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The South According to Varmint


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Beginning today, I intend to post a few paragraphs from time to time in this forum about the South as I see it. It'll be about food for the most part. It will probably cover no new ground. It may be funny, or not. It will be from me, and hopefully, I'll be able to spark some dialogue out there about the South.

Let's start with a piece on my lovely bride.

Mrs. Varmint was bred, born and raised right here in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has a respectable drawl, went to college at a reputable liberal arts school in Tennessee (it was the University of the South, for gosh sake!), and loves grits, fried chicken and greens. Despite this upbringing, I’m not sure that my bride of 11 years truly qualifies as a Southerner. Why? It simply is because Mrs. Varmint does not eat red meat. I knew this when I met her and still married her. If the critter came with fins or feathers, that’s OK for the Missus, but if it had fur, it’s not for her. Do you realize how difficult that can be down here? This means I can’t add fatback to my snap beans. Biscuits are made with butter and vegetable shortening, but never lard. Bacon drippings go to waste (graciously, however, she does let me fry up some bacon from time to time).

It’s all but impossible to go to a traditional southern diner and order a truly vegetarian meal. We subscribe to the philosophy that anything tastes better with bacon or ham or other cured meat. If the veggies are going to need salt, it makes perfect sense for that salt to come from country ham. Why use a bland canola oil to fry up onions when bacon fat adds a hearty flavor?

I’ve given up hope that Mrs. Varmint will turn from the Dark Side and see what she’s been missing in ham hock land. Until then, we have that new barbecue joint that serves smoked turkey breast.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Clearly she's been reincarnated from a previous life in Marin County.

She's probably as startled as you are.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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There's no West-Coast in Mrs. Varmint, that's for sure. I'll explain another day why she doesn't eat red meat, but she grew up liking steak and hamburgers.

As far as the L'il Varmints, oh, do they ever eat red meat! However, I've yet to take them to a barbecue restaurant, but that will soon change. Details to follow!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Southerners don't have to like red meat.  Texans do.  That's the rule.

Um, you've never heard of pork? I guess this is one more reason that we split the Southeast from Texas and places west.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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McCord, pork is "the other white meat"

The amazing thing is that the National Pork Board has done an amazing job with this advertising campaign. I'd be interested in running a poll asking people whether certain flesh types constitute "red meat." I'd bet a buttload of money that over 40% would consider pork not to be red meat. Yikes.

Yeah, they've bred out all the fat and flavor from the pig, but it's still red meat, folks. It's mammalian, which is my wife's definition (and the definition of anyone who knows anything). As I said from the get go, if the critter didn't have fins or feathers, it's red meat to her.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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As I said from the get go, if the critter didn't have fins or feathers, it's red meat to her.

You'll have to ask around and see if one of the local barbecue places can't cook her up one of these.

FlyingPig.gif

btw...when I first move to Charlotte many years ago and saw fatback in the grocery store (packaged on a styrofoam tray just like another cut of meat) I had no idea what it was or what you'd possibly use it for. Someone told me you made sandwiches out of it...I believed him...to this day I still don't know if anyone really does or not.

And although I'm originally from the South, the deeeep South - Miami, FL :smile: , I still don't like Southern cooked vegetables even after living in NC off and on for over 4 years. Now other Southern staples like pulled pork, fried chicken, hushpuppies, biscuits, country fried steak, chicken fried steak etc. those I can eat - just pull the vegies out of that water a good 30 minutes or so before you think they're done. Or don't, I'll just have another plate of barbecue and get all my vitamins from the coleslaw, potato sald, and banana pudding. Mmmmmm, Healthy!

....oh yeah, I don't really like grits either.

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Some southern vegetables, such as collards, don't really begin to shine until they've been cooked thoroughly. I certainly see your point about snap beans, which I love any way you cook them, but butter beans and their kin do real well when cooked for long stretches of time.

As for grits, that's a discussion for another day!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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There is plenty to Southern cuisine that doesn't include meat. Besides which your wife can eat shrimp and grits, fried catfish, and other seafood delicacies of the South, which count for something along with your chess pies with shortening crusts and vegetarian snap beans. I adore the vegetable plate, which is still one of my favorite ways of eating vegetables and which I order when dining in casual Southern restaurants. I was a vegetarian for almost a decade and spent most of that time as a North Carolinian and found that I could enjoy plenty of the Southern delicacies around me. I always felt my diet was less of an "un-Southern" influence than my lack of a noticeable Southern accent.

