Glutton for Southernment

I recently traveled to Tennessee to visit extended family for the funeral services of Mary Ann.  On the last day, we wanted to eat brunch before we left our separate ways and tried to determine where to go for a Southern experience.  There was a good  discussion of Midlands vs. Cracker Barrel vs. Waffle House and the general consensus was the need for waffles, so Waffle House seemed the natural choice.

As I have been to several areas of the South, I was familiar with the building but haven’t stepped inside a Waffle House to try the cuisine yet.  The Southerners assured we were in for a true greasy spoon experience.  I wasn’t quite sure if I would appreciate that or be completely disgusted but I was game for trying!

MenuThis small diner wasn’t equipped to handle a group of eight seated together, so we chose two booths and got comfortable for the parade of food that was to come.  It had a counter and several small tables for 2 or four and a jukebox for customizing your personal soundtrack for the meal.

My table of four quickly began negotiating an array of food so we would sample as much as possible and share favorites.  The next table’s approach was to order “smothered” items as they were pros and knew what they liked!  I’m not even sure I’ve seen the word “smothered” in a menu in California?

 

Food began to arrive and I wasn’t sure there would be enough room on the table.  There were cheesy eggs, bacon, raisin toast, grilled biscuits, grits and of course waffles.  We ate and shared, and ate and shared and I think we all enjoyed the cheesy eggs and felt the waffles were a good standard waffle.  No complaints.  My breakfast was pretty much all carbs but I was going to just eat and deal with the consequences of that later.

Table 2The smothered food, well…looked smothered and yummy in a “don’t think about what that is going to do to you” kinda way.

Smothered 2This was a meal that I don’t have to do every time I go to the South but I’m glad we took the time and made this the choice.  The staff didn’t know what hit them when we all walked in, but they did well and we didn’t overwhelm them too much.  There were plenty of locals in the diner which contributed to the ambiance for me.

It was a quick trip to Tennessee and I grow fonder of the area due to the warmness of the people and how different it is from home.  They say I am “Southern” too, as in Southern California.  After the Waffle House, I feel I had a right of passage and am officially a Glutton for Southernment.

When you visit the South, what’s your favorite place?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

 

Cornbread Comfort

For me, food and recipes connect me to family and friends.  Smells of chicken and garlic always transport me to my dad’s kitchen while just chopping broccoli gives me giggles reminding me of prepping for a Jackson party!

My best friend’s mom recently passed away and I will always think of the great times that we shared this past year especially at the Isle of Palms and Las Vegas where she made the craps table cheer everytime she was the shooter!  She gave us all some wonderful memories to hold in our hearts for the remainder of our days on earth until we reunite.

Mary Ann was the matriarch of this fun-loving, wacky family.  I went to visit this extended family in Tennessee in 2011 where we celebrated, partied and bonded with each other through tons of food and drink as Southerners have taught me.  We ended that wonderful trip with a family dinner at Mary Ann’s.  One of the ulterior motives of this dinner was to be able to watch “the master” make her cornbread.

  • 2 cups corn meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2-3 teaspoons oil (heated in pan)

Mary Ann had a cornbread skillet, well used and seasoned after years of making the beloved recipe.  It had about eight wedges built into the skillet and was perfect for cornbread.  This California girl had never seen a skillet like this!

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She had the skillet on the stove warming on a low heat and poured in well over the recommended amount of oil!  (Her daughter in law ended up removing some, so I suggest using the appropriate amount in the ingredients listed).

After combining the corn meal, egg and milk, you pour the mixture in the oiled skillet.  Set your oven to 400 degrees, place the skillet on the middle rack and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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If you don’t have a separated skillet like Mary Ann’s, you can use a standard skillet.  She would use a standard skillet and flip the cornbread through the baking to get both sides a beautiful golden brown all over.

This recipe is best baked in a skillet but if you don’t have one, a cake pan will work but it won’t get the lovely Southern fried golden crusting that happens in the skillet.  This is a simple recipe but the flavor comes from essentially frying in the oven.

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It could be that this recipe was made with love each time and that was its main ingredient.  Thankfully we are blessed with indulging in memories of every bite and smell that comes from recipes like Mary Ann’s cornbread.  If kitchen walls could talk, they would divulge thousands of emotions, hundreds of calories and most of all, decades of love.  We can take comfort in cornbread today and continue traditions for tomorrow.

“She loved YOU best!”

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