Today, I look harder at my region. I’m less interested in affirmations. Instead, I search for tastes that complicate my understandings. Some of this is a willful act of self-creation, an attempt to redefine the region in an inclusive and progressive way.
Potlikker, the soupy leavings at the bottom of a pot of greens or beans, is now vogue. Perfect Little Bites, a personal chef service in Frederick, Maryland, stirs gin and vermouth with frozen potlikker cubes to chill martinis and infuse the drinks with briny vegetal funk. The restaurant Lower 48, in Denver, fries eggs and tucks them in a bowl of collard green and maitake mushroom potlikker. Travis Grimes at Husk in Charleston serves pork shoulder with crispy belly, smoky butterbeans, rice, and broccoli, swaddled in potlikker broth. When I ate at the Nashville location of that restaurant, the pork came in chops and Morgan McGlone used rapini instead of broccoli, but the potlikker remained. At their recent summer fest, Southern Soul Barbecue in St. Simons Island, Georgia, served green peanuts boiled in collard green potlikker. Upstate at Five and Ten in Athens, Hugh Acheson occasionally poaches mountain trout in boiled peanut potlikker. Inevitably, Acheson calls the broth nutlikker.
If Lewis could go unnamed in a picture that foretold the promise of America in the postwar era, I figured that image might serve as a metaphor for the lesser role Americans have long ascribed to African-American contributions to the culinary arts. Telling that story might be a way for me to pay down the debts of pleasure, both culinary and other, that a privileged white son of the South like me has accrued over a lifetime.
Do you really intend to stand behind that Texas Monthly declaration, slathered all over their recent cover, that declares the fifty best barbecue joints in the world are all in Texas? You’re better than that, kind sir.
Climatic complements, cultural ties, and transportation link the American South and Africa. Fittingly, Atlanta is now a beacon for African refugees. Resettlement agencies place three to five thousand refugees here each year, I learned over two days of bounding through Atlanta, visiting four farm sites managed in whole or supported in part by Global Growers.