this brilliant opener.
1. Let's start with the question on everyone's minds. Will there or will there not be a worldwide bacon shortage? As much as we respect Stephen Colbert's plan to "stockpile bacon, pancetta, ham hocks, canned ham, and Jon Hamm," Slate's Matthew Yglesias has convinced us that there's probably nothing to worry about.
2. Which is good if you want to sample the bacon bourbon at Restaurant August—or make some of your own. (Last step: "Punch a hole in the frozen fat and pour the bourbon through a strainer once again.")
3. With the notable exception of barbecue—ribs, in particular—Memphis might not always get the culinary props it deserves. Kerry Crawford of the I Love Memphis blog tells Saveur about 7 undersung foods you can only get in Memphis. (Still hungry? This week Crawford also chronicled her top ten bowls of mac-n-cheese in Memphis.)
4. Food Republic interviews John Darnielle, the man behind indie rock act The Mountain Goats.* A native of California, Darnielle has made his home in Durham, NC, for several years now. Being a vegetarian hasn't stopped him from embracing some of the iconic foods of his new home, including grits, peanuts, and collard greens (minus the ham hock, we assume).
5. Our Man in the Rockies, guest blogger Adrian Miller, spoke on NPR's All Things Considered about celebrating ethnic diversity through food in his hometown of Aurora, Colorado. (We think the whole story is super interesting; Adrian comes in around the 8-minute-mark.) Culinary tourism is just one way that the Denver suburb is trying to capitalize on its diverse ethnic makeup for reasons ranging from community-building to economic growth.
6. Don't be a blockhead. Halloween is still a month away, but it's not too early to start preparing for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. (While you're at it, take Linus's advice and never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.)
*Not familiar? Check out Darnielle's NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Dig the melancholy lyrics over catchy melodies, often about the pains of teenage boy-into-manhood. Which, okay, sounds kind of heavy. (We're more dinner fork than Pitchfork over here.) But trust us, he's good.
Friday, September 28
From the keyboard of guest blogger Daniel Vaughn, whose computer smells vaguely of brisket.
Under an overcast Central Texas sky, grown men covered in soot are hunched over charred branches, hacking at them with hammers and picks. Once small enough, these chunks of charcoal are scooped into large nylon bags labeled OAK, HICKORY, MESQUITE, and PECAN. The men's faces are obscured by surgical masks and plastic goggles cloaked with a fine layer of black powder.
|Photo by Daniel Vaughn|
Elsewhere on the grounds, there are furnaces housed in modern metal buildings next to decommissioned concrete burning chambers—now covered in vines and filled with weeds. Stacks of wood taller than a man border the property, and when a breeze blows through the fresh split oak, it smells like bourbon.
|Photos (here and below) by Nicholas McWhirter|
Farm to Market Road 713 will get you from Whizzerville to Jeddo, some twenty miles east of Lockhart. At that point the road continues, but gone are the well-maintained asphalt, the yellow lines, and any semblance of a shoulder. At the Jeddo crossroads, FM 713 becomes Charcoal Road and quickly takes a sharp bend to skirt the Post Oak Ranch. When this isolated road bends back, there's a faded sign for B&B Charcoal, Inc. The logo is familiar to many Texans, even if they can't locate Jeddo on a map.
Paper sacks full of B&B hardwood charcoal are given shelf space in grocery stores across the state. Some use it for grilling, while others start the fires in their smokers with a chimney full of oak lump charcoal. Unlike the uniform briquettes of charcoal out of a Kingsford bag, these lumps are irregular, with visible grain still intact and sharp fissures from the hammers and picks.
Since visiting B&B, the sparks dance even brighter as I light my smoker and think of the work that went into my charcoal.
You can follow Daniel Vaughn on Twitter at @bbqsnob.
Thursday, September 27
Beyond True Grits," Tim Carman of the Washington Post catches up with Taylor and explores the legacy of his book two decades later.
If you're hungry for more Hoppin' John, UNC Press released a 20th anniversary edition of the book with a new preface by the author.
If you're hungry for more Hoppin' John, UNC Press released a 20th anniversary edition of the book with a new preface by the author.
|Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress|
A key theme of foodways scholarship is the politics involved in what we eat. Often, this refers to everyday activities that allow a marginalized population to assert agency through food practices or a movement designed to improve lives by changing what we eat. But sometimes food enters into the traditional political process in unexpected ways.
In 1974, the Georgia legislature was set to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would prohibit discrimination based on gender. With Phyllis Schlafly as its chairwoman, "Stop Taking our Privileges ERA," also known as STOP ERA, rose up in a national effort to block the amendment. STOP ERA argued that, among other issues, the proposed amendment would do away with protective legislation for women and subject them to the draft (this at a time when the Vietnam War was just coming to a close).
In “Organizing Breadmakers: Kathryn Dunaway and the Georgia STOP ERA Campaign,” Agnes Scott College professor (and University of Mississippi Southern Studies alumna) Robin Morris reveals how Georgia women used the gendered language of bread to defeat the federal ERA.
Morris explains that STOP ERA activists distributed loaves of bread labeled “From the breadmaker to the breadwinner” to Georgia legislators. This message reinforced the supposedly gender-appropriate roles involved in making bread. “The legislator as the ‘breadwinner,’ assumed to be male, made money,” Morris writes. “The ‘breadmaker,’ assumed to be female, stayed at home to convert that into something nourishing.” The "bread campaign" helped stop ratification of the ERA.
