For lunch and supper you can have: fried chicken; pork chops and gravy; catfish; chicken and dumplings; or a barbecue plate; and your choice of three vegetables, biscuits or cornbread, and your drink and dessert - for 35¢.
She said the vegetables are: creamed corn; fried green tomatoes; fried okra; collard or turnip greens; black-eyed peas; candied yams; butter beans or lima beans.
And pie for dessert.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg, June 12 1929: Cafe Opens
Quite the list, isn't it?
This book is one I remember from our bookshelves as I was growing up. I didn't read it until much more recently but, for some reason, amongst the hundreds of books in our house, it has stayed in my memory. Perhaps it was the warmth that the women on the (film tie-in) cover radiated; I had a sincere hope that I would grow up and find friends I was that close to. I also had no idea what a fried green tomato would taste like but, from their laughing faces, I knew I wanted to try one.
It wasn't until last November, at Au Passage in Paris, that I saw them on a menu. I dove straight in. Crisp with breadcrumbs (traditionally cornmeal, but crumbs work so well here), and accompanied by a saffron mayonnaise, they were everything I had hoped. A little more refined than they perhaps would have been in Idgie's Whistle Stop, but deliciously suited to sit amongst an array of starters. So, although perhaps not the most authentic interpretation, I've adapted the dish from Paris below. By all means, do serve them alongside a main course, but I really enjoyed mine on their own.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Serves 4 as a side or snack
4 green tomatoes (not just slightly under-ripe red ones, but tomatoes that are a rich green, as in the picture above - ones that are picked unripe from the vine)
40g flour, or cornflour/cornstarch if you'd like for it to be suitable for coeliacs
80g panko crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying
6 strands saffron
280ml rapeseed oil (at room temperature)
2 egg yolks
2tbsp lemon juice
Pinch salt and pepper
1/4tsp English mustard
Chopping board and knife
1. The day before you'd like to make the mayonnaise, put the saffron threads and rapeseed oil into the jar. Leave to infuse.
2. To make the mayonnaise, warm the heatproof bowl over the saucepan of water. Remove from the heat and wrap in the tea towel to keep the bowl warm. Add the egg yolks and beat for a minute or so, before adding the lemon juice. Beat again for around 30 seconds.
3. While whisking continuously (get ready for some tricep burn), dribble the oil into the egg yolk. You need to add it a tiny bit at a time, or you risk the mayonnaise splitting*. The best tip I can give to add it slowly is that you should keep an eye on the oil, rather than the egg - as soon as I look down, I end up adding too much!
*If your mayonnaise does split, you can save it. Scoop the split mayonnaise out of the bowl, wash and dry it and repeat step two with a third egg yolk and some more lemon juice. Instead of dribbling oil into the egg yolk, add the split mayonnaise instead, very slowly. The yolk will incorporate the mixture; once it's used up, start adding the oil again. Just a note that you'll need more oil because of the third yolk.
4. Once half the oil has been added, you can stop stressing so much about the continuous whisking. You can work a little bit quicker, and take breaks. Continue until all oil has been incorporated. If it becomes very thick before all the oil is added, whisk in some lemon juice and then continue with more oil.
5. Whisk a teaspoon of freshly boiled water into the mayonnaise to prevent it curdling. Finally, season the mayonnaise with the mustard and some salt and pepper. If you're not going to use it immediately, store with some cling film pushed onto the surface of the mayonnaise, to prevent it forming a skin.
6. To prepare the fried green tomatoes, slice the tomatoes into centimetre-thick slices. Place the flour in one bowl, beaten egg in the next and panko crumbs in the third. Heat 1.5cm vegetable oil in the frying pan, until it reaches 180C.
7. Work with 3-4 slices of tomato at once, ensuring that you don't overcrowd the pan. Season the slices of tomatoes, then dip in the flour, dredge in the egg and place into the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs onto each side of the slice and around the edges. Carefully place the tomato slices into the oil, frying for two minutes until each side, until the crumbs are golden brown. Lift the tomato out of the oil and drain on the kitchen towel. Eat immediately, with the mayonnaise.
Note: You'll have a little mayonnaise leftover. I served mine with a rare steak and some pickled cucumber (below), but it's glorious with just about anything.