The south has it's own food culture in a way completely unique from the rest of the country. Maybe it's because the growing season is longer, making choices more diverse or maybe they just like to eat a lot down here, I don't know. They just do things their own way.
We have been in the south for the most of the week and eating here is a definite plus. It almost compensates for the heat. The humidity makes it feel like you're under a hot, wet blanket. Everything is damp and limp.Being sweaty is the norm. In other places where it's hot there is the promise of shade actually being a couple of degrees cooler. In the south even the shade has teeth. It's every bit as hot and sweaty but there is the added insult of you having gone out of your way to find it and you still get no relief. But I digress.
This week we had two southern favorites, boiled peanuts and BBQ. I have only ever seen boiled peanuts in the deep south, I'd say Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida mostly at roadside stands, farmers markets and gas stations. You can even get them in the can at the grocery store and heated up they are pretty good. Boiled peanuts are the thing to eat when you're craving something salty because that is their defining feature. To make boiled peanuts you have to have fresh or 'green' raw peanuts, then you boil them in very salty water until they are tender. It takes a lot of salt because you are boiling them in the shell and only a little bit gets in there. They are a summertime treat since you have to have fresh ones.The shell softens up but the nut really doesn't, it just takes on a different flavor than a roasted or raw one. You crack them open with your mouth and suck out all the good salty juice then spit the shell out. Make sure you have a big iced Coke to go with them, for optimum effect.
The other southern food we had this week was BBQ and by that I mean smoked pork. Yes you can smoke beef and chicken too but if you want real southern BBQ you gotta start with the pig, preferably ribs and the best place you can go (besides my dad's house) is Dreamland in Alabama. We got a chance to go to the one in Mobile, there is just enough room for one truck across the street, and you can smell the smoke a mile away. They are known for their ribs and they never disappoint. They are big and meaty, you order them by the slab or half slab, no sissy little baby back boneless bundles of goo here! The waitress brings you slices of white bread and some of their home-made BBQ sauce, don't look down your nose at this humble offering, it is the perfect foil for tender, smoked ribs. The sauce is hot, the bread is white and the ribs are meaty. Perfection! In business since 1958, they used to have a very limited menu specializing in the meat. They even have a bumper sticker that says "Menu? What menu?" but they have expanded and now you can get such fancy things as french fries or a salad.
Today we are in Texas, a state roughly the size of Neptune. It's like being in the south only bigger and with a lot more tacos. Who knows what culinary adventures await?!