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.

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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

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

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C

C is for Cheerwine

[chir wahyn]

I’ll make a confession to y’all.

I have never actually had a Cheerwine.

Of course, I know all about them – they’re truly iconic to Southern culture – the “Nectar of North Carolina” as it were; but yeah, somehow or another, I’ve never actually consumed one of the fizzy, black-cherry “Legends.”

Not that Cheerwine’s gonna lose any sleep over my lack of commitment.  According to the owners, the Carolina Beverage Corporation of Salisbury, North Carolina, even without my meager contribution, they’ve managed to become the nation’s “the oldest continuing soft drink company still run by the same family.”

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For ages, you could only get Cheerwine inside the Carolinas, or smuggled out a case or a four pack at a time, like Coors beers of long ago slipped out of Texarkana by the “Bandit.”

But to celebrate their 100th year of production in 2017, Cheerwine has partnered with Pepsi Bottling Company  to distribute their elixir throughout the entire United States of America.

Their slogan: “Born in the South.  Raised in a Glass.”

Of course, while you can raise a Cheerwine as a toast, the beverage itself has no alcohol.  It was named because of its “wine red” color and that “cheery” feeling you “get” from drinking one.

However…

Insiders (that is, a former college roommate whose name I won’t disclose) have revealed that the lack of alcohol in Cheerwine can be easily remedied by mixing your cheery cherry soda with a little Captain Morgan Spiced rum, to make a drink called a “Captain Cheerwine,” or the “Whining Pirate.”

captain cheerwine

Hmm.  I’m seriously wondering how I managed to miss this one. I was pretty open minded about aquatic-themed mixed drinks when I was in college.

Oh well, if boozin’ up your bubbles is not your thang, you could still get a sugar rush.

In 2010, Cheerwine began a collaboration with fellow North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, to produce a limited run “cheerwine-cream filled” variety.

I’m trying to imagine what a cheerwine-cream filled doughnut would taste like.  I think I’ll limit that to my imagination.

Unless you’d like to pair it with a “Pirate.”

Know this, though: Even if the soft drink reaches all 50 states, there’s one thing we can claim about our Cheerwine that the rest of the country cannot. It tastes like home. It tastes like North Carolina. – Jimmy Thomlin

 

 

 

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

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B

B is for BBQ

[bahr-bi-kyoo]

BBQ. Three tiny little letters that represent enormously fierce fightin’ words south of the M/D line.

BBQ, barbecue (barbeque if you’re prissy, a chef or a Yankee) or ‘cue (if you’re likely to be wearing a trucker hat at this moment), is more than grilled meat.  It’s a war between states, religions and generations over what it is exactly, who makes it best and how to get baked bean stains out of a white shirt.

It’s regional divides harking back to the Civil War over sauce (Memphis, North Carolina, North Alabama White. Tomato-based.  Mustard-based.  Vinegar-based. My apologies to you lovely people in the Heartlands, but Kansas City does not have a dog in this hunt), cooking times, ways to cook (dare I even utter, “Big Green Egg, sotto voce?”), coals (hickory, applewood, oak, mesquite) plus the whole whiny dichotomy of noun verses verb.

flames

BBQ can be a simple pork sandwich slopped with Daddy’s sauce.  And again, I say simple: entire families have split asunder over over this gastronomical delicacy.  What kinda meat? Is it pork?  If so, chops, loin, babybacks, butt or the whole hawg? “Inside” meat, moist and juicy or “outside” meat, slightly charred?  Is it beef brisket (Texas style, the way my Mom makes it) or even chicken, smothered in “red” or “white”?

What’s it on?  A hamburger bun, thick-sliced and lightly toasted homemade bread, a Kaiser roll, a split chunk of cornbread or just a piece of Wonderbread straight off the loaf, served on the side to soak up the juice?

sandwich with sauce

Sauce.  Yeah, I mentioned it before in passing but let’s not even touch on what style of sauce.  That’s just a bit too personal, like your walk with the Lord or whether or not you got drawers on under them jeans. I mean how is your meat sauced?  Is it slathered on top?  Marinaded or dry rubbed?  All smoked and chopped and stirred up first in a pot with some extra spicy before loadin’ on the bread?

Pickles?  Go ahead, put ’em on, but be prepared for folks to start mutterin’ about the “slippery slope.”

Coleslaw?  That’s different.  Sure, you can serve it on the side, with the baked beans, corn on the cob and Brunswick stew, but you can also pile it high on top of the sandwich, right under the bun.  It’s so good that way!  And if you do a slaw stack (and your granny’s not flipping in her grave), is it Mayo-based (Duke’s of course, there is no other) or a vinegar-based cabbage salad?

My heavens, as a good Southerner, are you even allowed to eat those divinely yummy (but slightly heretical) pork BBQ Sundays? That’s “nouvelle” cuisine at its most controversial.

sundae

But BBQ doesn’t stop there, oh no, no, no.  We’re just scratchin’ that pig on its ears.

BBQ also means to grill: pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, sticks of veggies, Spanish mackerel…umm tuna steak? Never tofu.  Really.  Otherwise, if you can skewer it up or keep it from slippin’ through the grates, you can set a fire about it.

