Southern Cuisine


Recipes Tell Tale

Recipes tell the tale of a culinary artist By Kelly Perigoe : The Herald-Sun chh@heraldsun.com Sep 27, 2004 : 7:07 pm ET CHAPEL HILL — Five years ago, Moreton Neal received a call from La Résidence owner Frances Gualtieri. Gualtieri was considering selling the restaurant, which she had bought from Neal in 1992, and wanted to know if there was anything the former owner had left behind that she would like to pick up. Neal thought of the recipes that she and her late ex-husband, Bill Neal, had compiled there when they founded the restaurant in 1975. "I decided I needed to rescue them just for my own purposes and for my children," Neal recalled. While Gualtieri and her husband did not end up selling, Neal said the recipes she retrieved "revived a bunch of old memories — and taste buds." They weren’t neatly written, and there were no exact measurements; the recipes required a lot of work. "As I fleshed out the recipes, a memory came to me about each one," she said. Moreton began compiling the recipes into what would become "Remembering Bill Neal: favorite recipes from a lifetime in cooking," a combination cookbook and memoir that commemorates Bill’s life in food. Moreton submitted some of her recipe-inspired writing to UNC Press Editor in Chief David Perry, who encouraged her to pursue the project. The book, whose official publication date is Monday, gives insight into Bill Neal’s life through recipes and memories, in the words of someone who knew him throughout the period of his greatest culinary achievements. The Neals met at Duke University in 1967 in French class, and soon discovered their shared interest in cooking. While both were raised in the South, Moreton said Bill and she grew up with two distinct kinds of Southern cooking….

The Gracious South

In the South food equals gracious hospitality By RONDA RICH It happened again. Dixie Dew, my dachshund who is a strong candidate for Weight Watchers, returned from a four-day stay at her grandmother’s with a belly so round and hard that it felt like she had swallowed a large rock. Despite my commands and pleas, Mama will not stop feeding her. But Mama is a true Southern woman, which means that anyone, including a dog, who enters her house will eat home-cooked food from the moment of arrival until departure. Then, the guest will take a sack full of food home. I’m not one to give up easily but this is a battle I’ve lost. I can’t fight a strong-willed Southern woman who refuses to renege on her upbringing of graciousness. In the South, food is the centerpiece of our hospitality. Even for dogs. Dixie Dew’s vet does not understand this and continues to insist that she lose weight. I explained that she adheres strictly to a proper diet and exercise when I’m home. The problem comes when I travel, which is quite a bit, and she is happily embedded in the non-stop feast of Mama’s abode. The vet listened and then kindly but sternly said, “Then, you need to get control of your mama about this.” That was the biggest piece of nonsense that ever came out of an educated man’s mouth. I leaned across the stainless steel table and replied, “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you get control of my mother on this? And when you do that, I’ve got a few more things I need you to get control of her on.” He backed down, displaying the wisdom that he had previously lacked. There’s always food at Mama’s house. High-calorie, artery-clogging, fat-adding food. The best kind…

Grits!!

True grits event tests uninitiated N.C. Museum of History serves up Southern culture and red-eye gravy recipe By SARAH AVERY, Staff Writer Published: Sep 27, 2004 As museum fare goes, eating grits wasn’t as exotic as taste-testing cockroaches or mealworms, but those who turned out Sunday for the N.C. Museum of History’s program on "Fixin’ Grits" learned some pretty wild stuff about the Southern delicacy. Grits are, for instance, eaten with peanut butter, on occasion. They have been made into frozen pops. They are an ingredient in something called awendaw. It’s a kind of corn mush pudding, for those not from around here. "Grits have become a kind of initiation ritual, perhaps, or a litmus test for cultural identity," said Mary Ellis Gibson, director of Women’s Studies at UNC-Greensboro and the presenter of the museum’s tribute to grits. About 75 people attended the history museum’s event, which also featured a 1978 movie titled "It’s Grits" and a grits tasting session afterward with samples prepared by chefs from Whole Foods. Gibson said the vaunted place that grits have in Southern cooking is actually the essence of American melting pot culture. The meal, she said, was a native American concoction. It’s made by soaking corn kernels in lye so that the casing burst as the kernels swell. The lye is rinsed out, and the corn is dried, then ground into tiny pellets. Native Americans probably served the mush to European settlers, who were soon sold on its versatility. Why grits became so peculiarly linked to the South, however, is not clear. But they’re clearly a distinction of Southern identity, Gibson said, fixed with gravy, dripping with butter, served with eggs. And as Southern cooking has become chic, so, too, have grits. Gibson said she has no fears that, as the South gains…

