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…

What Do You Mean, Raw Drink?

Kombucha (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The first time I opened a bottle of Kombucha, I wondered who was dyeing Easter eggs. Then I took a sip of Kombucha and wondered why I was drinking vinegar. But, because I had paid around $4 for that bottle, I kept drinking, and by my last sip of Kombucha, I kind of liked it.

Kombucha is a super drink first made in Qin Dynasty China, where it was called the “Immortal Health Elixir”and thought to balance middle Qi (spleen and stomach).  According to the label on my bottle of Kombucha, it aids digestion, metabolism, immune system and liver function, appetite and weight control, body alkalinity, anti-aging, cell integrity, and healthy skin and hair.  Of course, none of that has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Part of the reason I keep coming back to Kombucha must be for its health benefits, because no matter how many times I buy one, the first sip is always a shocker. When it first hits your tongue, it’s sweet and intensely fizzy, but almost instantly becomes sour as it slides past the sides of your mouth.

I recently learned that you can grow your own Kombucha – and I do mean “grow,” because Kombucha is tea fermented by a bacteria colony. Alive like yogurt. To grow your own Kombucha, you brew a weak-ish batch of black tea sweetened with sugar, cool it to room temperature, and then float the Kombucha colony in it. The Kombucha colony, by the way, is called a mushroom and looks like a disk of blubber. In about ten days, you have your Kombucha brew, which you can strain and refrigerate. Your Kombucha colony can be dropped in a new batch of tea and might even start growing baby Kombuchas, which you can give to your friends so they can start their own Kombucha colonies.

» 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.

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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…

Shame. Boat-Loads of Shame. (a post by Josh)

We talk on this blog a lot about what and how we cook – be that a cake, egg-in-a-basket, or throwing something down on the grill. Usually, we tell you about the good times and about how amazing and mouth watering food can be.

But get this: I mess up. A lot, actually. The best way to learn, they say (that ever present “they”) is to mess up. But the thing is – you have to learn from that mistake. Cliché? Yup. More than anything, it’s a big cliché that has a lot of truth wrapped up in it.

Tonight, actually, I was trying to make an old favorite but with a new twist. I was trying to make my portabella mushrooms with a summer “flare,” if you will. Mushrooms in my book are really heavy and lend themselves to good, hearty winter dishes. Think: risotto with mushrooms, Thai curry, portabella mushrooms marinated in reduced balsamic vinegar.

So, with my being in the South, home of the Georgia Peach, I wanted to make something with that local ambrosia. I remembered a friend’s dish involving peaches, peach salsa. I wondered if that would go great, well, or even at all with the hearty, earthy flavor of the portabella mushroom. This is where I really started off wrong. That ever-present “they” says to mix opposites to achieve a delicious middle. Wonder what I mean? I would too after a sentence like that. What I mean is: mix salty and sweet. Spicy and mild. Sweet and sour. Earthy and sweet? Nope. Not a chance. At least not how I did it.

The whole night (from which I’m recovering through this post) was a mess. I first cut up some peaches, onions, tomatoes, garlic, mint, and lemon. I didn’t have a recipe, these were just things I thought might go well together. » Continue reading this post…

Big Man at the Grill: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Grilled trout (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Let’s play a game. It’s a warm evening. The pre-dusk glow is thick, and a soft breeze carries the smell of freshly cut grass. Children shout, dogs bark, the night’s first firefly sparks faintly against a blue sky. Smoke, scented with sweet barbeque sauce and pork fat or seared fish and bell pepper drifts under your nose. Someone stands at the grill, deftly grasping a pair of tongs in one hand and a cold beer in the other. Who do you see?

Chances are, if you’ve ever felt the stirrings of the American Dream, you see Dad, out of his suit and tie, tossing Fido a nugget of meat from the grill and watching his two and a half children tumbling through the yard. Or maybe you see a bunch of bros, throwing back Miller High Life and slinging burgers on buns loaded with ketchup and onions.

