Okra: Love It or Leave It?

While the phrase “meat and three” might confound a Northerner, a Southerner would know immediately what you are talking about – an entree of a meat dish (usually fried, barbecued, and/or smothered in gravy) with 3 side dishes, often accompanied by cornbread and sweet tea.

Of course, there are many southern side dish options – red beans and rice, grits, butter beans, greens, and creamed corn just to name a few. But just like the Civil War once divided the country, the relative merits of one Southern side dish often splits eaters in today’s South. And that love-it-or-leave-it-off-the-table dish is okra.

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Speaking Blountly, Always Leave Room for Pie

Can a book talk make you hungry?

Well, if it’s the recent food forum featuring noted Atlanta chef and former Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie discussing Roy Blount Jr.’s new book Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations with the author, the answer is yes.

If you’re not familiar with Blount or his work, think the regional wit of Mark Twain or a more historical, but none-the less hysterical Dave Barry.

The discussion was held in Blount’s hometown of Decatur, Georgia, where Gillespie operates Revival, one of his two wildly popular Atlanta-area restaurants.

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The Science Behind the Big Bang Theory

When it comes to the image of a southern good ole boy, you couldn’t find one much more opposite than that of Sheldon Cooper, the extremely intelligent, rigidly logical, and completely socially inept breakout character of TV’s long-running, highly rated comedy hit “The Big Bang Theory”.

But in a ironic twist, Cooper, played by multiple Emmy winner Jim Parsons, was supposedly born and raised in Galveston, Texas, has a overly devout southern-drawling Evangelical mother, and a doting grandmother he calls by that most southern of sobriquets “Mee-Maw”.

For those few who aren’t familiar with the show, it revolves around the antics of Cooper and three other brilliant young scientists whose geekiness and intellect are contrasted for laughs with the social skills and common sense of the women they encounter in their lives.

However,  the real co-star of the show, after humor, is the actual science employed on every episode.

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Chewing Down on Hamburger Week

I realize when I started Southern Roots Run Deep, I promised that if I wrote about food it would have to be southern. But this was just too good an opportunity to waste.

The magazine Creative Loafing, along with the Georgia Beef Board and Caviar, was sponsoring Atlanta Burger Week, an event where almost 40 dining establishments would be offering a specific hamburger of their choosing for $5.

Now while hamburgers aren’t southern in origin, they are always in competition with hot dogs for the title of the all-American sandwich and the South, at least since 1865, has been part of the United States. In addition, hamburgers are on the menu at Waffle House and nothing is more southern than those eateries. Finally, hamburgers can be drastically altered by applying condiments. So you could southernize your burger by using any combination of such things as fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, fried chicken, Georgia peaches, Texas barbeque, or Louisiana hot sauce. With all these things in its favor, I felt I could participate in Burger Week and justify writing about it.

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Blues 101: Now for Some Morning Maniac Music

Live rock music has always been considered night music. But what if a 10 o’clock start meant 10 a.m., not 10 p.m?

Well, that was exactly the unusual situation that Kim Simmonds, one of Britain’s most heralded blues guitarists and the founder of the band Savoy Brown, found himself in recently in the Atlantic Ocean as the day’s opening performer on the Rock Legends IV Cruise., which offered live music from 10 a.m. until 1 or 2 a.m. each day of the 4-day trip.

“Tonight … Oh man I mean this morning we’re going to try to wake you up,” Simmonds told the crowd, which was collectively yawning and stretching before him in front of the 11th deck outdoor stage. “If you had seen me at 8 a.m. in the coffee shop, you would have been pretty scared. Looking at me drinking my coffee you would have thought, ‘Can this guy really play?'”

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Music Making Memories: Michelle by the Beatles


In 1965 I was 13 years old. My Dad operated several dry cleaning plants in South Jersey and sometimes I would ride with him as he went to check on the various operations.

On this particular day we were in Bridgeton, our New Jersey hometown. We stopped for lunch at an eatery called Mr. Bill’s. Now Mr. Bill’s was like many small town eateries before the takeover of fast-food franchises – a small, somewhat dark place with a few booths and a long counter located on a main downtown street.

My Dad was always a counter person (I think it was so he could chat more with the waitresses, cooks, and everyone in the restaurant) and so we were sitting there. My Dad had been born in Texas and always favored southern food when he could get it. One of Capt. Bill’s specialities was french fries with gravy. So both my Dad and I ordered a plate.

As were eating, “Michelle” by the Beatles came on the jukebox. I had heard the song before, but for some inexplicable reason this playing found its way into the recesses of my mind and permanently lodged itself there.

It wasn’t as if anything momentous was happening. I can’t recall a thing that was said. It was just a boy and his Dad in a local restaurant eating french fries in brown gravy with some southern hot sauce mixed in.

Now more than five decades later, my Dad, Capt. Bill’s and the Beatles are long gone. I’m older now than my Dad was then. But wherever I am when I hear “Michelle” (which, ironically is one of my least favorite Beatles’ songs), I’m actually at two places at once.

Of course, I’m where I am. But I’m also back in Bridgeton, just a 13-year-old boy in a small town eatery sharing french fires and gravy with his Dad.


Greg Allman Helps My Wife Have a Great 65th at Sea

Judy Lynn Snyder and I were married in a steady wintry downpour on Jan. 27, 1973 in my mother’s South Jersey Church, with Judy in a white dress and me in a close (but much cheaper) version of the 3-piece cream suit Mick Jagger wore when he married Bianca the previous year.

By the time of our marriage, I had been playing organ (1st a Farfisa, then a Vox Continental) in rock and soul bands since early 1966,  when both Judy and I were 10th graders in high school. (An aside here: When I was selected to be in the house band of Philly Classic Rock radio station WGMK nearly 40 years later, Judy was asked if she was excited. Here is her verbatim response: “No … I heard Dave in 1966. He isn’t any better, just louder”).

After playing fire halls, pool parties, school dances, proms, shopping centers, teenage hangouts, bars and clubs that weren’t concerned about employing underage musicians, and finally summers at the Jersey shore including shows at the famed Steel Pier in Atlantic City. By 1973 I was in my 3rd group – one of the area’s 1st 70s jam bands named Frog Ocean Road. (Another aside here: Our 16-year-old drummer then was Jerry Gaskill, who is now the drummer for King’s X, a 3-piece band that opened Woodstock ’94 and continues to make new music and tour the world) …….

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