Thursday, January 31, 2013

Digger's Diary, Entry #1

Checked with my landlady yesterday to see if she would mind me taking out a teensy spot of land in our backyard to grow some veggies. Her response? "I don't care if you cultivate the whole yard. Make it yours."

Best landlady EVER.

One thing to know about Coastal MS gardening is: spring planting season starts early. As in, right after Christmas. The rule of thumb down here is you're safe to plant (aka, free of frost) by Easter Sunday, and lots of people put in transplants even earlier.

I'm going to sprout most of my own seedlings (gulp), so as soon as my seeds come in I'll get that going (with pictures, of course!). I order my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. They sell heirloom seeds, which means the seeds have been saved from the vegetables, then replanted, then those vegetables' seeds were saved, and so on. I like that.

Seed Shopping List:
Cucumber, Early Fortune
Squash, Summer Crookneck
Tomato, Eva Purple Ball
Pepper, Marconi Red 
Melon, Schoon's Hard Shell
Corn, Bloody Butcher    
Tomato, Black Cherry
Watermelon, Mtn. SweetYellow

I've also been saving kitchen scraps for composting. If you're new to composting, like me, one of the best books I have on the subject (thanks to my broseph) is Let it Rot! by Stu Campbell. Compost bin to come.

So, I have: permission, the beginning of a plan, seeds in the mail, and scraps for compost.

"Bloody Butcher" Corn. The Killer Corn of Fleet Street!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Highlights from the 2013 FoodBlogSouth Conference

As many of you know, this weekend I've been in fabulous Birmingham, AL for the 2013 FoodBlogSouth Conference. FoodBlogSouth is exactly what it sounds like: a conference for Southern food bloggers to get together, network, eat TONS of great food, and learn from the best in today's food blogging world. I've spent so long mesmerized by the food photography of greats like Helene Dujardin, and laughing at the wit of Adam Roberts, that now to see them in person seriously feels like brushing shoulders with celebrities. I got the same nervous twitchiness I got after I stood in line for 45 minutes to meet Alton Brown.

This whole weekend, right down to the detour we made to Auburn on our way home to have lunch with a dear friend, has been nothing short of exceptional. I will remember it my whole life. But there are some parts that just plain stick out and I want to tell you about them. So here we go:

1. 8a.m.: I arrive at the conference. It's exhilarating, but this is hugely important to me and I'm so nervous I make the boys (my ridin' buddies, Adam and Ryan) walk me to the front door like My Two Dads on the first day of school. Breathe.

2. 10a.m.: I've slipped into a seminar hosted by Cynthia Graubart. She's describing how to write a recipe with your reader in mind. She hands out two packets of roast chicken recipes that exemplify what she means. One is celebrity recipes...and one is select recipes from our FoodBlogSouth Recipe Telephone Game. My friends, yours most truly was among those selected!! I was grinning like when Eddie Murphy got some iiiiiiice cream as she read from my blog. I'm sure I looked like a psychopath. Had she not, thankfully, gone on to refer to "Michal Thornton" as "he," (it's cool, I'm used to it) I might well have died on the spot.

3. 12p.m.: I'm starving. We're behind schedule, so lunch isn't quite ready yet. I leave my junk on my seat and go in search of the ice cream samples I've seen people carrying around. Little do I know, I'm about to fracture time into My Life Before This Ice Cream and My Life After. The company is Atlanta-based High Road Craft Ice Cream. The flavor: berry mascarpone. It is, without exaggeration, the best ice cream I have ever had. I made the booth worker tell me twice that they will, in fact, ship to my doorstep.

 4. 1:30p.m.: for a blissful hour and a half, I watch Helene Dujardin of Tartelette and Tami Hardeman (food stylist at Oxmoor House) create, style, adjust, and shoot pictures of the loveliest bowl of pasta ever. I wish Michelle Goldman could have been there, because as a photographer she would get much more out of it than I do (there are moments when I'm pretty sure they abandon English in discussion of camera stuff), but I believe I will be of more use to her now when setting up shots. But y'all, even if I had learned less than nothing, for the rest of my life I got to watch Helene Dujardin do her thing, and that's all I need.

