Ruth and I are beginning a new project this week, writing a cookbook. Details to follow as we proceed.
When we were in The South way back in 2014 we took a cooking class with Darin Sehnert, aka Chef Darin. His road to Savannah, GA included gigs in California, Rhode Island, where he graduated with honors from Johnson and Wales University, London, England, Orlando (not the ones in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and West Virginia), etc. His new project is Chef Darin’s Kitchen Table, his very own cooking school where, much to my surprise, he actually got Ruth to taste hominy grits. Much to Darin’s surprise, she didn’t like his Rich & Creamy Grits. Darin is funny and personable. I guess that’s why he’s been featured on regional (Carolina Cooking) and national (Food Network) shows. Darin has mastered Low Country (East Coast U.S. from north of Charleston, SC down to, roughly, Brunswick, GA) Cuisine, and I hope his school is a success. I know his lessons were. We learned a lot even though it was totally about caloric Southern food preparation.
Darin chattered amiably with his assistants, like Ruth, while I watched and took notes. They were making such delicious dishes as Fried Green Tomatoes and Red Eye Gravy. Some of what I learned from Darin’s stream-of-info-and-advice included:
Barbecue comes from Africa via the Caribbean and the American South. The African tradition of roasting animals on open spits is our finger-lickin’ source via “barbacoa”, a Haitian/Creole word. Other Southern foods with African roots are black-eyed peas and, especially, rice. Watermelons were placed in ancient Egyptian burial chambers for use in the afterlife.
Frying became the traditional way of cooking in The South because of its climate. When it’s July and 115º the last thing you want to do is get a fire going so you fry.
Tomatoes do not ripen on sunny windowsills or anywhere else after picking. Only 5 fruits do–kiwis, bananas, mangoes, pears, and avocados.
Rub herbs between your palms before adding them to dishes to bring out their flavor. Some dried, commercial herbs are OK, like oregano, but use only fresh chives and parsley.
As a working chef, Darin prefers German knives and recommends the Messermeister San Moritz Elite 10-inch.
Although we learned a lot, Ruth & I don’t plan to include any of the Southern recipes she made in our book. It will offer only low-cal, heart-healthy stuff except for one “blowout” recipe in each section, like our New Year’s, multi-layered chocolate cake that’s easier to make than it sounds.