Tag Archives: Garden & Gun magazine


Why Garden & Gun Magazine Cannot Be Replaced

Garden & Gun magazineEven with print dying around it, Garden & Gun magazine managed to survive. In just five short years, it’s become irreplaceable. Here’s why it should never, ever die.

Garden & Gun nearly went the way of Gourmet. Another beloved magazine done in by the recession, the digital age, you name it. And if it had, what would take its place?

When Gourmet was shuttered, Bon Appetit issues were mailed as substitutes. (Not as bad as Bird Talk subscribers who are receiving Dog Fancy instead­.)

Granted, publishers of more than one title can easily substitute one magazine for another. But there’s no printing more of another title to take the place of Garden & Gun. Not just because the staff didn’t give in to a big investor or mega-publishing house to stay afloat when its financial backing dried up in 2009.

This is Garden & Gun, and there is no suitable replacement, not really. Put it on the National Register of Historic Places so we never have to worry about losing it. It’s a treasure about a treasure: the best of the South, within its confines and beyond its borders.

Where else are you as likely to read about Loretta Lynn as Widespread Panic? Willie Nelson as Morgan Freeman?

Southern staples like fried chicken, boiled peanuts and cheese straws are celebrated in its pages. When Rick Bragg sings the praises of the shrimp po’boy, don’t be surprised if you start packing your bags (only a minor detail) and your vehicle steers you towards New Orleans.

Every issue covers everything from garden to gun, if you will, though the magazine really has little to do with either. (The title originated from the name of an old club in Charleston, where the magazine is located.)

Rather it’s food, it’s music, it’s regular folks who made it big. It’s artisans, it’s Southern voices telling stories we already know in lyrical prose. It’s every quirky and wonderful thing about a region and culture so misunderstood and often so poorly portrayed (thank you, Honey Boo Boo, et. al.)

Even its comeback story is so very Scarlett O’Hara: beautiful on the outside as it fights for survival on the inside. And ultimately, Garden & Gun did what the South was supposed to do: It rose again.

Perhaps this was no more evident than when the “national magazine about a region” notched a 2011 American Society of Magazine Editors award for general excellence. Or when the five-year-old publication showed good business acumen by diversifying.

There’s the Garden & Gun Club, which grants its members access to private events and retail discounts. There’s books in the works, and there’s even merchandise—a limited edition hunting tie and a Le Creuset dish in gunmetal gray coming just in time for the holidays.

So how do you capture the meaning and significance of Garden & Gun in just a few words? The answer is you don’t. Maybe it’s only fitting that it survived because you need issues upon issues full of them.


The 10 Best Magazines to Curl Up With for Great Reads

No time to delve into a good book? No problem. These well-written magazines can be squeezed into the busiest of schedules to satisfy the great read you’re craving.

Sure, you’d love to spend a lazy afternoon getting lost in your favorite book or the latest bestseller. But either there’s not enough time or you can never get more than a few pages or chapters in before an interruption permanently takes you away.

Don’t think you have to give up leisurely reading altogether. Turn to these ten magazines to soak in their longer-form writing that’s still short enough to fit into the busiest of schedules. It’s the next best thing to reading a great book.

The Atlantic: Every page of this magazine is well-written, but the features on the latest social issues—like the effects Facebook has on us, changes in autism diagnoses or whether women can have it all—are the real gems.

Sports Illustrated: Even if you’re not a sports fan—but especially if you are—you’ll appreciate the well-written attention given to topics like agents paying players, Tuscaloosa’s devastating tornadoes and Title IX 40 years later.

Saveur: You’ll want to eat up this delicious writing that explores simple pleasures at home and exotic locales and cuisine abroad. It’s travel-meets-food in its best page-turning—and low-cost getaway—form.

National Geographic: Best known for its breathtaking photos, this magazine’s articles on sociological topics—like the impact of dying languages—and others with an environmental and scientific focus are written just as well.

