Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

New Zealand Memories

Egg, tomato and toast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Recently, for lunch, I made myself a meal that I hadn’t had since the winter of 2007, when I went WWOOFing through New Zealand. WWOOF, which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is an ingenious program which allows volunteers to work on farms in exchange for food and lodging. I had just finished my semester studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia and since New Zealand was so close, decided to drag two of my newfound friends, Emma and Dan, with me to see the country. Since we were broke, we hit on WWOOFing as a brilliant travel method.Our first farm was a fledgling vineyard outside of Nelson. Alex and Gareth had started the vineyard only a few years before and were raising a young crop of grapes along with fruits and vegetables. Their house, a simple, elegant building entirely made from wood, overlooked the sloping vineyard that ran into soft green hills, dark forests, and in the distance, snow-capped peaks.

Our work in the vineyard was relatively simple, but crucial, especially as the vineyard itself was only five years old, and many of the vines were in their formative growing years. Each row of vines consisted of equidistant wooden poles strung with three horizontal wires on each side. Approximately five stalks were planted between the poles and attached with string to the lowest of the wires. This wire was fixed and provided support for the growing vines. Hypothetically, as the vines grew, they would stay within the two additional wires, growing up of their own accord.Realistically, vines are wayward things that like growing any direction except up, and preferably grow down. Our job was to pick vines up from the ground and make sure each stalk was contained within the wires. One of us would unhook the wire from its post, stretch it out, pull it towards the ground and sweep it up to catch all the straggling vines. » Continue reading this post…

Excavating Green Gold (a post by Josh)

Here, as promised yesterday, is a listing of my top ten. Top ten loves in the oil category. Mainly: olive oil and truffle oil. There’s much to say and even more memories, but here is a smattering of oil loves.

Olive Oil
I have get down to the basics before I go and start telling you about the slight variances that I have fallen in love with. So, here it is to me: olive oil. This stuff (as one sign in Florence, Italy once read) is Green Gold. Wait, green? Yup, most of the good olive oils in Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and New Zealand all have a slight green tint to the oil. This generally means you should get ready for a slight bite. It’s not just food lubrication as most Americans see olive oil, but it’s a flavor unto itself. Wait, let me back up. Olive oil is one of my most favorit-est things because it is universal in the cooking world.

(Notice, I did not say baking. Almost never use olive oil in your baking dishes; it will give that desired sweet a strange savory flavor. Especially if the dish calls for a pinch of salt, which most baked goods do).

It is called green gold because one: it is green, and two: because it flavors most dishes in the Mediterranean repertoire. It’s silky, heavy, robust and compliments garlic, salt, pepper and just about any other savory spice you throw at it. Too much, and your food is greasy, too little and the garlic is burning in a dry pan. Olive oil is something I thought I knew before traveling outside of the US, and something I fell in love with when I got outside of the US borders. Here are a few of my favorite oils I’ve met, taken out for dinner and back to my place for later. » Continue reading this post…

Mountains in New Orleans (a post by Josh)

While re-reading some of the archived entries, I remembered that Lyz had written about beignets a while back. Her first post, in fact. If I may quote, “Almost every culture has the compulsion to throw a wad of dough into a hot pile of oil, fry it, cover or fill it with something delicious, and eat it.” I would subscribe to this statement; I mean with all the thoughts of physical health aside, doughnuts are delicious. Especially hot. You know every time you pass a Krispy Kreme Doughnut factory and that “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign is on, you think about stopping. You may not stop, but you think about it real quick-like. Who doesn’t?

Who doesn’t want to gorge on soft, warm, sugary bread that collapses upon fist bite. And if you coat it in a glaze or powdered sugar? You can’t stop yourself. If you are reading this and saying to yourself “No, of course not, I don’t like sweets all that much,” you’re lying to yourself. I know it, I just know it.

But this is much more than Krispy Kremes. This is ever more than the beignets that Lyz and her friends made in that dorm-room kitchen (sorry blog partner). What I’m talking about are the real beignets. The ones that Lyz talked about in her post too: “Beignets, however, evolved outside of France, most notably in New Orleans, where the pastry was brought to the area in the 18th Century, most likely by the Ursuline Nuns.”

