A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South – R is for RC Cola

HB RC Cola

Hey Y’all!  I’m back with another installation of a Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South.  May I take a moment to introduce you to a sippin’ stable of the South, the Royal Crown Cola?

Royal Crown Cola or RC, is the Moon Pie’s Bubbly Buddy and the Most Famous Cola-drink you may never have met.  It’s the fizz that saw the first aluminum cans and paved the way for the diet sodas we know today.

Just like Coca Cola, RC was founded in the state of Georgia – in the town of Columbus, to be exact, way back in 1905.  The Founder of RC, Claude Hatcher, was a grocery store owner, who felt he deserved a discounted deal due to his large monthly orders of Coca-Cola syrup sold in the store and pharmacy’s soda fountain.  When his salesman wouldn’t oblige, Claude became determined to make his own carbinated beverages, starting with a Ginger Ale and moving on to a cherry-flavored drink called Chero-Cola.  As the company grew and sales took off in the 1920s, its moniker changed to Nehi.

1934 saw the official introduction of their flagship product, Royal Crown Cola, which became the new company name and a grocery-store staple after a nation-wide series of taste-tests and and the launch of a print and TV ad campaign featuring such celebrities as Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford, Shirley Temple and Lucille Ball.

But how did RC match up with the Moon Pie, to become the stuff of Southern Legend? Interestingly, the marriage of these iconic treats was perhaps one more of convenience than passion: During the Depression, both RC Cola and Moon Pies (based out of Chattanooga), were cheaper than their competitors (five cents each!) making them ideal for working-class people, miners, farmers and kids all over the South.

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: N is for Nashville Hot Chicken

nashvillehotHey guys!  We’re back today with the Hellacious Belle’s guide to Southern Food and Bevs, ’cause whoo hoo!  We just got us a Hattie B’s in the ATL and I wanted to share.

Hattie B’s is a purveyor of Nashville Hot Chicken, which is a type of fried chicken made famous in the Music City, that’s marinated in spices, crispy fried and sauced again with a pepper-based paste.

Nashville Hot Chicken is usually served with white bread and some pickle chips and ranges from mild, “Southern” heat to “Burn Notice” style, STCU.

Our branch of Hatti B’s has been open maybe a month or two but the lines are still wrapped around the block at lunch and dinner.  I’ll pass for now on a wait for a plate and instead try my luck making my own fiery fried cluck, with a recipe courtesy of the Food Network.

In a way that somebody else converts to Judaism or becomes a Hare Krishna, I belong to the church of fried chicken. – Padma Lakshmi

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: L is for Lard #AtoZChallenge

lisforlard

When I was a girl growing up, everybody used lard for cooking.  Crisco, which is a  vegetable oil shortening, was around, but nothing beat good old rendered pig fat for flaky piecrusts and crispy fried chicken.

Lard’s been around as a culinary stable since the Middle Ages, but its use began to decline after got a particularly bad rap in the 90s when McDonald’s abandoned frying their shoestrings in beef tallow for what was, at that point, considered the healthy alternative, vegetable oil.

In fact, vegetable oils are now considered the villain since they can contain trans-fatty acids, which increase total cholesterol, raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  Vegetable oils may also have adverse effects on cell membranes and the immune system, and may promote inflammation, cancer and accelerated aging.

So the lard is getting its second wind – it’s now the go-to grease for farm-to-table culinary kings looking for a some fat to fry.  Lard’s a saturated fat, which is more heart healthy, it’s neutral flavored, sustainable, inexpensive, chock-full of vitamin D, has a high smoking point so it’s good for frying, it’s traditional and –

it makes for some awesome biscuits.

And that is a gig fit for a pig.

 I’m convinced that the redemption of lard is finally at hand because we live in a world where trendiness is next to godliness. And lard hits all the right notes, especially if you euphemize it as rendered pork fat—bacon butter. – 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: K is for Karo Syrup #AtoZChallenge

kisforkaro

Karo Syrup is a staple of most Southern pantries.  Widely used for baking, Karo comes in three varieties: light, dark and brown sugar-flavored.

It’s divine in pecan pies and divinity, a wonderful white candy my Granny used to make.

pancake

Oh, and it’s very tasty on pancakes.

Just ’cause you pour syrup on something doesn’t make it pancakes – Samuel L. Jackson

 

 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: J is for Juice #AtoZChallenge

juice

J is for Juice – Grape Juice.  In honor of our current visit to Montaluce Winery, I’m sharing a previous post about Southern Wines.

As a city belle and a lifetime hospitality industry employee, I tend to think of myself as a tiny bit of a connoisseur when it comes to wine.  I do say “tiny,” because not only is the industry enormous, but the varieties and varietals are almost infinite – years of study and training (and drinking!) are required to become an expert.  And although I’ve had some study and training (and I’ve definitely mastered the “drinking” part) I still feel that  fundamentally “it’s just grape juice,” (although sometimes truly amazing grape juice honed by masters) and there is a flavor for everyone and every palate.