Cora’s Hospitality

Southern hospitality, traditional favorites and family recipes on the menu at Cora’s BY DAVID NICHOLSON February 11, 2005 Restaurants often tout their "home cooking" philosophy, but few can pull it off like Cora. The Ghent eatery run by Nancy Cobb is a culinary snapshot of her family and her love of Southern foods. Named for her great-grandmother, Cora combines family recipes, traditional favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken and comfort foods such as meatloaf and liver and onions. There’s a healthy dose of Cajun dishes and a surprising number of vegetarian and vegan selections. A new sidewalk dining area awaits the warmer months, but inside, the atmosphere is warm with conversation and good cheer. Young people crowd the long bar to the left, and though smoking is allowed in the bar area, the smell didn’t seem to bleed into the dining room. Dark walls and a black and white checked tile floor lend a classic touch. The eclectic menu offers plenty of dishes that are simple but out of the ordinary, such as Cobb’s version of chicken pot pie and fried chicken. There’s usually a gumbo or an etouffe among the specials, such as the shrimp and sausage gumbo on the menu the night we visited. Regulars go for Cobb’s crab cakes or oyster stew. Another favorite is Cora’s signature salad ($6), which we ordered as one of our appetizers. It’s made with a large wedge of iceberg lettuce and topped with bacon pieces and a generous amount of homemade bleu cheese dressing. The ingredients sound simple, and they are, but the combination of flavors never disappoints. Fried shrimp and okra ($8), our second appetizer, was less successful. The batter seemed a bit heavy to us so that the dish wasn’t as light and crisp as it needed to be….

Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts;  mushy, messy, a Southern tradition. By ALLISON BALLARD, The Associated Press WILMINGTON, N.C. — People unaccustomed to eating boiled peanuts have doubts about the practice. You try to eat one for the first time, digging your way past the soggy, brine-soaked hull, only to have the thing squirt you. And, on first taste, the soft, salty, beanlike prize doesn’t seem worth the effort. Cece Hudson of Turkey described the appeal of the regional delicacy best. "Why do we shuck oysters? Why do we pick crab legs?" she said. "It’s like eating watermelon. There aren’t too many things you can eat and take a bath in at the same time." You don’t eat these foods with a knife and fork, but with your fingers, juices running down your arms. They’re best enjoyed unadorned, the focus of the simplest meals and at lazy social gatherings. Boiled peanuts are Southern, but not regionally ubiquitous. Because they’re made from green peanuts, which are freshly dug, they’re mostly found in big peanut-producing states such as South Carolina and Georgia. That also includes North Carolina; farmers might grow more soybeans (1.45 million acres of them), corn and cotton, but the 105,000 acres of peanuts planted here is only 54,000 less than the acres allotted to tobacco. I grew up in the heart of Virginia peanut country – there’s a whole class of peanuts named after the state – but I had never experienced boiled peanuts until I moved to Wilmington. Even then, I wasn’t a fan. Luckily, I’m not quick to judge and happily agreed to go in search of boiled peanuts last week, a journey that led me from Wilmington to Dublin, Bladenboro, Scotts Hill and Turkey. Hudson’s Sampson County home was one of my last stops. Each year, she and her husband…

