The more I ponder carrots, the more I realize that my relationship with carrots is a curious thing. I've spent my entire life in the Deep South and come from a long line of farmers and backyard gardeners. My people grew commodity crops like peanuts and cotton. In their backyard gardens, they'd grow vegetables such as Southern peas, tomatoes, okra, bell peppers, collards, turnips, rutabagas, mustard, onions, eggplant, and banana peppers. And flowers. Always flowers. But never carrots.
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All of my family loved carrots but none of my people grew carrots. I was under the false impression that carrots weren't suited to our Deep South climate. I learned differently when I sowed carrot seeds in my central Florida backyard garden and had a nice crop of carrots. Once I gained the knowledge that carrots grow in the Deep South, I was completely bumfuzzled by the carrot-less gardens of my childhood.
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Our love of carrots was singularly focused. We were accustomed to eating them only one way: cooked with a beef pot roast and potatoes. Granny and Mama always threw in as many carrots as they could fit in the pot and every one was eaten. In spite of it all, our love for carrots never inspired them to serve cooked carrots in another fashion. Granny was the best cook this side of glory. The woman never made a bad meal. She could have cooked any number of unbelievably good carrot dishes, but she stuck with what she knew. If you wanted carrots at her house, you'd have to wait for the next beef pot roast dinner. It's obvious to me that my family had some sort of unresolved issue(s) that manifested as a fickle relationship with carrots.
A few years ago, my daughter suggested a Carrot Soufflé for Easter. The restaurant where she worked had it as a regular item on their buffet. The idea was new to me and I was intrigued. My seemingly carrot-challenged upbringing inspired my fascination with carrot recipes. The recipe she shared with me was simple and straightforward. I checked to see if Southern Living had a version. The recipe the restaurant used was identical to Southern Living's version, which gave me confidence that it was a good recipe. We made Carrot Soufflé for Easter dinner that year. Our family was smitten. A comment was heard at Easter dinner that's common to folks experiencing it for the first time: "I would have never guessed this has carrots in it." Perhaps we're all stuck in a rut to some degree when it comes to our expectation of carrots and how they should be used.
Live a little: enjoy this Carrot Soufflé and share it with people you love.
Live a lot: sow some carrot seeds in your backyard garden.
Jackie Garvin is an Alabama born and raised, award-winning author and cook. She is the author of the popular Southern food blog, "Syrup and Biscuits", and two Southern-inspired cookbooks: Biscuits and Sweet Potato Love. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and Basset Hound, both of whom are well fed.