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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Taste of Your Area

Since I just posted about Moon Pies, how about anyone who reads this telling us a bit about a food/beverage that originated in your area, along with anything else interesting about your town.
I will start it off since I am the one who asked everyone to join in.

I am a native of Birmingham, Alabama and have lived here most of my life.  Birmingham originated as a merger of 3 farming communities which took the name Birmingham from England.  Until the mid 80's ish it was still a steel town, but has morphed into a huge medical/ medical research/ school town with UAB (The University of Alabama Birmingham) being the single largest employer. Understand that UAB consists not only of a metro college, but it also  multi hospitals, multi diagnostic centers, multi professional office buildings, so it is a gigantic complex occupying a huge hunk of Birmingham's Southside.

I have no idea what the population of the city proper is (guessing about 250,000 but I could be wrong) but the metro area is roughly 1,000,000 -1,200,000.  Obviously most of the population lives outside the city, mostly in small incorporated areas. (20ish incorporated towns of 20k or more. I said 20ish because it seems like some new community incorporates every few years and I lose count of who is who.)





We are infamously known for Bull Conner and his hose men during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's. This is not something to be proud of, but it did happen. We do get tired of everyone outside of Alabama assuming life is still like this. We have changed, we really have

We do now have a fabulous Civil Rights Museum and if you are ever this way it is well worth visiting.









Speaking of museums, one of my friends is a docent at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Whenever we complain about living in Boringham  she lets us know that outside of England the Birmingham Art Museum has the largest collection of Wedgewood.  I enjoy some of the exhibits there but I spend very little time in the Wedgewood room.  I guess I lack the proper appreciation for jasper
ware.

Birmingham is also the home of Legion Field also known as The Gray Lady.  It is an old outdated football field that used to be home of The Iron Bowl (the annual football game between Auburn University and The University of Alabama. Roll Tide just in case anyone is wondering!) Both Alabama and Auburn pumped major dollars into their home fields and realized it would be much better for their bottom line and the bottom line of their respective towns to host the games at their actual home field. Pity since it was always fun to go to a game there. Amazingly though the game is still called the Iron Bowl. Roll Tide Roll! just in case you didn't catch it the first time. (And yes, I do own a houndstooth blazer!)



Vulcan is supposedly the largest iron statue in the U.S.? World? Universe? I don't remember which and I could just look it up for you but then I would find an interesting link and the adult ADD would set in and before it was all said and done I would have somehow migrated to an intense study of the 3rd Punic War.  In Alabama we like to be the best or biggest at anything (it happens rarely) so we always mention it. Vulcan is an huge iron god wearing nothing but an apron who faces the city to the north and whose bare butt faces the south. This gave rise to a song in the 80's or 90's (I forget which) "Moon Over Homewood", the incorporated city directly on the receiving end of, well, of Vulcan's end. If you are in Birmingham and have a lot of time Vulcan is worth seeing, but it is not the same since they put an elevator in.  When I was a kid you got to the top via a curving stairwell.  It was a lot of fun to run to the top then run back down and run to the top again. I don't know if anyone ever died falling from those stairs, but one of us probably should have.  Now, it would probably kill me to walk up them so I need to shut up about the elevators don't I?

Keeping with the best theme, Roll Tide! The University of Alabama football program has 16 National Championships, just sayin'.

Birmingham is also a foodie town.  There are restaurants everywhere, of course the usual chains are here but there are some outstanding locally owned places.  Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings are 2 local chefs who seem to be on the James Beard list regularly.



Frank Stitt's Highlands Bar and Grill (get gussied up before you go here and make reservations well in advance) is a place to see the beautiful people while you eat mouthwatering local food. Oh my goodness  the baked grits are to die for. This is by far my go to special occasion restaurant.





The Hot and Hot Fish Club is another iconic restaurant. Chris Hastings also embraces the local seasonal food.  It is a tad (just a tad though) more casual than Highlands.  Nothing is more delicious than his tomato salad, which is an architectural feast of tomatoes, lady peas, fried okra and Nuskie's bacon. I wonder if he is getting good tomatoes yet, because he only offers it when he gets the best ingredients and I want it now!

