"Recently, a magazine contacted my husband, Chris, and asked for a recipe using muscadines with apples for a special piece featuring apples in North Georgia. Of course, he turned to me and asked, “Any ideas?” Although this was during our harvest season and fresh muscadines were abundant, I thought how much easier it would be to use one of our products made from muscadines that are available year-round. My favorite muscadine product is Paulk's Pride Muscadine Sauce. Maybe I could even combine it with apples to make a modern version of a muscadine hull pie? "
My Papa was one heck of a man. Honest, trustworthy, dedicated, patient, kind, hardworking, simple, loving...I could go on and on. One of his great loves was fishing. He loved it so much, that he made sure his kids and grandkids had the opportunity to learn and love it too. I remember digging up worms in his worm bed, learning to bait a hook with stuck and bloody fingers, starting off with a cane pole and graduating to a rod and reel, sitting on an upside-down 5 gallon bucket, and getting caught in the trees more times than I'd like to admit. He cultivated a love for the outdoors in me at a young age, and I still enjoy fishing today.
My Nana's parents, who we called Pap and Granny Honey, also loved to fish. They decided to make use of a low spot behind their house and have a small pond dug. This turned out to be perfect for us kids, since Nana and Papa lived right next door! I remember thinking how magical and mysterious this small wooded pond was--never knowing what I'd pull out of that dark water.
From an early age, I remember loving the taste of fried fish. Our family usually gathered over a "fish fry" to celebrate birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. With such a large family to feed, this was one cost-effective way to please the crowd. Papa would fish for weekends, freezing his bounty, saving up for the big day. He and Nana would stand over the bubbling grease, waiting for the hushpuppies to float. Served alongside grits, homemade french fries, and slaw, it was a feast. He would stand in line with us kids, telling us what each piece was and what he thought we might like best. Then my mom or Nana would help us diligently pick it off of the bones to ensure we didn't accidentally swallow one and ruin the night. I'd sit barefoot at the table with my legs crisscrossed feeling like I was in heaven.
There was a period of time that I spent every Friday night with my grandparents. They, along with about 10 other couples, would gather at the cabin to hold a weekly fish fry. The men would spend their week catching as many fish as they could just so they would have an excuse to get together for supper. The women would bring in their specialties, whether it be a side or dessert, as their contribution. I remember sitting at a table, surrounded by "old women" talking about "old men", while the men gathered in the kitchen to chit chat and heat the grease. I didn't care that I was the only kid there--I got to eat my favorite meal and go home with my favorite people.
When my Papa got sick, I reflected on what it was about him that I admire and would miss so much. I decided that if I could marry someone that was half of the man he was, I would be happy. Little did I know that Phillip would come calling, and I would find him, too, honest, trustworthy, dedicated, patient, kind, hardworking, simple, and loving. The funny thing is, Phillip is also a carpenter (like my Papa), and he too loves to fish.
Phillip's family has a deep love for fishing as well, and "fish frys" are a common occurrence around their house. Needless to say, I fit right in.
Fried catfish and bream may seem like a poor man's dinner to some, but let me tell you, it's a feast fit for a king. I love the feeling of nostalgia and flood of memories that hot, greasy fish and homemade french fries bring. You know the old saying, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."? It is easy to believe that if I had only eaten a plate of fish at family get-togethers, rather than investing in the experience of fishing as a child, I wouldn't feel the way I do today. Good thing my Papa taught us to fish, because it did more than feed us for a lifetime.
If fried fish is new to you, but you'd like to give it a try, take home the Deep South cookbook! It showcases traditional Southern meals, like fried catfish with hush puppies and tartar sauce. Yum!
And in case you didn't know, lemon pie is a must when fish is on the menu. If you don't have a recipe of your own that you love, try out our Southern Pies cookbook!
Here in the South, we love to call a dish a "salad." Think about it - Watergate Salad, pear salad, chicken salads, congealed salads, frozen salads, ham salad - what really makes a salad a salad? Maybe it just makes us feel better about eating it?
Possibly the most confusing "salad" we serve at our Cafe is a dish called "Hot Chicken Salad," which is really more of a casserole. Adding to the confusion is the fact that we keep these Hot Chicken Salads in the freezer for sale for customers to bake at home!
It may be confusing, but one thing is for sure - it is delicious! Creamy chicken and rice, dotted with celery, boiled eggs, and almonds, all baked together makes for comfort food at its finest. Its ingredient list is simple, making it perfect for a weekday dinner or covered dish supper, but it can also be dressed up for company with a few extra almonds on top. Pair it with a green salad (meaning one made with lettuce, but no judgment if it's a Watergate Salad), or green beans for an easy meal just about anyone will eat!