The irony of this initiative, according to Morris, is that Georgia’s self-identified “breadmakers” did not actually bake the bread they gave to lawmakers. Morris reveals that an Atlanta businessman, who ran the appropriately named “Mom’s Bakery,” donated the loaves. Yet, this duplicity reveals the strength of gendered rhetoric surrounding bread—no matter who baked it. It reminds us that the various and often-contested images of food are political and that controlling those images can affect who has power within society.
—Angela Jill Cooley
To read more:
Robin Morris, “Organizing Breadmakers: Kathryn Dunaway and the Georgia STOP ERA Campaign” in Entering the Fray: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the New South, ed. Jonathan Daniel Wells and Sheila R. Phipps (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 2010).
Wednesday, September 26
From the sauce-splattered keyboard of guest blogger Adrian Miller. You can follow him on Twitter at @soulfoodscholar.
If you make your way to St. Louis, Missouri, any time soon, ask a local to show you one of their barbecue specialties: snoots. In both editions of the classic guidebook Real Barbecue (1988 and 2007), authors Greg Johnson and Vince Staten put it this way: "First we'd better deal with 'snoots.' Snoots are part of the soul-food barbecue scene in St. Louis that will stare at you at the C & K, as well as any number of other places in town and across the river in East St. Louis. Snoots are deep-fried pig noses." At Smoki O's, another St. Louis barbecue joint, they smoke their snoots for a couple of hours instead of frying them. Whether boiled, fried, or smoked, snoots get doused with barbecue sauce and are meant to be eaten right away.
|Scarf it down before it sniffs you out. Photo by Ardie Davis.|
|Cooks prepare snoot sandwiches at Kansas City's Tenderloin Grill.|
In anticipation of our upcoming symposium, Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce, we offer you the first in a series of podcasts of presentations from our 2002 symposium, Barbecue: Smoke, Sauce, and History.
Lolis Eric Elie sets the stage with his talk entitled “BBQ Geography: A Taste of Place," featured above.
A quick note: the audio might sound a little rough around the edges. Please bear in mind that these are vintage talks recorded with vintage technology.
Also of note: You can now find Okracast, the SFA podcast, on SoundCloud, as well as iTunes. Get the handy SoundCloud app for your smartphone here.
Posted by Amy Cameron Evans at 1:00 PM
The October/November 2012 issue of Garden & Gun magazine includes a profile of Oakencroft Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Phillip Ponton and Warren McClellan are turning grapes into, well, grape juice. They're using wine varietals to make artisanal juice, breaking new ground in Virginia's relatively short but storied wine culture.
We visited Oakencroft Vineyard and Winery in the summer of 2008, just as Felicia Warburg Rogan, widely considered the First Lady of Virginia Wine, was transitioning out of the business.
In 1976, Felicia Warburg Rogan relocated from New York to Virginia to marry John B. Rogan, a real estate developer and cattle rancher in Charlottesville. She befriended Lucy Morton, a noted viticulturist, and in 1983 her husband’s Oakencroft Farm became Oakencroft Vineyard and Winery. She planted European varietals, invited her gardener, Deborah Welsh, to be the winemaker, and turned a farm building into a tasting room. This new all-female venture was the first of its kind and only the sixth winery to open in Virginia (today, there are 135). In her twenty-five-year career as president of Oakencroft Vineyard and Winery, Rogan found time to look outside of her own estate to work in support of Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry. She led the charge to establish the Monticello appellation for the area, started the Jeffersonian Grape Growers Society, and was chairwoman of the Virginia Wine Growers Advisory Board for a number of years. Upon her retirement, Rogan promised to continue to support the industry she helped to create.
When the estate was sold in 2008, Oakencroft Vineyard and Winery went back to being called Oakencroft Farm. Today, Ponton and McClellan see a new future for grapes grown in the state. From the Garden & Gun article:
"We feel like we're getting better at this," Ponton says. "It reminds me of the early days of the Virginia wine industry. We have to get out there and let people taste our juice so they know how good it is."
Visit our Wine in the South oral history project for more on wines produced in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Posted by Amy Cameron Evans at 10:20 AM
Jamie is the chef and co-owner of Coppa, an Italian enoteca, and Toro, a Spanish tapas restaurant, both located in Boston. He graduated from culinary school in Fort Lauderdale at the tender age of 19, traveled and cooked throughout Europe and the United States, and has been a force on the Boston culinary scene since 2005. He is a connoisseur of punk rock and a devotee of nose-to-tail cuisine. At Stir the Pot, expect Bissonnette to expand your palate with dishes that might range from classic Spanish tapas to inventive Italian-style charcuterie. If you've been wanting to try duck prosciutto, bone marrow pizza, or sea urchin on a baguette, Jamie is your man.
In the two years since Ashley Christensen began Stir the Pot, the series has hosted eight events in Raleigh and has spun off a "brother" series in Nashville, hosted by Tyler Brown of the Capitol Grille and Tandy Wilson of City House. Stir the Pot—and you, its participants—have helped the SFA bring numerous short films and oral history projects to completion in those two years. We thank you.
