Molly and I just returned home from visiting friends and family in the Peachtree State. My parents live in Georgia so we travel down there about once a year, usually in the summer time. It’s always great to be able to recharge my dirty south batteries. My soul was ready for the syrupy drawls, the open pastures and some gravy in the land where tea flows like wine.
The schools start a month earlier in the southeast (they get out at the end of May) so my nephew and younger sister, Andrea, had to go during the day. My mom and middle sister, Allison, were able to get a few days off and we had a lovely time together. I made it a point to cook a few meals and I had my heart set on hunting down some roadside stands and picking out some fresh produce.
I was sad to learn that one of my favorite spots to buy veggies and preserves had closed down. I had a difficult time tracking anything else down which surprised me. I can recall several places that people used to park and sell their produce and sometimes even some boiled peanuts. I searched high and low online and finally located the Thompson Family Farm stand outside of Monroe, Georgia. Tomatoes, freshly shelled beans, local honey and homemade pepper sauce are just a few of the goodies I found there. They even had boiled peanuts! (If you can get them fresh, they’re such a treat!) My friend, Julia, shared a soup recipe with me and now, no tomato is safe!! Our CSA share has kept us so stocked up on great veggies, including gorgeous tomatoes. My neighbor also gave us a bag full of them from her yard so we’ve been up to our ears! I have roasted almost every one of them and made either soup or sauce. The recipe calls for extra veggie stock but I haven’t found it necessary. Give that recipe a shot and impress your friends!
Veggies aside, I was also hoping to track down some chow chow. For those of you not familiar with it, chow chow is a southern relish made primarily from onions with a touch of pepper. There are variations but, traditionally, the relish is tangy with a bit of heat. I like to eat them with beans, especially pintos! I promised a coworker that I would bring back a jar. When I asked about it, the lady who was working at the stand (Teresa) said that they didn’t sell any. She then called her mother (Also Teresa, but goes by Doodle. She also works at the shop) and asked her if she knew of a place where I could find some. They both brainstormed and came up with one place that wasn’t too far. Teresa called them and they did have two variations of chow chow. Doodle then called Teresa back to inform her that a friend of hers made and canned a bunch of things. She was sure the woman would have some as well. Turns out, her mother lived a few houses down so she walked over. She arranged for her friend to meet me at the stand. A few moments later, a car with two elderly women pulled up. The woman in the passenger seat had a jar in her hands.
You lookin’ for chow chow?
For a second, I felt like I was in some southeastern version of The Godfather. It would be called The Grandpappy. I gratefully handed her a ten dollar bill and did my best to refrain from busting out a happy dance. The two women drove away and I stood there with my quart of relish in hand while plotting how to get it back to Boston in one piece. I loaded up on a few more items at the farm stand. Doodle saw how excited I was about the chow chow and said that she did some canning of her own. She ran to her house, brought back some apple butter and some strawberry fig jam and gave them to me. I thanked her profusely and staggered back to my car, drunk from the barely legal dose of southern hospitality. The strawberry and fig jam was as delicious as it sounds!
The rest of the week with my family was just as fun. I spent a lot of time star gazing, sipping iced tea and catching up on movies with my parents. My mom and I had two different theme nights.
Mark Ruffalo night: My #1 celebrity crush. The man melts my butter! We watched Just Like Heaven and 13 Going on 30.
Japanese Food & Culture night: This was extra awesome because I finally was able to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s a fascinating documentary about an 85 year old sushi chef. Highly recommended!!! It was so beautifully done. We also watched The Ramen Girl. The movie poster makes it look extra corny. It was basically Clueless meets Lost in Translation.
Speaking of guilty pleasures, I had a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut last week. I honestly cannot remember the last time this happened. Molly was either a baby or hadn’t been born yet. When I was growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, it wasn’t uncommon for my mom to do “emergency” u-turns because the hot doughnut sign was on!
I’ve been a little homesick since I landed in Boston on Monday. The last few days have been spent getting the house back in order and getting Molly ready to start the 6th grade tomorrow morning! I had just moved to Huntsville when I was her age. I was the new kid in middle school which wasn’t easy for me. I met a lifelong friend that year and we are still very close. Molly already has a few good friends going in and that makes me feel more at ease. She has a great attitude and I know that will be a valuable asset. This is the start of a major journey and I feel that we are as ready as we can be. I might be more nervous than she is!