Vacation Eatz:Raleigh Mama Dip’s, Ice Tea, Grits and Turkey Shoot

Welcome to the North Carolina portion of my trip. I visited a friend here for 6 days. If you live in the South of the US you will feel right at home for the next 3 posts. If you come from anywhere else in the world…hold on to your hats and add an extra hole in your belt.

Southern food is by no means a glamorous fare, even if it can be presented that way. We are talking here about good home country cooking. Unfortunately we no longer work in the fields to work off all those calories! Granted my host Rich may have gone the extra mile to really stuff me with Southern food to give the max exposure to it. I did overdose and started to develop a fear of fried foods. My body was screaming for real veggies! But it was a blast.

My no.1 priority was to go to Mama Dip’s which we did on day 1 I think. This restaurant is your best bet as to tasting the local food. And it has a great history. “Mama Dip’s first job was as a family cook in Chapel Hill. She then moved on to work at Carolina Coffee Shop, Kappa Sigma fraternity and St. Andrews Hall. In 1957 she worked with her mother-in-law in a tiny take-out restaurant where she began to hone her business skills. On a Sunday in November 1976 Mama Dip opened her own restaurant with $64, $40 dollars went toward food and $24 was used to make change. The morning’s take was used to fund the lunch meal and lunch to fund the dinner. At the end of the day Mama Dip took home $135, and the rest is history”.

I ordered Fried Green Tomatoes because, well, never had them and its a movie about female angst lol. They were bland. Rich got the smothered pork chops with greens and green beans, he was very happy with his selection. I got a combo plate of Chopped BBQ Pork and Fried chicken with the mashed potatoes and black eyed peas. Sides, pork was pretty good, butt he chicken ruled. The batter used is remarkably light and fluffy, I loved it. I got to say everything had a bit of a blandness to it but this was a bit of a theme in the whole 6 days. I am so used to cooking with lots of herbs and spices, they don’t apparently. For me it made a big difference. That said I loved Mama Dip’s even if I found it bland a bit. Great adorable place and the sweetest most attentive waiter. We ate outside on the wrap around porch which give to a relatively quiet and almost residential street. Fabulous! If you go to Raleigh RUN to Mama Dip’s.

Corn bread and biscuits galore everywhere. Love that! It seems that what I consider a vegetable list and what the South considers a vegetable list is 2 different worlds. This list below may not be the best example as it has the most actual veggie choice of all side dish list I saw. But sorry…beans, black eyed peas, potatoes, yams, macaroni, firs, rice are not vegetables body absorption wise! They all taste GREAT…but it ain’t veggies people! Greens, collar or otherwise, are not my top choice, but are a real vegetable. Sorry but this was my pet peeve with my host – the veggie thing.

And of course I got an ice tea. I have always been a fan of ice tea and the South serves ice tea everywhere. Thank god though you can get it unsweetened. Lord some places has so much sugar in it a diabetic would go into hyperglycemia shock in 2 seconds flat! I don’t put sugar in my coffee or tea. I make my ice tea normally with a dash of lemon juice and maybe 1tsp of sugar per glass. If you like sweet but not that sweet you can ask for half-half. Drank lots of ice tea with the heat.

Remember last week I promised you a story about that all natural syrup where Rich freaked out? Well i will tell you that story here. On this trip I only had grits once at a breakfast plate. I am very mystified by grits. Polenta I get, cream of wheat I get, grist I don’t. And I know I am not alone. That is why there will be an in depth study future post on grits. Anyways we are having breakfast and I got grits with it. It was 100% unseasoned and bleh. I added a bit of salt and that helped, but not much. I could not help feel how close to cream of wheat it was, something I used to eat for breakfast. And I always sweetened it a bit. So in my logic I took the bottle of syrup and added a bit to the grits. This is when friend literally FLIPPED OUT on me and looked around in shame to make sure no fellow Southerner should have witnessed my sacrilegious action! I was baffled but very amused by it though. He was so embarrassed to be seen with me for that moment l0l. I am assuming some of you reading are nodding in a agreement with him. But once the shock subsided (about 10 min) he reluctantly took a mini forkful of it saying he had to taste my abomination and in a very low voice filled with resentment said” its not bad but I will never admit it publicly” Pfft I say! It was awesome with syrup.

After lunch we went to A Southern Season. I had been there in January and adored this foodie heaven. Got myself a few things here like local cheddar cheese, salt water taffy, pecans, moonshine cordial chocolates. Also got stuff I regretted not buying the last time: a mango coconut sauce and banana ketchup. They are from Costa Rica! This place also has an awesome selection herbs and spices cheap, in cylinder plastic tubes. Got a mole rub and two other I was clueless too: Annato seeds and Epazote. I love getting unknown stuff and then researching it at home only.

Wow this is a huge post. OK finishing it off with a couple of pics from July 4th. This was museum day but we walked right by the State Capitol building where lots of celebration stuff was going on. That night we went to the State Fair Grounds to see the fire works. Wow there were a gazillion food vendors with enormous lines. All we got was a orange-aid. There was one thing that caught my eye: the Turkey Shoot. I am sure you are thinking the same question I did: do they shoot real turkeys? I asked my friend knowing how stupid it probably sounded out loud. Thing is he is excellent at keeping a straight face when responding so sometimes I never can quite tell if it is a joke or not..even if what he says makes no sense. It drives me NUTS  and he knows it and relishes those moments. GRRR!