Although the Southern states of Virginia, North Carolina and Texas are perhaps better known for wine making, it’s interesting to know that my home state of Georgia was once one of the largest producers of wines in the United States. Prohibition’s early start in Georgia (1907), wiped out their lead and made the industry almost non-existent until the 1970s, with the exception; oddly enough, of sacramental wine production.

Today, Georgia boasts over two dozen vineyards and wineries all over the state, although the preponderance are located north of Atlanta, in the higher elevations of Helen, Dahlonega and Cleveland.

Georgia boasts climactic conditions suited for growing Vitis vinifera (European varieties) and cold-hardy French-American hybrids used for making traditional “fine” wines. The South’s mild Springs and early Summers allow a long growing season and the higher elevations of the Appalachian foothills provide some relief from the humidity.  Our famous red clay soil, a universal source of profanity after a rainstorm, actually contributes to both to excellent drainage and the ability to retain moisture during dry spells.

255072

Vines at Montaluce, in Dahlonega, GA

Basically, this all means that the South, and Georgia in particular, is enjoying a renaissance of vinification.

How fortunate, I’ve always considered myself a “renaissance girl!”

399020_10151097183882561_504866155_n

Frogtown Cellars in Dahlonga, Georgia

Once I managed to climb over my own ridiculous snobbery about Georgia-produced wines, I fell in love with the North Georgia wine country.

We visit its rolling hills and beautiful wineries several times each year, even staying in the estate villas in Montaluce for family vacations.

255057

Skilled winemakers and award-winning wines make it a pleasure not only to “shop,” but to “buy local.”

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
Ernest Hemingway

We’re not trying to make California wine. If you want California wine, go to California. What we are doing is making Georgia wine…and Georgia wine is good wine.”

-Rob Beecham, Montaluce Vineyards

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: H is for Handpie #AtoZChallenge

handpie

OMG, I have to stop writing about food for this challenge.  I’m perpetually hungry and can think of nothing but making and eating all the food that I’m writing about.

Today, we look at the humble handpie, or fried pie, another traditional Southern consumable.

In theory, the handpie can be savory (and is in many cuisines, such as the divine empanadas of Hispanic culinary culture) but in the Southern United States, it’s traditionally sweet.

A single portion: rolled out biscuit dough, an aromatic filling of spices and fresh fruits (plums, peaches, apples), a quick crimp ’round the corners and a fast fry in hot oil – drain and dust with powdered sugar or a cinnamon sugar blend – maybe a drizzle of icing glaze.

A hot, palate-intensive flash of concentrated fruit flavor surrounded by sweet, melt-y, crunchy, flakey, amazing – give me one, NOW.

::sigh::

handpie

I, for one, am ready for a handout.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”
David Mamet, Boston Marriage

 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: G is for Gravy #AtoZChallenge

gisforgravy.jpg

My Granny made some great gravy.

And when I say gravy, I’m not in particular talking about turkey gravy, or roast beef gravy, although she made both of those very well, as she did everything she cooked.  But her white gravy was beyond perfection.

White gravy is a staple of Southern cuisine.  It’s also called  “milk” or “sawmill” gravy.

White gravy is what you spoon over biscuits, ladle over country-fried steak and mashed potatoes or dollop on fried chicken.  It’s based on pan or bacon drippings, along with a little white flour, cold milk, some butter, salt and a strong dash of black pepper.

Perfection.  Please pass the biscuits.

Some people doll it up with crumbled sausage or bacon or even roasted garlic, but to me that’s just gilding the {White} Lily, since anything more is simply…

gravy.

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage. – Erma Bombeck

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: F is for Fried Food #AtoZChallenge

f is for fried

Fried Food

[hahrt uhtak onnuh pleyt]

Fried food is pretty much a staple of Southern Cuisine.

Fried chicken, of course – that’s iconic. Fried green tomatoes (with crab meat and remoulade or just plain, dusted with cornmeal).  Fried okra (my favorite.) Fried pies (or hand pies – we’ll talk about those a different day.)  Fried shrimp and fried crab claws, fresh off the boat and crispy hot.  Fried squash (which really isn’t fried – just cooked in a skillet) and country-fried steak.  Hush puppies and griddle cakes.  Fried pickles with Ranch Dressing (noms.) Bacon (seriously, you can’t microwave it. You have to fry it to get the drippins for gravy.)

OMG, now I’m starving.

Fried foods are wonderful.  Yeah, whatevs, not good for you, but wonderful.  I’m a big proponent of enjoying them – albeit in limited quantities.

Some things, however, just shouldn’t be fried – although you’d be hard pressed to tell that to a Southern man (my Daddy in particular.)  It honestly just adds insult to injury:  Fried snicker bars?  Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches?  Fried koolaid?

That’s the culinary equivalent of Bubba’s last words.  “Hey y’all, watch ‘is!”

“You can say a lot of bad things about Alabama, but you can’t say that Alabamans as a people are duly afraid of deep fryers.” 
― John Green, Looking for Alaska 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: E is for Everclear #AtoZChallenge

everclear

[oh mah hed]

Everclear.  Golden Grain.  PGA.

Pure grain alcohol. Pure guaranteed foolishness.

