Puppy (and kitty) Love
I just wanted to write and say thank you for your continued support of [Home at Last Animal Sanctuary].
Appearing in Ace [Pet Pick, Ace List, weekly] really makes a difference for us. People come up to us at adoption days all the time who are already familiar with our animals because they recognize them from your publication.
In fact, it was because of you that two years ago, I met the love of my life - my dog - after she was a featured animal. And I am just one example.
Thanks to you, we have found many happy homes for animals that desperately deserve them.
Your support means a lot to us, and the animals - and I just wanted to say thanks.
On a summer evening some years ago, two of the south's most celebrated writers, William Faulkner and Katherine Anne Porter, were dining together at a plush restaurant in Paris. Everything had been laid out to perfection; a splendid meal had been consumed, a bottle of fine burgundy emptied, and thimble-sized glasses of an expensive liqueur drained. The maitre d' and an entourage of waiters hovered close by, ready to satisfy any final whim.
'Back home the butter beans are in,' said Faulkner, peering into the distance, 'the speckled ones.'
Miss Porter fiddled with her glass and stared into space. 'Blackberries,' she said wistfully.
-Eugene Walter, Foods of the World: American Cooking, Southern Style (1971)
I spend nearly every Saturday in the summer at Farmers' Market.
I know, who doesn't?
But I spend my Saturdays actually working at the Farmers' Market. Let me disclose right now that I didn't grow anything, or harvest anything - I'm just hired help.
I work at my dad's stand, and then sub in for the other farmers' from time to time when they get busy, like my honorary Uncle Roland. He keeps me well stocked with fresh fruit (including wild blackberries until recently) and greens and, last week, paw-paws.
I also spend a lot of time loitering at Blue Moon Garlic farm's stand, with my friends Leo and Jean - aka the Garlic King. And I always arrive early to hand pick three or four pints of Bill Best's heirloom cherry tomatoes.
In some ways, my Saturday job pays a lot better than the gig I have here, in that I get to go home with as much free produce as I can possibly carry.
This weekend's stash, for example, included: a bushel of tomatoes, tomatillos, baby pattypan squash, shallots, organic garlic, basil, and a few dozen ears of sweet corn.
The other thing I love about the "job," is that it's so different from what I do during the week.
The staff here doesn't usually unhinge my shackles and leg-irons till late Friday night, so I don't get a chance to mingle with our readers as much as I would like - and on Saturdays, I get to meet a lot of them.
It's quite the power-scene. Half the women are using Kate Spade bags to carry their produce (blasphemers!!). Most of the couples are pushing those humvee strollers. And it's always amusing to watch the near-collisions as the oversize Excursions and Suburbans do their little pas-de-deux in the lots nearby.
Some of the customers never look up. Why would they? I'm just some quaint peasant who's schlepping vegetables.
But the vast majority are foodies like me. We stand around, trade recipes, debate the relative merits of steaming, blanching, roasting, and grilling (leading my dad to roll his eyes and comment loudly about how "it's hard to find good help these days.")
Then I go home and begin the real work of the weekend - roasting the first round of vegetables for the homemade tomato sauce; another round for three separate pots of soup; and then various blanching and steaming for a wide array of cold salads.
I drag out the Cuisinart, the Calphalon, the All-Clad, three kinds of blenders - and I turn my entire kitchen upside down as visions of Viking stoves and subzero refrigerators dance in my head.
I am as happy, as my grandmother would say (so pardon the profanity), "as the proverbial pig in shit." (She had a way with words.)
I believe in food. It is one of my greatest passions, bordering on a religion.
I especially love food writing, and food writers.
My very favorite is Ronni Lundy (author of Butter Beans to Blackberries), whom I should disclose is my honorary aunt (ever since I roomed with her nephew in college).
I love the fact that she describes the process of cooking corn as "urgent." We would all do well to take her advice that it should always come straight from the market, and it should be eaten (if at all possible) the same day, before the sugar turns to starch. (And even though it's perfect with salt and butter, Aunt Ronni's southwestern version - rubbed with lime and butter and then seasoned with a sprinkle of kosher salt mixed with hot red pepper is out of this world.)
I also adore Kay West of the Nashville Scene. I'll never forget her comments in reviewing some chain restaurant (a process she makes no secret of loathing), and saying that the "cheese fries were an insult to both cheese and fries."
Eugene Walter is another classic.
I exchange sporadic emails with John T. Edge who's written for the Oxford American (and a host of other pubs) - and would never dream of visiting a southern city without asking for his dining recommendations.
Camille Glenn, John Egerton, Bill Neal. The list is endless.
Which brings me to my point: that it is impossible to run a weekly newspaper with a respectable southern literary bent without having a food column.
This week marks the debut of "Food for Thought," by Karen Workman. Her only mandate is to write about food, and the local food culture, in an interesting manner. That might include coverage of groceries, markets, food and wine events, restaurants, trends, or anything else she finds of culinary merit. Within that modest rubrick, her discretion is absolute. She has not been directed to write about our restaurant advertisers (or to suck up to them). She's not been advised to avoid them. She functions autonomously, as all good critics do. The only absolute guideline I've mentioned is that we will not review chain restaurants. But that's another 1000 words.
For now, I'll close with Katharine Anne Porter's immortal line: "In my childhood, we ate as if there were no God."
Words to live by.