It’s the first week of Spring and it has snowed twice here in New Jersey. That’s just mean. Especially since I had been driving through North Carolina just a few short days before, sunroof open, wearing flip-flops and a tank top. When one has felt that first sweet kiss of Spring-time warmth on bare skin after a long dark winter, coming back to sleety boot-and-glove climate feels a bit like a slap. Daylight Savings Time did not come a moment too soon for me.
I am loving the extra sunlight! While I’ve been busy exploring bite-sized chunks of NYC, and have been doing really well on some of my New Year’s resolutions (wearing more eyeliner; my “Walk ’til You Get Warm” exercise regime), I’ve honestly been a little listless, aimless this Winter. So I’m taking the burst of energy that the lengthening days bring me to try to undertake an epic personal cooking challenge: I’m going to cook my way through Garden & Gun magazine’s Ultimate Southern Food Bracket.
There are 32 Southern foods in the brackets, which are, in the tradition of March Madness, being narrowed down to the Championship face-off for Ultimate Southern Food. I’ve been voting the bracket on Facebook and have found some of the match-ups strange: how to choose between okra and banana pudding, or pimento cheese and country ham biscuits, (and this one in particular) deviled eggs and fried chicken? How can any of those be losers? I love them all! Having spent the last decade on the West coast and now living in New Jersey, I’m feeling a nostalgic pull to wade back into the flavors and scents of the Southern table. I might even add a couple of my own Southern favorites to the list.
So I’m going to try to cook them all, see if I stand by my votes, see which Southern foods are my desert island choices. Given some of the strange makeshift arrangements in my kitchen, my ignorance of where to source things like grits and country ham and crawfish in my area, and my firm belief that no one wants me smoking pulled pork or having a fish fry on my fire escape, I hope it will be fun and not an act of madness. I’m thinking it will be fun. And maybe a little crazy. So here we go-