Southern Cookin’

Cooking with a Southern drawl JW’s Southern Fixins puts just the right accent on lunch, but breakfast is another matter. By Scott Joseph | Sentinel Restaurant Critic Posted February 18, 2005 Central Florida has a dearth of Southern restaurants. That’s a detail that will seem odd to you only when you discover, as I did recently, that Florida is in the South. I always figured that since the state sort of dangled off the end of the United States, it was a separate region unto itself. That might explain why Florida has no real cuisine to call its own. Some folks claim that Cracker cooking is Florida’s own, and for the longest time I thought that meant making food using the recipes on the side of a box of Ritz Crackers. You can’t build a cuisine around mock apple pie. But you’d think that Southern-style cooking would be more prevalent if for no reason other than gravity — Southern food should trickle farther south. Well, Orlando has another Southern eatery, albeit one with limited offerings, but what JW’s Southern Fixins lacks in volume it more than makes up for in excellence. JW’s ribs, for instance. Although this isn’t a barbecue joint per se, it’s ribs are better than just about anyone else’s in town. The rib dinner I sampled included four big meaty bones with just the right amount of fattiness. The chewiness had been slow-smoked out of the ribs, leaving tender meat that needed only the slightest bit of coaxing to leave the bone. Sauce, which is served on the side, is milder than some people might like, but I was pleased that the "hot" sauce wasn’t so fiery that it overwhelmed the smoky characteristic of the meat. JW’s also does a fine meatloaf, a dense slice of meat…

Authentic Southern

Preaching the gospel of authentic Southern Cuisine Published Wed, Sep 15, 2004 ADVERTISEMENT ERVENA FAULKNER He’s "the man behind the kitchen door" when the atmosphere is comfortable in a Georgia homestyle kitchen. It is here where the secrets of authentic Lowcountry cooking! "The man behind the door" can teach in just three hours how to recreate the magic of Savannah in your own kitchen. "The man behind the kitchen door" is Chef Joe Randall, a 42-year veteran of the hospitality and food service industry. The depth and range of his experience and his dedication, have earned him the respect of professional chefs as well as restaurant managers and owners. He is noted for his capacity to teach, guide and advise others in the practical aspects of food quality and profitable food-service operations. Randall has worked his way up through the ranks from Air Force flight line kitchens to executive chef post at a dozen restaurants, including the award-winning Cloister Restaurant in Buffalo, N.Y., and Baltimore’s Fishmarket in Maryland. The magic of Savannah and the city’s love for good Southern cooking lured Randall to Georgia. Prior to his cooking school, he was director of food services at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Chef Joe Randall’s cooking school is a facility where he can use the food of the South, the Lowcountry and Georgia’s Atlantic Coast as a vehicle to dispel the myths and misconceptions many visitors and locals alike hold about Savannah. In short, he wanted to be able to bring the great treasures of this coastal region as close to people’s homes as their own kitchens. With a style all his own, Randall preaches the gospel of authentic, Southern cuisine to all comers. He shares his heritage and Southern culture with visitors from all over the world. Randall…

Taste of the South

Hoffman Launches Taste of the South Magazine BIRMINGHAM, Ala.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–There’s more to Southern cooking than fried chicken and gravy-laden mashed potatoes. That’s the philosophy behind Hoffman Media’s October launch of Taste of the South, a magazine dedicated to providing quick, easy-to-prepare recipes for flavorful, Southern-style dishes. "Perhaps no other area of the U.S. has a cuisine as rich in tradition as the South," said president and publisher Phyllis Hoffman. "There’s just something about coming together over food that brings us closer to the people we care about. Friendships are formed and families grow closer, whether it’s a simple meal for two or a large family get-together. "Readers of our Southern Lady and TeaTime magazines are familiar with the quality of our publications; they will find the same attention to detail and beautiful photography as Taste of the South presents the best of more conventional Southern fare, along with new twists on old favorites for cooks in and out of our region." Lorna Reeves, the magazine’s editor, notes that the magazine is targeted toward cooks who aren’t looking for a haute cuisine experience with every meal. "The emphasis will be on simple and delicious. The ingredients are simple – probably what the cook already has in his or her pantry – and the dishes will be easy and quick to prepare." Taste of the South, which will be available from bookstore and supermarket retailers beginning mid October of this year, will be a quarterly publication. Each issue of the 68- to 100-page, four-color magazine will feature a minimum of 50 recipes for favorite traditional and not-so-traditional Southern dishes. Accompanying the recipes will be how-to features, such as articles that instruct readers on how to select the region’s wonderful in-season produce; profiles of the South’s most notable chefs, as well as their…

