Tag Archives: Southern food


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.

Southern Living February 2012

How Southern Living Coaxed Me into Trying (and Liking) Pimiento Cheese

Southern Living February 2012Blogger Michelle Ryan never liked pimiento cheese for one reason: She’d simply never tried it. That is, until Southern Living convinced her to take the plunge.

For years, I turned up my nose at pimiento cheese, never even daring a taste. I softened my stance after reading through a recipe for it not too long ago, but I still didn’t rush right out and seek an opportunity to taste it. In fact, I didn’t even attempt to make it, though I was intrigued with features on the South’s iconic spread, like the one in Southern Living magazine’s February issue. Some of the recipes did seem fairly easy, and the combination of ingredients didn’t sound as offensive as I’d imagined.

Only a week or so ago—when my aunt brought pimiento cheese sandwiches to my niece’s birthday party—was I able to finally cross it off the list of things I’d never tried—and I liked it, as in, I ate several of the small triangle-shaped sandwiches. Not only am I thinking about how I can’t wait to eat another pimiento cheese sandwich; I’m also thinking I’d like to try it in other forms. And that’s where Southern Living’s February issue comes in—just in the nick of time.

For starters, the magazine offered several unusual variations on the basic spread, with options ranging from creamy and herby to sweet and spicy, zesty and tipsy (thanks to a little bourbon). Just a page from all those varieties was what’s deemed the “Mother of All Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches,” which sounded pretty tasty until I got to one surprising ingredient: strawberry preserves. I know, I know. I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it. Judging by how long it took me to taste the basic stuff, I guess I can pencil it in for a few decades from now …

Besides the sandwich, other options in Southern Living were deviled eggs (that’s a post for another day), pimiento cheese rolls (absolutely) and pimiento cheese cookies, again with those strawberry preserves (I’ve got it on my calendar). And based on reader responses, that’s just the beginning of a multitude of ways to enjoy pimiento cheese. Use it as a quesadilla filling, spice up mac and cheese with it, serve it with tart Granny Smith apples, spread it on gingersnaps or graham crackers—along with more suggestions featuring strawberry jam.

Obviously I’m missing out on something here with the jam, but the buzz is enough to make me curious. I can’t promise I’ll try it tomorrow, but I will say it won’t take me decades to step out of my culinary comfort zone on this one.

Saveur magazine March 2012

Southern Cuisine Gets a Big Nod from Gourmet Food Magazines

Saveur magazine March 2012 cover


We might be watching our waistlines, but Southern soul food is surprisingly on the up–even in gourmet magazines.

It seems the deep-fried, decadent and oh-so-delicious Southern staples like fried chicken and red velvet cake aren’t on their way out—even in today’s calorie-counting, carb-watching world. In fact, Southern cuisine is gaining even more respect these days, as several recent issues of magazines have placed it front and center on their covers. And it’s not just regional titles like Southern Living or Taste of the South.

Both Bon Appétit and Saveur—magazines well known for featuring exotic tastes and places—are jumping on the Southern bandwagon as well. Bon Appétit went so far as to dub the South “America’s New Food Capital,” and the entire February issue might as well have been a guide to what’s good below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Inside, the editors share five simple steps to making the best fried chicken (like the crispy drumstick featured on the magazine’s cover). And they’re talking real fried chicken—not the baked-because-it’s-healthier kind. Other Southern culinary phenomena include chicken and dumplings, deviled eggs, bourbon and, of course, barbecue. But why the obsession with Southern food, especially for those of us who haven’t grown up with it?

According to writer Kim Severson in one of the issue’s articles, the reason is because food is the great equalizer in the South. All you have to do to break the ice is ask a local the best place to eat. Not to mention it’s long been considered a source of comfort—and who couldn’t use a little more of that these days?

Saveur’s March issue got all sweet on Southern food as well with a picture-perfect slice of red velvet cake on its cover. Inside, it gets even better with recipes for lemon layer cake, walnut spice cake, caramel cake and coconut cake—along with the red velvet—each photographed up close in all their layered glory. (For a more grown-up take, turn to Bon Appétit’s coconut southern comfort layer cake.)

Both magazines tackle how to perfect these magnificent cakes. Saveur’s tips are of the general sort: Use cake flour, use refrigerated ingredients that are room temperature, mix the batter quickly and drop the pan before placing in the oven to remove any air bubbles. Bon Appétit shared a no-fail technique for slicing cake rounds into layers before frosting.

Though neither Bon Appétit nor Saveur tried to lighten up the Southern recipes they featured, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact, with magazines like Cooking Light seeking out healthier versions of Southern foods, it’s no wonder this regional cuisine remains popular–even in a more health-conscious world.

Would You, Could You Eat a Whole Pig?

Would You, Could You Eat a Whole Pig?

Southern Living March 2012The popular nose-to-tail eating trend might sound repulsive at first, but it’s spreading to southern restaurants and might just impact what ends up on your plate.

One of the latest food trends is very efficient, sure, but it’s still hard to stomach. Nose-to-tail eating means that every bit of the pig is prepared and, yes, eaten–and it’s on the rise in the Deep South. Southern Living magazine caught up with several chefs below the Mason-Dixon Line to discuss this phenomenon and how it’s catching on in places like Atlanta, Charleston, Houston and Memphis.

As surprising as the trend may be, the reasoning behind it isn’t. More and more chefs are turning to local farmers for their meats, veggies and other ingredients, and that means buying whole pigs rather than just certain cuts. Using everything from the nose to the tail is a means of getting the most value for their money.

Other chefs, like Sean Brock of Charleston’s celebrated Husk restaurant, raise their own pigs. Brock tells Southern Living that he does it out of respect for the animal, saying, “You want to make the most of every single part to celebrate its life.”

So what might you find on the menu of a restaurant that practices nose-to-tail cooking? The magazine’s March issue only deconstructs the parts of the pig that may not be commonly eaten, like the head, the feet, the skin and the tail. Deep-fried pig’s ears are popular in Southern restaurants like New Orleans’ Cochon. Another part of the head that’s being put to use is the jowls, and the head itself forms the base of hog’s head cheese.

Charleston’s Cypress restaurant uses pig’s feet for a unique take on pork and beans. The feet are braised and then the meat is picked off, mixed with bread crumbs and mustard and served over barbecued boiled peanuts cooked in a molasses-based sauce.

One part of the pig that was popularly used well before the onset of this trend is the skin. Pork rinds may be considered more of a convenience store snack, but one of Houston’s newer restaurants has a more gourmet take on them. Chefs roast rabbit leg wrapped in pig skin, then serve atop peaches and Swiss chard.

Finally, Memphis’ soon-to-open Hog & Hominy will put an interesting twist on the tail of the pig. Chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer have a dish that reinterprets the last piece as a mix between a hot wing and a short rib. It gets its spicy flavor from mustard, tomatoes and Calabrian chiles and is served with a ranch sauce of their own invention.

Do you think this trend would be hard to swallow?

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.