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R.E. Turner

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  1. The ultimate in "Georgia foods" might be roasted peanuts dumped into a Co-Cola. Salty/sweet/carbonated goodness, TYVM! (And, of course, many people will chime in that the Coke should be a Pepsi or an RC, but we're talking GEORGIA here, folks... Not that RCs or Pepsis are less tasty with salty, roasted peanuts floating in the cola, but they aren't quite as "Georgia.") Like most geographic areas, though, Georgia's traditional foodways are rooted in whatever grows or is harvested well in this area. Vidalia onions? Certainly! Peaches and pecans? Of course! However, as a native to a town just minutes from Vidalia and onion country, none of the traditional representative menus that bring me back to my roots even begin to involve the ubiquitous onion. If I were planning an ideal meal, my requests would include my grandma's snap beans & new potatoes cooked in milk and butter, Grandmother's collard soup (in a cream and cornmeal base, with smoked pork -- sounds weird, tastes great,) Granddaddy's homemade peach ice cream, fried pork chops (tenderized with buttermilk, and then breaded in flour and pan-fried,) and my mother's homemade biscuits or cornbread. Maybe add a nice yellow-fleshed watermelon picked from Grandpa's garden. And/or fried okra that my great-grandmother cut from the garden right after the dew evaporated. It's really all about the very specific locale in Georgia that one is rooted in. (And Coastal Georgia cooking is different from Wiregrass Georgia cooking is different from North Georgia/Mountain Georgia cooking. It's a reasonably large state, with very different specialties. My former sis-in-law - from Georgia's Appalachian region - has more in common with my West Virginia relatives' foodways than she does with my Coastal Georgia relatives.) In general, I find that my coastal relatives use more "sophisticated" ingredients -- especially spices -- that wouldn't have been quite so easily available to inland/upstate cooks in years past. Naturally, relatives who lived on farms used ingredients that were/are readily grown in their own back yards. And there was a serious dividing line between the "haves" and the "have-nots," even within recent memory. My father's family was far poorer than my mother's, and the cooking definitely reflects that (i.e. My maternal great-grandmother, though not rich, thought it normal to prepare anise cookies for the holiday season. My paternal grandmother went to her grave having never heard of anise, even though she was a reasonably well-read woman.) It occurs to me, though, that most Georgia cooking revolves around two animal proteins (pork and chicken,) plus whatever you can grow in your garden.
  2. Savannah: A Week's Stay

    Very late to this topic, but here's my two cents: Shrimp and grits, during my formative years, were a very "at home" dish. Most of us from this general geographic region probably ate lots of S&G, but not at restaurants. Mostly, this was a "gone fishing" weekend dish - thus all the variations of ingredients. Personally, I grew up on the Georgia coast, and ate permutations of this dish that included cheese (including Velveeta!), no cheese, peppers, no peppers, and so on and so on and ScoobyDoobyDooby. (Different strokes, for different folks, doncha know.) I think that it is/was mostly a matter of what ingredients were considered staples for the cook. (As an example, one of my grandmothers always considered hot peppers a necessity -- her shrimp and grits were always spicy, while my other grandmother was less 'cosmopolitan,' so there were few spices added to this dish at her house. Either way, it was a fantastic dish, but there was/is no specific recipe. The best dishes I've had, though, have been in private homes. Savannah has a far richer history of great hospitality in homes than in restaurants, FWIW.) I wish that I'd arrived on this topic soon enough to recommend Johnny Harris' for BBQ. Good stuff, and Savannah's oldest restaurant. The Old Pink House is also a good source for a one-stop introduction to "Savannah cooking." As previously mentioned in this thread, Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House is a wonderful resource, but not quite as "atmospheric" as the United House of Prayer for All People. I'm rather flabbergasted that Philadelphia has a "Geechee Girl Cafe." For those in my particular neighborhood, "Geechee" is a pidgen dialect -- very difficult to interpret sometimes -- of English and at least a couple of African dialects, and very specific to Southeast Georgia. Is there a menu available on-line, and would the foods be mostly recognizable to a coastal Georgia native?
