A week ago Terry and I drove to Chattanooga, Tenn., for a wonderful weekend. The impetus for the trip was another of the Southern Foodways Alliance event, this time a Potlikker Film Festival held at Warehouse Row in Chattanooga. Two of my favorite people (who happen to be married) live on Lookout Mountain, so we needed little incentive to go.
I have been working on a project at my dining table for five or so days. I had gotten to the point of recipe overload and really was forced to take all of those little pages torn out of magazines and recipes from Momma's recipe box and the dirty, greasy ones from my Foodworks binder and just lay them all out in designated piles.
Whew, I'm off the road for a while and so glad of it! After four days in Miami and then four in Athens, Ga., two weeks in a row, I'm thankful to wake up at home and have to plan a day here.
It’s oyster season, and I’m hankering for a trip to Apalachicola for an oyster orgy. I’ve only been to this part of Florida — the Forgotten Panhandle, as it’s known — once several years ago on a Southern Foodways Alliance field trip. Terry and I spent three days with others learning about the challenges facing the U.S. oystermen, going out with them on their boats, with tongs, shucking oysters, eating oysters, smoking mullet and worm grunting (hunting for earthworms). I came home with a deeper appreciation of these men and women and the hard work they do.
If you are lucky enough, your mother or grandmother had a recipe box that now lives in your own kitchen. I don’t know many cooks who actively keep one nowadays. I think the advent of instant recipes via the Internet, along with enough published cookbooks to warrant their own section in bookstores, have lessened the importance of saving passed-down recipes. And, many of these passed-down recipes have lost their relevance to today’s cook, with amounts given in pinches, or ingredients that include such items as oleo or prunes (lots of prunes in those old recipes).
As I emptied my satchel Monday, I wondered how many of my friends attend symposiums (such an educated word) and return with: homemade peppered jerky, individually-packaged cookies from famed Momofuku Restaurant in New York City, a blueberry muffin-shaped kitchen timer, Martha White blueberry muffin mix, harmonicas from the National Peanut Board and the remains of a dark chocolate, grilled jalapeno and salty peanut candy bar? (I could eat another one right now if I had one).
We love seafood and could eat it every day if we had access. Access is the obstacle in a land-locked town, especially a small town. Even a moderate-sized town such as Athens, Ga., with 150,000, doesn’t have a seafood shop. There, we depended on our local organic grocery store, Earthfare, which at least had several deliveries a week of some of the basic fish, like wild-caught salmon or tuna. Plus, they also sold only dry-pack shrimp and scallops.
Terry and I had a sort of date night at home recently. It had been a busy week, and we got to spend all of a Saturday together, beginning at the Hitching Lot and ending with steaks grilling on the hibachi outside. I made some wonderful, crispy oven potatoes from “Cooks Illustrated” and broccoli with hollandaise sauce.
I catered a luncheon for 90 recently, and the preparations went swimmingly for the most part. As is true to form for me I was totally organized for the first three days of cooking, and then I tend to sort of fall apart the last 24 hours. So, the afternoon prior to the event I had to run out to the grocery store for a couple of items I had left off of the previous list. I did the unthinkable: I went to the store without a list!
At last week’s charrette, one of the questions posed to us was a form of “what would you like to have in Columbus that you don’t already have?” Among various responses was this one: “A good breakfast place.”
This past weekend was another whirlwind back in Athens, Ga. Terry and I attended the Potlikker Film Festival sponsored by Southern Foodways Alliance. These showings of short films are held at various times in various towns to showcase the documentaries made in conjunction with SFA and to introduce the SFA to new people.
This past Sunday as I was coming home from church, Lynne Rosetto Kasper on “The Splendid Table” was chatting with a caller to the radio program about bacon fat in cookie recipes. Like many of us, I grew up with the can of bacon fat on the counter (I really don’t remember it being refrigerated), waiting to be dipped into for frying or flavoring. And, for a time in my life I, too, saved bacon fat, refrigerated, and would spoon a tad in the water for my butter beans or mix it with olive oil for frying corn or green tomatoes, or in my cast iron muffin pan for corn muffins. I used it judiciously, telling myself that a little bit couldn’t hurt me.
The vegetable garden is starting to produce. It took longer than I expected, but this past weekend we harvested our first edamame (it was a little too early), and I have cut two beautiful pristine okra pods. I’m not sure if there were ready; they are the size I like but not as deeply green as the ones I bought from Phil Lancaster at the Farmers’ Market. Nonetheless, they are like an ugly baby, beautiful in their momma’s eyes.
Will miracles never cease? We boiled our first garden-grown potato recently! Only one, and I undercooked it, so we could only nibble it to be sure it was edible. How exciting. Well, it is for us, anyway.
What do you get when you cross 750 hard-boiled eggs with five Episcopalian women? (Drum roll, please.) You get 1,300 deviled eggs!
Recently I wrote that I had heard of the closing of Sir Antony’s near Pontotoc. I was distressed to be told that the major reason for this was due to “no-shows,” customers who make reservations and simply don’t show up.
First, an addition to my column on coconut. Marleen Hansen has told me you can purchase lemongrass in Columbus from Lemon Grass Oriental Foods at 153 Priscella Circle (off Mike Parra Road). I haven’t been there, but I thought I’d pass this tidbit on. For that matter, Joy’s next to the Sunflower across from Lee Middle School may also have lemongrass.
For the past week or two coconut cake has been on my mind, and I’m not quite sure why. Not just any old generic coconut cake, but my mother’s. She did not bake cakes often, just the rum cakes for Christmas presents and a cake for birthdays.
First, a correction and some amplification on my last column: Thank you to Scott McKenzie, of the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Arts Institute, and local restaurateur Sarah Labensky for noticing my mistake on the author of “Larousse Gastronomique.” It was Prosper Montagne who penned the first edition of this work.
I was asked a question the other day, sort of as one foodie to another. The question was, “Do you know what a ‘finishing oil’ is?” The questioner had heard a TV chef use this term. The chef was plattering a steak and told the viewers she was going to put a little finishing oil on top.
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