That’s right, my travels have finally brought me to New Orleans (“Nawlins,” “New Or-Lee-ns,” or “New Orlins,” whichever you prefer). I’ve tried the gumbo (file style, of course) and the po’boys and the crawfish and the spices and the bread pudding. I mean there are a thousand different varieties of all of these, but I’ve had at least one of those dishes (maybe a po’boy every lunch? » Continue reading this post…

Define Seasoning (a post by Josh)

Southern spread (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I don’t know about you, but the most vivid memories I have of my grandparents revolve around the dinner table (dinner, supper, lunch, whatever you want to call it). Usually there would be a giant wooden table joined by eight or ten or twenty chairs, plates, and sets of silverware. I would show up and talk with my family for a bit, then we would extend our visit over the table, passing food dishes as we passed our life updates. There was never too little food, no matter what my grandparent’s economic situation may have been. Come to think about it, I never thought about it because there was always so much food. A turkey, mashed potatoes, beans, beets, green beans, onions, biscuits, corn, sweet potatoes, you try and name it, and I’m sure I’ve seen it on the table at some point.

The meal would progress, and we would slow our talking and our movements and the dishes would sit in the same place for extended periods of time. The sun would set and we would speak of dessert. People’s responses were usually “Oh how could I?” which could be either taken as “Oh how could I eat any more?” or Oh how could I not?”

My grandma usually tended towards the latter and would serve up a heaping piece of pumpkin pie or chocolate pie topped high with baked, homemade meringue. We would get up, stretch, feel the bulk of our plates in our stomachs and re-situate on the couches and continue talking. Really, our meals were part II of our visit.

Why do I talk about this? Well, I’ve been dining like that a lot recently, but in restaurants. There is this beautiful thing in the South, where people like holding on to traditions like boarding houses or eating in big groups or enjoying conversation over a meal. » Continue reading this post…

He’s on the Move (a post by Josh)

Fried chicken dinner (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated my travels, my eats, and frankly, my stomach’s adjustment to Southern Foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been living in the South for about three years now, but I don’t always choose to indulge in collards with fat back as my staple lunch item. But now – this summer – I’ve got to go big then go home and take a nap to “work off” that fried goodness. O! that fried goodness!

Well since I’ve last updated (on my travels, not my shameful meal), I’ve been to Sapelo Island, Charleston, a few surrounding areas (James Island, Mt. Pleasant), Beaufort, Athens, Atlanta, Watkinsville, and Birmingham. That’s where I sit right now, sipping a well roasted, full bodied black coffee – iced (to cut the 99 degree heat and 110 percent humidity).

With a list like that, I’ve had my share of experiences in different parts of the country. A few come to mind immediately. Like the time in Beaufort, SC where a man walked away from me after this conversation: “Where ya from” – “Well I was born in Virginia, lived in New York -” “Goodbye.” I kid you not. He didn’t even hear that I live in North Carolina now (clearly below that Mason-Dixon line).

But more than anything, my food experiences have been out of this world. And with that, I bring you two excerpts from my 26 days of travel (so far): one international delight and one stomach stuffing, sweet-tooth filling meal with eight perfect strangers.

***

At first I was a little hesitant to go to Atlanta. I mean, let’s face it – Atlanta is so internationally citified that traditional culture is hard to come by. Yes, you have the history of the Tea Rooms and the three P’s of Georgia (Pecans, Peaches and Peanuts). » Continue reading this post…

Here’s to You, Ms. Sallie Ann Robinson (a post by Josh): Pecan Crunch Cookies

Scenery in Savannah (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

By no means am I trying to beat a dead horse, but Savannah is a beautiful city that needs just a little more attention. So don’t stop if you’ve heard this before, its worth a second telling. I know I’ve spoken about how Savannah is my second home before, but this time around, I was able to appreciate Savannah in a whole new light. I think it was the fact that by the end of my week there, I could get around town without directions, go to a coffee shop that I grew attached to, or just mellow out in a square downtown.