  3. IMHO, there are two factors at the fore of the current food "fashions": First, most of us in Western nations cannot "afford" to dine on the classics all of the time, from a caloric/nutritional POV. It is only in recent years that the greatest health threat faced by developed societies is too many calories, versus too few. The fact that many, if not most, of us make our livings with our brains and very little physical labor means that consumption of high-caloric-density foods is a health threat. (And, for all that we 'poor folk' like to gripe, these past few decades are the first time in history that being overweight is an overwhelming problem among lower-income workers, at least in the developed economies of the world.) Secondly, information and transportation technologies have developed to the point that all of us - including underpaid peons like myself - have relatively easy access to exotic foods and foodways. Even twenty years ago, when I was first married, I couldn't just Google a technique for (as an example) tempering chocolate. My methods would have relied upon whatever I might find in a cookbook, plus whatever sage advice passed on by reliable cooks in my social network; and my list of potential ingredients would have been very small, compared to what I find available today. As things stand now, I'm able to easily access a worldwide network of ingredients, methods, and recipes that have never, until now, been accessible to the average home cook. And, while we're all longing for the "good old days," when food was food and methods of preparation were classic and not subject to trends: The "good old days" never were. Ancient Roman recipes were as trendy as foams are today - bird tongues, anyone? - and Medieval Europe had more than its share of Fashionable Foods, like "four-and-twenty blackbirds, baked into a pie." Food, as with clothing, goes through cycles of fashion. We in the twenty-first century simply have the advantage easy access to lots of information about contemporary trends, as well as more ancient ones.
  4. I did not realize that the spoon thing might be a neurosis... I thought I had "inherited" my love of long-handled teaspoons from my mom! It seems to me, though, that the slightly smaller bowl and the longer handle forces one to savor foods more than would be probable with more conventional spoons. (Mom, my aunts, and I all seem to eat foods out of bowls vs. plates more often, too. Easier to eat the last bits, that way, and one is forced to refill more often. I don't know about everyone else's motive, but for me, I don't tend to overeat as often if I have to make the conscious effort to refill that bowl for just "one more bite." And, on the other end of the spectrum, it doesn't look so "weird" to dip a tiny bit into a bowl for one more bite, whereas the same amount of food would look downright lonely on a dinner plate.) As for broken treats, I subscribe to the notion that broken cookies, chips, pretzels, etc., have released their calories into the atmosphere. Thus, those are my favorites! Like others here, I also have "texture issues" with some foods. For example, I like the flavor of onions, but can't tolerate the mouth-feel of uncooked or lightly-sauteed ones... They squeak between my teeth! Urk! Even liver tastes and smells good to me, but the mealy texture puts me off. Fortunately for my fellow diners, though, I don't have my brother's highly-developed gag reflex: Bless his heart, but he taught my mother the folly of "try a bite of everything" when confronted with cabbage and squash. And then there are the foods that have bad associations, whether they are logical or not: I haven't eaten my grandmother's chili since I was in the fifth grade (lo! these many decades ago,) and that was the last thing I ate before exhibiting the symptoms of a truly awful flu bug that went around that year. Nor have I had the yen for chocolate milkshakes (or much of any sort of chocolate) since becoming carsick after consuming that "treat." If I recall correctly, that's been nearly 30 years of life without chocolate milkshakes. (Similar memory of a banana split, come to think of it. Is it any wonder that ice cream treats are not high on my list of things I can't live without?) I guess that with all of my own food neuroses, I'm reasonably tolerant of others' weirdness. Many of my older relatives grew up and/or learned to cook prior to home refrigeration, so I don't mind that they want their meats charred. (I just employ low lighting at the dinner table as not to gross them out when I eat my steak bloody.) And my 7-year-old daughter likes catsup with virtually anything savory... I learned to pick my battles, and rejoice in the fact that she would try most things, and enjoy many foods, so long as I didn't mind the sight of red sauce dripping off the pork roast or Brussels sprouts.
