Thank you to the Southern Foodways Alliance for allowing us to share “Vinegar and Barbecue: Tales of live cultures and red herrings” by Hugh Acheson.
The perfect prelude to a barbeque infused Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium weekend. Oxford, Mississippi awaits.
From Gravy #44:
In the world of barbecue, vinegar is a seasoning, a spritz, a wash—an agile épée to porcine succulence. Vinegar is a necessity when it comes to giving barbecue its glory. Good barbecue has a char, a pit-borne crust, and a rich, tender interior that yearns for that jolt of peppery vinegar.
I will not speak to the Mendoza Line of barbecue sauce, where vinegar yields to sweetness. I will not debate the merits of mustard or tomato, for the sauce I will share with you has both, but neither is dominant. I will not regale you with arguments about how whole is better than finely chopped. Or how ribs pale in comparison to brisket. Or how I think baby back ribs are a red herring, a cut sucked into vacuum bags in the deep recesses of a factory in China to be sold many moons later at a chain restaurant in the suburbs of Hoboken. I will tell you of the sauce I love.
BBQ, Barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q. However you spell it, we are awash in this delicious madness here in North Alabama. Mention barbeque and you will have an instant conversation starter: “Mustard based sauce!” “Are you kidding me? No way! Ketchup!” “What! Please don’t tell me you are putting mayonnaise on that meat?” These are the ingredients that can bring men and women alike to heated discussion. We have spent the last few weeks preparing for an exhibition celebrating the Southern Foodways Alliance’s 15th Annual Symposium, entitled Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce.
As John T. Edge explains in his new book, The Truck Food Cookbook, (which we mentioned here) the food truck phenomenon that has swept the country over the past several years has been exciting to watch. Citizens of many American cities are challenging the regulations placed on food truck vendors in an effort to make streetscapes more alluring and encourage the street food movement. (Note: A simple Google search reveals an ongoing–sometimes heated–dispute between cities and food truck owners.)
Food trucks are practical on several fronts when considering the state of our economy – they offer value-driven meals and are relatively inexpensive start-ups. Plus, our current society has become accustomed to eating on the go, which has also contributed to the movement. Rather than venturing into fine-dining ambitions, young chefs have opted “to dish the culinary equivalent of the Great American Novel from retrofitted taco trucks.” Immigrants are using the mobile meals approach to showcase their native cuisine. Consumers have begun to blend a demand for “quick access food” with a desire for “honest and delicious food,” and street food has answered the call on both fronts.
If you’ve spent any amount of time at The Factory you know a thing or two about biscuits. There’s at least a dozen different recipes in the Alabama Chanin library, and Natalie can make some of the most flakey mouthwatering creations you’ve ever tasted with no measuring cup in sight, all while wrangling a six year old.
My grandmother had similar powers, but they must skip two generations as I haven’t quite mastered the technique. However, what I lack in skill, I make up for in appreciation. So when the opportunity to attend the International Biscuit Festival and Southern Food Writing Conference presented itself, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Storytelling, biscuits, Blackberry Farm = “Yes, Please”.
With the introduction of the Firefox Book Series on Monday, we began our two week discussion of modern homesteading.
Modern homesteading sounds like an oxymoron; I prefer to think of it as a simple lifestyle adapted to contemporary times. Technology has made leaps and bounds since the 1970s when the Firefox series was written. We do and make things differently now, but often times seek the very same outcome. We have traded in the act (art) of “making” in order to, well, “make” our lives easier. On Monday, we shared an article on Facebook that further discusses (criticizes?) the modern DIY movement.
Apple Butter, like most food, is a good example of this shift from making a product in the traditional way to producing in a more convenient manner. Apple Butter was a staple in my home growing up and my daughter has a new-found love of the spread.
Thank you to the Wall Street Journal for including me for their “In My Kitchen” series. “Crafty Cook Natalie Chanin” by Charlotte Druckman (who was a pleasure to work with).
Here you have the full interview (with a small disclaimer) and the recipes for the full menu we cooked that day:
“I GOT MY NICKNAME from biscuits,” said Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, the force behind the handcrafted clothing and housewares company Alabama Chanin, based in Florence, Ala. She earned the moniker a dozen years ago after baking her signature buttery discs for a group of hungry strangers while on vacation in Venezuela. “They called it ‘pan de Alabama’ [Alabama bread] and they’d call me that, too,” she said. That same generous spirit is one of the defining principles of her business practice—she recently introduced a line of table linens at a more accessible price point than the rest of her wares, and she makes it a point to employ local seamstresses and pay them a living wage.
A few weeks back I hosted a small outdoor Wednesday night dinner to welcome friends Nathalie Jordi and Brett Anderson to Florence (and to celebrate my new deck).
Last month, I had the incredible honor of hosting a studio visit from three amazing women who have inspired me for years. On a beautiful summer day, Rosanne Cash, Gael Towey, and Maira Kalman arrived in Florence for a two day sewing workshop and adventure. The idea for the trip was hatched on a spring afternoon in New York City and I can hardly believe that it actually happened. With incredibly busy schedules, these three women cleared their calendars, bought their tickets, organized their lives, picked up their daughters, and headed south. Gael Towey (an incredible woman who has shaped the look of modern life as we know it) wrote about their Alabama adventure for Martha Stewart’s “Up Close and Personal Blog”. I spent an amazing afternoon with Gael talking about all things design and inspiration… that post will be coming in the next weeks.
Magpie + RUTH, my son Zach’s catering company, made a fantastic lunch for us each day. The bread pudding recipe below was a favorite with the entire crew, our Alabama Chanin team, and the photo above a favorite with our Facebook followers.
Last week, during a photo shoot at my house for our new Indigo + Carmine pieces, my son Zach took time from his busy day of new fatherhood and running his growing catering company to make us lunch: a simple, delicious pizza piled with tomatoes.
This summer has been hard on my garden. Many of my herbs have simply withered away, and my tomatoes have been scorched in the harsh sun. Between the drought and my absence in travels, I’m surprised (and thankful) I’ve managed to gather a few heirloom tomatoes.
From Alabama Stitch Book, page 94:
One day when I was feeling a bit down, my friend Jen Rausch called. She told me I was allowed 20 minutes of self-pity, but then I was to get up and get on with my work. A few hours later, Jen arrived at the office with a tray lined with a beautiful tea towel, which held a china bowl, a jar of warm soup, and some homemade whole-wheat crackers. I will always be grateful to Jen for that sweet gesture.
Today, I’m pairing Jen’s Whole-Wheat Crackers with Zach’s Farm Cheese for an afternoon snack at our photo shoot. These recipes are fitting for most any occasion and come with little prep-time.
JEN’S WHOLE-WHEAT CRACKERS
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
3 cups quick oats
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to about 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend or beat the liquid ingredients, and pour them over the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix, then roll out the dough on the bottom of two large baking sheets to the edges. Sprinkle with salt, and cut 2” squares. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.
Yield: Makes about forty 2”-square crackers.