Monday, August 29, 2011

An Acquired Taste

If I were going to be stranded on a deserted island, I can assure you I would be interested in my survival more than anything else. And, yes back to the subject at hand, given a choice I would hope to find myself on that fateful trip with Anthony Bordain rather than the skipper, the millionaire, the professor, or Paula Deen- no offense but I believe in self preservation. Not that I find the idea of a diet of dried toads, toasted spiders, or bats tasty, somehow I feel I would have better luck finding those resources than the fixin's for tomato tarts, glazed brie, or gooey butter cake (although the later does sound pretty yummy about now, but I digress).

And, if I had to answer that proverbial question, "Who would you enjoy at a dinner party?" there is no question there. I am much more interested in adventures in Borneo and the back alleys of Bangkok than I am middle Georgia. And, I find irreverence extremely entertaining, especially when there are folks around who take themselves much too seriously.

For a just a tidbit of background (for those of you who have not read Bourdain's autobiography "No Reservations") he developed his interest in food when traveling abroad as a young lad with his parents. He decided in revolt to order the most disgusting thing on the menu at each meal to offend his family. To his surprise, instead of finding his choices repulsive, he found them intriguing. And, so began his love affair with exotic food.  

Like most southerners, I was born with a taste for gooey butter cake, but it didn't take me long to acquire a love for oysters, steak tartare, anchovies, foie gras, caviar, truffles, Bleu d'Auvergne, fava beans (and a nice Chianti), and prickly pear (especially in a margarita).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bless her Heart

After yesterday'spost, I felt I best lie low until the storm (and, I don't mean Irene passed). Bless Paula Deen's heart, she has her army of supporters. And, my reputation (what was there to begin with) is now smudged. But, like our friend Scarlet, "With God as my witness . . . " Yada yada yada.

Friday, August 26, 2011

In Defense of Anthony Boudain

I am the first admit that butter or bacon (or both) will improve the taste of any food. That said, I must say that I have to agree with Anthony Bourdain's comments about Paula Deen in a recent TV Guide interview. To quote: "The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen. She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she's proud of the fact that her food is f---ing bad for you. If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us.
 Plus, her food sucks."

And, Sam, I realize we disagree on this.
For anyone outside the food world, Anthony Bourdain is a well known chef, culinary traveler, and someone I am in awe of the fact he is still alive given his early recreational chemical habits and admitted (and well documented) self destructive behavior. All I can figure is that he must share some of the indestructible genes Keith Richards has, but I digress.

 He has gone down the Amazon in a dug out canoe in search of some ancient traditional tribal fare and several months later showed up in South Carolina in an old pickup truck and a (borrowed) hound dog to learn the secret behind the Sweatman's world famous BBQ and ribs. After all, someone needs to expose us to the culture of eating live fish, dead snakes, yak, or disgusting looking vegetables being prepared the same way they have for centuries, as well as fine southern cuisine. Even though there is a place for coconut cakes and sweet tea, food should be an adventure approached with "no reservations".

 If Anthony is from Mars, Ms Deen is from Pluto. Not everything should come in a package or consist of butter, flour, eggs, and sugar. There is something to be said for "natural food" and learning about other cultures. If you have watched his shows, you know the breadth of his exploits. He travels from fine dining in Italy to places in Mongolia no longer on the map to the back streets of Shanghai to lost islands in the Pacific to BBQ pits in the southern US. In another words the world is his oyster (no pun intended). And, the irony is he is a professionally trained chef (graduated from the Culinary Institute of America) so he knows his way around a kitchen. But he believes there is more to a menu than patés, terrines, confits, and magrets.

I realize that I may now be accused of southern culinary blasphemy, but I have been accused of worse. Even though I am not a Paula Deen fan, as I have said before I still have my  standards, I know when to wear white shoes, not to put dark meat in my chicken salad, how to properly set a table, and most all when it is all said and done, down here collards, fried chicken, and biscuits are still the holy trinity of southern fare.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rejoice, Fried Bologna Returns

Hardees has decided to reach a new culinary high or low depending on your culinary taste. Yesterday I noticed on their billboard, "Come Try Our New Fried Bolonga Sandwich". Oh my! Folks were up in arms at the amount fat and calories in their "Fresh Homemade Biscuits covered in Gravy". They are going to have a field day with this.

But then this is the restaurant that managed to market the $6 hamburger for much less and specializes in major men size meals. So God bless them for addressing a market much in need. Think of those poor souls, who have long left their mama's home, and if married, found someone who either can't cook or wouldn't dare fry bologna, who have been wondering in the wilderness for years looking for an establishment to meet their needs.

And wait, that's not all. Bojangles, also has joined the culinary bandwagon. They are now offering a Fried Bologna Biscuit. Could this be the new "it" food? The food, the young foodies have never heard of, are too young to know about. Perhaps, they have been shielded from the negative media of this "red headed step child" of the cold cut world. Now they too can experience the treat most of us grew up on, and lived to tell about it.

After all Spam made a return. Why not Bolonga?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

If You Build It, Will They Come?

What if you throw a party and no one comes? Just stand there by the front door as the ice melts, the flowers wilt, and the canapes dry out? I fear that is about to happen with me. I have been preparing my "Gallery" of photography. It has taken a while to reproduce the images, then mat and frame them. So far, I have been able to justify nothing being sold (well almost nothing) because it hasn't been ready.

