Tag Archives: Southern cooking

Food pusher

I was raised in the South by amazing home cooks.

The food may not have been the best for us, but it tasted better than anything I’ve found in my travels.

We used to call my mother and her sisters “food pushers” because they were always encouraging us to eat more.

Another taste. Another serving.  Heck, in some cases, another meal.

I had a flashback to those food pushers this morning when I was sitting on the floor, trying to get my dog Rory to eat.

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When he rejected his wet food, I added chicken. When he tired of the chicken, I gave him treats. When he finished the treats, I handed him the wet food again.

Anything to get him to eat a decent-sized meal.

Old dogs are the best, but they’re not the best eaters. — Mama Dog food pusher

In a pickle

I pride myself on being open-minded, especially when it comes to fried foods.

The Huffington Post is not.

In fact, this weekend ‘Huff Post Comedy’ featured the slideshow  “10 Things We Shouldn’t Be Frying.”  It pictured an array of batter-dipped, fried foods you’ll find at state fairs and local gastro-pubs.

Some, I’ll admit, even made me cringe.  Fried butter.  Fried margaritas.  Even fried guacamole.  (Who knows?  Maybe the batter hides the icky avocado texture and taste.)

But the Huff staff dissed fried pickles, comparing the taste to “a dirty bomb going off in your mouth.”  

What the wha??

Clearly Huff Post needs to get their noses out of their laptops and their taste buds on top of some serious fried pickles, one of the yummiest appetizers to ever grace a paper towel-lined plate!

In New York City, I suggest visiting Ditch Plains.  Their fried pickles are sliced super thin and have a light, almost tempura-like batter.  They’re served with tartar sauce for dipping, but ask for ranch dressing….’cause everything’s better with a little ranch.

In Kansas City, head to Tomfooleries on the Country Club Plaza.  That’s the first place I ever tried fried pickles — not in the South like you might imagine.

Their fried pickles are cut thick and have a heartier batter.  You can see the spices and cheese sitting right on top.  They’re served with seasoned waffle fries, too…so if someone in your group is a ‘pickle chicken,’ everybody’s happy. (Gotta love the bucket, too.)

If you live in the South, there are lots of great restaurants that serve this delicacy.  Please share your suggestions in the comments section.

I doubt there will be a “dirty bomb” in the bunch!

Le junk

Emilie Baltz is a New York City foodie and designer who grew up in a home without junk food.  Her mother was French, and considered fruit wedges to be the snack of choice.

Heathen.

Like a like of kids who were denied sweets, Emilie craved them all the more (and gulped them down when her mom wasn’t looking.)  Years later, she is combining sugary snacks with a French sensibility in her cookbook, Junk Foodie.

Finally — recipes with ingredients that I can get behind!  Twinkies, Cheetos, Green Apple Jelly Bellys — and those very snacks combine to create something quite pretty called “Cheddar Feuillete with Green Apple Relish.”

Fah fah fah.

Or how about taking Banana Twins, mayonnaise, potato sticks, salt & vinegar potato chips and Ranch Doritos and creating this beauty — let’s face it, her photography is amazing — “Potato Plantain Torta.”

I am a non-foodie who grew up in a home with lots of junk food.  My mom was an amazing Southern cook who didn’t have a lot of food rules other than, “Clean your plate.”

She liked snacks as much as the next kid, God love ‘er.

I think it would be a blast to create these interesting dishes using junk foods to fool my foodie friends.

Pas vous?

Good gravy

The South is often stereotyped as being a bit backwards — deservedly so, I’ll admit.

So when there is a glimmer of forward thinking taking place there, I feel like I have to shine a big ol’ light on it.

In this case, an environmentally-responsible one.

Cracker Barrel, a chain of homestyle restaurants known for their yummy, artery-hardening Southern-style cooking, country stores, and rockers on the front porch, are adding electric car charging stations to 24 of their 50 restaurants in April.

The program is part of a $230-million EV project to provide infrastructure and encourage a market for electric cars.  The stations, which require about 30 minutes to complete a charge, send a cellphone signal to owners when their car is ready.  So diners can enjoy another biscuit until their Chevy Volt is amp’ed.

The CEO of Cracker Barrel said he didn’t initially expect a lot of traffic at the stations, but he wanted to offer “a bit of future with their old-fashioned cooking.”

He’s right to wonder.  Are people environmentally-conscious enough to buy a hybrid or electric car going to want to eat at a Cracker Barrel?  Are the two things just too inherently different to co-exist?  I for one hope the electric car owners are willing to meet Cracker Barrel halfway.

Because it’s GOOD.

Cluck cluck

Growing up in a town of 400 people (Fancy Farm, Kentucky), we didn’t have a lot of restaurant choices.  So, on special occasions like birthdays, my mother would let us choose our favorite meal, and she would cook…because she was a fabulous cook.

My favorite?

Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Lima beans.  Sometimes biscuits, too.  A little slice of heaven on earth…and no one made it better than my mom.

I mention this because it’s National Fried Chicken Day.  I never knew July 6th had this designation, or I would have made sure mom cooked my favorite meal that day as well.  I would have had the excuse to indulge every year on this day, too, because I don’t eat fried chicken that much anymore.

I’m not sure why.  It’s high in protein, and the breading really doesn’t add that many carbs to the mix.  Where I probably sin the most is in the amount of mashed potatoes I can put away — if they’re smooth and creamy the way I like ’em, I can eat an entire family-size serving.

Man, I’m hungry.

Hope I can find some fried chicken here in NYC…’cause it’s National Fried Chicken Day, damn it, and a Southern gal’s gotta celebrate.

Southern comforts

I’ve said it before — I’m no foodie.

Many of my friends bemoan the fact.  Here I am, living in New York City, a bazillion wonderful restaurants literally steps from my apartment, and I go out to eat rather infrequently.

I’m an embarrassment to my ‘hood, no doubt.

But send me back to the South for no more than 24 hours, and every Facebook post I make…is about food.  Not the delicacies you would find at the five-star restaurants lining the streets of Manhattan.

Oh, no.

I wax poetic about the Southern-style veggies served for lunch at Cracker Barrel. (Sweet potato casserole — I mean, come on!)

Shed a tear at how much bacon they put on a breakfast platter at the airport diner.  (Nine strips.  That’s just wrong, but oh, so right.)

Smile nostalgically when asked if I’d like “sweet or un-sweet tea.”  (I always choose un-sweet and add my own Sweet ‘n’ Low, but you know you’re in the South when you hear those words.)

I guess you can take the girl out of Fancy Farm, and tempt her with ‘fancy foods,’ but I’ll always have more simple tastes.

Or, as my friend Denny Keller would say…

“You’re so simple.”