Whatever you see, chances are good that it’s not me, a petite, fresh-out-of-college woman (gasp – no) pushing hair out of her face with olive-oil greasy fingers and flinging steaks on the grill with panache, all the while swigging from a bottle of Newcastle. If that’s not what you see now, I hope it is soon. Men have steered the grill for far too long, and I’m taking back the tongs.

My goal for this summer is to become a grill master. Lamb chops, eggplant, pizza crust, whole fish, you name it, I’m going to grill it. In facing the grill, a beast I just learned how to turn on a few days ago, I will also come up against one of my other culinary fears – meat. I’m not sure why cooking meat scares me. Vegetables and grains can be taste tested as they cook, so I know exactly when they’re done or whether they need just a little bit more pepper. » Continue reading this post…

Feeding Kittens

Celine and Ja'mie (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This might seem off-topic, but the most cooking I’ve been doing recently is reconstituting tablespoon after tablespoon of KMR for two five week old kittens that I rescued from Tybee Island off the Georgia coast. Cooking for kittens is nothing glamorous. I’ve gotten good with a whisk and my mental math is certainly improving (if one cat weighs one pound and one cat weighs one pound two ounces and each cat gets four teaspoons per pound and four teaspoons equals one tablespoon and one teaspoon of powder – ). My hands smell faintly of babies and milk.

The first time I met the kittens, I was sitting in front of the TV, mesmerized by the slab of mayonnaise Paula Deen was putting into potato salad, when a wet, orange ball of cat, looking miserable, was plopped down on the couch next to me. Who wouldn’t have picked the whole thing up in one hand and pressed it to her chest?

A neighbor had found the litter huddled under a wall. One kitten was dead, another missing and presumed dead, the mother totally uninterested. Only two kittens, the orange one and a white one, survived. We kept them in the closed-in porch and fed them cat’s milk, which turned out to be a bad idea, since kittens can digest nothing but their mother’s milk – or a formula replacement – during their first six weeks of life. I found that out after a few days of cat’s milk, as I’d become worried about their excessive and runny stool production. (That’s a nice way of saying shit was everywhere.)

Sleeping (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’ve come to enjoy watching the kittens eat. About half an hour before a meal, Celine and Ja’mie (don’t ask about their names, it’s a long story) begin to synchronize mew. Like the smallest bells in a handbell choir, they ping in alternating bursts until finally, they reach a simultaneous mew and having heard how loud they are together, mew as a unit until I give in to the pitiful sound. » 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…

Tis the Season…To Go Outside (a post by Josh): Sweden Meets America Burgers

Burgers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The sun is finally shining through the April showers, and shorts are more than appropriate. Now a few weekends ago (oh how the time has flown on my adventure through the South), my house christened our new grill. Our house came with a few downers – the electricity, water and gas all getting cut off within the first week of us living there – but a few uppers too. We have a porch, some rocking chairs, a spacious kitchen and a grill. We had all taken advantage of one of those perks except for the grill until that weekend. It was only fitting though, for us to have a bunch of people over to enjoy the luxuries of our massive grill. We wanted to fill up the grill with as much as possible.

We planned on starting the festivities early afternoon, around three o’clock, to bring the weekend to us even sooner. It was a sunny, breezy, Southern day where the grass was growing a bit too high and the condensation from our water glasses couldn’t cool us off enough. But we prevailed, somehow.

This wasn’t our first ever cookout in our lives, but probably the first one that we, specifically, held. So we felt like the pressure was on. But the one thing we knew was that we needed foods, propane and above all, people.

We never really thought about what we were going to have, rather that we were just going to have a cook out. I mean, everyone knows what a cook out is, right? Well, I quickly found out that it was regional. We had differing opinions – barbeque, burgers, vegetables, watermelon? It as all fair game, and that was part of the problem.

Friday noon rolled around and we still only had a grill and a determination to provide for our future guests. » Continue reading this post…