Dinner on Sunday, October 7, 7pm @ Poole’s Diner
A sparkling reception with passed appetizers
A five-course dinner with wine pairings
$150 per person, inclusive
Click here to purchase tickets via TicketLeap.
Reservations are required and seating is limited.
Industry Potluck, Monday, October 8, 6pm-9pm @ Ashley Christensen’s home
The potluck is for everyone—restaurant industry folks, writers, beverage enthusiasts, home cooks and people who with a general love for food and its history. For the potluck, we will provide a main course of Chef Bissonnette's choice along with beer, wine, and a seasonal cocktail.
Please bring a dish to share that celebrates your sense of place, wherever that may be.
Tickets to the potluck are $35. Click here to purchase tickets via TicketLeap.
Reservations are required and limited for both events.
Tuesday, September 25
|Photo by Marion Post (Wolcott), 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress|
This week's piece is adapted from Valerie Erwin's presentation at the 2010 Southern Foodways Symposium on the Cultivated South. It also appeared in print in Cornbread Nation 6 (UGA Press, 2012). Valerie Erwin is the chef-owner of Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A Geechee Girl Speaks
by Valerie Erwin
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, my mother was born and raised in Philadelphia, and my father, who was born in Savannah, came to Philadelphia when he was sixteen. So in some ways I am thoroughly a product of the Northeast. Yet because of my family heritage—my mother's parents were from Charleston—I've always had an affinity for food from the South. And if your family, like mine, came from the Lowcountry, loving Southern food means loving rice.
Geechee Girl Rice Cafe, my Lowcountry restaurant in Philadelphia, is named for the Geechees, who live on the coast and on the islands of Georgia and Florida. They are the descendants of the enslaved Africans brought there from West Africa's Rice Coast. They have many of the same foodways and folkways as the Gullah people of South Carolina. Africans from rice-growing areas were particularly sought-after as slaves because of their agricultural expertise. Geechees were historically rice cultivators, and their descendants remain rice eaters.
My father taught me to cook. He learned from his grandmother. She must have been a very determined teacher, because my father had a thorough culinary knowledge by the time he arrived in Philadelphia at age sixteen to live with his uncle. My father's uncle was the pastor of the AME church to which my mother's family belonged. The Erwins, my father's family, are wonderful cooks. The Petersons, my mother's family—well, what my sister Lisa says is,"You know the Petersons don't cook." And of course that isn't, strictly speaking, true, but they never looked at cooking as the recreational activity that the Erwins did.
|Valerie Erwin, proud Geechee Girl. Photo courtesy of Philly360.com|
I learned from my father how to use a knife, the importance of planning, and how to taste carefully. He taught me, sometimes inadvertently, how to be an adventurous eater. I remember him bringing home scallops: white, gelatinous-looking, almost alive-looking. I had no intention of eating them. But once they were fried, they looked delicious: golden and crispy, and I was in this unfortunate position of having adamantly declared that I'd never eat those nasty white scallops, and wanting desperately to eat the golden-brown ones. So I learned not to prejudge food, or at least not to do it out loud.
My mother was a skilled and careful cook, but my father was the celebrity cook in our family. He was the source of the fancy and sometimes unusual food in our home, but it was my mother who made all my favorites, like crackly fried chicken, yellow layer cake with chocolate icing, and a perfectly cooked pot of rice.
When I read Judith Carney's book Black Rice, a parallel struck me between rice eaters in West Africa, in the Lowcountry, and in my own family. Judith says that the Africans in Africa and in America considered rice culture "women's work." It was that way in my house, too. My father was immensely talented. He could fix a car and rewire a house. He could make ravioli from scratch. But he was, by his own assessment, a dismal failure at cooking rice, even though he expected it on the table every single night. When his grandmother wanted to teach him to cook—and to sew—my father protested that these were things that his wife would do. Apparently, he was overly optimistic, because according to my father, my mother didn't know how to cook when they got married. He thought she could cook, but it turned out that all she knew how to make was cake. And rice.
We ate rice every day. I didn't question it, but I knew, even as a child, that it wasn't universal. Once I had dinner at a neighbor's house, and when my parents asked me how the meal was, I said, "It was fine, but Mrs. Jackson forgot the rice." When I was charged with the task of making dinner for the family and inspiration proved elusive, my father would give his best menu-planning advice: "Put on a pot of rice, and then decide what to make to go with it."
Occasionally we had a complicated rice dish. My mother would make red rice, the Lowcountry version of Spanish rice: crisp bacon with onions, celery, and peppers fried in the drippings, made into a pilaf with rice and tomatoes. Or a supper dish that she said she and my father invented, of rice sauteed with onions and peppers and served with scrambled eggs. My mother made Hoppin' John on New Year's Day: Black-eyed peas intensely flavored with ham and cooked up with rice so that it was perfectly fluffy. There was, to my consternation, always a hog jowl in the pot, teeth and all. But most of the time, we had plain rice: rice with gravy, rice with beans, rice with stew. A pot of white rice at the ready to serve as a foil for whatever else we ate.