  5. Honestly, the only bit of my own first wedding "feast" I recall is the fresh melons... and maybe I only remember those so vividly because I helped prep the buffet line before climbing into my own ivory satin dress! If I recall correctly, though, my mother and I served our guests with lovely fresh fruits, Mom's special recipe meatballs, Grandmother's specialty turkey and dressing, my own special homemade breads, and so forth. As for true "specialties," I seem to recall being called to the carpet with the groom's cake: In my experience at the time, groom's cake's were typically arranged by the groom's family, or they were a pretty standard fruitcake. However, about 1 week before my own festivities, the groom's Mom mentioned that she wanted her sis-in-law to "keep" the groom's cake. I vividly recall a frantic call to my grandmother that evening, and asked (begged?) that Grandmother might deign to make a red velvet sheetcake for the following weekend: Don't cut it, we'll decorate with whatever fresh flowers we can snag, etc. Blessedly, my grandmother makes the best of the best possible showy red velvet cake, and my former boss offered thousands of dollars worth of fresh roses from her garden to decorate my wedding. No one with the least sense of fair play could possibly have denigrated the groom's cake we offered, based on taste or appearance. Unfortunately, though, that's absolutely the only thing I recall from my wedding menu! (Actually, I'm lying. Even if I have no recollection of tasting these dishes, I have some memory of the menus from my rehearsal dinner and my wedding reception. Without being too much of an, um, unpleasant person, I'll just say that my mother-in-law did a journeyman's job of catering the rehearsal dinner. Regardless of the difficulties we may have had through the years, my former mom-in-law was quite a good cook. She only tried too hard that evening. And on the day of my wedding, my mother also tried too hard. Dishes that she normally did well showed a lack of attentiveness when it was her own daughter getting married... There was just so much going on! None of the food was bad, but it all tended toward indifferent, since the chefs were so focussed on other aspects of the wedding!) If I may brag on a two-decade-old wedding, though, I'd like to say that the wedding cake was absolutely lovely. My best friend's mother presented said cake as a gift from the family, and Mrs. E. couldn't have done a lovlier job. The cake wasn't just beautiful to look at, but it tasted absolutely wonderful! And, considering that I literally knew every bartender in town when it happened, I wouldn't begin to consider how I celebrated my divorce, even if I remembered the evening...
  6. My morning coffee fix...

    As a single Mom of two, and small business owner, I can't even begin to pretend that my morning coffee ritual is anything except workaday and necessary. However, this morning my ritual became somewhat luxurious, thanks to my second-smallest child. He greeted the morning by making drip coffee for me, using a "safe" blend from Chock-full-of-Nuts brewed through the drip coffee-maker, and brought the final results to me in bed... Gotta love a thoughtful eight-year-old! (And the "new and improved" version of morning coffee was presented in a nice, new Oneida commercial carafe, "discovered" by smallest son at Goodwill a week or two ago. As smallest son noted, the new coffee carafe won't just keep my java warm, but its fully-metal construction will prevent accidents by klutzy Mama. Even when smallest son is noting my shortcomings, I love that he's so darned practical for an eight-year-old!) Meanwhile, I doubt that anyone will ever improve on my kids' day-early Valentine's version of a luxurious breakfast in bed: a big, nearly 2-liter carafe of coffee, courtesy of youngest son; coupled with a tin on Almond Roca candy, courtesy of small daughter. I love my kids!
