On a summer day in 1949, ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, novelist Donald Windham, painter Buffie Johnson, playwright Tennessee Williams, and writer-provocateur Gore Vidal gathered at Café Nicholson, a bohemian supper club set in the back courtyard of an antique store on New York City’s Upper East Side.
Soon after arriving from Canada to live in the South, I became the first Latina food editor and columnist of a newspaper in North Carolina. It was 1996. My husband and I were settling into the small town of Cary, and we were the only Latinos in our neighborhood. I had been at the paper a week when one of my editors received a letter from a disgruntled subscriber, upset that her beloved paper had chosen “a Mexican” to write the cooking section. It hurt. Not only because my family is not Mexican (we’re Guatemalan), but also because the term Mexican isn’t an insult, and she clearly meant it as one. I took the slight as a challenge and set out to prove her wrong.
Cooking with Chris. My approach to cooking is one of passionate intensity that traditionally involves a great deal of what used to be called “blue” language, or plain old-fashioned cussing. My current kitchen project will be a trial, since I intend to follow a recipe for “Bible Cake.”
Grasping a starched napkin in his left hand and twirling a pair of mod eyeglasses in his right, Goren Avery shepherds the flocks who seek purchase nightly at Highlands Bar & Grill, this reliquary of a restaurant, the most vaunted in the South. This place, and, by extension, this city, is his domain.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.
Although some Food Network stooge would surely find the One Stop eventually, for the moment it lacked any officious culinary sanction, which seemed important. Joann was cooking for her neighbors, sawdust clinging to some of them, others redolent of fish slime and beer and gasoline, excepting the ladies of course, painted up ferociously in brilliant crimsons and blues. Everybody momentarily at peace. The hottest part of the day gone. Not an ironic moustache in sight. Fried catfish like you couldn’t get anywhere else.
An essay originally published in the Oxford American’s Spring 2010 Southern Food issue, guest edited by John T. Edge.
I come from a family of cake fundamentalists. No mixes, no faux cream, no margarine, no imitation vanilla, no all-purpose flour. You should use Swans Down or some other cake flour: It’s made of soft winter wheat with a low protein content, which makes the cake finer and airier. If the recipe says fresh coconut, don’t you dare use that stuff in the bag. Suffering for your cake builds character.