But I was also doing research; let’s not forget that part of the summer deal. Lyz described some of the meals, talking about the flakey biscuits and the crunchy fried chicken, Sallie Ann Robinson’s food and life advice, and homemade breakfasts at a slower pace. I also took off some days, separate from the group, to check out some amazing places around Savannah.

First, we have Sallie Ann Robinson. Lyz talked about her briefly in her last post, but let me try to parse out a few more details. Sallie Ann was born and raised on Daufuskie Island – a barrier island just north of Savannah. She left Daufuskie back in 1988, just “to get off the island.” It wasn’t the right place for her. What she brought with her, though, were some warm memories of her childhood, some excellent life advice and a whole lot of passion for food.

Lyz and I met with Sallie on a Friday morning, just two hours after her twelve hour shift let out. Sallie greeted us at the door and welcomed us into her home saying “Now, I was told not to feed y’all, because if I did – y’all would never leave!” And I use the exclamation point judiciously. » Continue reading this post…

Savannahrama

Boats on Tybee (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s not that I’m following Josh around the South, but after an uneventful, rainy graduation, I drove down to Savannah to spend a week with some friends (Josh included) on the sunny coast. Though uncharacteristically rainy (a graduation curse?), Savannah remains one of my favorite cities to visit.

I love the hospitality of the South, and the role food plays in welcoming people. Everywhere I went, it was, Hi, nice to see you again or Hi, nice to meet you, can I get you something to eat? Fresh fruit, white wine, pecan shortbread cookies first – and if a meal followed, it was always more than we could possibly eat.

I was there for the meal Josh described at the end of his post. Simultaneously crunchy and moist fried chicken, tangy okra stewed with tomatoes and corn over rice, firm yet buttery field peas, all finished off with a butter-flecked biscuit so light that wildflower honey just disappeared inside it. I may not be doing any research, but it seemed to me that despite the peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert, the most Southern part of the meal was the gossip bantered over the lunch table.

Apparently, so and so, who’s very wealthy and over such and such an age, is being courted by so and so who just met her two weeks ago, and so and so’s children are having so and so sign some papers. And so and so, who owns such and such, just sold this and that to what’s his name. Bless his heart.

Grill at the end of the world (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Savannah is definitely a foodie city, but it is a strange one. You can find everything from infused balsamics and olive oils from Italy to mass marketed celebrities like Paula Deen and the Girl Scouts (think cookies). And everyone has an opinion on what’s real Southern cooking. » Continue reading this post…

If On a Summer’s Day, I’ll be Traveling (a post by Josh)

This summer I take off. I take off from school by not studying until I can’t read anymore.

But I don’t take off from researching. I am taking off to drive, run, and bike around most of the Southern States to look deeper into how food can shape, affect, or even define a culture. I believe that the foods we eat really do shape how we interact with our surroundings more than we think they do. So I’ll be checking out three different regions in the south: Low-Country (Georgia and South Carolina), the Bayou (Coastal Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana), and inland a bit with Southern Appalachia (Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia).

How, per se, am I going to do this? Well, that’s part of the beauty of it all – I’m going to eat and talk with as many people who want to eat and talk about the South. I am going to set up meetings with people, and also just going to restaurants and talking with whoever will talk.

Right now, I’m sitting in Savannah thinking about a few people that I’ve spoken with (declaring their way is the Southern way) and thinking about what I soon will see, taste and hear. Over the next few days I plan on going to a Restaurant here in town called Mrs. Wilke’s Boarding House, maybe catching up with a Savannah Born Native or two and then off to Sapelo Island.

But so far, it has been great. Only a week in, and I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned that most of the foods that are considered “Southern” were never a part of many people’s lives two generations ago. I also learned that most of the food in the South was brought from African or Spanish or Native American traditions. I’ve learned that the biggest meal was generally eaten in the middle of the day. » Continue reading this post…

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