And after a long and somewhat torturous journey through my home town I am finally going to tell you about one of our best local products.
In the early 1900's local grocer Sidney Lee mixed a strongly spiced ginger syrup (specifically made to treat stomach distress) with carbonated water and Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale was born. As luck would have it, his new ginger beverage was very popular and before too many years he gave up his wholesale grocery business to bottle and sell his product exclusively. It kept gaining in popularity and his processing business grew and grew.  Before too long the family business acquired the rights for bottling regional Pepsi products, but they also continued to make Buffalo Rock. This is a not for sissies ginger ale.  It is a fantastic kick in the face ginger overload drinking experience on its own. Besides quenching thirst is is a wonderful base for a mouthwatering Moscow mule, an all around stomach settler, and as I understand (though I would certainly have no way of knowing) a pretty decent hangover remedy.  Do yourself a favor. If you are heading through Alabama grab a six pack or more of Buffalo Rock.  It comes in a diet option for those who need a lot of ginger sans sugars. I have no idea where else you can buy it.  I am sure it is in other states, but there is no grocery store  in Alabama that doesn't carry it. Buy it, drink it, enjoy it, but don't say I didn't warn you. It has a super intense ginger kick!

Your turn. What is fantastic in your neck of the woods?

16 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your tour around Birmingham. I have never been there and so here is yet another place to visit. I have lived several places including WV, VA, New Orleans, Houston, and MD and each has had its own local specialty. However, I am thinking of only one right now because I just had it over the weekend--Berger Cookies. They are made in Baltimore and have been around since the 1800's. They are a cake-like vanilla cookie hand dipped in fudge. They are very good, but VERY RICH.

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    1. You had me at hand dipped in fudge!

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    2. Miss Berger Cookies. We get some when we go back to Maryland to visit family. Also miss the real crab cakes..

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    3. Of course, crab cakes/crabs are what most people know Maryland for and they're quite good. However, I'm not a big fan of crab, so I thought of cookies instead. :)

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  2. I lived in Balto for 4 years and never heard of Berger's Cookies.....why me!?!? lolz
    I did go to Haussner's however and I've seen the giant ball of string.

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    1. The giant ball of string is impressive. I've never seen it.
      Looks like I am going to have to go to Baltimore for cookies

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  3. I lived in Maryland for fifteen years and never heard of Miss Bergers Cookies. Now I wish I could try one. I've lived in Jacksonville, Florida, for almost six years. My neighborhood diner is my special restaurant because I can walk there, and everyone knows who I am. In my neighborhood, we all have preservation association signs in our windows because most of the houses are quite similar and were built in the same year: 1940. Just in time for WWII. We have the Naval Air Station that is the home of the Blue Angels. Sometimes I see the planes taking off and landing. Jacksonville is also the largest city (land mass) in the contiguous United States. I warn people coming this way not to enter Jax because they'll feel they might never get out again.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Jacksonville is a beautiful and very friendly place. When we were there we stayed in the city and never ventured out to the nearby beaches. Maybe next time.

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  4. Very interesting! I didn't know about Vulcan. I really don't know much about Alabama at all to tell you the truth, but I do know that I don't like okra. lol.

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  5. Okra is not for everyone. I love it but only fried or sautéed with tomatoes and onions

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  6. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world. We had a lively argument about this one day in B'ham. Maybe with an elevator I will visit it from just north of you.

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    1. I thought it was the world but you know how we Southern folks are prone to exaggeration!

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  7. I'm from Birmingham, England, originally so I guess we are almost "sisters" eh? Been gone 37 years though. Lived 6 years in Switzerland, briefly in Australia, 3 years in D.C. and 2 in Pittsburgh, and am now very happily ensconced in the French Alps. My idea of heaven from this region is tartiflette - basically pure stodge of hot potatoes, bacon bits, and a local cheese called reblochon all melted together and eaten with white wine (I thought everything had to be eaten with white wine?). But it sure sticks to your ribs after a day in the mountains. A culinary masterpiece - probably not - but it does the trick. Anna

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    1. I guess we are almost sisters! Oh my that sounds delicious!

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