I never intended to be a chef. In fact, my career plan, such as it was, could be boiled down to "avoid manual labor." At Geechee Girl, I cook six days a week, seven meals a week—so that plan didn't go that well. But my love of food and cooking eventually led to my working in restaurants. I had the usual culinary trajectory for someone who started working in the late ’70s: Continental, International, French, New American. I loved everything I learned during those years, but I always felt a nagging disconnect between what was in my soul and what was on the plate. The first time I made Osso Bucco a la Milanese, my immediate reaction was that it tasted just like my father's neckbones and tomatoes. I remember that era as the "everybody makes Osso Bucco, but nobody makes neckbone" years. Or, in an analogy even closer to my heart, "everybody wants fresh, handmade pasta, but Uncle Ben's rice is just fine." When I was in a position to make menu choices, I'd serve some of the food I loved: ham and red-eye gravy, fried fish rolled in cornmeal—but not rice. Neither the customers nor my employees seemed ready. And the quality of the rice in every restaurant I'd worked at was abysmal.
I opened Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in 2003 out of a confluence of circumstances. I wanted a nice restaurant in my neighborhood; someone I knew was selling a nearby turn-key operation; I had run out of places where I really wanted to work. The restaurant had a small dining room and a minimally equipped kitchen, so we'd have to do a simple concept. It was my sister Alethia's idea: "We could call it Geechee Girl," she said, "and serve rice." I wasn't looking to preserve a culture; I was looking to cook. But a few things happen when you put the words "Geechee" and "rice" into the name of your business. People with Lowcountry roots come in to talk. People for whom "Geechee" had been a pejorative term are thrilled to see it rehabilitated. People who've vacationed on the Sea Islands have a sense of nostalgia. Expat Southerners want a little taste of home. People from other places where rice is the staple grain—which is just about everywhere except Northern Europe—love the idea of a rice restaurant. People from Africa or the Caribbean see our logo—a turbaned black woman winnowing rice—and wonder where we're from. In fact, everyone wonders where we're from. I think they're all a bit disappointed to learn that my sisters and I are from North Philadelphia.
I design our menu to pay tribute to tradition, but not to be bound by it. For a cook, taste trumps tradition every time. And for a businessperson, salability wins over authenticity. But that being said, I am more aware each year of the responsibility I've assumed for preserving Lowcountry cuisine. So now, although my mother made Hoppin' John only on New Year's Day, we serve it every day. Just like in my house when we were growing up, at Geechee Girl we serve a lot of plain rice: rice with gravy, rice with beans, rice with stew. We serve traditional Lowcountry rice dishes like red rice and purloo.
I feel a particularly close culinary kinship with the food of the African diaspora. We serve curried goat from the Caribbean and peanut chicken stew from West Africa. We search for home cooks from around the world who are willing to partner with us in presenting special dinners, and over the years, these partnerships have been a great source of menu ideas. I struggle sometimes with the decision to keep rice in the restaurant's name. When people see the word "rice," they sometimes think we're vegetarians, or that we only serve rice. How ridiculous is that?! The word remains because of how fundamental rice was to my ancestors. They grew it, they ate it, they were captured and sold in its service.
I'm proud of my part in introducing Lowcountry cooking to a wider audience, and I treasure making foods that act as a thread back to Africa. I look around my city, and I see a shocking dearth of black restaurant owners. I see an even more shocking dearth of black employees in restaurant dining rooms. I search for opportunities to expand my business for one fundamental reason: If we have more, we can do more. I want to take our food and our message to a larger audience.
I believe that the South is more than a location. It is history; it is memory; it is culture. And for me, most of all, it is food.
All barbecue fans have their favorite off-the-beaten-path barbecue restaurants, and there are plenty of legendary joints with a sufficient reputation for pilgrims to drive hundreds of miles to seek them out. But what about when you’re zipping down a lonely highway far from home and top a hill and spot an unfamiliar “BBQ” sign? Is it worth stopping and risking a precious meal, when you only have between three to five per day to spend? What if just ten miles down the road there’s an even more worthy contender? These sorts of decisions can drive a barbecue nut to acid stomach and night terrors.
|The wood pile at Scott's Bar-B-Q in Hemingway, SC: It's a go. Photo by Denny Culbert|
Over the years, connoisseurs have formulated a variety of techniques to help their decision-making. In Southern Belly, John T. Edge advances the cobweb test: “When in doubt . . . bend down and take a look at the woodpile. Are there cobwebs collecting between the split logs?” If there are, move on: it’s a gas-burner.
In Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, John and Dale Reed devote four entire pages to this vital topic. They note that almost all authorities have endorsed a mixture of pickup trucks and pricey imports in the parking lot as a reliable sign of quality, but they add a clincher: “If the sheriff’s car is there, hit your brakes immediately.”
|Unpaved parking lot? Pull over, little piggy! Photo by Amy C. Evans|
Porky LeSwine of The BBQ Jew came up with his own handy list of “ten commandments” for separating the meat from the gristle. The best of these tell you what to avoid: any place that is open on Sunday, serves beer, stays open past 9:00 pm, or advertises on billboards.
My favorite, though, is one I read years ago in a magazine (and, unfortunately, I’ve long since forgotten who wrote it). It’s ingenious less for its effectiveness than for the sheer empiricism of its method. You assign a numeric score to a barbecue joint based upon the number of human-like things the pig on the sign is doing. A realistic pig just standing there: 0 points. A pig standing up and wearing a hat: 2 points. A standing pig in a hat and overalls strumming a banjo, winking, and turning a barbecue spit (or feasting on his brethren)—well, just pull right on over. You have found a winner.
Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper, is the author of Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. You can follow him on Twitter at @mossr.
Monday, September 24
|Photo by Ned Mitchell|
John Besh, Restaurant August, New Orleans
John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford
Dwayne Ingraham, City Grocery, Oxford
Joseph Lenn, Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
Alon Shaya, Domenica, New Orleans
Andy Ticer, Andrew Michael, Memphis
Tandy Wilson, City House, Nashville
And to Preston Van Winkle, for pouring the good stuff! Pictured above, a tray of 23-year Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Click here to watch Joe York's film Asleep in the Wood, about the Van Winkle family bourbon tradition.
Friday, September 21
Oh, hello there, fall. Thanks for coming to visit us in Oxford. Won't you stick around?
|Oh, wait. That's Vermont.|
But you know what? There are plenty of other awesome food events going on throughout the South. Don't miss them if they're happening in a city near you! We sprinkled them throughout this week's six-pack.
* massive understatement
1. Check out Hungry: Artists and North Carolina's Food at the Elliot Univeristy Center Gallery at UNC-Greensboro. The exhibit, curated by Graham Hoppe, features the work of Phil Blank, Kate Medley, Emily Wallace, Rachel Campbell, and Chris Fowler. From black-and-white photos of heritage-breed hogs to dreamy paintings of corndogs and donuts, there's something for every hungry art connoisseur. The exhibit is free and open to the public and will be on display until September 28.
2. Remember how we said it was fall? If you're like us, it's that time of the year when you make the cocktail-hour switch from cool-me-off vodka drinks to warm-me-up whiskey libations. Saveur's got you covered with 28 whiskey and bourbon recipes.
3. Or maybe, since you're reading the six-pack, you're more of a hop lover. Boudin and Beer descends on New Orleans on November 2. More than 50 chefs pair their interpretations of the Cajun sausage with beer from Louisiana's Abita Brewery. Tickets are still available, and the proceeds benefit the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. And if you're new to boudin, our traveling boudin exhibit will be on display to teach you the ins and outs (or the stuffings and casings) of the boudin/boucherie tradition.
4. Rice is one of boudin's key ingredients, but it's been getting some bad press this week. Turns out that runoff from industrial chicken operations (appealingly dubbed "chicken litter") is contaminating rice fields with arsenic, which then seeps into the rice itself. This is a major concern where rice and chicken production areas overlap, especially in the mid-South along the Mississippi River. Clean up your act, Big Chicken!
5. ...or don't. Chicken gets dirty in a new parody cookbook, Fifty Shades of Chicken. As you might imagine, there's a lot of trussing involved.
6. Okay, that was pretty cheesy. Know what's even cheesier, but in a good way? The second annual Southern Artisan Cheese Festival, going down on October 6 at the Nashville Farmers' Market. Sample the wares of more than 20 Southern cheesemakers, paired with wines, craft beers, and regional charcuterie, preserves, and baked goods. Tickets are available on the festival's web site, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to East Nashville's Martha O'Bryan Center.
Thursday, September 20
Just ask a hardcore barbecue devotee to list the signature foods of different barbecue regions. Almost reflexively, that person will tick off items like whole hog in parts of the Carolinas, coleslaw-topped pork shoulder sandwiches in Memphis, beef brisket in Texas, "burnt ends" of brisket in Kansas City, and so on. One regional favorite that may get overlooked is Chicago's famous rib tips. As Lolis Eric Elie explained in Smokestack Lightning, "There are four different cuts of ribs—the small end, which is the most expensive, the center cut and that the large end, which are slightly cheaper, and the rib tips, which are the tougher top portion of the spareribs."
Keeping in good company with other barbecue delicacies, rib tips have humble origins that trace back to Chicago's stockyards in the 1940s and 1950s. "Before we started buying them, meat wholesalers were throwing the back side of the rib cut away—as garbage,'" Leon Finney, Sr. told the Chicago Defender newspaper in 1979. If anyone should know the pre-history of rib tips, it was Finney. He moved from Mississippi to Chicago's South Side in the 1940s, and soon afterwards, opened up Leon's Bar-B-Q.
|Rib tips at Lem's Bar-B-Q in Chicago. Photo by Amy C. Evans, 2008|
As one would expect with barbecue, there's some dispute about who started selling rib tips first, but eventually, Leon's, Lem's Bar-B-Q and other African American barbecue joints in the area featured the specialty. Dennis H. Cremin, in his book Chicago: A Pictorial Celebration (2006), gives us a great verdict on whether or not Leon's and rib tips may lay claim to a central place in Chicago's barbecue lore: "Although off the beaten path, Leon's sells a staggering half-million pounds of rib tips a year—that's just how good they are at Leon's."
For further reading, check out these sources:
Dennis H. Cremin, Chicago: A Pictorial Celebration (2006).
Lolis Eric Elie, Smokestack Lightning (1996).
Roy Harvey, "Price of rib tips causing a crisis" (Chicago Defender, March 31, 1979).
And here's a recipe for "Chicago Style Rib Tips" from the June/July 2011 barbecue issue of Saveur. They are inspired by the rib tips at Uncle John BBQ on Chicago's South Side.