Grampa’s Cats

Catfish, mmm…mmmm…GOOD! We’ll share this: Its new location in Southwest Little Rock reels them in. Arkansas Times Staff Updated: 12/9/2004 Ah, the catfish fillet. Food of the Gods, and yet, something of a stumbling block for reviewers like Yours Truly. See, unlike pizza, or cheese dip, or even a porterhouse steak — all of which can come at the taste buds in a hundred different ways if purchased from a hundred different places — the catfish fillet is almost impossible to screw up. The Lord saw that it was good, and then He rested. Case closed. This is exactly what makes ranking one catfish joint over another so hard: Unless it was fried in motor oil, or tastes like mud, or comes with a ball of hair in the center like the filling in a Twinkie, there isn’t much that can go wrong with the bottom dwelling King of Rivers once he meets his maker, a knife, and hot grease, in that order. Given all that, while Grampa’s Catfish is our fourth or fifth catfish joint to review since we’ve been here, it feels like our hundredth. Deep-fried catfish is the manna of these hills, and you really can’t escape it. Who would want to? But there’s a big difference between happily stuffing your gob with catfish and finding new things to say about it. After awhile, it makes you understand what they say about the loneliness of the long-distance runner. Still, there has to be something new to say about Grampa’s Catfish. People seem to think so, anyway. Central Arkansas’s oldest catfish restaurant — their eatery at 1218 Mission Road in North Little Rock has been in constant operation since 1970 — Grampa’s recently opened a shiny new outlet in Southwest Little Rock, near the intersection of Stagecoach and…

Table Place

There’s a place at the table for all Nashvillians as Swett’s turns 50 Sunday, 09/12/04 | Middle Tennessee News & Information I often tell people it’s the most integrated place in Nashville at lunch time. It wasn’t that way when it opened in 1954. And the reason wasn’t that it was intentionally closed to certain people, but 50 years ago, Nashville was a segregated city, and blacks and whites kept to themselves for the most part. Unfortunately, some people here still do that today, but take a trip over to Swett’s Restaurant at 28th Avenue North and Clifton at lunch time, and you’ll more than likely see all types of people breaking bread together. ”We’ve been able to draw people from different races and backgrounds, and it’s been good for the business,” David Swett Sr., the owner of the north Nashville establishment, told me Thursday as we spent some time talking about his restaurant, which officially turned 50 yesterday. ”We serve home-cooked meals, soul food, Southern cuisine,” Swett added. ”It’s vegetables and meats. People in the South love their fried chicken, turnip greens, candied yams. They like it regardless of their ethnic background. ”We’ve tried to put a place together that’s not a greasy spoon but more of a modern restaurant so that anybody who walks in here will feel comfortable. And we’ve wanted to be consistent in our service. We try not to deal with a person just because they may happen to be black or white but on a customer-by-customer basis. We try to give you a product that you enjoy.” If you’ve been in and around Nashville as long as I have — pretty much since 1965 — you can sit in Swett’s today and recall some of the days when Walter and Susie Swett, David’s late…

