Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Produce Promise

So the plan to not waste anymore produce is going well, and here's why. I am taking advice I have read about how to change one's diet or lose weight and am applying that to this new habit: start with very small steps. I have decided, at least for the next few weeks to only buy one vegetable that needs cooking per week and no more. Here's why. It's so easy to go to the grocery or farmer's market, see all the pretty vegetables, think how healthy I'd be if I ate them all, buy them all and then get busy and cook none of them. So last week, I only bought 2 eggplants and a ton of tomatoes (since all you have to do is slice them). I dug out my binder where I stick all of the recipes I want to cook one day and found an eggplant recipe I wanted to try. This recipe based on an ancient Greek recipe where you roast the eggplant and mix it with ricotta, walnuts and a little honey. Wow! It was delicious. I'm going to see if I can be strong at the farmer's market this weekend and only come back with one bag of produce and try to stick to my plan. We'll see...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Road Trip to Memphis

This past week-end, Elizabeth Pearce (Senior Curator) and I took a road trip to Memphis. Part of representing the South at SoFAB is traveling the South. On the way from New Orleans we stopped at the Tomato Museum in Crystal Springs, MS, but found it closed. That will be a stop on another trip. But that was probably our only disappointment. We visited at the Hunt Phelan Inn - more about that soon - met many great people, ate serious barbeque and fixings, and travelled that part of the state. We hope that we have made connections for borrowing artifacts for future exhibits. And we collected menus!

At one stop we ate a wonderful cole slaw made with very fresh cabbage and apple and pear. Here is my rendition of that recipe.

one head of cabbage sliced thinly
2 apples, chopped
2 pears, chopped
1 sweet onion, sliced thinly

Toss all of the ingredients with a dressing made of 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, the juice of a lemon, a bit of dill seed, salt and pepper. Enjoy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

produce problems

I read the other day that over 25% of purchased produce is tossed out due to spoilage. I was thinking of this problem as I pitched my wilted half bunch of parsley and some bruised, sad onions. While I try to stay on top of the vegetables in my fridge, inevitably I keep making promises to that lone eggplant that "Yes, I will roast you. Tomorrow."But then tomorrow comes and I crave sushi or a shrimp po-boy and I put off cooking the eggplant (or zucchini or cabbage or whatever) until it's only fit for the compost pile I keep meaning to start.

And I remembered how the last time I was really diligent about cooking all the produce in my refrigerator was summer 2005, when I belonged to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and prepurchased 8 months of produce to be delivered once a week to my door (well, the bike shop down the street, but close enough.) That summer I became well aquainted with the problem many succesful gardeners face: What else can I do with squash? But no matter how many weeks in a row I faced a box full of pattypan, crook neck and butternut (butternut in the summer? in New Orleans, yes) I managed to cook and eat (or at least serve) them all. Why? Because every week I received an email, updating me on how the farm was doing. How the watermelon failed but the corn showed promise. And, yes, even how to cook all that squash. I was reminded weekly, that someone grew that squash, cared about it, and it deserved to be eaten, not disregarded and eventually thrown out.

The supply of squash came to an abrupt end, but not because its season was over. Unfortunately Hurricane Katrina did terrible damage to this fledgling CSA and Pastime Farms has not yet recovered and reopened, though they are exploring that possibility now. And my regular cooking of produce was replaced with lots of gas station food and other purchased products during my hurrication. Even though I returned home over a year and a half ago, I never got back in that groove of cooking well for myself. And even the vegetables I've purchased from local growers at the farmers market have, I am ashamed to confess, often been left to rot. But I have decided to correct this situation. I am a big believer in resolutions, whether they are made at New Years or Lent or whenever. I am making a summer resolution: No more wasted produce. As the summer presents its bounty to me, the least I can do is eat it with relish, not hide from the silent castigation of my wilting lettuce in the produce drawer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Salting the Region

Our first goal in establishing this new museum was to become established. By that I mean that we wanted people to know who we are and what we do. So we held exhibits in borrowed spaces, we created a website, we began an ambitious project to collect menus from all over the South. We let folks know about our doings and we became "established." But we knew that we would eventually need a bricks and mortar home. Finding that became our second goal.

