Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Southern Cooking 101

Southern Cooking is a blend of various traditions and influences from various groups that have inhabited the area of the Deep South from early history. Notable influences come from African-American, Native American, Irish, French, and Spanish cuisines. Soul food, Creole, Cajun, and Tex-Mex are examples of Southern cuisine.

Traveling through Southern Louisiana, we encounter the Cajun and Creole influences offering a unique blend of French, Spanish, Acadian(Present day Nova Scotia)and African recipe traditions. Scrumptious Gumbo's, Delicious Etoufee's, Jambalya, Red Beans and Rice...Spicy, but delicious!

Soul food is well-known, and is commonly eaten by black populations throughout the country, as well as by whites in the South. Rice was historically an important crop in the coastal areas of North Carolina and South Carolina, leading to local specialties like "Hoppin' John" (a mixture of rice and black-eyed peas flavored with salt pork) and Charleston Red Rice. A New Years Southern Tradition is to incorporate in the New Years menu, Hoppin John which is symbolic of Currency and Collards which is symbolic of cash, to ensure a prosperous upcoming year!

Throughout the South, traveling through different regions, you will discover a blend of delectable, mouth watering food, colored by the various groups of people who inhabit those areas.

Barbecue is not the GNP of Tennessee or Texas as some would have you to believe, as I have traveled half way around the world and tasted many flavors of Barbecue from the Eastern NC Vinegar-based, Piedmont NC Hickory-Smoke, Texas Tomato-Based, and Hawaiian Mongolian Barbecue, but from the heart, my Dad's was the best!

The recipe's you will find here mainly originate from my family, the late Sadie and Jesse W. Nuckles, owners of Nuckles Restaurant for over 60 years in Greensboro, North Carolina. Nuckles, a landmark restaurant, serving Greensboro and local communities with Barbecue, Baked Cornbread, Fried Chicken, Country Style Steak and Gravy, Hot Dog's, Hamburgers and some of the best southern-cooked vegetables known to the epicurean!

My Dad was well known to all students of local high schools and famous for his $.20 Steak Gravy sandwich which was served on a hamburger bun and was the buzz-word for the high school lunch-bunch!

During it's 60 years, the establishment attracted a variety of famous clientele. Elvis Presley, Charlton Heston, George Lindsay, Gregory Hines and a variety of well-known Golfers, such as Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, who frequented the Greater Greensboro Open held annually at Forest Oaks Country Club, Greensboro, NC.

George Lindsay, while making a guest appearance at the Greater Greensboro Open, visited Nuckles after hearing of my Dad's famous Hot Dogs. Mr. Lindsay liked them so much he purchased a rather large amount of Chili from my Dad to transport back to California.

My Father never tried to compete with the rapid growth of fast-foods that were popping up all around him. His regular customers who had been childhood friends and neighbors, old acquaintances, visited daily. His clientele, a faithful community, many who had made it a family tradition to dine at Nuckles on Friday and Saturday Evening. These customers were his family, they were his passion, and ultimately his children.

My father was the most happiest when he was in the Restaurant working and talking to his customers. He was not a stay at home family man, his passion was to serve the public and provide them with the best food within his ability. He lived up to that on a daily basis, and his wife and children followed suit. He was the best, and I am his daughter. My late sister, Sue Beverly, spent most of her life working with my Father, while my older sister and I, worked with him during high school. It wasn't easy, working for one of the best Restaurant Entrepeneurs in North Carolina, especially when he is your Father.

My Dad would not have fit into the 21st century, as he hated change. He cooked on a gas stove that was at least 75 years old, but it worked great! I called it the Black Beast, because I was terrified of lighting it. My Mom, who had a unique sense of humor, once lit a firecracker while I was attempting to bend over and light he beast. That's my Mom!! Sadie, was one heck of a lady! Never a dull moment working with my family, the kodak moments...the humor, the frustrations...and most importantly, the "Family Feuds"!! The Hatfields and McCoy's have nothing on the Nuckles...This Blog is not just about cooking, it's about my roots, the Nuckles. I just realized this..

My parents kept the same menu for years, with subtle variations from time to time, and eventually Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger King, Hardee's to name a few were all around him, barracading him from the world, transforming the art of short-order cooking to fast food junk food. He started with an idea, much like a musician creates a song and watched others incorporate variations to the melody and the lyrics, but it's all good, because The Song Remains The Same.

Calories? Why heck yes, Bean Sprouts and Tofu are not a part of the Southern Food Glossary!

Warning: if you are striving for the 18 inch waist line and the low-carb meals...better not try any of these recipes unless they are marked "Skinny Version"!

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