People are hesitant to enter an area that looks like a minor construction zone. The photographs have been scattered here and there while the walls have dried and until I could get them properly hung. It has taken a while to get the right accessories to establish the look I had in mind. Of course, all of this has had to be done after work at night, so it has been a slow process.
But, that is all over now. There are no other excuses. Last night I discarded the last paint can, hung the last picture, placed the final easel, and arranged my cards on the console. The fat lady has sung. This weekend is the "Artisans Fair" which has been heavily advertised. So we will see. Is all my effort for naught? Perhaps I just cannot compete with pink feather wreaths accented with green flip flops, popular floral bags, or wooden giraffes. And, don't misinterpret me - there is nothing wrong with these fine products. Satisfied customers are walking out the door daily carrying these special treasures.

But wouldn't a fine framed image of the Low Country, North Carolina Mountains, or local garden scene fit nicely in their decor as well?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just Taking Care of Business

I'm trying to figure out if I can put all my savings in a large Mason jar, or whether I will need two (I have a lot of pennies) so I can bury it in the back yard. Maybe my relatives had it right all along. OK, so  the sterling is a little scratched and we are still looking for a few jars, but the family didn't lose anything back then due to a run on the bank or 600 point (or relative percentage) drop in the Dow. 

If I could write a cook book and get it published on the art and skill of preparing tasty road kill, I'd make a killing (no pun intended). We now have coyotes - a whole new food for the dinner table. And, Armadillo (aka opossum on a half shell). When they started talking about the debt ceiling, I'm not saying everyone 'round here knew what they were talking about in DC, but the time road kill stayed on the road went from several hours to less than thirty minutes. 

Times are tough and one has to make the most of what is available.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Condition that Shall not be Named

After everything settled down, as I got back from 10 days, three states, and two time zones, moved our youngest daughter into another home in the historical district in Charleston (Ah to live to like my children!), unpacked, washed, dried, and put up clothes - it was time to check in with Mom to see what major thing in her life I had not been present to offer my support.

We were only two minutes into the conversation when it was revealed. "Well, I promised I wasn't going to tell you, but now that you're back, I guess I better. Best you hear it from me than from some one else." "What in the world?" "I had to make an emergency trip to Charleston last week to see Dr. Hawk (her oncologist)." Before I could ask, she continued."I had this ache in my side, you know the other side." (Actually, I really wasn't sure the other side from what, but far be it for me to ask.) "So I went to see Dr. Brunson (her GP) and he thought I was nuts, but I knew better, so I called Dr.Hawk's office for an appointment. He told me to come down straight away. You know he is aware of my condition." (Last time I heard he had given her a clean bill of health and did not want to see her for a year - and that was in May.)

"But the good news is everything is OK." "So he ran tests on you?" "No, not exactly. But, he did check me out head to toe and told me I did not have anything to worry about." "So what was it?" "Well he didn't say exactly, but said it was a good thing I went to see him straight away, given my condition and all." Well, I am glad to know that she was given a positive diagnosis of this unknown ailment. "So your GP here was correct?" "Oh, no. Dr. Hawk said it was a good thing I went to see him." She would never have believed any one else. God bless Dr. Hawk. I need to remember to send him a pound of chocolate pecans for Christmas. That man is a saint.

"So do you still have the pain?" "Well, not exactly. But that doesn't matter, because Dr. Hawk says it is all OK." "I know he told you that in May." "And, he told me last week, that I was doing so well, he did not need to see me again until next May." "Well, that is good news." "I know, and that was why I didn't want to worry you with it. It is just with my condition and all, you never know."

Dr. Hawk is the son of my grandmother's oncologist and one of the finest doctors and men I know of. He is one of those rare breed who truly understands his patients. As busy as his practice is, he knows that when my mother gets frantic about anything (or nothing) it is best just to give it his immediate attention, (make sure there is nothing serious), and deem it well.

All I know for sure is that we are dealing with a "condition" that shall not be named, a mother who insists on perpetuating a mystery condition, and Dr. Hawk, the saint who is the only one who can truly deal with the "condition."

Monday, August 1, 2011

66 Days and Counting

. . . 66 days until refreshing cocktails with little umbrellas beside the Caribbean sea

Will We Ever Reach the Twentieth Century?

It never ceases to amaze me how the south sees itself as misunderstood by the rest of the country. We think of ourselves as so progressive. The rest of the country still fails to recognize our achievements and I, for one, understand why.

Just this morning the grocery store was proud to say that they no longer stock salt pork. The manager informed me that, of course, they have long since gotten past carrying such unhealthy foods. I guess they feel that perhaps not having it on their shelves will somehow rid them of the image of carrying backward traditional southern fare (such as pickled pigs feet). Personally, I find this incredibly frustrating considering I need it for Daube Provencial, a French recipe I plan to prepare for dinner tonight.

Of course, they still carry white bread, Velveeta, bologna (in three varieties including one with cheese in it), and hot dog wieners (the old red type). But, who's counting fat grams and cholesterol? The coup de gras was when I went to check out. I was unable to buy the bottle of red cooking wine (that was also on the ingredient list) since it was before 7 am and therefore still prohibited by the Blue Laws. (I guess the Baptists wanted to make sure that the sinners were curbed until Monday morning.)