Why Is Moonshine Against the Law? (Added March, 2008)
You can make your own wine and beer, can't you?

By Michelle Tsai


Two Georgia men pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of operating a moonshine still in the Chattahoochee National Forest. One of the bootleggers faces up to 35 years in prison for his crimes: making the brew, selling it, and not paying taxes on the proceeds. Back in college, the Explainer had friends who brewed their own beer, and that wasn't against the law. So why is moonshine still illegal?

Because the liquor is worth more to the government than beer or wine. Uncle Sam takes an excise tax of $2.14 for each 750-milliliter bottle of 80-proof spirits, compared with 21 cents for a bottle of wine (of
14 percent alcohol or less) and 5 cents for a can of beer. No one knows exactly how much money changes hands in the moonshine trade, but it's certainly enough for the missing taxes to make a difference: In 2000, an ATF investigation busted one Virginia store that sold enough raw materials to moonshiners to make 1.4 million gallons of liquor, worth an estimated $19.6 million in lost government revenue. In 2005, almost $5 billion of federal excise taxes on alcohol came from legally produced spirits.

Until 1978, it was illegal to home-brew any alcoholic beverage—even wine and beer. But a growing number of oenophiles and beer connoisseurs wanted to make their own, and they helped pressure Congress to decriminalize home-brews across the country. Today, federal rules say a household with two adults can brew up to 200 gallons of wine and the same amount of beer each year. (A few states have their own laws prohibiting the practice.) The 1978 law didn't legalize moonshining, though; you still can't brew spirits for private consumption. It is kosher, however, to own a still and process alcohol—but only if you're using the alcohol as fuel and you have a permit from the ATF. (In some states, you can purchase a legal version of moonshine from commercial distillers.)

Despite the Appalachian stereotypes, not everyone swigs moonshine just for fast, cheap intoxication. Some folks are accustomed to the taste of unaged whiskey, and they prefer the buzz that comes with it. These days, moonshine is even going upscale, as a new breed of amateur distillers in California, New England, and the Northwest are taking an artisanal approach to the hobby.

Government prosecutors point out that moonshine poses serious health risks, including heavy-metal toxicity. So, how dangerous is it? There's no inspection of the manufacturing process, so quality—and levels of contamination—vary. (There are some informal and imprecise ways to test the purity of hooch: You can light some on fire and check for a blue flame or shake the pint and look for clear liquid drops that dissipate quickly.) Aside from drinking too much and doing something dumb—oh, like attacking somebody with a chain saw and fire extinguisher— the biggest risk is lead poisoning, since a homemade still might consist of car radiators or pipes that were dangerously soldered together. One study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in September 2003 found that more than half of moonshine drinkers have enough lead in their bloodstream to exceed what the CDC calls a "level of concern."

Thanks to Michael Birdwell of Tennessee Technological University; Brent Morgan of the Georgia Poison Center; Art Resnick of the U.S. Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau; and Matthew Rowley, author of Moonshine.

What are grits? (Added January, 2007)

Grits are made from the milling of corn kernels. The first step in the process is to clean the kernels; then, the grains are steamed for a short time to loosen the tough outer hull. The grain kernel is split, which removes the hull and germ, leaving the broken endosperm. Heavy steel rollers break up the endosperm into granules, which are separated by a screening process. The large-size granules are the grits; the smaller ones become cornmeal and corn flour.

History of LiverMush (Added August, 2006)

A Brief History of Livermush
(Excerpted from an article written by Michael Goforth, staff writer for the Shelby Star)

Folks in these parts generally take livermush for granted and manage a smile when discussing it. However, the meat concoction which has remained mostly a regional food was born of necessity and hard time. Eighty-six year old Carrie Mae Canipe recalls how livermush moved from the farm to the market. Back in the early 1920’s, she said, it was common for the family to make livermush after slaughtering a hog. Not wanting to waste any meat from the animal, the liver and “snoots” were mixed with corn meal and seasonings to come up with livermush. Families made the dish for their own consumption. Mrs. Canipe said that around 1925 or 1926 here husband, Bert, became aware of a couple in Gastonia who made livermush and sold it to their neighbors. Bert Canipe, she said, got the idea that livermush could become a business.
Bill McKee, whose father, Ray, started Mack’s Livermush, attributed the birth of commercial livermush in this area to Canipe and Clay Blanton. Mrs. Canipe said that first recipe for livermush was somewhat different from the one being used by the couple in Gastonia. “We kind of worked it up ourselves.” she said, “We worked it up where we liked it, kind of by trial and error.” The seasoning was simple - sage, black pepper and salt. The livermush was taken to stores in five pound blocks and sold for ten cents a pound. Sales she said, “Took off like wildfire.” Livermush, she said, got a lot of people through the Depression. From the business of Canipe and Blanton, newer livermush businesses were also spawned. McKee said his dad got the recipe for livermush from Canipe and Mack’s Livermush began in 1933. “We still have the same recipe we started with, “McKee said, “There’s been some updating a little. The spices are a little different.” The process of making livermush has changed a lot, he said. It’s gone from wooden paddles to electric agitators and wood burning cast iron kettles to stainless steel steam kettles. Originally, McKee said, the livermush was made in 10-pound pans and the pan themselves were taken to the store and placed on the meat counter. “Sometimes it was still warm.” He said. McKee said he was 8 or 10 years old before the livermush started to be packaged in one-pound blocks. The livermush that is familiar to this area differs from similar types of foods as one travel more than 100 miles away, said McKee. South and eat, it becomes liver pudding and toward the north it becomes scrapple. In October of 1987 both the Cleveland County Commissioners & the Shelby City Council passed resolutions proclaiming that “livermush is the most delicious, most economical and most versatile of meats.” And proclaimed the first Livermush Exposition.

