Seeing former Fire Chief Sherman George and his wife Catherine George out last night at Taste for Tunes at The Stable remembered me to pester Sherman for his black eyed peas recipe.
This plays into Sherman's experience donation for the 2008 Experiential Auction. On Sunday, Sept. 21 (5-8 p.m.) the people who come to Atomic Cowboy will have the chance to bid on the experience of having Sherman George cook you black eyes peas for supper.
Sorting mail at The Tap Room this afternoon while T. Tommy Terhaar laid out the front page of The St. Louis American, I called Sherman and asked him for his recipe. I have decided not to edit his narrative much, because I like the rambling quality.
For those who know Sherman's story vis a vis Mayor Francis G. Slay and the St. Louis Fire Department, notice the precaution he takes for safety (no rocks or bad peas in his beans) and his rigor for testing his beans properly so they don't turn into mush.
Chief George speaks:
What I do, is I don't soak the peas. I get some hamhocks. Sometimes, I get a bone from a honeybaked. I cover the hamhocks with water. I let the hamhocks cook an hour before I put the black eyes peas in there.
I usually cook about three-quarters of a pound of peas. I sort the beans, first, to make sure there are no rocks and no bad beans. I let the beans drain after I wash them off, and I chop up a small onion, pretty fine. I put the onion in with the hamhocks.
I season it - a little seasoning salt, a little pepper. That's all I do.
Once the hamhocks have cooked an hour, you add the black eyed peas and cook them until they're tender. Make sure you don't cook them too long. It has to be a certain consistency. If you cook it too long, the beans turn into mush, and if you cook it too short, they're hard. You have to test the peas, once in awhile, to make sure you're not cooking them too long.
If you cook them too long, they're not peas anymore.
I asked Sherman for serving suggestions.
"I normally serve them with cornbread," he said. "Maybe a side of slaw. Chopped onions. It depends on what people want. I like the slaw. It all depends on what I feel like doing."
"A good drink, for me, would be Kool-Aide or a favorite soda. Grape, cherry or strawberry Kool-Aide goes really good."
The 2008 Experiential Auction will be held 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21 at Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchester Ave. Proceeds will benefit Poetry Scores, a St. Louis-based arts org that translates poetry into other media, such as music, paintings, film and supper. Bidding starts now at $10 per item - via email to me or add comments here if you want Sherman to cook you supper. (Picture of the Georges and state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed at Experiential Auction 2007 is by me.)