And a BBQ, “the BBQ” is also the instrument of the flames. The pit. The grill.  The Webber.

“Burton McNeely Hallsworth the third, you and your daddy fire up that there barbecue – we’ve got folks comin’ over and we need to smoke up a mess o’ ribs.”

The mechanism that delivers the meaty manna can range from a $9.99 K-mart Hibachi to a re-purposed oil drum.  Some are built-in brick fire pits that take up half the back yard.  Some of them are so huge you can tow ’em behind the truck on a trailer.

grill

Honestly, in the Deep South, gas grills are considered by many to be a little “sissy,” but that doesn’t stop good ol’ boys (and gals) from investing tens of thousands of dollars in some chrome monstrosity with multiple levels, warming drawers and a steam tray.  Personally, I always feel those fellas are overcompensatin’ a mite but I’ll leave it at that.  In my family, they use a charcoal grill complete with an aluminum chimney to nurse the coals to the proper color and ash before spreading them with a practiced flourish to the exact micro-density required to perfectly cook the protein du jour.

But before I forget, there’s another BBQ entirely.

shrimp

Creole BBQ.  It’s got nothing to do with grills or tomato-based sauces.  Creole BBQ is a heady blend of salt, black pepper and spices (rosemary, thyme, paprika) pan sauteed with fresh shrimp still with the heads, tails and shells, at least a pound of sweet butter, diced green chilies, minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon and a hearty dash of Tabasco, served in a bowl with a hunk of French bread for soppin.’

Despite the galaxy’s vast reaches of technology and ideology imbuing this culinary zeitgiest, in my mind  (arguably) the best inventions to come along in the entire history of barbecue?

wetwipetums

I try to avoid barbecue potato chips. They’re my weakness.

 – Gwyneth Paltrow

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

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Honestly, I think the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is the Devil.  Every year at the end of March it lures me in with its sweet words and easy promises and every year I leap from the bridge of common sense into the blog bog with high hopes and good intentions, only to flop miserably around the letter M, crushed motionless (see what I did there?!) by time and responsibilities.

“This year shall be different,” I say! (yeah, I really don’t believe me either).

I do actually tremendously enjoy the theme I {attempt} to write each year through my alter-ego, “The Hellacious Belle,” regarding A – Z topics on life in the Modern South.  This year, I’ll gonna try to shepherd you through a maze of materials of which I possess a tad bit o’ knowledge:  Food and Drink (or, Sips and Vittles, as I’ve so dubbed them).

Allons-y: the Letter A!

A

A is for Abita Turbodog Beer

Quite a long time before swanky craft beers and artisan gastropubs were a way of everyday life in the Deep South, there was Abita.

Abita Brewing Company was founded just outside of New Orleans in 1986 and quickly became the go-to-brew of my panhellenic party peeps during my early collegiate days at the University of South Alabama.

To be transparent, I’ve never been much of a beer gal.  I’ll enjoy a “canoe” beer (WARNING: Adult Content in the link), like Coors Light or Amstel, while sunning at the pool or fishing (it’s actually fairly de rigueur in these parts) but a hearty, heady, hoppy half-pint never much floated my boat.

That is, with the exception of Abita’s finest (IMHO) the legendary Turbodog.

abitaturbodogglass

And don’t ask me why, because I can’t tell you.

I just find this beer pretty damn tasty.  Abita credits it to pale, caramel, and chocolate malts and Willamette hops giving the ol’ T-Dog its rich body and color and a sweet chocolate, toffee-like flavor.

I credit it to memories of roadtrips with my sorority sibs, sunny Gulf beaches, barbeques and boating, captured through a glorious, golden Instagram filter of happiness.

Here’s raising a glass to one of my favorite pups!

(And for you brave culinary adventurers, a recipe from Abita’s Website for Turbodog Barbequed Alligator Legs)

Chef Greg Collier – Red Fish Grill

Makes 6 appetizer portions

The Alligator Legs

1 gallon water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon liquid crab boil
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
5 pounds alligator legs, skinned

Combine the water, salt, onion, crab boil and Creole seasoning in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle boil, add the alligator legs and simmer until the meat begins to fall off the bone.  Drain and pick the meat off the bones.  Set aside.

The Barbecue Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 ounces Abita Turbodog (3/8 cup)
9 ounces ketchup (1 1/8 cup)
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce (or other hot sauce)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until they are soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to an electric blender and puree.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the alligator meat with the barbecue sauce and arrange in a baking pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.
Serve warm.

Note:  In Louisiana some specialty markets and supermarkets carry alligator meat.  Alligator legs and meat are also available at http://www.nafood.com

 

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All in the family

I recently stumbled across a Facebook dialogue between me and my cousin Cindy from a couple of months ago.  For some reason, reading it again really cracked me up.

It should most likely offer you a lovely window into my family’s warped sense of humor.

I had just posted this picture of a 4-year old Kim, as part of a #100 Happy Days Social Media challenge. My cousin was quick to comment, sneaking in a reference to my childhood fear of Santa Claus.

image

image

Yep.

 

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