Now that we have found that place, although we are not occupying it yet, it is time to make sure that the entire region - the South - is not only aware of us, but knows that we represent them. To this end we have embarked on a series of parties, Invitations to the Southern Table, which will take us to cities and towns throughout the South. This week-end we are driving to Memphis. Besides trying to set up an "Invitation" event, we are planning to meet with people and learn about the region and find our how to best represent Memphis in the museum.

Elizabeth Pearce, the Senior Curator, and I will be taking a classic road trip. I am looking forward to road food, barbeque and Southern hospitality. I'll let you know how it went and who we visited.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Food Web

One of the most exciting aspects of building a museum is the group of people who assemble the parts. On the most basic level, the first board and very early supporters and staff were people who shared a vision of what could be. Those people made the dream more than just a crazy idea. We were all validated by each other's belief and support. Whenever one of us thought that our ideas were insane or unachievable, some other one of us would help steady the course.

As we have established an identity and become more well known, our circle has grown. It still takes imagination and faith to see where we are going. And as the group of believers grows, the more we seem to accomplish. Now we have a website, have several exhibits under our belt, including one that is traveling, we have a terrific regional board and terrific projects and partnerships.

But on a personal level I am able to meet some great and interesting people who are doing fabulous things. People interested in food are caring and they are doers, and it is great to be around them. Today I received emails and phone calls that make me so happy to be part of this exciting project. I am fortunate enough to have these conversations everyday. The web of people embracing SoFAB is ever-expanding.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Perils of the Internet

If you have been looking for us today, you won't find us. I can't blame a computer or even say that things were lost in the ether. This was human error at our domain name registrar. This is one of the perils of modern times - being lost without an internet identity - and we are temporarily a victim. Please check for us again tomorrow, when our identity should have again populated the internet.

In the meantime, we continue to grow our Museum and celebrate the food and culture of the South.

Friday, May 4, 2007

What Would Mary Frances Do?

I have been reading Poet of the Appetites, Joan Reardon's biography of M.F.K. Fisher, and have come to love the fact that Mary Frances did not write memoir, but wrote what she wanted to have been true. So I have decided to take the persona that she created at face value, and have asked myself the question, "What would Mary Frances do?", as I experience assorted events. Last night was one such event. I attended a wonderful dinner paired with various Abita beers. This event took place at Ralph's on the Park in New Orleans. This event was one that I attended solo and knew few people. I was there to just experience. It was wonderful.

I spent the evening learning about the brewing business in general from brewers and about the history of the business in New Orleans from long-time industry insiders. All of this great conversation was had while enjoying a well-conceived meal that paired with beer. As one person exclaimed, eating chocolate cake while drinking beer is a very liberating experience.

My favorite Abita beer is Abita Turbo Dog. I like the slightly bitter finish and depth of flavor. I liked that it wasn't served too cold to taste it. It was served with a grilled pork chop and the most wonderful smothered greens. The evening was absolutely delightful - good talk, good drinks, good eats. I think that I would have been happy eating a bowl of those greens with a glass of Turbo Dog, imagining myself being M.F.K. Fisher, balancing the day, not the meal.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Beginnings

It's hard to believe that just three years ago a small group began the process of establishing a museum - from scratch - to celebrate the food and drink of the South. We are doing it without a recipe. Today we have a growing institution which is looking at an exciting and interesting future.

Just last week there was a terrific event that brought us together around the table in New Orleans. Mannie Berk, President and founder of The Rare Wine Company, served us terrific Madeiras and wines, as we ate a lovely meal that was especially created for us. Mannie explained the significance of Madeira in American history and in the Southern states.

Events are being planned in Washington, DC (at Acadiana, Jeff Tunks terrific place) on June 10, and also in Lafayette, LA, Jackson, MS, Memphis, TN, Atlanta, GA, Natchez, MS and also in Florida and Texas. I am looking forward to traveling around the South, meeting people and talking about SoFAB.

I am also excited that our Menu Project is growing by leaps and bounds. Readers can participate in this project by sending us menus from everywhere that you eat. Restaurants outside of the South, even outside of the US, which purport to serve Southern food also count for our collection. Just like Italian restaurants and Thai restaurants, Southern restaurants have made their way around the country and the world. We need their menus to document those travels.


Welcome to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum Blog. We'll be posting entries here on a variety of subjects. We hope you enjoy it and visit often!