  7. Here's your basic "Contest I don't really want to win, but might despite my own best efforts." Backstory? About a decade ago, my smallest sister, a US Navy dependent, moved from the US to Japan when her husband was stationed there. Meanwhile, back at the farm, I agreed to "babysit" for my sister's pet, to avoid massive and punitive quarantines for pets brought into that area. Frankly, I'd've never considered reptiles as "pets" without this intervention. Fast forward a couple of years, and my little sister passes away while still overseas. Meanwhile, I'm playing "foster mom" to a six-foot-long iguana -- the ideal pet, as it turns out. (Not only are iguanas quiet and non-smelly and vegetarian, it turns out that they're affectionate, personable, and loveable. And they're fabulous for quietly running off random d-t-d salespeople and religious sorts. Frankly, I'd've doubted that by leaps and bounds had I not played foster mama for several years...) At any rate, the "baby" iguana became ill at approx. age 15 -- a ripe old age for his sort. My mother, in all her wisdom, decided to take custody of the grand-iguana at this stage. When the iguana succumbed to ripe old age a few weeks later, Mom (bless her heart!) decided that she'd "preserve" the pet, for whatever reason... Thus, a few months ago, when I bought Mom's house, I also "inherited" the chest freezer, full of six-foot-long, adorable, sweet, affectionate iguana. Ugh! Baby Iguana will, in the next few weeks, join the peaceful little cemetery of pets in the side garden. (And I won't even begin to delve into a several-decades-old misunderstanding I had with my mother about pets vs. livestock. Suffice it to say that, when a pre-teen "adopts" a little piggy with crippled feet, and her mom misunderstands the intent of "pet" vs. "livestock," it's pretty gol-darned disturbing for that pre-teen to come home from school, asks what's for dinner, and hear "Name of Favorite Pet Piggy Who Plays Basketball and Thinks He's a Dog" as main course! Sure, "Little Piggy" topped seven-hundred pounds by the time he became dinner, but he was still my "little piggy!")
  8. Worst kitchen chore?

    How hard would it be to recruit you as my new friend, Darcie? Seriously, I'm anticipating a weekend spent moving the fridge, stove, and dishwasher to clean under/behind, plus cleaning the interiors and scrubbing/relining shelves and drawers. Yech! (Although Kouign Aman reminds me that the job isn't quite as awful as it could be. I, too, once moved into a house after a previous tenant just abandoned it with no power. At the end of the first day of cleaning maggot-infested fridge and other unmentionable horrors, I questioned whether even the several thousand dollars I saved on that purchase were worth the "ick" factor. Just the memory makes me dread this weekend's cleaning chore a lot less!)
  9. Expanding a bit on Todd's observations: The bureaucracy involved in the US school lunch (and breakfast) programs doesn't end with the administration of free or reduced-price meals. My mother worked (briefly) as a school lunch supervisor in a Georgia public school system about a decade ago. Her meal planning strategies were utterly hamstrung by ridiculous rules, and her resources included a vast amount of abysmal USDA commodities, which included quantities of processed foods (cheeses, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruits, etc.) that she was required to use in her meal planning. Net result? High fat, high salt, icky meals that Mom was ashamed to serve. Long-gone are the days when local school systems were allowed to oversee their own nutrition programs -- at least in my state. (Other states may be different, but I doubt it. I assume that many of us who are discussing this issue are old enough to remember the Reagan administration "catsup is a vegetable" brouhaha. I was a grade-schooler at the time, but I vividly recall my mother's outrage then! That episode leads me to believe, though, that the federal government - via funding and providing commodities - has held a large amount of sway over school lunch programs for at least a quarter-century.) IIRC, there were some improvements in nutrition programs in Georgia through the eighties -- choices were expanded to include salad bars and a few more fresh/unprocessed foods, we were offered the choice of reduced-fat milk, instead of only whole or 2% chocolate, and so forth. However, until a sea change takes place, and meals are planned around really healthy ingredients, the nation's school nutrition programs will remain a method of getting calories into kids instead of getting good meals into kids. (My humble opinion, your mileage may vary, and all that.)
  10. My first reaction to this story was very similar to Anna N's reply. Certainly, a lot of traditional southern food is very calorie-dense, but it evolved as fuel for people who participated in hard labor. When many of us came in from the fields and sat down at a desk, our diets were slower to evolve than our lifestyles. That said, though, I think that there may be an essential misunderstanding of what Southern food encompasses. Sure, fried chicken and gravy and lard and pecan pie are "traditional," but so are fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, dark leafy greens, squash, sweet potatoes, fruits, etc. And, as near as I can tell, that fried chicken was more the exceptional meal than the rule: Sunday dinner, when the preacher came to visit. Monday through Saturday, beans and rice were more likely to provide the main protein course. And those fresh vegetables that were so readily available, along with some cornbread. The other "mistranslation" I see of traditional rural diets versus modern: As is typical today, "dinner" was the main meal of the day, but on the farm, "dinner" is that meal served at noontime. "Supper" was/is generally a lighter meal of leftovers, served at the end of the day. Thus, those farm meals were pretty much what doctors would prescribe today -- Filling breakfast, filling lunch, eat lightly at the end of the day, lots of fresh foods and veggies, lots of exercise. (And this is the point where I generally tell the story of my great-grandmother, a farmer who was warned by her doctor that she should give up pork for her health's sake. Granny attended that doctor's funeral, outlived the next doctor, and settled on another before finally succumbing to heart disease. At age 92. Yes, she ate bacon or fatback or ham every day, but she also worked. Every day. Hard, physical, taxing labor.)