So there you have it. FoodBlogSouth 2013. Loathe to ditch my ridin' buddies, I didn't attend the Pre- or After-Parties, but in spite of that I had so much fun. And so much wonderful food! Thank you, Birmingham, for hosting us. Thank you, Jason Horn for corresponding with me and helping me keep entertained (not to mention for organizing the thing in the first place!) Thank you to the vendors for your hard work and generosity. I've already started making plans for FoodBlogSouth 2014--simply cannot wait.

Photos: stole the ice cream one from the High Road's Facebook page, and the one of Helene Dujardin is from my iPhone. I hope this counts as copyright credit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Brioche King Cake with Apple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling

Mardi Gras, like most (read: all) of our traditional Coastal MS holidays, is marked by some specific food items. Just like I rarely eat a praline outside of Christmastime, there is no getting moon pies before the first parade and after Fat Tuesday. And buying them is out of the question. The only way to procure a moon pie is to catch the slightly crushed one that comes flying off a Mardi Gras float at a parade. The rest of the year they might as well (but, curiously, do not) vanish from the Earth. King cakes are the same way. I think you can get them in the bakery section of our local Louisiana-based grocery store most of the year but...I'm not 100% sure on that. At any rate, I have no idea why they would bother. Apart from tourists who, bless their hearts, might not be able to visit during actual carnival season, I don't know anybody who eats king cake when it's not Mardi Gras.

In case it doesn't go without saying, I adore king cake. And around here, there's a hierarchy. The aforementioned Louisiana-based grocery store makes a pretty fine one, but the true king of the king cake comes from Paul's Pastry Shop in Picayune, MS. Everybody knows it, and it will probably always be an uncontested fact. Show up at a Mardi Gras party with a Paul's King Cake (especially filled with cream cheese or strawberry or some such) and you done good.

If you make your own, though, you done even gooder.

 Brioche King Cake with 
Apple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling

The Weather...Again

Just in case I haven't been emphatic enough about the freakishness of our "winter" weather, I think this about sums it up:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Coming in Spring 2013

So. What is your resolution? I started, this year, to just not make any, but that seems...un-American or something. So instead I've just tried to be more honest. And given the annual failure of my usual "I'm going to lose weight/get healthier/exercise more!" I've decided to try something I actually care about. Don't get me wrong. I think physical fitness is a noble cause, but upon closer self-inspection I've come to realize that I'm just jumping on the bandwagon pretty much because everybody else is. I could certainly be more active. I should, without question lose about 20 pounds. But I've seen who some folks become once they obtain the One Ring of Weightloss and...oof. There's a cautionary tale if ever I saw one. So, no shiny new weight-loss goals for me. Not this year, at least.

(Universe, if you're listening, this is not an exercise in reverse-psychology. I swear. I don't want to lose ANY weight this year. Don't you take those pounds from me without my even noticing...I'm warning you...)

So what ARE my goals this year? In order of importance:

1. Stop the parade of dessert food and learn to think of savory stuffs as share-worthy.

2. Update ye ole Blog at least once a week (I was doing purdy good until Christmas/nasty head cold/moving madness!)

3. Once Master Gardener status is attained, plant, care for, and blog about my garden in South Mississippi**

I think 3's a nice round number for a start. Once #3 gets up and running, there'll be a new tab on my blog's homepage just for what I'm learning and how my own garden is progressing. I've been searching for a long time for a blog about South MS gardening, but to no avail. So I guess I'll just make my own.

**Yes, "Master Gardener" is a real thing. It's a program offered by the Extension Service and MS State University. I've finally decided to take the time-consuming classes because I suck at gardening and that makes me sad, and because South MS gardening in particular is WEIRD. I'll explain that more as I learn more.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope yours was as special as mine. I hope you meet your resolutions with unwavering resolve. And I hope you enjoy the addition to my life and own sweet baby garden. See y'all in the dirt!

Happy New Year!!