Pirates Cove

Hungry in Colquitt? Drop anchor at Pirates Cove Colquitt– And just like all the other towns we’ve visited, Colquitt has some great places to eat. A local favorite, though, stands out. It’s Helen’s Pirates Cove. Hundreds of customers walk the plank, or well the bridge, into the Pirates’ Cove. They’re here for the down home food Helen Griffin serves up three times a day. One customer called it "The best fried chicken in South Georgia." Fried chicken and all kinds of Southern food that makes your mouth water. "That is Louise," said Helen. "I have two head cooks back there, she’s one of them and her half sister is the other one." With 35 years experience, Helen Griffin knows how to please customers. "Good cooks, good service and we try to keep it clean. I think all of us strive for the same thing." The same thing that keeps people coming back. "Everybody loves our chicken. Everybody." The good news is, she serves it, "Everyday. Snap beans is everyday. Corn is everyday." Everyday, which is how often many of these customers eat here. "We’re regular. We eat here everyday. Best food in the county." "Everyday I sit at this table everyday, and if somebody gets my chair, I pout." But the food’s nothing to pout about. "I like the pork chops the best. Yeah." "Fat back. Strip-o-lean fatback." "Everybody loves the cornbread. ‘Lil hoecakes and Lil flapjacks, southern cooking." And if you don’t believe the customers, just ask the cooks. "When you come to Pirate’s Cove, you get good Southern homemade cooking with the best Southern Hospitality to go along with it." "Best chicken in town," said cook Vera Mae Bradley. "The Pirate’s Cove is a great restaurant." Yes, it is a great restaurant. If you visit Colquitt, the Pirates’…

Wherefore Cornbread

by Ric Bohy 11/24/2004 You can get into dangerous territory when the subject is cornbread. It is, of course, a staple Southern dish. And if you’ve ever discussed Southern cooking with those who know something about it, you’re definitely getting into holy territory when this phrase comes up in the conversation: No self-respecting Southern cook would … The rest of the sentence varies. Would use such and such. Would do so and so. But you’ll also quickly notice that self-respecting Southern cooks use and do a variety of things that conflict with the orthodoxy of other Southern cooks. This goes for fried chicken, biscuits, gumbo, grits, greens, pork or beef barbecue, hush puppies, sausage gravy, and on and on, and man am I making myself hungry. For one thing, it’s corn. We all love corn, even those who don’t think so, because it’s one of the most pervasive food items in this country. A real eye-opener on the subject can be found in Margaret Visser’s excellent Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos, of an Ordinary Meal. She goes into fascinating detail on just where corn and corn products show up as integral ingredients, from pop and ketchup to insecticides and packaging. One of the oldest products is cornmeal, a true kitchen staple, whether your family favors pone or polenta. There are numerous variations of grinds or finenesses, colors (yellow, white, blue and a few more obscure hues), plain or self-rising, “gourmet” and mass-market Quaker and other brands. One of the first points of debate on Southern cornbread is whether to use yellow or white meal. While the former seems to predominate (this is based only on my own anecdotal evidence), what the choice usually comes down to is which one your…

Southern Restaurant/Food

Nothing beats the South when it comes to fine food and great restaurants. G’s Country Kitchen: Fine Home Cooking Collard greens, black-eyed peas and fried green tomatoes reach deep into the soul of Southern cooking. Put them alongside fried chicken or battered catfish, and the meal is complete. The Faulkner Of Food Drawing on his own Dixie roots, appetite for down-home cooking and proper education, John Edge commodified the idea that to understand the South is to understand its food, all that stuff cooked up in backyards, juke joints and Mama’s kitchen. A Whistle Away If the term "meat and three" originated in the South, there’s a good chance it might have started at the Irondale Cafe, a no-frills restaurant that’s been serving up Southern cooking and hospitality of one sort or another for more than 75 years. Forget The Super Bowl – Go To Jacksonville For The Fried Chicken Patriots and Eagles supporters may come and go, but fried chicken will always have diehard fans. Southern Hospitality, Traditional Favorites, And Family Recipes On The Menu At Cora’s Restaurants often tout their "home cooking" philosophy, but few can pull it off like Cora. The Ghent eatery run by Nancy Cobb is a culinary snapshot of her family and her love of Southern foods. Cooking With A Southern Drawl JW’s Southern Fixins puts just the right accent on lunch, but breakfast is another matter. Grampa’s Catfish Rules The catfish fillet is almost impossible to screw up. The Lord saw that it was good, and then He rested. Case closed Southern Fried Chicken To A Tea The author of the book, Fried Chicken: An American Story, about iconic American foods, says if you want to know a culture examine its dinner plates. Pie In The Sky The Moon Pie is a double-decker,…