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I adore the vegetable plate, which is still one of my favorite ways of eating vegetables and which I order when dining in casual Southern restaurants. I was a vegetarian for almost a decade and spent most of that time as a North Carolinian and found that I could enjoy plenty of the Southern delicacies around me. I always felt my diet was less of an "un-Southern" influence than my lack of a noticeable Southern accent.

Add mac n' cheese to your list of vegetarian-friendly Southern food. Can't beat mac n' cheese on a vegetable plate.

How did you deal with meat-cooked vegetables? When I'm eating in the South, I'll often get a veggie plate for lunch: but not being a vegetarian, I don't mind finding a little piece of pork in my collards or green beans. I'd think that someone who doesn't eat meat would have a problem.

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McCord, pork is "the other white meat"

That's what people kept saying to me when I went through a phase of doing the something similar. It drove me mad. So I changed what I said to "I don't eat mammals" instead.

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Since we're talking about vegetable plates, I'll add a comment or two. To me, I love going to my "meat & 3" joint and passing on the meat and just get a "4" -- i.e., a vegetable plate with 4 selections. The assortment of vegetables available always boggles my neurons. Corn. Sliced 'maters. Collards. Black eyed peas. Snap beans. Pole beans. Homemade applesauce. Slaw. Carrots. Boiled (pronounced "balled" for you who don't speak Southern) potatoes. Creamed (rarely mashed) potatoes (with or without gravy, of course). Fried okra. Okra and tomatoes. Butter beans. Crowder peas. Deviled eggs. Purple hulled peas.

What, deviled eggs aren't a vegetable??? Well, they're listed as one in most of the joints I visit. Technically, they're a "side", but if you can order them in a vegetable plate, then they're a vegetable, right?

I love deviled eggs, by the way. I don't know their origins, but if someone would like to do a research project and report back here, that'd be fine. I really love it when you go to a church barbecue and you see dozens and dozens of deviled eggs. At their essence, they aren't much more than egg and mayonnaise (which is a lot of egg in itself). However, there are as many different variations of deviled eggs as there are mosquitoes in my back yard in August. I had a fine jalapeno deviled egg at the new barbecue joint a couple of weeks ago. Some folks like pickle relish in theirs. I'm fond of a version that has a bit of pimiento cheese in it.

How do you like your deviled eggs?

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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In earlier years, when I was stricter about my vegetarianism, I stuck to items like corn and slaw that were less likely to be cooked with pork products. Later I stopped caring as much and would eat cooked carrots, snap peas and so on. Now I eat everything, but I don't live in North Carolina or another area where there are great vegetable plates. :sad:

Varmint, of course deviled eggs are a vegetable. *pat pat* :raz: I like mine with homemade mayonnaise, Maille mustard, and a little cayenne.

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How do you like your deviled eggs?

With no sweetness, please. No sweet relish, no -- Lord help us -- Kraft's salad dressing. They should be mustardy/mayonnaisey and creamy.

I usually avoid gussied-up deviled eggs, but I make an exception for the incredible deviled eggs in Shirley Corriher's first book. They have butter-fried shallots in the filling and are topped with grated lemon zest, green onion tops and red caviar. (They violate all the rules. But they're fabulous.)

I also recently sprinkled a little smoked paprika on deviled eggs, just en pointe, and it wasn't a bad thing, but you could carried away with that kind of thing.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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They have butter-fried shallots in the filling and are topped with grated lemon zest, green onion tops and red caviar. (They violate all the rules. But they're fabulous.)

Oh my!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Of course, the official name is "Joe's Place featuring Joe's Mom's Cooking."

What's nice about this veggy plate is it's "endless." If you want 14 servings of okra, you'll get it. The vegetables are pretty fresh, the sweet potatoes are better than dessert, and yes, the tea glass is about a quart.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Um, I'm feeling like a total philistine here what with the Maille mustard and caviar and whatnot...

I like my deviled eggs with Miracle Whip, a little French's mustard, and a dusting of paprika. That's the way my mom always made them, because it was the way dad wanted them. Grandma Ruth (dad's mom) was from Oklahoma and apparently Miracle Whip was favored. I still like it on sandwiches. :blush:

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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My Mom always made hers with mayo, dry mustard and sweet relish.

I like mine with mayo, dill and capers. After I tasted deviled eggs that were not sweet, my life was changed. And I will try it with the caviar, only I use paddlefish caviar from Kelley's Katch in Tennessee. A very good product and price wise, it fits into my meager budget.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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