Follow Adrian Miller on Twitter at @soulfoodscholar.
|Photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress|
This week my class read A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food by University of Texas professor (and SFA member) Elizabeth Engelhardt. The book explores how Southern women made political use of food to change their lives—and their region—in the twentieth century. Among other things, Engelhardt describes Progressive initiatives to alter food practices of rural women including encouraging girls to grow and can tomatoes and teaching Appalachian women to make wheat-based biscuits. In these ways, Progressivism encouraged consumerism in rural areas.
Each week, a student brings a food dish that represents the issues we’ll discuss in class. On Tuesday, Southern Studies graduate student Kate Hudson treated us to Scalloped Tomatoes and explained how it implicated many of Engelhardt’s themes. The recipe came to Kate through her grandmother, who adapted it from The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery. Hearing about A Mess of Greens, Kate’s mother in North Carolina passed on “Grammy’s” recipe.
|Southern Studies graduate students Anna Hamilton (L) and Kate Hudson.|
The class consensus was that Engelhardt demonstrates what food scholarship can and should be—a window into the social and political relationships that have shaped our region. With Engelhardt at the keyboard, everyone will eat their greens…and ask for seconds.
—Angela Jill Cooley
Citation: Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt, A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender & Southern Food (Athens: UGA Press, 2011).
Click here and scroll down to access a podcast of Engelhardt speaking at the 2011 Southern Foodways Symposium on the Cultivated South.
Recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes:
1 No. 2 can of tomatoes [per Kate, this equals ~2.5 cups or ~20 oz. Her grandmother’s handwriting reads “4 cups fresh, 1/4" dice”]
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups soft bread cubes [Her grandmother’s handwriting reads “toasted”]
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups cooked onions and peppers [The recipe calls for 2 cups cooked spinach, but her grandmother crossed this out and wrote in the peppers and onions. Kate interpreted her grandmother’s intention as 1 cup cooked onions and 1 cup cooked red bell pepper.]
Saute onion and peppers with 1/2 of the butter
Combine tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar
Add onion/peppers to tomato mixture
Grease a shallow 10" casserole dish (can use a pie dish)
Arrange alternate layers of tomato mixture and (toasted) bread cubes, ending with a layer of bread on top
Pour the rest of the melted butter over all
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, until the center is bubbling
Garnish with parsley
Recipe from The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery (New York: W. H. Wise, 1949) as adapted by Tacie Bass Smith.
|Photo by Marion Post (Wolcott), 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress|
This week's helping comes from Gravy #42, December 2011.
A Different Kind of Plane Food
How far would you go for K&W?
by Kat Kinsman
Several stories above Manhattan's Central Park, there hangs a three-Michelin-starred, monstrously expensive restaurant that an awful lot of people think is perfect. I may have thought that, too, at one point, but I know it's not, because I've been to the K&W Cafeteria.
Actually, I'm going to back that up and admit out loud in public that I have in fact boarded a plane, rented a hotel room, and stayed overnight in a city several states away for the express purpose of sitting down with a groaning tray of K&W chicken livers, fried okra, collard greens, and vegetable congeal and eating my greedy head off.
Yes, I made some preemptory noises about going to visit a couple of old friends who live in relative proximity to a K&W. I brought them along with me so I could steal hush puppies off their plates. And their child's. I have no shame. And the trip cost just slightly less than my single meal at the aforementioned palace of gastronomic fanciness.
There clearly are many, many things wrong with me as a human being, but if you've ever eaten at a K&W, you know my love of the place is not one of them.
That wouldn't always have been the case. Though a Sunday apres-church K&W dining room is now typically a multi-racial, transgenerational, pan-denominational assembly of Southerners possessed of a great appreciation for fancy church hats and rock-bottom prices, in the early 1960s, several outposts found themselves at the center of the battle over segregation.
|Images from the K&W website.|
The original location, which had been doing business since 1937 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as K&W restaurant (the initials stood for original investors T.K. Knight and his brothers-in-law, Thomas, Kenneth, and William Wilson) was acquired by Grady T. Allred in 1941. Allred opened a second location in High Point and eventually converted both locations from restaurants to cafeterias in the 1950s.
As the chain expanded further, folks across the state clamored for the low-priced fare. They were all welcome to it—but not necessarily on the premises.
|The original K&W location on Cherry Street in downtown Winston-Salem.|
In an interview for the University of North Carolina's Southern Oral History Program commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Reverend David Forbes made mention of K&W struggles in Raleigh. Willena Cannon recalled in Through Survivors' Eyes: From the Sixties to the Greensboro Massacre, "We could not get served at other places, like the K&W Cafeteria, which had good food and nice tables. If we wanted to eat K&W food, we had to go to a window and buy the food and then walk down the street to eat it. We couldn't go inside. That kind of stuff causes a lot of pain inside you."
Spurred by the local Woolworth sit-ins, Cannon, along with around four thousand of her classmates, protested peacefully for integration, occupying a Greensboro integration, occupying a Greensboro intersection as paddy wagons pushed into them, attempting to mow them down. So many were arrested that jails in several surrounding towns filled up and other buildings were converted into holding facilities. Cannon notes that she, like Forbes and countless others, was indeed willing to give her very life and freedom for the cause.
It did not, thankfully, come to that—though K&W's owners did their best to thwart the efforts of protestors who'd vowed to remain in jail until the chain served black people. The president of the historically black NC A&T State University told students that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be speaking on campus, and they had to leave the jail to see him. It was a trick to lure the students out, and the restaurants remained segregated until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forced K&W to open its doors to all customers.
