If you want to know the highs (and lows) of the Southern culinary scene, meander around an SEC football tailgate. The scene is the archetypal all-ages block party: college-aged students drinking like adults and adults drinking like college students. Most everyone eats the same (that is, too much) while comparing speculative game plans; flaunting the sizes of their RVs, TVs, and pig smokers; and cheerfully heckling the opposing fans (while inviting them over for a beer and bowl of gumbo). It’s a study in boasting, booing, and excess, but likewise an example of gamesmanship and camaraderie, a love for the game and the grill.
Each fall, Sewanee springs to action with the arrival of hungry students. But until recently, the dining options were pretty limited: a pizza joint, a couple of pubs, a now-defunct truck stop seven miles away, an artsy café. Sewanee eateries were, at best, fresh comfort food. That is, until Chef/Owner Keri Moser turned the town’s culinary expectations on its ear with her restaurant IvyWild.
Sapelo’s residents, self-proclaimed Saltwater Geechees, have grown a red pea unique to the island for centuries, ever since their ancestors were forcibly brought here across the Atlantic. Sea island slaves produced long-staple cotton by day but also tended to their own plots of native produce. Okra, red peas, sweet potatoes, and rice provided sustenance and the tastes of home. The protein power combo of peas and rice gave birth to dishes like Reezy Peezy and Hoppin’ John.
Twenty-five years ago I wrote a book about Southern country cooking called Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken. In it I cheekily pointed out that I, not Hoosier Harland Sanders, was born in Corbin, Kentucky, so I was the person who could tell you what “Honest Fried Chicken” was all about.