So in the end no turkeys were being shot at…tree trunks were.  But I did my research! The term comes from the 1800s where REAL turkeys were tied down and shot at 25 to 15 yards away. If a bird was killed it WAS given to the shooter as a prize. years later an inanimate target was used and a frozen turkey was given to the best shooter. I am so quoting wiki on this one (inside joke): today, turkey shoots are still popular in rural America, where citizens are all likely to be familiar with shotguns. The prize was a T-shirt.

Just 2 more posts coming about my trip…then back to blog reality! Tune in:

Saturday…..Vacation Eatz: South Fast Food
Sunday…….Vacation Eatz: Sanitary Beach

What Are Grits?

A contribution by Rosemary, a memebr of the group….source FoodiesAnonymous@yahoogroups.com

What Are Grits?
Nobody knows.  Some folks believe grits are grown on bushes and are
harvested by midgets by shaking the bushes after spreading sheets around
them.  Many people feel that grits are made from ground up bits of white
corn.

These are obviously lies spread by Communists and terrorists.  Nothing as
good as Grits can be made from corn.  The most recent research suggests
that the mysterious Manna that God rained down upon the Israelites during
their time in the Sinai Desert was most likely Grits.  Critics disagree, stating
that there is no record of biscuits, butter, salt, and red eye gravy raining
down from the sky, and that God would not punish his people by forcing
them to eat Grits without these key ingredients.

How Grits are Formed.
Grits are formed deep underground under intense heat and pressure.  It
takes over 1000 years to form a single Grit.  Most of the world’s grit mines
are in South Carolina, and are guarded day and night by armed guards and
pit bull dogs.  Harvesting the Grit is a dangerous occupation, and many Grit
miners lose their lives each year so that Grits can continue to be served
morning after morning for breakfast (not that having Grits for lunch and
dinner is out of the question).

Yankees have attempted to create synthetic Grits.  They call it Cream of
Wheat.  As far as we can tell, the key ingredients of Cream of Wheat are
Elmer’s Glue and shredded styrofoam.  These synthetic grits have also been
shown to cause nausea, and may leave you unable to have children.

Historical Grits
As we mentioned earlier, the first known mention of Grits was by the Ancient
Israelites in the Sinai Desert.  After that, Grits were not heard from for
another 1000 years. Experts feel that Grits were used during this time only
during secret religious ceremonies, and were kept from the public due to
their rarity.

The next mention of Grits was found amidst the ruins of the ancient city of
Pompeii in a woman’s personal diary.  The woman’s name was Herculaneum
Jemimaneus (Aunt Jemima to her friends.)

The 10 Commandments of Grits
I.      Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits
II.     Thou shalt not eat thy Grits with a spoon or knife
III.    Thou shalt not eat Cream of Wheat and call it Grits, for this is
blasphemy .
IV.    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Grits.
V.     Thou shalt use only salt, butter, and red-eye gravy as toppings for thy
Grits.
VI    Thou shalt not eat Instant Grits.
VII.   Thou shalt not put ketchup on thy Grits.
VIII.  Thou shalt not put margarine on thy Grits.
IX.    Thou shalt not eat toast with thy Grits, only biscuits made from scratch.
X.     Thou shalt eat grits on the Sabbath for this is manna from heaven.

PS +  No sugar on GRITS please.  They are not Farina

How to Cook Grits
For one serving of Grits:
Boil 1.5 cups of water with salt and a little butter. [Use milk and they are
creamier!)
Add 5 TBsp of Grits.
Reduce to a simmer and allow the Grits to soak up all the water.
When a pencil stuck into the grits stands alone, it is done.  That’s all there is
to cooking grits.

How to make red eye gravy
Fry salt cured country ham in cast iron pan.  Remove the ham when done
and add coffee to the gravy and simmer for several minutes. Great on grits
and biscuits.

How to Eat Grits
Immediately after removing your grits from the stove top, add a generous
portion of butter or red eye gravy. (WARNING:  Do NOT use low-fat butter.)
The butter should cause the Grits to turn a wondrous shade of yellow.  (Hold
a banana or a yellow rain slicker next to your Grits; if the colors match, you
have the correct amount of butter.)

In lieu of butter, pour a generous helping of red eye gravy on your grits.  Be
sure to pour enough to have some left for sopping up with your biscuits.
Never, ever substitute canned or store bought biscuits for the real thing
because they caused cancer, rotten teeth and impotence.

Next, add salt.  (NOTICE:  The correct ration of Grit to Salt is 10:1 Therefore
for every 10 grits, you should have 1 grain of salt.)

Now begin eating your grits.  Always use a fork, never a spoon, to eat Grits.
Your grits should be thick enough so they do not run through the tines of the
fork.

The correct beverage to serve with Grits is black coffee.   DO NOT use
cream or, heaven forbid, Skim Milk.)

Your grits should never be eaten in a bowl because Yankees will think its
Cream of Wheat.

Ways to Eat Leftover Grits:
(Leftover grits are extremely rare)
Spread them in the bottom of a casserole dish,
Cover and place them in the refrigerator overnight.
The Grits will congeal into a gelatinous mass.
Next morning, slice the Grits into squares and fry them in 1/2″ of cooking oil
and butter until they turn a golden brown.
Many people are tempted to pour syrup onto Grits served this way.  This is,
of course, unacceptable.

IRISH BLESSING BEFORE EATING GRITS

May the lord bless these grits,
May no Yankee ever get the recipe,
May I eat grits every day while living,
And may I die while eating grits.Â

                              AMEN