It was about time. Reverend Forbes recalled, "Either they were going to be prepared to kill us all, or something had to give."
Nowadays, on a given Tuesday afternoon, a person of any racy, creed, or color is perfectly welcome to stroll into a K&W for a ham steak with gravy and to eat that meal while sitting down comfortably at a freshly bussed table.
Even those of us deranged enough to to fork out roughly $500 for the privilege of doing so.
Kat Kinsman is the managing editor of Eatocracy, CNN's food blog.
Wednesday, September 19
Thanks to everyone who supported our Stir the Pot fundraising series in Nashville this week! We enjoyed a South-meets-SoCal dinner at the Capitol Grille on Sunday night, prepared by guest chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Son of a Gun in LA. The kitchen talent was deeper than (insert really good sports team if you're someone who knows this sort of thing) , thanks to assistance from STP founder Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner in Raleigh and Nashville STP co-hosts Tyler Brown (and his chef de cuisine Cole Ellis) of the Capitol Grille, and Tandy Wilson of City House.
On Monday night, we mingled with Nashville-area SFA supporters who braved the rain to share a potluck supper at Corsair distillery and taproom. To complement the chefs' main course of smoked brisket, guests brought everything from watermelon salad to Goo Goo Cluster brownies. It all went down easy with the craft brews on tap and Corsair's own spirits. We caught up with longtime SFA buddies and met plenty of new ones.
In short, Nashville, you rock, and we can't wait to go back. Stay tuned for another helping of Stir the Pot: Nashville in spring 2013.
Herewith, some photographic highlights of a glorious 48 hours in the Music City.
|Whiskey for breakfast at Collier & McKeel distillery. Distiller Mike Williams explained that his whiskey gets its sweet, mellow flavor thanks to a round of filtration through sugar maple charcoal, an old-fashioned step that only a handful of Tennessee distilleries maintain these days.|
|This is where the magic happens. Meet "Pappy," Collier and McKeel's 570-gallon pot still.|
|An early lunch at Arnold's, the mecca of meat-and-threes, sopped up the spirits and kept us rolling.|
|The second science lesson of the day: a tour of the Olive and Sinclair chocolate factory. These cocoa nibs had just spent a month in an empty bourbon barrel. Unfortunately, our blog is not yet equipped with smell-o-vision. Gene Wilder has nothing on Scott Witherow.|
|Mas Tacos takes the cake for best signage, best chicken tortilla soup, best pineapple-cilantro agua fresca, and best elote of the trip.|
|You knew it was coming: on the way out of town, we sank our teeth into some Prince's hot chicken. "I'll just have a bite or two" quickly turned into a no-holds-barred attack in a gas station parking lot.|
|Gary Burns doesn't let the smoke get in his eyes. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter|
It's obvious to anyone who has ever received a back-of-house tour at a barbecue joint where smoke is belching from the pit that it might not be a healthy place to take deep breaths. Burning wood provides a steady stream of carcinogen-laced smoke, and those pits don’t come with filters. Some pit tenders I’ve talked to say that they develop a cough at first that goes away after a while.
|Smoke stalactites at Martin's Place in Bryan, Texas. Photo by Daniel Vaughn|
A summer visit to the fully enclosed pit room at Martin’s Place in Bryan, Texas, is suffocating for both the heat and the smoke. Steve Kapchinskie has spent many waking hours in this pit over the last several decades, but he says the smoke doesn’t bother him. (I question his statement when I blow the charcoal particles out of my nose as I leave the restaurant.)
A radio provides the tunes in the pit room at Chisholm Trail in Lockhart, and as I look at its tarred and mangled form, I can't help but wonder about the lungs of the pitmasters.
|Wonder if they listen to a lot of Smokey Robinson? Photo by Nicholas McWhirter|
In Houston a few weeks back, I was surprised to find a couple of cooks actively—and smartly—combating the effects of smoke in an industry where machismo tends to trump preventive health measures. Gary Burns at Burns Old Fashioned Pit Bar-B-Q sported some thick goggles that would be more familiar on a motorcross track than a kitchen, but a brief, eye-stinging visit to see his behemoth pit made me wish I had a pair.
|Adrian Handsborough breathes easy. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter|
Follow Daniel Vaughn on Twitter at @bbqsnob.
For years, the history of barbecue has been shrouded in misty myths and tall tales, from angels delivering sauce recipes in dreams to convoluted explanations for the origins of barbecue terminology. A few weeks ago my fellow blogger Daniel Vaughn dug into the spelling and origins of the word “barbecue” itself, including the oft-repeated claim that the word comes from the French phrase barbe a queue, meaning “beard to tail”, a shorthand for cooking a whole hog. The Oxford English Dictionary, in what ranks as one of the all-time gems of lexicographical disdain, sniffs this derivation away as “an absurd conjecture suggested merely by the sound of the word.”
Similarly absurd conjectures surround burgoo, the signature stew from Kentucky that often accompanies barbecue. The most-repeated account of its origins involves a Civil War soldier named Gus Jaubert creating a stew in a pinch as a way to serve blackbirds, the only meat his unit could find. Depending on the account, Jaubert either had a thick French accent or a harelip (or both), so when he announced his “blackbird stew,” it came out “burgoo.”
