I didn’t care much for it when I was a child. My parents ate it quite often, but I found its taste too strong for my liking. Now, all these years later, I could eat it every day. It is an old southern treat that was actually a staple a generation or two ago. It is called sorghum. It is a type of syrup. My parents told me that during the Great Depression, they slathered it on homemade, hot biscuits, as well as mixed it in their tea or coffee to sweeten them. The latter was because they couldn’t afford sugar, but on the farm they made their own sorghum. I love to cover a fresh, hot biscuit with it like you might with gravy. Add to that some thick sliced bacon, or a piece of salty country ham, and you’ve got a breakfast fit for a king...a Bill King, to be exact!
This southern delicacy is not as easy to find as in days past. Sorghum is not to be confused with cane syrup or molasses. It is made from the juice of sorghum cane, not sugar cane. Cracker Barrel Restaurants used to sell sorghum, and I always asked for some to pour over those good, hot biscuits. For some reason that I still don’t understand, they have stopped stocking that sweet biscuit covering. Recently, I asked a young twenty-something year old waitress if they had any sorghum. With a confused look she asked, “Do we have any what?” I answered, “Sorghum, do you have any sorghum?” She replied, “Sour-gum, what is that?” I guess she thought I was asking for some kind of chewing-gum. After further explanation, she said she had never heard of it, never served it, and saddest of all, never tasted it. She has, in my opinion, missed a great treat!
The name gives people of all ages a hard time when they try to pronounce it or spell it. I can help. It is not pronounced as “Sa-gum.” It sounds more like “sore-gum.” Because of a man named David, I can always remember how to say it. David attended a church where I once served as pastor. On the fourth Wednesday of each month, we had a “church-wide, pot-luck fellowship meal.” Like most Baptist churches, there was always a spread of some of the best food you’ve every laid your lips over. David lived by himself and couldn’t cook much. A good home cooked meal was a special treat for him. He never missed one of those fellowship meals. In spite of the fact that he didn’t have a tooth in his mouth and he refused to get false teeth, he ate all kinds of things. I still don’t know how he managed to chew some of the things he ate. Someone always brought a bowl filled with roasted sugared pecans. David ate those things by the hands full. Every time, just to hear him say it, I would ask, “David, how do to eat those pecans with no teeth.” He always answered, “I ain’t got no teeth, but I can sure ‘nuff can gum them pecans.” I always thought, “Yeah, but I bet you have some sore gums.” That has always made me think of sorghum, and therefore remember how to pronounce it correctly. How sweet it is.
Sorghum is one of several things I didn’t care for as a child that I eventually learned to love. Collard greens and church were two others. I went to church as a child, because Mama said so, but I didn’t always like it. As a teenager, I quit going. Eventually, I decided to give church another try, and much to my surprise, I enjoyed it and still do – especially on fellowship meal night!
Bill King is an author, musician and native of Rainsville. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.