Our South is not like their South
I had the good fortune Monday night to attend the annual Chamber of Commerce Gala. The Chamber did an excellent job of hosting the event and the food was wonderful.
Of course if your keynote speaker is Robert St.John, you need to bring your A-game in the food department. St. John is the owner and chef of the Purple Parrot in Hattiesburg, the Crescent City Grill and the Mahogany Bar. He has authored several cookbooks, all of which I love. St. John is also known for his columns in several newspapers. In 2002 he wrote a column titled “My South.” In this piece that inspired pride in Southerners all over America he wrote about what he sees in his South, not what the rest of the world imagines they know about the South.
He wrote the column due to an awkward dinning experience he and his wife had on a vacation. When he explained to someone from Las Vegas that he owned a fine-dining restaurant in Mississippi he remembers on of them exclaiming, “Mississippi doesn’t have fine-dining restaurants!” He says he also had to fight back the desire to remind them that they lived in the land that invented the 99-cent breakfast buffet.
He also stated later that he wanted to go into great detail about his South and change her mind about us but in a “blinding jolt of enlightenment, and in a moment of complete and absolute clarity it dawned on me — my South is the best-kept secret in the country. Why would I try to win this woman over? She might move down here.”
Here are a few of my favorite statements from his colum, My South:
In my South football is king, and the Southeastern Conference is the kingdom.
My South is full of fig preserves, cornbread, butter beans, fried chicken, grits and catfish.
In my South we eat foie gras, caviar and truffles.
In my South family matters, deeply.
In my South the tea is iced, and almost as sweet as the women.
My South is the best-kept secret in the country. Please continue to keep the secret . . . it keeps the idiots away.
And to that I say, AMEN.
This is one of my favorite recipes from his book “Deep South Parties” you can make them ahead and keep them in the freezer for a no stress appetizer.
Baked shrimp toast
1 quart water
1 teaspoon crab boil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup small shrimp
1 eight ounce package cream cheese room temperature
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 sour cream
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Creole mustard
2 tablespoon green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 Old Bay seasoning
1/8 cayenne pepper
1 small loaf of French bread cut into rounds
In a saucepan, bring the water, crab boil and salt to a boil. Cook the shrimp just till pink, drain and cool. When the shrimp has cooled, roughly chop into pieces. Combine all of the remaining ingredients except the French bread rounds and mix in the shrimp. Spread a thick layer of the shrimp mixture onto the French bread rounds. Place the rounds on a baking g sheet and freeze. When completely frozen place in an airtight plastic bag. To cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, remove the rounds from the freezer, place on a cookie sheet and cook for 15 minutes.
— Robert St. John
Christina Hall writes a weekly food column for The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.