EatingWell: As if the healthy recipes and nutrition news weren’t reason enough to read, features like the conglomeration of dairy farms and abundance (and health benefits) of salmon put this magazine over the top.

Garden & Gun: This Southern Living-meets-Oxford American publication explores everything Southern through the written word of some of the region’s best writers like Rick Bragg, Roy Blount, Jr., and Winston Groom.

Time: This news magazine provides thoughtful and thorough examinations of the latest political issues like healthcare and changes in international governments, as well as a healthy dose of culture, travel, food and sports.

Smithsonian: There’s a reason it was voted the most interesting magazine in America. Covering a little of everything—history, psychology, medical research, sports—and excellent writing surely had something to do with that.

Wired: Not just for techies, this magazine’s great writing on provocative and timely subjects like hurricane hunters, Olympic athletes and the latest in movies and TV are sure to please anyone looking for an interesting read.

Rolling Stone: If you dig that hip rocker vibe, you’ll enjoy reading it too. This magazine exudes cool in every way—including its writing on politics, social issues, music, television, video games and more music.

Slices of Pie at the Heart of Social Change in Greensboro, Alabama

Slices of Pie at the Heart of Social Change in Greensboro, Alabama

Southern Living magazine March 2012Oh the power of food. One Greensboro, Ala. restaurant has seen a single slice of pie turn into remarkable social change.

I know Greensboro, Ala., as a town whose roads lead to Tuscaloosa, first as a student and now as a football fan. Located in the state’s Black Belt—so named for the fertility of its soil—cotton prospered here in the 19th century. Then, once it dried up and left, success seemed to follow it.

Today, catfish ponds dot either side of Greensboro’s two-lane roads, but there’s something exciting happening in this town that’s literally reinvented its economy. And it’s as simple as pie.

Greensboro’s Pie Lab restaurant has garnered national attention since its 2009 launch, earning coveted stamps of approval for the social change it’s fostered—not to mention its pie—from Southern Living and Garden & Gun magazines. Southern Living heralded the cafe’s apple pie as the region’s best.

But Pie Lab wasn’t supposed to last long. Originally intended as a pop-up experiment, the location was meant to serve as a gathering place for brainstorming bigger and better ideas for fostering economic change in the community.

It did, but Pie Lab is still going strong as a self-sustaining cafe that serves up more than a mean slice of pie. There are homemade biscuits for breakfast, savory pies and quiches for lunch and, of course, pies for dessert. (I’m putting its new Granny Smith apple pie with sharp white cheddar crust on my culinary bucket list.)

In and of itself, Pie Lab is a sweet story about how the simplest things can make a big difference. It’s where the locals gather. It’s building the community. It’s teaching young employees new skills and creating jobs. It’s giving Greensboro something to be proud of.

And if that weren’t enough, it’s doing even more. The social change that Pie Lab was supposed to create is happening, according to a feature in Southern Living’s March issue. Pecans! is just one offshoot of Pie Lab; it’s a project that targets high school dropouts to teach them business skills in the hopes of helping them return to school.

Participants make, market and sell sugared pecans, peanut brittle and pecan butter, and the proceeds help fund their college education. It’s been successful enough to send five program graduates off to pursue their studies.

HERObike is yet another spin-off of Pie Lab. Again reaching out to high school dropouts, the program teaches entrepreneurial and leadership skills through the unique manufacturing process of building custom bikes with locally harvested bamboo.

Just one of five places nationwide to use bamboo in custom bike construction, Greensboro is offering the 18 students enrolled in the program hands-on training to prepare them for better-paying manufacturing and technical positions.

Not bad when you consider it all started with a slice of pie.

Garden & Gun magazine April/May 2012

Garden & Gun Introduces New Kind of Madness in Bracket Challenge

Garden & Gun magazine April/May 2012

April/May issue of Garden & Gun magazine

March Madness may be over, but there’s still one heated bracket challenge underway–and the contenders have names like cornbread and country fried steak.