Slugburger is worth its salt and more (Added December, 2005)

by Fred Sauceman

Corinth, Miss. —In the pantheon of Southern food, nothing is more misunderstood or maligned than the slugburger. Despite its name, this specialty of Northern Mississippi diners, drug stores, and cafés has a distinguished past, steeped in Southern history.

Folks in Booneville, Corinth, and Iuka, Mississippi, and up around Selmer, Tennessee, think nothing of ordering up a plateful of slugburgers, even for breakfast.

“The thing that’s appealing about slugburgers is the fact that they have a crunchy exterior, they’re best if they’re cooked thin, the way I like them, and they’re soft on the inside,” says Mike Hopkins of Corinth, a regular customer at the White Trolley Café. “The best way to eat them is with mustard, pickle, and onion, and it’s kind of a tradition of this area. I’m 48 years old, and they’ve been around here as long as I can remember.

“I can remember eating them as a child, thinking that was one of the greatest things there were. Nowadays, all the kids want to go get a McDonald’s hamburger, but when I was a kid it was, ‘Let’s go get a slugburger.’”

Although some mystery and mythology surround slugburgers, none of them contain even a trace of crawling gastropod. They are a legacy of the Great Depression, when ground beef was a precious commodity and families were forced to stretch it as far as it would go, by adding bread, cornmeal, or cheaper meats. Today, soybean meal is a common extender. The patties are then deep-fried.

At the White Trolley, on Highway 72 in Corinth, I overheard a waitress ask a customer, “Regular or well-done?” Some prefer their slugburgers crunchy, I learned, and some soft.

“It’s got a taste of its own,” says Regina Smith, manager of the White Trolley. “You have to taste it with an open mind. It’s different from anything else you’ve ever eaten, and I think they’re better crunchy.”

The origin of the name is clouded with debate, but the most commonly accepted story is that the burgers sold for a nickel during the Depression, and the word “slug” was slang for a five-cent piece. Today, slugburgers go for 75 cents at the White Trolley, and for a dollar downtown at Borroum’s Drug Store during festival time.

“A lot of people ask if it’s a snail crawling on the ground,” Smith says. And even though Corinthians try to debunk the garden critter notion, the logo for the annual Slugburger Festival, held each July, features a smiling green snail, further humanized by the addition of teeth and tongue.

Designer Greg Hastings, a native of Corinth who now lives in Memphis, says the snail mascot has endured “because he allows us to inject some fun personality into the overall image—more than you could do with just a burger. I’m told by festival officials that this character, which we update annually, is well received by the public, and sales of T-shirts each year keep reinforcing that fact,” Hastings says.

Main Street Corinth organizes the festival and has even signed on a corporate sponsor, Cellular South, catapulting the lowly slugburger to tourist attraction status on the Alcorn County courthouse square. The Gourmand’s Guide to Dining in and Around Corinth labels the slugburger a “local delicacy” and describes the obligatory squeeze of yellow, ballpark mustard as a “standard garnish.” The color of the patty resembles the more universal and recognizable chuckwagon steak.

Although it’s a novelty for tourists and a subject for local jokesters, the slugburger is a lasting reminder of Southern resourcefulness during hard times.

For more information about Corinth, Mississippi, call 800-748-9048 or e-mail tourism@corinth.net.

WETS.org Copyright ©2001 WETS-FM

New Orleans Sno-Balls (Added December, 2005)

by Edward J. Branley (c) 1994

The sno-ball is truly a New Orleans creation. The main reason for this is a machine called a "Hansen's Sno-Bliz." This is the machine that turns blocks of ice into sno-balls. Most sno-cones are made of crushed ice; a Sno-Bliz machine shaves a block of ice, giving it an extremely fine texture. The classic sno-ball machine (now manufactured by four or five companies in the area) works like a deli meat slicer. I've never seen anything like a sno-ball in any part of the country, although Lani Teshima-Miller's description of "shaved ice" in Hawaii is the closest thing I've heard. A sno-ball isn't an Italian ice, nor is it a crushed ice abomination.

Once the ice is shaved, it's collected into a cup, paper cone, bowl, plate, or even a container akin to the things that you get at a Chinese take-out place. Then syrup is poured over the ice, making one of nature's most perfect foods. Some people continue the process, adding cherries, ice cream, ice milk, condensed milk, or other toppings.

