Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adventures in Southern eating...the classics

One of the best things about travel is experiencing new food. The more exotic the better, as far as I am concerned. I find interest in how it is grown, harvested, sold and prepared. Not to mention the pleasure (most of the time) in actually eating it. 

Even region to region in the United States there are significant differences in eating choices. I've long enjoyed classic New England fare: clam chowder, lobster, Boston baked beans, and Maine blueberry pie. 

Here in the south, regional food is often offered as meat and two or three sides. Meat may be chicken fried steak, fried chicken, catfish, or barbecue (shredded pork). Sides are where the comfort food gets down and dirty: mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, butter beans, greens, cream corn, yams and cole slaw. Don't forget the bread: biscuits, skillet bread (cornbread baked in a frying pan) or hush puppies (deep fried cornbread nuggets). I haven't figured out how or why people eat such heavy meals in a hot climate but I sure have enjoyed eating at Loretta's in Oakwood, GA, or Stan's in Columbia, TN. At Stan's, when you order a side of greens, they come in a huge family-style bowl. I love greens!

You can create the Southern experience at home, too. I've enjoyed browsing through the supermarket looking at goods I've never seen in New England. Canned turnip and collard greens, rutabaga and succotash (corn, butter beans and tomatoes). Hominy. Grits. 

Grits, by the way, resemble Cream of Wheat in consistency but are made from corn. They are good with hot sauce or butter, even a little milk. Anyway you want them. They are commonly served at breakfast with eggs. No home fries here, but you can get hash browns, which are fabulous if fried up golden brown. Muffins and english muffins are rarely served here. We've had a hard time finding english muffins in the stores. Usually only one commercial brand is offered (one we don't like). 

And speaking of breakfast, there is a Waffle House on every corner. These are funky little 50s-style restaurants with high calorie-high carb food that is surprisingly cheap and good. A pecan waffle with syrup and a side of hash browns is quite tasty when you're bulk-loading. The coffee's not bad either.

Next installments: Mexican food and Boiled Peanuts & Beer

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