!
Recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes
- 3/4 cup self rising flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3/4 cup buttermilk (or substitute regular milk)
- 3-4 green tomatoes sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
- Vegetable oil or bacon grease for frying (I used peanut oil)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- Pinch of cayenne, or more to taste
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and buttermilk. Use a fork to mix the ingredients into a pancake-like batter. Use more buttermilk to thin the batter, if needed.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a skillet until hot enough to fry. Dip tomato slices in batter, letting the excess batter drip back into the bowl. Put the dipped slices immediately into the frying pan. The oil should sizzle strongly but not pop when the tomatoes hit the oil– if the oil pops or splatters, it’s too hot. Let it cool down a bit before proceeding.
Fry the tomato slices in batches of 4 or 5 at a time (don’t crowd the pan) for 2-3 minutes per side, turning carefully with tongs when the coating turns golden brown.
Transfer to a colander or wire cooling rack to drain. To keep the tomatoes from getting soggy before they’re served, Fannie suggests standing them up like wheels in the serving dish instead of stacking them.
To make the sauce, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, and cayenne in a bowl. Taste and season more, if needed. Serve sauce over the fresh fried green tomatoes.
Fried green tomatoes are best eaten fresh out of the frying pan, they will become soggy fast if you don’t enjoy them within a few minutes of frying.