It’s a Whole Thing

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.

serves four of us twice

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.

About joey

Neurotic Bitch, Mother, Wife, Writer, Word Whore, Foodie and General Go-To-Girl
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62 Responses to It’s a Whole Thing

  1. baldjake70 says:

    Well all of your hunting, research, and reading paid off and then some. It was delicious. I cannot wait to eat it for lunch tomorrow. It will be a welcome joy during a long day. Thank you Baby!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan Antion says:

    I have eaten something similar to that, but I don’t know that it had a name other than “that stuff with the rice and chicken and sausage” but it tasted good. Yours looks very good. I like your approach – eat food, don’t argue about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John Holton says:

    That looks good!

    Good to see you more-or-less back…!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. scr4pl80 says:

    Well, I don’t like cooking enough to spend that much time looking for a mystery recipe. My hubby keeps trying to make something he calls “slumgulium” that he used to eat “on the farm” when he was living with his aunt and uncle in Wisconsin. He’s not sure of anything about it – just that it was a bunch of stuff and good. Kind of hard to do a recipe search like that – LOL. Nice to see you, Joey. Hope you have a great rest of your week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      Thank you, Janet! You too! I opened your blog and there’s a video so you’re on hold ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Slumgullion is a thing and it has so many variations that only someone who had his aunt and uncle’s version can say which recipe is close. Many of them are like my mother’s goulash, which is what Easterners call American Chop Suey some Southerners call beefaroni, and who knows who all call it what all else! I hope one day he finds it. Childhood food is so comforting ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a neanderthal in the kitchen…I’m literary down to the same six meals I prepare every week (and we order out on Sunday), none of which resemble your perlo. Maybe you could vacuum seal a little and send it my way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve heard of but never made hoppin’ John. I don’t recall ever going down such a recipe rabbit hole, but it sounds like fun. I really enjoyed this bit…”and remarked as such in a colorful and unforgettable way.” Made me laugh.

    Closest I’ve gotten to such a hunt for a recipe was after I had spaghetti carbonara in Brindisi, Italy in the mid-seventies. It was SO delicious but in the age well before internet, where to find it when I got back home to Nebraska and the Midwest (or probably anywhere else at that time.) Then I chanced upon a small, spiral-backed volume of Italian cooking by Time-Life and lo and behold, what has become one of my signature recipe, never disliked by anyone for whom I’ve made it.


    P.S. Your recipe looks and sounds much like jambalaya.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue says:

    Well, gosh darn girl! I am from South Carolina and I love perlo! My Nana made a sausage perlo that I still make today. Much like the recipe you described but Iโ€™ve put a twist on it and include fresh sautรฉed onions and mushrooms and I add a can of cream of mushroom soup to give it a gravy like texture. Oh, and I use the jimmy dean sausage and crumbled it up like hamburger. Now Iโ€™m hungry! Fun post! Good to see ya here again๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Luanne says:

    No. Looks like jambalaya a bit. My grandmother always made ableskivers and I discovered that some cousins and nieces of Grandma consequently thought they were Dutch pancakes. But they are Danish. Grandma just liked them, got the pan, and started a family tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rivergirl says:

    This sounds somewhat like jambalaya…. which I make now and then. We like Cajun so I regularly do gumbo and ettouffe.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jewels says:

    I’ve never heard of Perlo or Hoppin John, but I enjoyed reading your adventures with them! ๐Ÿ˜Š I’ve recently been in search of my ex’s great aunt Eleanor’s rice pudding recipe. There are many rice pudding recipes on line, but I only have eyes for great aunt Eleanor…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello, Joey! Good to see you, and I had more of a smile when I clicked the link on the first reply. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve eaten that recipe, but it’s been a while. I haven’t made it because although I love rice, my husband doesn’t like it. A recipe from my past that I think about is one my grandmother made regularly during gardening season. It was potatoes cut up in small pieces with either fresh peas or green beans in a kind of thick white sauce. I smile just thinking about it but haven’t been successful in recreating it because I can never get the sauce right. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. marianallen says:

    I reckoned you were looking for perloo. I’ve never made it, but now I MUST! When the farmers market opens up again, I can get some fresh, home–grown chicken and sausage. I’ve done many a recipe hunt like yours, and I always end up doing how you done: Take the bits I like from various ones and doing what sounds good. Stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Maggie says:

    Cooking sure does connect us, especially in our families. We never ate โ€˜fancyโ€™. Our foods were humble farmer foods. We ate from what nature provided. We had either cornbread or biscuits at every meal. If you fried chicken, you made โ€˜milk gravyโ€™. Leftover biscuits were sliced, slathered with butter and stuck under the broiler and topped with homemade syrup. It was the best! I have a favorite cookbook from Charleston (Charleston Receipts) and it lists four types of โ€˜pilauโ€™. One with chicken, one with okra, one with tomato (and tomato and okra) and one with shrimp. Yours looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Iโ€™ve never had that one before. Sounds wonderful, and the idea behind you recipe hunt inspires me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. JT Twissel says:

    My grandmother wasn’t much of a cook but she did make a wonderful Fishes Eyes Tapioca Pudding. I’ve tried to replicate it without success. You certainly can’t make it with Instant Tapioca!

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      I LOVE tapioca pudding! If you ever work it out, please share it with me. I will have to eat all the pudding myself as no one else here enjoys it. Also, boba tea. Mmm, tapioca is nom!