If you’re not a college basketball fan—or not one anymore since your bracket was absolutely busted by this year’s tournament results—then Garden & Gun magazine’s Ultimate Southern Food Bracket may offer you a burst of hope after a month of upheaval.

The showdown of Southern staples is just entering its final four, so there’s still time to vote for your top dish from the selection of cornbread, country fried steak, Hoppin’ John (a Southern stew) and beignets.

But be warned, it was probably easier to make your basketball picks this year. Seriously, how do you choose between cornbread and beignets?

Some of the first round match-ups in the Cajun/Creole region were especially difficult. Beignets ended up advancing against fried catfish, and I can’t argue with that. Then they faced and defeated the oyster po’boy and then outdid gumbo as well. See what I mean? The picks were definitely not easy, and now they’re especially tough as they duke it out in the last round.

Match-ups in other regions were just as difficult. Pulled pork and okra faced up in the barbecue region’s first round. And once again I ask, how can you choose between the two? Then again, the collard greens vs. mac & cheese was a pretty easy pick—at least for me.

Unlike basketball, dishes advance based on the popular vote, which can be a little easier to predict. When I voted, my picks went the way of the (overwhelming) majority with mac & cheese over pulled pork and shrimp and grits over soft shell crab. I ended up being in the majority until Hoppin’ John beat out shrimp and grits.

The two finalists from each region—the elite eight, ahem ate, if you will—were announced Monday, March 26 through Thursday, March 29. Garden & Gun then unveiled its final four Monday, April 2, the same day Kentucky cut down the NCAA nets.

Now with the final four decided, there’s another delicious match-up to look forward to on April 9 when the last remaining dishes will face off for the title of the Ultimate Southern Food.

Garden and Gun magazine October November 2011 cover detail

Good and Good for You: Magazines Name Best Food Picks in South and Supermarkets

Garden and Gun magazine October November 2011 cover

Garden & Gun's October/November 2011 issue features the magazine's choices for the 50 best Southern foods.

Best this, most healthy that. It’s that time of year when food and lifestyle magazines chime in on their definitions of what’s good for you—or just plain good. Tease me with a list on the cover, and I’m turning straight to it. I’m a sucker for ‘em, often to see what I’m doing right (or wrong), or where I can get the next great meal or decadent dessert.

The latest issues of two nearly polar-opposite magazines came out with such lists. Cooking Light‘s October 2011 issue presented its 2nd Annual Taste Test Awards—the healthiest picks among major supermarket brands as determined by blind tastings.

Think light dressings, gluten-free pastas, reduced-fat chips, low-sodium black beans, whole-grain waffles and on and on. Not many of these items are on my regular grocery list—and maybe I’m feeling a little guilty that they should be. You know, eat better, get healthy (or healthier).

But in case the need arises for that good-for-me applesauce or light coconut milk, I’ve got a source to enlighten me on naturally sweet or low saturated fat options. It’s better than the guessing game I’d normally play in the supermarket aisle.

The kind of list that’s more my speed (sorry, waistline) is Garden & Gun’s “50 Best Southern Foods” in its October/November 2011 issue. It’s rich, deep-fried and smothered in barbecue sauce—and those are just the stereotypical dishes.

Plenty of other delicacies are to be had south of the Mason-Dixon, like Seafood Lasagna in Louisiana, Sea Scallop Hot Browns in Kentucky or Boiled Peanut Hummus in Georgia. Oh, and don’t think Napa Valley’s got the market cornered on great wine, especially not after reading about RdV Vineyards in Virginia.

Sweet potato casseroles, green beans, pimiento cheese and all the other regional staples have a place in this issue too. But if you’re too far away or Southern foods aren’t really your thing, Cooking Light includes in its awards an artisanal category, where it doles out its approval on beer and spirits, meats, cheeses, condiments and sweets that may be closer to home. And if not, many are available for online ordering.