My mother’s paternal family name is Fillers. The family settled in southeastern Greene County, Tennessee, near the North Carolina state line, or “across the river,” as we say. The river is the Nolichuckey, near highway 70. Her father’s brother, William Fillers, moved to Niota, Tennessee, in 1918. A former neighbor of his, who had moved there previously and bought farmland, told him about some land for sale there. William only had one quarter of the family farm in Greene County and jumped at the opportunity. William and his son Bill loaded up supplies and traveled for two days in a horse-drawn wagon to Niota. They bedded down the first night near Reagan Station. Mary Alice, William’s wife, and their other children went down by train.
William bought 113 acres in Niota, and to this day, all but eight remain in the family. William and Mary Alice eventually had nine children. Jack Fillers, age 85, is the only one left, and he and his son farm the land.
One of the children who traveled by train to Niota was Annie Fillers Wallace. She learned to cook from her mother, Mary Alice Wilson Fillers. One of her specialties was fried green beans. When my mother and I used to go visit Annie, she would whip up a meal in no time flat that tasted like a little piece of heaven. Her sweet tea was the best I ever had, steeped perfectly and sweetened just right. I remember being amazed when Annie brought out a cast- iron skillet for the green beans. First, she tossed in some country bacon and fried it for a few minutes. Once the meat was searing and the grease was hot, the home-canned beans were tossed into the pan and seared for a few minutes until tender.
Jack told me he and his family still eat beans this way, as does my family. I have passed this tradition on to my daughter, Amy. We have altered the recipe somewhat, but the beans are still delicious.
2 slices country bacon or side meat
1 quart home-canned green beans
In a cast-iron skillet, fry country bacon or side meat until browned. Keep the skillet at a high heat. While meat is frying, drain green beans and reserve liquid. Toss green beans into skillet and sear for about three or four minutes, tossing with spatula from time to time. Once beans are seared, add reserved liquid. (I find that reserving the liquid and adding it later allows the beans to sear better and more quickly.) When liquid starts to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
My lower-cholesterol recipe uses one to two tablespoons of olive oil instead of bacon and one Knorr’s soft, large chicken bouillon cube to one quart of beans. Heat the olive oil with the bouillon cube crushed into it until really hot. (Do not leave the stove, as the bouillon will burn very quickly.) Then continue as recipe says.