Sunday, December 04, 2011

A recipe and a North End cultural history of "Kalb Hollow" (Germantown/Salemtown area)

Nashville blogger Thomas Horton relates a family story and a recipe his father produced when forced to come up with a meal to prepare in a pinch. His father called the dish "Kab Holla" based on where he grew up during the Great Depression:

Kab Holla is how Dad pronounces "Kalb Hollow," which is the nearly forgotten name for the neighborhood where he grew up, about half a mile north of the State Capitol in Nashville. Today, it's called "Historic Germantown" and is undergoing urban pioneer regentrification, but when he was a boy during the Great Depression, it was a scrappy, tough neighborhood whose German Catholic backbone was the Church of the Assumption on Seventh Avenue.

My father went to the Assumption School starting in 1937, the sixth of eleven children. His family home was a tiny three-bedroom shotgun house just down the street from the Church, not far from Morgan Park. His own father was a violent ne'er-do-well and gambler who couldn't really hold a job, with some very questionable associations. His mother worked as a switchboard operator at the Hermitage Hotel and was the principal breadwinner for the family. His two sisters, both considerably older, handled the cooking and cleaning. Food was scarce, and my father grew up hungry more often than not ....

Many times ..., there was no lunch, and on such days, he and his equally hungry little friends would commiserate after school in the fields of Morgan Park. One day, his buddies hatched a plan.

Each one of them was to return home briefly and steal something from their family kitchen. They would build a fire and cook the purloined food, and share the bounty together.

What was most most common in these 1930s Nashville kitchens were potatoes, and most of the boys just nabbed a potato or two from the family bin. One boy had a couple of pennies, and bought a stick of butter at the corner market. Another boy only made away with an onion. My father was the hero of his group: he went home, opened the icebox, and miraculously found meat. There was almost two pounds of bologna, and he nicked three thick slices and took them back to the field. Their ringleader had obtained a frying pan, and over an open fire in Morgan Park, eight boys, aged six through nine, cooked these stolen goods, and shared the meal equally between themselves.

While I posted this as a matter of historical interest for our neighborhood, go read the rest of Mr. Horton's fascinating account.

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