  11. BarbaraY's memories of grandfather and the carving knife bring to mind something I can't believe I forgot! My maternal grandfather was missing his entire right index finger - carpal and metacarpal, so that it wasn't generally obvious that the finger was missing. The only time I noted that (except when he teased me by asking me to count on his fingers when I was first becoming numerate,) was when we shelled pecans and picked out nutmeats on autumn and winter nights. When granddaddy put pressure on the nutcracker, I could see the scar on the side of his hand where that finger had been amputated. Those were wonderful nights, though: We'd sit by the woodstove, and the first panful of shelled nuts always went on the stove to toast in a bit of butter. No snack ever made a job less tedious!
  12. Usually no gopher here, either, unless my crazy uncle happens to be handy, but he usually only shows up in the middle of the night after the kitchen has closed. Fortunately, my only near neighbor is my grandmother, so I'm comfortable running across the road to borrow an egg or a teaspoon of vanilla if I'm short of a common ingredient. Living in a small town as I do, any recipe calling for something more exotic (hummingbird tongues? eye of newt?) must wait until I make a trek to the city. Now that I think of it, the ability to make that "Honey, would you pick up some ??? on your way home?" phone call is really the thing I miss most about being married!
  13. Of the five grandparents I remember, I have very vivid food-related memories associated with each: My great-grandmother was well into her eighties by the time I remember her, but still going strong. I lived just across the field, and spent a lot of time with Granny, weeding the garden, gathering her eggs in the mornings, feeding the chickens, picking up peaches (the best job,) and cutting okra (the worst!) There were real rewards for those jobs, though: anisette cookies that would rival anything served at the finest restaurant, banana puddings made with meringue, and so forth. Mostly, Granny wasn't a great cook, but I never went hungry at her house, and I certainly learned to appreciate really fine fresh eggs, fruits, veggies, and meats from her home. I inherited Granny's enamel-top kitchen table, which I still use as she did: as a cool, smooth surface to roll cookies, dumplings, pastries, etc. My father's parents were rural Southern farmers of English and Irish extraction (mostly,) and I used to spend a week or two with them each summer. In the mornings and evenings, I was in Grandpa's company: We'd rise early, feed hogs while the coffee perked, and come in to eat breakfast. In the evenings, Grandpa and I would go to the garden to choose a nice watermelon or cantaloupe for an after-supper treat, and then grab our fishing poles to try to catch a mess of bream for supper. During the day, while Grandpa puttered around on the tractor or in his workshop, Grandma gave me free reign in her kitchen. Even at age four or five, if I told Grandma that I wanted to make a pie or a cake, she'd stand by to provide guidance, and she'd man the oven, but she let me do whatever I pleased. My mother's parents owned and operated a meat-and-three restaurant, so there are certainly some great food memories there: Helping Granddaddy make Brunswick stew (the only cooking job he did at the restaurant,) or escaping into the office with Granddaddy, helping with paperwork, change-rolling, etc. while "sneaking" a Nestle Crunch bar. And each year, Granddaddy and I shared a July birthday dinner, for which I always requested Granddaddy's specialty: homemade peach ice cream. Grandmother, who is still living (and who is just across the road as I type,) is a fine Southern cook -- locally famous for the best Red Velvet cake on the planet, and the only pumpkin pie recipe that I actually enjoy (light, lemony, and with meringue on top.) And sure, the desserts are good, but in my book, nothing will ever top Grandmother's way with a pot of greens and a skillet-ful of cornbread. Thanks for starting this topic, eJulia! You've revived some great memories!
