September 1, 2010 11:28:00 AM
A week ago Terry and I drove to Chattanooga, Tenn., for a wonderful weekend. The impetus for the trip was another of the Southern Foodways Alliance event, this time a Potlikker Film Festival held at Warehouse Row in Chattanooga. Two of my favorite people (who happen to be married) live on Lookout Mountain, so we needed little incentive to go.
Chattanooga has made quite a comeback in the last decade and boasts a world-class aquarium, fabulous shopping and a thriving food scene. Daniel Lindley, who is from Chattanooga, came back home several years ago and is the creative force behind three of the most popular restaurants in town: St. John''s Restaurant, St. John''s Meeting Place and Alleia. He was at the Potlikker with amazing pork tacos using freshly made corn tortillas, local heritage pork (from Sequatchie Farms) and a choice of five or six salsas and other toppings.
At other tables were shot glasses of potlikker (ahem, I assume I don''t have to tell a Southerner what this is, but we may others living here. Potlikker is the fragrant, smoky-tasting liquid left in the pot after you''ve cooked your greens, if you''ve cooked them right), served with cornbread, "hot" fried chicken and cold fried chicken, and locally-made bacon sausage.
The hot (as in spicy hot) fried chicken was based on one of the three short films we saw. Prince''s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville is the home of lip-tingling, tongue-scorching chicken that isn''t for everyone. It all started when the current owner''s uncle was two-, three-, or four-timing his girlfriend. She was so mad that she vowed to get him back with chicken smothered in cayenne pepper. Surprise! He loved it, and pretty soon she was cooking it for everyone in the neighborhood. Later, he opened the Hot Chicken Shack.
We also saw my favorite SFA movie, "CUD," based on Will Harris and his South Georgia cattle farm, White Oak Pastures, that has been in his family for five generations since 1866. I don''t know Will, but I think I love Will and respect his change years ago to natural farming and his grass-fed beef.
The third film introduced Rodney Scott of Scott''s BBQ in Hemingway, S.C., Rodney is the pitmaster of the family business and has been at the fire since he was 11 years old. He cooks whole hog barbecue and takes great pride in his method and his passion.
Rodney uses only wood and cuts all the trees himself. In a story on Rodney for the New York Times, John T. Edge wrote, "For aficionados in search of ever-elusive authenticity, Scott''s offers all the rural tropes of a signal American barbecue joint ... the crowd that Saturday afternoon was typical: Half black and half white, half locals and half pilgrims." If you are in that area of South Carolina, I recommend finding Rodney and his barbecue.
All three of these films -- "CUD," "Hot Chicken" -- and "Cut/Chop/ Cook," can be seen at www.southernfoodways.
Made in America
A highlight of for us was lunch at Bob and Cheryl Kellerman''s Tennessee River-front home. Bob and his first cousin, Henry Lodge, are part of the fourth generation of family owners of Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturing, forgers of the only remaining American-made cast iron skillets. Let me repeat that, Lodge is the only remaining American manufacturer of cast-iron cookware.
We were treated to cornbread omelets and peach cobbler under the oak trees, followed by a truly interesting, unbelievably loud, really hot tour of the forge. There are no public tours, so we were privileged to be inside the plant.
I''m not very technical, but here are a few tidbits of information. There are three elements to their product: iron, carbon, and silicon. These elements are derived from recycled cast iron (using only their own pieces returned or not sold, for whatever reason), scrap manufacturing steel and pig iron.
The melted iron is poured into a sand mold with 400-1,600 pieces produced every hour. The seasoning process is proprietary technology that involves a thin coat of vegetable oil sprayed onto the piece. Oh, and you can use soap on your skillet, just wipe it with oil after drying. Go to www.lodgemfg.com for more info.
South Pittsburg (part of the Chattanooga area) is also the home of the National Cornbread Festival. All I know is that it''s big, sounds delicious, and happens the last weekend in April. Combine this with a trip to Chattanooga (and the Choo-Choo) for a fun family vacation.
We did go to Sequatchie Cove Creamery where my friend, Donna, bought some beef and I purchased some of their delicious cheese. Dinner at Canyon Grill was fabulous, sort of indescribable, and I sure can''t tell you how to get there. It''s on the mountain, past Covenant College, OK? You need to Google it if you are in the area and make an effort to find it.
About the cornbread omelets: I forgot to get the recipe from the caterer, but it seemed to be a thin cornbread batter and was cooked in a small hot skillet. We picked out our fillings (for me, jalapenos, ham and cilantro) which went in at the last, and then the omelets were folded and put on the plate to be topped with salsa and grated cheese. A side of the best pinto beans I''ve ever had and a glass of sweet tea and, oh my, life was good that sunny day.