In anticipation for the Asheville Wine & Food Festival we’ll be talking all things southern food today, and why not? It’s only an intricate part of our lives here in the south and since the arrival of spring the fields have come to life with sun-kissed produce for harvesting. The creak of screen doors have begun singing, honey suckle is running wild, the crickets are demanding your attention and the smell of smoked meat is in the air. Southern cuisine is the heartbeat of the southeast United States.
When I hear the word ‘food’ the first thing that comes to mind is ‘southern food’. Not simply because it’s mainly what I know but because it’s what I love. It is what I grew up eating around the dinner table and what I will die eating around the dinner table. Southern food is so rich in history and influenced by so many cultures that in #essence, southern food is ‘our’ food. We, a collection of people from different parts of the world all contributing little pieces to create a bigger picture.
Southern food is an experience all on its own; the simplicity of preparation in combination with love and attention to detail is what brings it to life. My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are my greatest southern #food influencers. The most prominent of these three being my great-grandmother, she lived for food and loved everything about it. Most of my childhood memories involve her in the kitchen telling me stories of when she was a child, and how they used everything they had available to make meals. She’d tell me that eating your vegetables wasn’t an option when she was growing up because the table would be filled with them and maybe some cornbread and meat if they were lucky. I remember how upset she would be when people did not finish their food.
I believe resourcefulness is at the heart of southern food. It’s the art of using what is available according to the season and making the best dish out of minimal ingredients. It’s the preservation of food to make it last through the cold season. It’s a celebration of hard work, the joy of new friendships and the exhibition of affection for mankind. There is an excerpt from John Egerton’s book Southern Food that sums it up perfectly…
“Within the South itself, no other form of cultural expression, not even music, is as distinctly characteristic of the region as the spreading of a feast of native food and drink before a gathering of kin and friends. For as long as there has been a South, and people who think of themselves as Southerners, food has been central to the region’s image, its personality, and its character.”
I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else but the south, except Europe…because pastries, but even the French have their influence in the south (hello Louisiana!). But there’s something about cities like Nashville, Asheville, Memphis and Atlanta that make you excited about southern eats, not to mention the hole in the walls along the way and those boiled peanut stands dotting the sides of country back roads.
The dining we experienced last spring in Asheville, NC is still clear on my palate as though it took place yesterday. The kale pekoras at Chai Pani, the fried green tomatoes and grits at The Early Girl Eatery and that gluten-free deconstructed s’mores dessert from Posana. And I won’t even get started on all that is French Broad Chocolates, that’s a whole blog post in itself if you’re familiar with my #chocolate addiction. I hope to see you at the Festival with me eating all the #southern goodness! You can find all the details here.