I lived in the Mississippi Delta long enough I sometimes forget how foreign certain aspects of the culture can be to others. Particularly the food.
When I referenced Kool-Aid pickles on the “About Me” page, I failed to remember that not everyone has had the privilege of learning about the unique flavors of the Delta. So here’s a quick sampling of a few favorites…
The Kool-Aid Pickle
If you’ve never heard of a Kool-Aid pickle, don’t think too hard. It’s probably just what you imagine. Take a pickle. Stick it in a jar of Kool-Aid (red “flavor” is the best). Let it marinate for a few days. And , “Voila!” You have a Kool-Aid pickle. A combination of sweet and sour that some people (mostly kids) find delectable.
I’m from the Midwest, near Chicago, and although this area could be called “North Mississippi” because so many I had never heard of a Kool-Aid pickle growing up much less tasted one. Not until I moved to the Mississippi Delta did I learn of this singular delicacy and many others.
The Fried Twinkie
You may also be intrigued by the fried Twinkie. When I say fried, I don’t mean fried in a pan. I mean deep-fried. Again, don’t think too hard. Take a Twinkie (sadly an extinct species now). Put it on a stick. Plop it in a vat of hot grease like you would a basket of French Fries. And “Voila!” You have a fried Twinkie. Somewhat like a funnel cake with a sweet cream filling, you’d be amazed at how the Twinkie makes a great sponge for grease. Top it off with some whip cream or powdered sugar and you’re in business!
A little less-exotic perhaps, but no less a favorite in the Delta is fried okra. Okra is…interesting. It looks like a large green chile with vertical ridges on the outside. But it’s the innards that make this vegetable an acquired taste. Inside okra is a clear fluid that has the consistency of mucous. It’s slimly, sticky, and slippery. Fried okra results when you take a piece of okra, cut it into slices like pickles, and deep fry them. The grease tends to burn off a lot of the fluid, so they come out tasting like a piece of fried batter with a faintly veggie flavor.
I won’t even get into other classic Delta snacks like fried Snickers bars, potato chips dipped in hot sauce, and Rotel. Not to even mention hot tamales (what cigar-rolling is to Cuba in terms of history and artform hot tamales are to the Delta). Don’t even get me started on the mainstays: caramel cake, Kool-Aid mix (poured into a sandwich baggie and eaten with moistened finger-tip), and, of course, fried catfish.
I hope you’ll visit the Delta soon and try some of these cultural culinary concoctions. If you can’t make it down to that part of the country, just find someone from Mississippi or Arkansas. Look for Kool-aid reddened lips or fingers and you might be closer to sampling these treats than you think.