Years and years ago I picked up on my mother’s complaint that the “perlo” recipe was lost when my grandmother passed. My grandmother apparently made this dish a lot when my mother and her siblings were growing up. None of them had learned to make it and people had a sad about it.
In hopes of rediscovering this lost dish and making it for my mother, I asked my father if he’d ever had opportunity to eat my grandmother’s “perlo” and what the hell it was. My father had eaten it, did not enjoy it, and remarked as such in a colorful and unforgettable way.
If I ever ate “perlo” I don’t recall. I spent large chunks of time with my mother’s mother and she seldom cooked. I don’t think she liked cooking. We made sandwiches, we ate cold cereal, soup from cans, pasta from boxes, and best of all, we baked and went to DQ alawt.
When the interwebz became a thing, I did dutifully search for “perlo” in the hopes that I could recreate my grandmother’s noms. No such luck.
Years passed, decades, even.
Last month, I made Hoppin John. If you don’t know Hoppin John, it’s all about rice and beans and salty pork. There are as many variations as there are for any regional dish that travels — peasant food gets gentrified when some famous chef serves it with his own twist, or fuck’s sake, deconstructs it, elevating it to haute cuisine status instead of the delicious bowl of slop it’s always been. Hoppin John is a delicious bowl of slop, but I only know about it because twenty years ago, I read about it on the back of a bag of black eyed peas. Yes, I am the kind of person who reads everything I see, including bags of dried goods.
While my Hoppin John was simmerin, I debated on whether or not I really HAD to have red pepper, because The Mister done ate those up, and I ended up on this Serious Eats article about The Historic Problem with Hoppin’ John, which lo and behold, included information on “perlo” which is also “pilau” “perloo” “purlo” “pileau” and apparently it’s debatable as to whether all these dishes may or may not be chicken bog or a version of pilaf.
It’s a whole thing.
There are two million websites that mention it.
I am the kind of person who enjoys learning about both the origins of food and language, so this was the most exciting thing that happened to me that day. I was enthralled, and journeyed, readin recipes and blog posts about everybody and their daddies’ versions of perlo. There are versions of perlo rumored to originate in at least EIGHT worldwide locations. That’s fascinating! I told you, it was the most exciting thing that happened to me all day.
I asked my mother if she gave up hunting and she told me that while her sister has obtained the recipe, she’s not made it because it serves six.
Well duh, four kids, serves six, sounds perfect to me.
I told my mother I would make it, and I did. I didn’t use a recipe. I read many recipes and variations, I ended up doing a mirepoix, six trimmed and quartered chicken thighs, two long links of kielbasa, chicken stock, jasmine rice, and hellaspice. It was DELICIOUS. It’s a wonderful one pot meal and well-suited to our cold weather.
Here in the US, perlo is said to originate in the rice lands of the Carolinas. I find this interesting as I do not have kin from the Carolinas and have informed the children perlo is Melungeon food, because donobody know where it came from. I am the kind of person who enjoys eating. I am NOT the kind of person who enjoys arguing about whether chili should have beans in it, whether cheesesteak should be topped with green peppers, or which type of barbecue is right, because I would rather eat the food than argue about it.
But that’s a whole thing, too.
Now I’m eager to discover whether you’ve eaten or cooked a dish similar in composition, as well as what you call it, or if you have experienced such a recipe hunt, but you can still type whatever you like.