Having just returned from eating my through Macon and Savannah Georgia, I find myself inspired by the epicurean delights I enjoyed. Yes, along the way I had the obligatory Chic-Fil-A Sandwich and, of course, one of their chocolate milk shakes. Large? Of course, I’m a growing boy. But in Macon it was Lamb Chops with Whipped Potatoes (they are whipped, not mashed, when there’s a linen napkin involved), and a healthy pour of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon thanks to Daniel, bartender and co-owner of Nathalia’s. In Savannah it was Crab Cakes, Shrimp and Grits. And another order of bread pudding at Bedford’s in the Historic District. Yes, we’ve come a long way in the Deep South. But there’s still nothing like some tried and true Southern Soul Food.
Now I’m sure you know all about our Fried Chicken, Greens (turnip and collards), and gravy. But what do you really know about essential Southern food like Saltines, Potted Meat, and Beanie Weenie? No, they are not on the USDA’s food pyramid. Any self-respecting Southern Boy finds this a bit disquieting. Where is mayonnaise? And what of “country fried steak” and mashed ‘taters? Mashed taters, by the way, have lumps, but the butter and whole milk far overshadows any issues with texture. Without these foods I would never have been able to manage my pre-teen insecurities. It was to these delicacies, canned, wrapped in cellophane, or battered and deep-fried that comforted me in my youth. Who needs Xanax or friends for that matter, when a saltine cracker topped with mayonnaise and a sliced Vienna Sausage are in the cabinet.
Somewhere in the winter of 1968, I must admit, I put on a lot of weight. But none of these foods are to blame. We had moved to Augusta, Maine when I was 8 years old. In Maine they eat “lobstah”, scrapple, and home fries. They have “clam chowdah” and “rhubarb pie.” Rhubarb Pie? (Recipe? First, dig up some red weeds. Second, ad enough sugar to disguise the taste of the rhubarb.) So it wasn’t those comfort foods that did me in. It was the Ding Dongs, Ho-Ho’s and Twinkies. I’m sure these foods were all developed somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line. They may even be from the Devil. I cannot say for sure. I do remember they had Spam in Maine and they fried it for sandwiches rather than baloney (please, not bologna!) but they didn’t top it with a slice of American Cheese.
I only began to trim down when we moved back South to Northern Virginia. Some suggest it was the result of a six-inch growth spurt in about 14 months. I’m sure it was the availability of the sodium dense delicacies I craved. Alas, I no longer indulge in these simple pleasures. I’m victim to conspiracy amongst cardiologists, organic gardeners and Dr. Oz. Now it’s only the occasional hot dog I sneak when I’m far enough ahead of my wife at Costco get away with it. Now, what’s for dinner?