You just get that itch. It comes sometime around late June or early July around here. You go to the farmer’s market one Saturday just looking for some onions, maybe a few potatoes and an early tomato if one’s to be had.
But that’s not at all what you leave with. You start walking up and down the aisles, inspecting what’s on display at every vendor. And first you spy the earliest new growth okra, pods barely as long as your thumb. And you know they will never be more tender than that so you scoop up a bag. And then you get to the crookneck squash and it, too, is early growth. Tiny and, at this point, almost seedless. Picked late last night or early this morning. It is perfect and you have to have it, too.
As you’re checking out you notice the lady peas that someone has already shelled. They are as tiny and perfect as a diamond on an engagement ring. They are $6 a bag and you know by the end of summer they can be had at half that price. But they are so enticing. So irresistible.
That’s when you know you are having a Southern supper. All vegetables with some homemade biscuits and honey butter on the side.
Certain things are traditions that go back as far as the mists of time. The okra has to be fried in only cornmeal until every piece crackles. The peas have to simmer with a ham hock and be adorned with Duke’s mayonnaise because that’s the way your father did it before you and his father did it before him. And the squash always makes its debut as a casserole in which Velveeta and Ritz crackers are key components.
And you eat until you’re about to pop because you know that everything on your plate will never be as delicious and soul satisfying until this time next year.
4 cups finely chopped crookneck squash
½ medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, diced
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
24 Ritz crackers, crushed
4 ounces Velveeta, cubed
1 egg, beaten
Melt the butter in a sauté pan and add the squash and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat until the squash begins to brown. Put the squash and onions into a bowl and add the Velveeta cubes. Then add 2/3 of the cracker crumbs and the egg. Mix thoroughly.
Put squash mixture into a casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining cracker crumbs, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.