Since it is a comfort food dish that almost anyone will eat, it's perfect for taking to a church potluck or to someone's house who's just had a baby or death in the family. In fact, the recipe is enough to make two large (9x13) pans, so you can bake one for your family and one to share! Tara's blog post, A Little Food Goes a Long Way, tells just how much sharing food with our neighbors really means!
Last week, we lost my sweet, 91-year-old grandmother. Many of you have heard me mention my grandmother as she and my grandfather had an enormous impact on my life.
I am so blessed to have had a childhood full of so many wonderful memories, especially of time spent with my Grandparents. Though we lived 12 hours away from them, Wayne and Helen Bloomingburg had an unbelievable way of being involved in our lives and making sure we (both me and my younger brother Troy) knew how much we were loved.
Grandma and Grandpa were hard-working folks that always put God and family first, and they raised their children to do the same. It is hard to talk about my grandmother without also talking about my grandfather. They were the most faithful and selfless people I have ever known. Even though we lived so far away, there was never a doubt that grandma and grandpa were in our corner.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I decided to live with my grandparents and get a summer job. My grandmother landed me a great job with a friend who was a real estate attorney. I spent five summers with my grandparents, working in the attorney’s office and exploring the city. (As much as I was allowed to - Grandpa liked to keep me close!) Oh, how I have cherished the time that I was able to spend with them in the summers. Grandma would tell marvelous stories of growing up in Selma, Alabama, what it was like to lose her mother at a young age, and how much she loved her “daddy”. I didn’t fully appreciate these experiences at the time, but I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the summers that I spent with my grandparents.
After her move to Florida, I was so happy to have her close and to be able to spend more time with her. She loved telling everyone in her assisted living village that I was her granddaughter, and she was so proud to have me every time I came. I never got tired of her calling me “sweetie” or telling me what a “doll” I was. Even after her stroke she would love to visit and talk about her childhood and memories of her youth. She never stopped being concerned about me, never stopped being my comforter, and never stopped being my grandma. When the words wouldn’t come, her pretty blue eyes and sweet smile still told me all I needed to know.
And now, as I have lost my last grandparent, it is such a bittersweet feeling of growing older. In a way, I feel like not only have I lost Grandma, but I feel like I have lost Grandpa all over again. I know that Grandma is so much happier now, to be with Jesus and Grandpa and her “mama” and “daddy”. I count myself so lucky to have been so loved by those two special people. I have so many friends that didn’t have that same experience. They don’t have parents and grandparents that will drop anything to do anything for their family. Just last week Grandma's care giver in the nursing home told me she had never known a family like ours, so full of love for each other and so many of us concerned about grandma. I told her that it was all because of “her” as I pointed to my grandmother with tears in my eyes. My family is truly lucky to have been led and loved by Helen and Wayne Bloomingburg, and I am forever grateful for their presence in my life and the legacy they have left behind in their family.
In honor and in memory of my Grandmother, I am reposting two blog posts I wrote about my grandparents in years past. When cleaning out my grandmothers' apartment, we found that she had a folder for each grandchild in her filing cabinet, each one filled with mementos and cards from over the years. My folder, amongst other things, held a copy of each blog post that I had sent her in the mail. On the outside of the papers she had written, “keep forever”. I am so glad that I took the time to share with her how I felt about her while she was living. I already miss her so much it hurts, but am rejoicing that she is at peace and with her Heavenly Father.
I am so blessed to have had a childhood full of so many wonderful memories, especially of time spent with my Grandparents. Though we lived 12 hours away from them, Wayne and Helen Bloomingburg had an unbelievable way of being involved in our lives and making sure we (both me and my younger brother Troy) knew how much we were loved. We were able to make the trip to Arlington, Virginia every summer and every other Christmas to pay them a visit.
My Grandparent's House
I am flooded today with memories of my grandparents’ house. As a kid it was a magical place that we were only lucky enough to visit on summer vacations and every other Christmas. It was not a huge house, a modest Sears and Roebuck home built in 1938, just on the outskirts of Washington D.C. My grandfather and his family moved in to the house when he was 14. In turn, my grandfather later bought the house from his father, and my mother moved into the house when she was 14. The house was a happy home to the same family for its entire life. It saw many a Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Morning and visiting relative. Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent there.