A Mixed Plate of Courage, Faith, Soul, and Martha Hawkin’s Fried Green Tomatoes
In Montgomery, AL, I saw more than I thought there was discover. The First White House of the Confederacy had most of Jefferson Davis’ and his family’s artifacts intact and displayed thoughtfully inside the comfortable home. I also wandered the Hank Williams Museum, loving the intimate appeal of this American original.
At Martin Luther King’s home at the Dexter Church Parsonage Museum, I stood in the little kitchen in front of the kitchen table where Martin Luther King, frightened after the firebombing on his porch, had an epiphany of faith to continue to fight racism.
I saw tableaus and timelines at the Rosa Parks Museum and The Southern Poverty Law Center’s display on the martyr’s of the Civil Rights Movement at the Civil Rights Memorial. I marveled at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival stage, visited Auburn University’s flying eagle mascot at the raptor rehab center on campus, wandered the new waterfront development, and explored the revitalization plans for downtown.
I even walked up the steps of the Alabama State Capitol building to stand on the bronze star marking the spot Davis was sworn in as the President of the Confederacy. From this vantage point a small breeze blew and I turned to look down Dexter Avenue trying to recall much of our county’s history that took place right here on this ordinary-looking roadway.
I met lots of folks and ate a lot of fine food, but the meal that stayed with me was not the fanciest nor created with the latest foodie- fad ingredients to impress the gaggle of writers I was traveling with. It was simple. It was made by a woman with a thousand- watt smile and the eyes of someone who has danced with the devil, has come back to the light, and is making the world better for it.
Miss Martha Hawkins cooks. That’s what she does. Her cafe, Martha’s Place, serves what is known around these parts as “meat and three.” It’s a buffet here and you go down her line and serve yourself from her squash casserole, mac and cheese, Lima beans, collards, catfish, fried chicken, fried okra and coleslaw. Sweet tea or “unsweet tea” are served at your table. If you have any room left there’s apple cobbler in the dessert line.
Martha talks easily about her challenges and how she rose up with God’s help. She uses her cooking, inspirational speaking, and a book she wrote with Marcus Brotherton about her life to spread her message. I spent a few minutes talking with her and can still feel the powerful love she gives out. She is one unusual lady.
Here is a recipe from Martha. Stop by to see her when you’re in Montgomery on your own visit to find the legacy of courage, roots and grooves, a little faith and some fried green tomatoes.
Martha’s Fried Green Tomatoes
4 large green tomatoes
1 cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cooking oil for frying
Cut the tomatoes into ½ inch slices. Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Coat both sides of the tomato slices with the flour mixture. Heat half the oil in a large skillet. Over medium heat, brown the slices on both sides. You’ll need to do this in two batches; the tomatoes should not overlap. Drain on paper towels.