When I was coming up with my list of A-Z food and drinks, Everclear was the first thing that popped into my brain for the letter E.  After doing a little research on this combustible corn distillate, I’m surprised I still have a brain after drinking this stuff back in my college days.  190-proof ethanol.  You could remove warts with it.

Well, at least (and probably the only thing that saved me) we diluted it with gallons of Hawaiian Punch, Country Time Pink Lemonade and/or Grape Koolaid.   And cans of Libby’s Fruit cocktail (for Vitamin C).  We’d mix it up in a big ol’ Coleman ice chest and serve it at dorm parties.  Hunch punch.  Jungle Juice.  When the punch was gone, you ate the fruit, which was also, by this time, 190-proof.

To distract myself from the shame of younger me stupidity, I can tell you a funny story about a time I had a dorm party with my freshman roomie, Angela,* where Hunch Punch played a role.  At least, it’s funny to me, but lord knows what’s humor and what’s a byproduct of damage done by the grain.

At some point during the punch party that night, I left to walk someone back to their room.  When I came back several hours later, my dorm (a double with a kitchen and common room) was dark and eerily quiet.

What?!!!  We’d made a big batch of punch.  The party should certainly not be over so soon.

“Hello?” I hollered, a bit hesitant, into the blackness.

I turned on the table lamp and winced as light flooded the scene.

Holy crap! Everywhere were strange alien growths! All over the furniture!  The cabinets!  The TV!

They were oozy and pale and slightly luminous, sort of like fleshy stalactites and stalagmites.  I was raised on Science Fiction, ladies and gentlemen – I’m a Star Trek baby.

 This had all the earmarks of a first-stage invasion.

The Hunch Punch cooler was ominously empty, but for a scant bathtub ring of red death and a lone, incendiary chunk of pineapple.

I heard a groan.  Racing down the hall to Angela*’s room, I tripped over a crumpled wad of debris in threshold as I flipped on the lights.

And there she was: unconscious on her bed, being slowly devoured by alien beings.

Her hair was filled with the white growths, which had spread across her face and clung to her eyelashes.  She stuttered and twitched, spastically clutching a battered tube in her hand.  She moaned again.

Terrified, but fascinated, I leaned in.

She mumbled. “Bisssss-kit.  We need bissssss… Kit.”

Puzzled, I drew back and squinted at her mottled visage through booze-befuddled eyes. Ahhh.

It was coming together.

I pried the mangled cardboard from her fingers and returned through the hallway, kicking the wad of metal and paper from the sill as I passed.

In the kitchen: The Siege of the Dough Boy.

Even drunk, I could easily reconstruct the events leading to the carnage, as I waded through scraps of biscuit tubes and melting dough. My roommate and her cronies, in what was obviously an ethanol-fueled frenzy, had breached the stash of Pillsbury Grands sent home with me by my grandmother.

A biscuit battle had ensued. At least, till the punch and dough ran out.

I ate the last piece of fruit in the cooler and went to bed.

My memory of the night, though many years later…

Everclear.

(aarrgghh).

Mallory: Say, this stuff is pretty good. What did you say it was?
Pam: Basically? Pure ethanol.
Mallory: Huh. Well God bless corn subsidiaries.

— Archer (TV Show)

*names are changed purely for my own protection

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to Sips and Vittles of the Modern South: D is for Dumplings #AtoZChallenge

dumplings

D is for Dumplings

[chikuh n en duhmp-linz’]

Do you have one of those foods that evokes memories as it melts in your mouth?

I don’t know, some edible that for some crazy reason manages to conspire with your taste buds to open windows into your past, to where you’d swear that for that moment, just one brief second in time, you were somewhere else entirely?

For me, it’s chicken and dumplings.

Dumplings made by my beloved Granny, who’s been gone now for almost 20 years.

dumplins2

I can just look at that photo of chicken and dumplings posted above and be transported through all those years to my Granny’s kitchen table.

The room in my mind is all cozy and warm on a rainy day, the curtains and tablecloth bright splashes of orange and yellow against the grey skies framed in her bay window.

A simple white plate in front of me – steam and the heady aroma of stewed chicken and herbs rising through the air.

The first bite: white meat bird cooked so tender it shreds against your fork as you lift it to your mouth.  Mealy dumplings bland and chewy amidst the peppery sting of the gravy, hot against my teeth and tongue, every component working together to create a flavor overall greater than its individual parts.

Bliss.

In the moving picture that plays in my head, I pause for a second to feel my happiness. My contentment.  I smile, there in my past and here in my present, basking in my Granny’s love for me, the surest thing I know – both then and now.

She bustles up, breaking the reverie as she fills everyone’s glass of sweet iced tea.

“Kimberly Lynne!  You’re not eating!”

There’s a worried look on her beautiful face.

“You must not like it.  I’m gonna make you something else.  Just give me a moment.”

“No, no, Granny!  Stop! It’s perfect!”  I say.

And for this moment, everything is.

 

How to announce the return of comfort and well-being except by cooking something fragrant. That is what her mother always did. After every calamity of any significance she would fill the atmosphere of the house with the smell of cinnamon rolls or brownies, or with chicken and dumplings, and it would mean, This house has a soul that loves us all, no matter what. – Marilyn Robinson