Three’s A Charm

Five meat-n-threes to feed your Southern soul BY BILL ADDISON Whenever I want to remind my stomach that Atlanta is indeed in the heart of the South, I head for one of the city’s venerated meat-n-threes. Just the designation "meat-n-three" immediately evokes a sequence of images: a modest storefront, the interior of which suggests mid-20th-century America. A steam table full of straightforward yet slyly distinctive Southern dishes. A wait in line, with trays like children in the school cafeteria. Fried chicken, meatloaf, long-cooked vegetables, bread for sopping up nutritious juices, banana pudding or red velvet cake for dessert. Hungry folks whose appetites are being sated in more than just the physical sense. Meat-n-three can also be something of a misnomer. Most places these days actually offer a meat-based entree with two vegetable sides — with cornbread or roll and perhaps a drink thrown in — as their standard plates. But meat-‘n’-three has a better ring to it, so it’s the nickname that’s stuck. Also, the line between meat-n-three and "soul food restaurant" blurs easily. In my mind they’re nearly synonymous, regardless of whether the place is black-owned or white-owned. I find as much inherent soulfulness in Sharon Carver’s mac-n-cheese as I do in the fried chicken at Son’s Place. That’s the quiet glory of the genre: The food at these welcoming lunchtime spots unites without conflict. I’m always reassured by the consistent and easygoing racial diversity of the customers at meat-n-threes. And it’s no big deal, really. We’re all just here for a quick, comforting meal of well-known favorites. To clarify my own definition of meat-n-three, I’ve kept this selection to those places that serve cafeteria-style from steam tables. By no means should you consider this a definitive roundup: These are my five favorites. I’d be curious to hear what…

Love for Southern

Southern food is worshipped and wolfed down By Sarah Fritschner The Courier-Journal Fri, Oct 15, 2004 Stuffed. Like so many deviled eggs, the participants of the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium last week in Oxford, Miss., partook of lectures and song, but mostly partook of Southern cuisine. More than 250 Southern food enthusiasts met and ate the food of their dreams. Particularly when we sat down to pork shoulder, collards, spoonbread and caramel cake served by Ann Cashion of Cashion’s Eat Place in Washington, D.C. Or to biscuits, bacon, garlic grits and grillades served by Oxford’s own City Grocery. Or the catfish and pimento cheese hushpuppies at Taylor Grocery outside Oxford. But there are those "wish you were here" moments, and tastes can’t be delivered by the post office. Luckily, there are icons of the Southern table that I can share. Recipes make it possible. The alliance solicited recipes for and stories about deviled eggs. " … All Southern women should be given a deviled egg plate at birth," wrote one of contestants. Deviled eggs tend to disappear fast, and the plate sits empty most of the meal. The plate should be attractive and have little indentations to hold each egg half steady. Out of all the recipes, five made it to the finals (those and many others are at www.southernfoodways.com — Rick Ellis was the winner). This much we can tell you ahead: anchovies and olives do not belong in deviled eggs. The winning egg was basic — a little mustardy and buttery, but basic. Later, there was the fried chicken extravaganza. Under a large tent, near which five stellar chicken fryers plied their trade, scores of sides were offered, including macaroni and cheese, green beans, corn muffins and lemon pie. Many worthy chefs put forth their particular take on…

