Living in Orlando I’ve never really felt too out of place because this is a city of transplants. It’s a city located in the southern portion of the country, but the variety of accents and backgrounds found here cross a wide spectrum of regions. It’s actually when I head a little north to such states as Alabama and Mississippi that I feel like I just stepped into a scene from “Gone with the Wind.” And it’s suddenly obvious that I’m no Scarlett O’Hara. I don’t find a rebel flag to be in any way patriotic, nor do I find vernacular such as “fixin’” and “y’all” to be quaint, nor does a rundown barn turned “rustic” bed and breakfast strike me as anything close to charming. I am a city girl. A northerner. And I just don’t get it. So, no offense, but when in the presence of thick southern twangs and pick-up trucks blaring country music I will, most likely, turn on my heels (which have never seen the inside of cowboy boot) and march swiftly in the other, above the Mason/Dixon line, direction. For that, clearly, is where I feel like I belong.
Nonetheless, this past weekend GAR and I took a trip up to the very southern, quaint and charming town of Savannah, Ga. We had a fabulous time, but we did notice one interesting thing – when asking for advice on what to do in this historical town we were uniformly given the same list of restaurants to try by every person we know. In other words, the only thing anyone could think of to do in Georgia was to eat. While normally I am all too willing to climb aboard this train, what complicates the matter is that most southern restaurants, almost without exception, prepare nothing – and I mean nothing – for a vegetarian such as myself to consume. Even the salads, soups and vegetables contain meat. Green beans with bacon. Vegetable and bacon soup. Bacon bits and ham and pulled pork on leafy greens. Are southerners born with an intolerance for consuming anything that didn’t come from a pig?
I’m sure that my lack of desire to consume the flesh of another living creature would be considered wholly un-American of me by some, so to avoid the shame and embarrassment that comes along with my mamby pamby diet (as well as to avoid an empty stomach) I signed the mister and I up for a cooking class instead – a southern cooking class at that! I figure I have no right to turn my nose up at grits, collard greens and assorted gravy products until I've learned the right way to prepare them and give them a fair and decent shot at making me love them.
And it was a success! Mostly anyway. The black-eyed pea salad we made (surprisingly sans bacon or Fergie) was really quite yummy. And biscuits? I can almost see myself enjoying them now (the trick is putting great, heaping, unhealthy amounts of cheese and ranch dressing mix in the batter … as well as lots and lots and lots of butter on top). But grits? Well, there are some things even a Yankee turned southern cooking apprentice just can’t begin to understand. And all the cheese and butter on the planet can’t make my (now much expanded) stomach appreciate this bizarrely textured and completely tasteless culinary creation.
Here's a shot of GAR stirring the aforementioned flavorless grits.
Here I am learning to love (and scoop out) biscuits.
I forgot to get a photo of the food "before," but here it is "after" we devoured it.