  16. lois says:

    I had never heard of Hoppin’ John until I moved to FL. Husband is a born and raised Floridian, and he mentioned it but I don’t know if he has ever eaten it. Me being from up north, and him being from here in the south, there are so many foods we talk about that the other had never heard of/eaten.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      I find that interesting and I’m sure it makes for good chats. My husband came from long lines of meat n taters cookin, so his menu has grown substantially — but to the meat n taters point — meat gravy on mash, amirite?

      Liked by 1 person

  17. It reminds me of Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, but Gumbo is saucier.
    My mom used to make this chicken and rice dish with peas and a tomato-based sauce that she did in the pressure cooker that I loved. I’ve never been able to recreate it or her Cranberry Squares which are my favorite.

    My son-in-law the Handsome Surveyor makes a chicken and sausage dish they call “the bowl”. He made it Saturday night. It’s delicious! It too has a tomato-based liquid so it’s red in color.

    It’s good to see you here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      The foods moms make are just better when moms make em, but it’s wonderful the memories of them live on in trials and tastes.
      I do make gumbo ๐Ÿ˜€
      I love rice, and will pretty much eat anything in it, so please, hand me “the bowl” ๐Ÿ˜›

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Amy says:

    I know Hoppin John. My husband likes it. I do not like black-eyed peas. He also likes to have black-eyed peas in succotash. I haven’t had perlo, nor heard of it, but it looks yummy. Sometimes we do black beans and rice along with kielbasa. I have not had recipes to hunt down (I made my grandma write down my favorites), but I do enjoy searching for new-to-me recipes

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      Black eyed peas in succotash — with the lima beans, or instead of? Inquiring minds want to know.
      Can’t go wrong with any beans and any rice, I’m sure of it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy says:

        I think the last time he made it, it was instead of. But I think that was more about not wanting to take the time to cooked up the lima beans (soaking..and all that). Otherwise, I think he does both.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Swinged Cat says:

    I’ve never heard of perlo, but it looks delicious. Come to think of it, I’m not familiar with Hoppin’ John either. But deconstructed food bugs me. Why mess with perfection?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. JoAnna says:

    The older I get, the more I like to experiment. And being almost vegan, I’m thinking outside the box about those vegan sausages I’ve seen in the grocery store. Anything is possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Ally Bean says:

    I’ve made Hoppin John many times for New Year’s Day dinner. I/we like anything that is a big bowl of yum with smoked meat and spices. And onions, obviously. I don’t know that I’ve heard of perlo but if that’s what someone wants to call a conceptual recipe that everyone knows about and makes her own way, and the result tastes good, then so be it. Now I’m hungry, darn it…

    Liked by 1 person

  22. ghostmmnc says:

    Hey again! Fun to read about your recipe search. I’ve eaten and liked hoppin’ john, but never heard fo perlo. I do make something similar with pork chops, rice, bell pepper, tomato, onion & mushrooms. Had it just the other night, too.
    Hope all is good where you are! โค

    Liked by 1 person

  23. kirizar says:

    Loved this one! I suspect every family has a ‘dish’ that is uniquely their own. I know of one particular marshmallow, jello, mayonnaise and who-the-heck-knows whatever else was included salad, that was dreaded by every single family member except the mom who made it. After grandma’s health failed her, one of her daughters subsequently brought it to every family Thanksgiving–where it was dutifully scooped onto plates–if not dutifully eaten. I can only imagine what level of deprivation brings about a recipe with such unlikely ingredients.

    But I loved my grandfather’s bread and butter pickles. They were an intensely sweet, but spicy pickle that I could eat by the vat full as a child. That I didn’t immediately develop diabetes as a result is still a surprise to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      Ah, many versions of the marshmallow salad. I personally ENJOY a Waldorf salad — not the proper fancy one, but the whipped one with green jello, mallows, pecans, mayo, pudding mix, who knows really — but we are a rare bunch who eat it.

      I love bread and butter pickles on grilled cheese ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Benson says:

    I have spent a bunch of time searching the origination of food dishes and I love most anything rice. However I am not fond of Black Eye peas. Don’t think I ever liked them.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Bill says:

    I grew up with fond memories of the wonderful dishes Mom made. Then one day later in life I was told the god-awful truth. Mom did not cook. Dad did. So all those wonderful dishes I fondly remembered and credited Mom with were Dad’s.
    Somehow, that knowledge changed things a lot. The taste memories were no longer quite as good. I now recall overcooked meat, lumpy mashed potatoes, and some yucky green bean or red beet thing. We had no one dish meals, no casseroles, no recipes.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. bikerchick57 says:

    I love most dishes with rice…depending on what is added. In this case, the addition of chicken and kielbasa remind me of the jambalaya I used to make. I have to watch tomato consumption now, but it was a winter go-to recipe. I haven’t been searching for sny new recipes, but I wish I would have asked my mother to write down her methods for making wiener schnitzel and potato pancakes. Hers were the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. markbialczak says:

    That really does look and sound delicious, Joey, a gumbo fit for winter for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      It was not gumbo, but it does share a theme there with gumbo and jambalaya, doesn’t it? Like someone wanted to make another dish and didn’t have all the parts and pieces. It was delicious!


  28. Anxious Mom says:

    My husband calls it chicken bog (well, “bawg” in his country accent) and said he’d eat the hell out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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