Rosin Baked Taters

Pie in the Sky Having spent a good part of my life moving around the U.S. as an Air Force dependent, a sailor, and a nuclear professional, I have had many opportunities to learn about the regional foods in the areas where I have lived. Louisiana, by far, has the greatest variety of food, although many Cajun dishes start out looking like something that is not the least bit edible. Over the years, Cajuns have developed the knack of making excellent meals out of nasty looking things that inhabit the swamps and bayous. Take crawfish, for example. They don’t look appetizing dead or alive. However, after six years of eating New Orleans cuisine, the dishes do grow on you – figuratively, not literally – and everything else tastes somewhat bland. At Nickajack Lake, down the Tennessee River from Chattanooga, I ate what had to be the biggest and best-tasting BBQ’d pork sandwich in the world. Admittedly, my appetite was whetted by the scent of hickory smoke wafting through the park as the meat simmered throughout the morning. You just can’t beat a 16-oz portion of pulled pork covered with spicy homemade BBQ sauce and served on a huge sesame seed bun to relieve that gnawing hunger in your tummy. The Great State of Texas is where I acquired a fondness for chili. Texas chili is made without beans and the spicier the better. One of my coworkers was a regular competitor at the annual East Texas Chili Cook Off. His secret recipe was as closely guarded as the formula for Coca-Cola. However, I learned that the real reason Texans make their chili so hot is to provide a legitimate excuse for drinking copious quantities of Lone Star beer. Texans make a good dish of barbecued ribs too, and, in the…

A Song For You

Posted on Sun, Oct. 10, 2004 "She has a great smile, and you can tell she’s singing from the heart " BY ALLISON KENNEDY Staff Writer Chef is known for culinary skills, beautiful gospel voice and special relationship with her customers It all started with a song. Last summer, Columbus resident Mary Dana Knight went to lunch at Cafe 222 on Seventh Street. Dining with a friend who was celebrating her birthday, Knight requested that the cook sing for her friend. Annette Jones obliged and brought down the house with her own rendition of "Happy Birthday." And she’s been singing for customers ever since. Now the main chef at the restaurant, Jones is neither a stranger to cooking nor to singing. Her earliest memories of singing: Around age six, standing atop an old wooden soft drink crate to reach a microphone at church. And of cooking: Watching her great-grandmother and grandmother make concoctions come to life in their country kitchens. "I don’t measure anything. I know when it’s enough. They didn’t measure anything either. They just knew," said Jones. "I can look at it and tell. I don’t have to taste it." Jones has worked at the downtown restaurant since December. The cafe is owned and operated by downtown residents Garry and Mamie Pound, who also own and operate the Rothschild-Pound House Inn. Every day brings a new special at the Southern-fare restaurant, and the same could be said of Jones’ musical choices. She doesn’t always come out of the kitchen and sing for customers, but when she does, the homey dining room fills up with her booming voice, her range not limited to alto or soprano. Conversations cease. Patrons sometimes wipe away tears. There’s always applause, and sometimes a tip for the singer. A recent weekday found Columbus resident…

Tea Fried Chicken

Southern fried chicken to a tea Two Dixie staples meld for sweet feast John T. Edge is a rising star in the food world. And he’s going to offer us a personal lesson on the right way to fry chicken. Today’s recipe is sweet tea fried chicken, his "house" chicken, the chicken he fries for family and friends in Oxford, Miss. The recipe is from his latest book, Fried Chicken: An American Story, the first in a series about iconic American foods. If you want to know a culture, he says, examine its dinner plates. In doing his research for Fried Chicken, he writes, "I gleaned a defining paradox: Fried chicken is at once a totem of tradition and a lowest-common-denominator lunch." John T. is quick to point out that sweet tea fried chicken is not his recipe. It was created by John Fleer, chef at the Inn of Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn. This dish takes two Southern hallmarks and combines them in a delicious and unexpected way. It is the zenith of Southern or maybe American fried chicken. Each piece is dipped in three mixtures — dry, wet, then dry again to create a thick, crunchy, salty crust melded onto tender and succulent meat. It seems almost impossible that one dish could completely embrace two such opposites and do it so well. But John T., as he is known, says it’s better after hours in the refrigerator, when the crust softens. Aside from his scholarly pursuits of fried chicken, he’s got grease in his blood. A native Southerner, he holds a master’s degree in Southern studies from the University of Mississippi and is director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss in Oxford. He has captained the success…

