Evolution of the Blog
I started this blog when Trump won the election and I had grandiose visions of exodus, becoming an expat, traveling the globe and cooking American Southern food. I’m from Kansas, which while not technically “the South,” is South-adjacent. My father, whose people are from Tennessee, cooked us grits and fried bologna for breakfast, and made us syrupy sweet tea, known to us then as ‘tea.’ When one of my uncles shot squirrels, my mother breaded it up and fried it, and made a gravy with the pan drippings, creating shameful Granny-from-The-Beverly-Hillbillies associations that were assuaged by its tenderness and juiciness, and by hunger, which truly is a magical sauce. I went to college in Manhattan, Kansas, and gave prospective dating partners merit points were they to fish, hunt or otherwise provide access to ducks, pheasant, crappie and deer meat.
Top of the Wang
I later spent 10 years in Gainesville, in the northernmost part of Florida, right at the top of the wang. There’s an expression about Florida: the further north you go, the further south you are. And Gainesville is less than two hours from the Georgia border. Living there, I learned many things about Southern food: the importance being able to make good biscuits AND cornbread; a hundred things to do with peaches, how to steam oysters on the grill; and how to love a boiled peanut, just for starters. And then, before I headed off to my first expatriation to Tasmania, Australia, I took an epic road trip through the South talking to people about what southern food means to them.
Select South-Inspired Dishes:
The generosity of the chefs who met with me was so inspiring.
My Korean kimchi and cracklin’ salad recipe grew out of a conversation with Louisville Chef Ed Lee at his iconic restaurant, 610 Magnolia. My biscuits were a fairly good reproduction of biscuits I watched Susan Spicer make at Rosedale, the youngest of the James Beard winner’s three New Orleans restaurants. My Memphis barbecue sauce was in spitting distance of the one I tasted at Helen Turner’s iconic joint near Brownsville, TN. In Memphis, Craig Blondis and his pit crew taught me how to make hot water cornbread, among other things, and Toby Traylor from Lea’s of Lecompte in LA told me how to make the perfect meringue and keep it from weeping.
I enjoyed myself thoroughly doing a Southern Food ‘ambassadorship’ in Tasmania, Australia, in 2017 at Ratho Farm, where I cooked pop up dinners with themes like Memphis BBQ, Southern Brunch, and Mardi Gras. (Ratho features the oldest golf course in Australia and I grew addicted to the sport while I was there, which is how golf finds its way onto this blog sometimes.) I also explored the food culture of its capital, Hobart, and other more far-flung places and look forward to a return!
I’m expanding, not abandoning this delightful concept of traveling and cooking abroad: I continue to will into existence my next international getaway to spread the gospel of Chicken and Waffles: potentially to New Zealand or the gastronomically revered Basque region between Spain and France.
But until I can line up my next border crossing, I’ve been traveling a lot more in the US. I took an epic Chicago-to-Portland roadtrip in late March-Early April and have been to Michigan twice in May with more visits planned.
As I travel, I am very interested in how food changes when it migrates from place to place. For example, I couldn’t find collard greens in Tasmania, because they don’t grow them, so I substituted Choy Sum leaves. Wherever I go, I love interviewing restaurant owners and chefs who are first generation immigrants, who find themselves adapting their foodways to meet what they find in the US – both in terms of available ingredients and the palates and proclivities of their customers. Part of my Humanities degree is history, and that part of my brain enjoys tracking down those foods that managed to immigrate here and persist, more or less in their original incarnations. If it ain’t broke.
I expect I’ll write about many facets of food and eating: crops, restaurants, cheesemakers and other food artisans, foodways, wineries and distilleries, naturalists, foraging, fishermen and climate change effects and adaptations thereto. But there will definitely be recipes and photos and videos. A possibly a poem or painting or two.
About my cooking and eating background:
I’m a refined home cook who’s thrown her fair share of swank dinner parties and now cook mostly for myself and those I meet on my travels with the same level of verve.
I started humbly, cooking for my family at a very early age. The six of us lived in the projects of Kansas City, and many of my first ingredients came to me in food pantry boxes and bags that were frequently collections of bizarre and cast-away foodstuffs. I would pull them all out and try to figure out how they made sense together: olives, pasta, ketchup, Spam. (It wasn’t that bad!)
In college, I spent a substantial fraction of my student loan money throwing exorbitant dinner parties themed around countries that I hoped to visit one day. I was fortunate enough to go on to visit many of those countries, first as a solo traveler and then as a faculty wife and now, again on my own, as a travel writer. I love to eat adventurously abroad, bring home flavor memories and then try to recreate them. Most of my meals these days are trending vegetarian, or pescatarian. Thanks for stopping by to check out my journey. And what’s on my plate!