The wonderfully talented Melissa at Traveler’s Lunchbox started a great meme, asking other bloggers to help her create a list of food bloggers’ top picks for things they’ve eaten and think that everyone should eat at least once before they die. It’s grown around the web, and Sam over at the lovely re-designed Becks & Posh tapped me to play along. This game is fairly simple – everyone that wishes to be involved or gets “tagged” by another site lists their five choices, posts them, and sends a summary to Melissa. The hope is that the list will neither be generic (mmm, taters!) nor ridiculous (mmm, eagle!) merely for the sake of mere shock value. My list follows the jump…
- Food cooked with your Grandmother…Growing up we spent a lot of time with my Dad’s parents. Grandmom has always been a great country cook – the best. fried. chicken. ever. However, the specialty that’s gone down in family lore is the humble bird done another way. The mighty chicken and dumplings, served with achingly sweet tea, coleslaw, and Grandmom’s biscuits. If I had any meal to choose, I’d like to be back swinging my feet on one of her kitchen stools while she cooked this dinner for us. My grandmother is still well, although at 86, she moves a little slower and is no longer cooking or living on her own. My life is a long way from NC these days and one of the things I have always looked forward to the most on my trips home has been sitting at the counter at grandmaâ€™s eating dumplings with a side of cole slaw and sweet tea so strong it takes measurable amounts of enamel off with each glass. When it became apparent that her dumpling days were soon to be over, I started paying attention and asking questions when she cooked. The dumplings will be there once she is not, but they will never be the same.
- A classic American breakfast cooked over an open fire…We spend a lot of time playing in the woods, and cooking over an open fire is a bit of an art form. It requires a good bed of coals, people willing to wait till noon for their morning meal, and a willingness to burn the ever-lovin’ crap out of yourself 6 or 12 times. Still, smoky eggs, bacon, onions, hash browns and extra crispy sourdough pancakes are never as good as those cooked anywhere else. Maybe it’s the company, the soft morning air, the pinot-sized hangover, or the mild hypothermia we’re usually suffering from, I don’t know. But breakfast is better when it’s cooked on an open fire.
- Genuine North Carolina barbecue…I come from the North Carolina, and barbecue is serious business down there. I had the pleasure of growing up and then going to school in center of the two rival bbq camps – tomato-based or vinegar-based sauce. The Eastern side of the state likes to cook the whole pig very slowly over many hours over oak or hickory charcoal. Once finished, the meat is chopped or pulled apart right there in the pig to mingle with all the fatty pork goodness, and slathered with the vinegar hot-pepper sauce. In the Piedmont, the central part of North Carolina, generally just the pork shoulders are slow-cooked over many hours, again over oak or hickory charcoal, and dipped in a thin vinegar-tomato based pepper sauce. Which is better? I’m not gonna go on record saying, since I have friends and family on both sides of that fence, but they are both on my list.
- Fried Shrimp at the Dockside in Calabash, NC…I spent a lot of happy years on the NC coast as a kid, fortunate enough to have parents and grandparents with houses and history there. We’d spend a few weeks a summer on the beach or back in the marsh at Saspan Creek. At both places we would drag the seine net through the muddy canals, dredging up oysters and shrimp. I don’t think any of us kids ever thought much about eating what we caught and brought up to the house so proudly. Come to think of it, I’m not any adult ever tried to get us to – more for them that way. The highlight of these days was always the drive down to Calabash, a little town on the saltwater marsh that was mostly restaurants. Calabash was where the shrimping and fishing boats docked, and all the really good places to eat were family-run joints on the waterfront. The piers were working docks, covered in gulls and fish guts, oily ropes, rusty tools, and rustier fisherman. Calabash seafood has become known as a regional cooking style, but it’s really just short for perfectly fried fresh seafood serve with sweet tea, coleslaw and fries. Dad taught us the art of mixing horseradish into the cocktail sauce for that nose-tickling bite, and mom taught us that we shouldn’t throw the hushpuppies. Although our favorite place and the restaurants around it have probably sent more that their fair share of cardiologist’s kids to private schools, it’s well worth it. You’ve never had fried goodness like this.
- Collect your own food…In Alaska we’re lucky in so many ways that are important to food people. Fresh meat on the hoof or wing, fresh fish on the hook, greens, fiddleheads, mushrooms, berries. For thousands of years the locals have lived of the land, and these days lots of Alaskans, native and non-alike, still spend a lot of time and energy supplementing the grocery shopping with what we can gather from land. Even in Anchorage, a larger city, some of our friends see no need to buy meat at all. Caribou and moose take care of the red meat needs, and we have freezers stuffed with more fish than we know what to do with. Fall is fast falling upon us, and the berries have been getting ripe and heavy along the mountains. The raspberries in the yard that don’t get eaten while I mow the yard end up in sauces, dressings, and salads. Along the trails we hike there are thick blueberry patches, hidden cranberry bogs, salmon berries. We walk and fill Nalgene bottles, hats, cups, but mostly we fill our mouths. The fishing season is winding down, but the moose are getting wary as hunting season draws near. Something about wild food that you harvested yourself that makes it more satisfying.
In no particular order and for no particular reason, other that I like reading these guys, I’m tagging the following five sites to participate (if they so choose) and offer their own five ideas for the Traveler’s Lunchbox project, “Five things to eat Before you die.”