Food Loyalty

Southerners loyal to their fried cooking By ASSOCIATED PRESS Oct. 5, 2004 5:11 p.m. CONWAY, Ark. – The most popular dish at Mama Dip’s Kitchen in Chapel Hill is the Southern fried chicken. At Dixie Restaurants in Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma, the most popular main course rotates between chicken-fried steak and hand-battered chicken tenders. So, if it’s Southern, it must be fried, right? Not exactly, says restaurant owner and cookbook author Mama Dip, whose real name is Mildred Edna Cotton Council. She points out that Southern food is about vegetables, too, including the greens, sweet potatoes and beans that aren’t usually fried. Still, at her restaurant and many other Southern eateries, the menus are much more likely to feature the likes of fried okra and fried catfish than steamed asparagus and grilled salmon. Indeed, Council says the fried chicken, battered in nothing more than flour, salt and pepper and cooked in shortening, is what draws many people to her restaurant, known for its Southern country cooking. The secret to good fried chicken, the 75-year-old Council believes, is simple: freshness and no extra spices to hide the poultry’s taste. "We don’t freeze our chicken. It never gets a chance to get old," says Council, interviewed by telephone recently. "You can’t fry a chicken that someone killed in Georgia and then bring it to North Carolina and then let it sit in your refrigerator three or four days." At Dixie Cafe in Conway in central Arkansas, diners enjoy a veritable smorgasbord of battered fried foods, from corn- on-the-cob to dill pickles, from chicken tenders to mushrooms and mozzarella sticks. Rick Browne, author of "The Frequent Fryers Cookbook" (ReganBooks, 2003, $19.95), recalls laughing at the thought of fried pickles – "frickles," he calls them – "until I tried them." "I put them in…

A whistle away

Irondale’s famous cafe makes you feel you’ve come home If the term "meat and three" originated in the South, there’s a good chance it might have started at the Irondale Cafe, a no-frills restaurant that’s been serving up Southern cooking and hospitality of one sort or another for more than 75 years. Even more remarkable is that there have been only five owners in these many years, and at least one person in the kitchen has been on staff for more than two decades. Add fame to the obvious longevity, as this eatery was the inspiration for the Whistle Stop Cafe and fried green tomatoes made famous by Birmingham’s own Fannie Flagg. During a 40-year span of this establishment’s history, it was owned and operated by Fannie’s aunt, Miss Bess Fortenberry. At an evening visit, we played host for family members visiting from California and Tennessee. We arrived late as we were delayed by a train, giving credibility to the name "Whistle Stop Cafe." Admittedly, the Nashvillian in the group was not overly surprised, but the delegation from the West Coast was a bit awed by the homey simplicity of our destination. Aside from framed memorabilia honoring Flagg’s book and movie, the most colorful things in the restaurant were the food and our party of six. The drill is simple and well known to us central Alabamians. Move through the cafeteria-style line and choose from eight to 10 entrees, depending what day it is and what the special of the day might be. Make other choices from some 12 to 14 vegetables. The prices are reasonable, $4.99 for a three-vegetable plate, $6.39 for a meat and two vegetables. A meat and three is $7.49. At lunch, the plates are 50 cents less. Our visitors showed little imagination in the ordering…