  14. Stupidest regulation or law

    I like your "toast" racheld, but it seems to have evolved another step inside my head: "Goose cavortin'," said loudly and in a faux Scandinavian accent? That's some funny stuff! Like so many other states, Georgia has some truly Byzantine liquor laws, all controlled on the local level. Yup, each of Georgia's 159 counties has it's own little quirks. Some counties are totally "dry;" some are "dry," except that the local veteran's organizations are allowed to sell beer or wine to their own membership, on their own property; other counties are a combo of "semi-dry," with beer and wine sales allowed by the package, or by the drink, or both; and so forth. Probably the commonest alcohol-related blue law throughout the state is that it's illegal in most counties to sell on Sundays. (Except in a few larger counties, where one can at least buy at a restaurant.) (Oh, yeah: and I think that each city within each county is allowed to make its own regulations within its county's rules. I could be mistaken about that, though. The basic gist is that each time one travels two hundred feet in Georgia, one should probably check for changes in the local regulations.) Here in my own little rural outpost, the alcohol laws have been liberalized HUGELY through the years: Beer, wine, and liquor are available by the package (but liquor can only be sold at the package store, while beer and wine are available at groceries or c-stores;) and even liquor by the drink can now be sold at restaurants. (Well, actually at "restaurant." There's only one in town that sells, but at least I can have a mixed drink with my steak!) The funny thing is, that I remember some other permutations of this county's alcohol laws through the years. Back in the 1970's, in between two periods of being a totally "dry" county - forcing poor Daddy to drive across the river for a six-pack or a fifth of Scotch - there was one legal, county-run beer and wine store. The most memorable feature of that store? They sold draft beer in paper take-away cartons... at the drive-through window! Of course, I've recently moved back here from Savannah, where "go-cups" are still legal: It's perfectly kosher to stroll through the Historic District with an open container of beer, wine, or spirits. The only regulation is that the container must be of plastic, and no larger than 16 ounces. (Not that anyone ever checks whether one's Thermos contains refills of cold water or gin and tonics... ) Oh, and a few days per year? The city allows a River Street merchant association to charge St. Pat's day partiers a fee for the privilege of open air drinking on that particular publicly-maintained street. Even though the practice is both free and legal on the other city streets. (I'm just waiting for the legal challenge. Heck, I'd brave the crowds and drink a contraband beer there in order to challenge the practice, except that I can't justify using that money on lawyers instead of on my children!) And I agree: the "no alcohol sales on election day" is just plain dumb. Some ballots, I need a drink to brace me for making the best of really lousy choices!
  15. Report from a bacon tasting

    No offense intended here, honey, but I don't want to hear about "limited" food resources from you guys in Seattle! (Yeah, I'm still jonesing for even the limited resources that were available a couple of years ago when I lived in Savannah, Ga. Lately, I've moved back to my hometown to help care for my grandmother -- 100 miles south/west/inland of Savannah -- and "gourmet" groceries are a distant memory!) Happily, I'm learning to take advantage of my renewed rural locale: No, none of my local grocers stock specialty bacons, but an old friend of the family is a master of the smokehouse. Each spring, I give elderly farmer friend the cost of a couple of shoats, and like magic, several hundred pounds of fresh and smoked pork become available to me in the autumn. This makes me happy, since I don't face the moral dilemma of being too soft-hearted to enjoy the bacon provided by hogs I'd've probably named, tamed, trained, and become attached to if required to raise them myself. Another dear friend - a butcher - carves great slabs of pork in the manner I prefer each fall, since I'm notoriously clumsy and likely to eviscerate myself while frenching my Christmas pork roast. Happily again, the fees for these services are small: a nice autumn meal of pork roast, greens, sweet potatoes, cracklin' cornbread, cornbread dressing, and pecan pie. Back to subject, though: The aforementioned butcher is wonderful about slicing bacon to my preference. I find that most bacons are at least acceptable with proper slicing (3/8 inch in perfect by me.) Oh, heck. Who am I kidding? Bacon is like consensual sex: Even if it's bad, it's pretty darned good! (And who must one kill or sleep with to snag an invitation to a booze-fueled bacon-tasting party? )
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