From author Ruffin’s piece for Southern Foodways journal Gravy:
Darlene Wolnik talked to me about how what we eat has been altered. She explained how mirlitons represent my changing hometown. “Back when the city had hundreds of chain-link fences, mirliton vines thrived and could be found everywhere. Our grandparents stuffed shrimp in them and made it a holiday. Once those chain-link fences were torn down for high wooden walls, the mirliton had nothing to hang on and largely disappeared.” Darlene had pinpointed the connection between the choice of so many New Orleanians to build fences you could see through versus high-collared bulwarks to blot out the world. A desire to isolate killed the mirliton.
My grandparents’ house in the Lower Ninth Ward had chain-link fences, as did the houses of many of my aunts and uncles. They all included mirlitons in their toolbox of soul food ingredients. My parents and my mother-in-law also made great stuffed mirlitons, which looked like oversized green tulips crammed with a beef, shrimp, and vegetable dressing. Many an afternoon, I sat at their tables chomping on the savory, palm-sized treats. You could blindfold me, and I’d be able to tell you which oven they came from. My family scooped out the innards of the vegetable and stuffed it with a mix heavy on the beef, like hamburgers on a vegetable bun. My mother-in-law’s were based on her mother’s recipe. Their mirlitons were mostly breading and shrimp. Much more delicate than what I grew up on. I loved them all.
Look for Ruffin’s new book, due in January 2019