It’s a cute story, but facts get in the way. Gus Jaubert was a real person, the undisputed “Burgoo King” of Kentucky in the late 19th century. His parents were French immigrants, but Jaubert himself was born in New York and raised in Kentucky, so he was unlikely to have had a foreign accent. By his own account, his famous stew was something he learned from other barbecue men after the Civil War was over.
|Here lies a great stew man. (Lexington, Kentucky)|
In a newspaper interview, Jaubert explained that burgoo originated as a Welsh stew in the British maritime service and was brought by sailors to Virginia. Originally it was made from a shank of beef, chickens, corn, tomatoes, onions, and bacon, but he omitted the bacon, increased the beef and chicken, and added potatoes to thicken it up.
No blackbirds required.
Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper, is the author of Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. You can follow him on Twitter at @mossr.
Tuesday, September 18
"I think Greenville is the epicenter of hot tamales. It is a local tradition." ~Frank Carlton
In 1990, Frank Carlton, lawyer and tamale lover, organized the first World Championship Hot Tamale Contest in Greenville, Mississippi. Every year for the next fifteen years, tamale makers from around the Delta descended on Greenville to offer their bundles of meat and meal to a panel of judges in the hopes of being declared the World's Best Hot Tamale. Cash prizes were at stake. And trophies. And bragging rights.
In 2005, which turned out to be the last year for the event, we attended the contest and interviewed Frank Carlton for our Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail.
Frank Carlton passed away in 2009, but his tamale legacy lives on.
This year, Greenville residents banded together to establish a festival to celebrate the "hot and soul of the Delta." The first annual Delta Hot Tamale Festival will be held in Greenville on October 20. From the event's website:
Food and music has always had a way of bringing the people of the Delta together, and the 2012 Delta Hot Tamale Festival will put both front-and-center as we celebrate our history…The Festival will help spread the word about this delicious food found here in the Delta and teach visitors about the rich history of the area where the hot tamale reigns supreme.Festival events include a blessing of the hot tamale, a Miss Hot Tamale contest, a tamale eating contest, and, in honor of the man who came before, the Frank Carlton Hot Tamale Cooking Contest.
In anticipation of the festival, Mayor Chuck Jordan declared Greenville the Tamale Capital of the World.
* * *
Visit the Delta Hot Tamale Festival website for more information on the event.
For more about hot tamales in the Delta, visit our Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail.
Grab a napkin and go!
Posted by Amy Cameron Evans at 4:15 PM
Friday, September 14
So, here's what's happening in Oxford this weekend. Ole Miss and Texas are planning to play some football on Saturday night. Meanwhile...
Bevo should be grazing on Grove grass already. And, according to various reports, Matthew McConaughey, UT's biggest fan, is here and either a.) Playing golf at a local course with former President George W. Bush; b.) Settling in at City Grocery for a long and private supper because he bought the place out for the entire weekend; c.) Hanging out in the foyer of the Phi Mu house in an effort to help out with rush or d.) NONE OF THE ABOVE. A hint, d.) is the most likely answer since all photographic evidence of McConaughey's presence in Oxford is of Loch Ness monster/tabloid Elvis quality.
To the six-pack. The condiment six-pack!
1. Tennessee buttermilk and Virginia oysters got some well deserved attention this week. Wait for it. Now you're wishing you had a big platter of fried oysters, right? Maybe a po'boy?
2. Andy Staples poses the great existential question, "Is it possible to hate mayonnaise while loving white barbecue sauce?"
3. Smoother than vinegar, less piquant than pickle juice, cheaper than Gatorade, mustard makes a move to become the latest and greatest sports recovery aid.
4. An ode to hot sauce. With a recipe!
5. Imagine for a minute that for some reason you mix mustard, mayo, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce together. You call it donkey sauce and God help us all, you put it on your restaurant menu. Not okay, Guy Fieri. Not okay, at all.
6. Crystal Gravy. You've never seen a gravy like this.
|SFA Founders' Meeting - Birmingham, AL - July 22, 1999|
"We all know that this is the finest regional food in America, yesterday and today and forever. Here is our chance to keep it vibrant and to share it with one another and the rest of the world." – John Egerton, from his 1999 SFA recruitment letter
On July 22, 1999, 50 people gathered in Birmingham, Alabama, to "establish an organization that would bring together people from all over the region and beyond who grow, process, prepare, write about, study, or organize around the distinctive foods of the South." At the end of that meeting, the Southern Foodways Alliance was born.
In 2004, the SFA launched its Founders Oral History Project in an effort to preserve the history of the SFA through interviews with the organization's 50 founding members. By recruiting SFA members and friends in locations across the country to conduct the interviews, SFA supporters have had the opportunity to be more actively involved in the SFA's mission--and its history. To date, more than 40 interviews have been collected. Thirty-two of those interviews have been published to our online archive.
|Menu from the SFA Founders' dinner at Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, AL|
July 22, 1999
Tomorrow night, September 15, 30 SFA founders will come together again to celebrate the organization's 13th anniversary--more than a decade of work that documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. And once again, Frank and Pardis Stitt will be our hosts at Highland's Bar & Grill in Birmingham.
As we look back, we also look forward. And we hope you'll continue to join us at the table.
Posted by Amy Cameron Evans at 2:00 PM