There's a bit of a ritual when it comes to buying a sno-ball. Most sno-ball stands are small affairs where you walk up to a window to place your order. The first thing you have to do is tell the kid working on the other side what size sno-ball you want. Currently this normally ranges from a small cup for around $.45 - $.50 to larger affairs which can go up to $2.00 each. If you're ordering more than one sno-ball, you tell her all of your sizes first. After she gets done with the ice machine, it's time to tell her what you want on them. Most sno-ball stands have anywhere from 30-70 flavors available from which to choose. The most popular are strawberry, cherry, grape, chocolate, ice cream (vanilla), and bubble gum (it's blue, tastes like bubble gum). Additional flavors can be simple, like lime or spearmint, to exotic, like orchid cream vanilla, papaya, etc. If you like something on top of your ice and syrup, they'll add that, then you pay and you're off.

Toppings on sno-balls started out fairly simple, and have grown over the years. First it was half-and-half sno-balls. Then things like condensed milk on a chocolate snoball, or chocolate syrup on an ice cream-flavored one. Then soft ice cream machines became affordable, so sno-ball stands started offering soft ice cream as a topping for sno-balls and in cones. I've seen some stands offering dry toppings, like chocolate or rainbow sprinkles, but I don't think they hold up well on ice.

It's all but impossible to come up with a top five or top ten list for sno-ball stands, because they're neighborhood creations. There are two exceptions to this: Hansen's Sno-Bliz Sweet Shop, in the 4800 block of Tchoupitoulas, and Plum Street Sno-balls in uptown New Orleans. These two are legendary, and transcend neighborhoods. Since I grew up a Metairie boy, the stands that I remember as being the best are one at Bonnabel and Metairie Road, and one at Veterans and Homestead. When I more-or-less moved to Gentilly for high school and college, the one on Fillmore and Elysian Fields became my regular stand. Nowadays we go regularly to the stand at Clearview and W. Esplanade.

Sno-balls are a summer creature; I can't think of a single sno-ball stand that is open during the school year. [Editor's note -- There are a few scattered here and there. CT] The main reason for this is that school kids are the main source of labor for a stand. Most of them have permanent sites that are closed for the bulk of the year. When the second week or so of May rolls around, however, and the high schools close, the stands re-open until around Labor Day.

My favorite's lime. Helen (my wife) likes strawberry with vanilla soft ice cream on top. Justin (my son) goes for chocolate.

Edward J. Branley

Stuck on the city (Added December, 2005)

The Roman Candy Man has returned to the local scene, selling taffy on his Uptown rounds. And soon his mule will be back on track, too.
Sunday, October 23, 2005

By Elizabeth Mullener, Staff writer for The Times-Picayune

Life is officially sweet again in New Orleans: Cafe du Monde is frying beignets in the French Quarter, Sal's snowball stand is shaving ice on Metairie Road and the Roman Candy Man is plying the streets Uptown with made-on-the-spot taffy that has been comfort food for generations of hometown souls.

"A lot of people are happy to see me," said Ron Kottemann, grandson of the founder, from his perch inside the jaunty wagon. "It's something familiar, something actually up and running, something that's open, that's New Orleans.

"It's nice to be appreciated."

Like everyone else in the city, Kottemann has a story to tell. As he speaks, he goes about the business he has known virtually since birth: He snips off a piece of taffy, rolls it out with his hands, wraps it in waxed paper and twists the ends. When he finishes one, he reaches for another and starts all over again, without missing a beat.

"I've never left for a storm before," he began.

But this time he did, taking off on Sunday morning with nine people in tow, plus a dog, in two cars. They went from Mississippi to Mandeville to Baton Rouge and recently to Metairie. His house on Constance Street, in his absence, got whacked by a shard from the roof of the Whole Foods Market. He estimates that about half of the house will need replacing.

Meanwhile, his trusty mule, Patsy, had an odyssey of her own. When he couldn't find a stable to take her in, Kottemann reluctantly left her behind, in the tiny stable adjoining his house, with 40 gallons of water and two bales of hay. He figured he'd be back in a few days and she'd be fine.

"Of course, it didn't work out that way," he said. "She was here at the house for seven or eight days."

When he realized he couldn't get home, Kottemann contacted the Humane Society, which agreed to go in for Patsy. But it would take some time. Meanwhile, he found out about a neighbor who had stayed in town.

"Believe it or not, I was able to call the guy," Kottemann said. "How I got through to him I don't know, but I asked him to come over, hop the fence and feed the mule. He did that for a week and a half. Then he called and said he was out of food himself and had to leave."

The next day, the Humane Society came for the mule and took her to Gonzales. From Gonzales, Kottemann picked Patsy up and took her to the north shore. By the time they reunited, it had been two weeks since the two of them had seen each other.

"She seemed pretty happy to see me," Kottemann said. "Came right up to me and shook her head. I'm sure she's a little bit traumatized. Believe me, if you saw my stable, you'd see it took a pretty good beating. I'm sure she was scared stiff, with stuff flying around everywhere."

For the moment, Kottemann is using his truck to pull his wagon and parking it for a spell here and there -- on St. Charles, on Carrollton Avenue, on Magazine Street, in Old Metairie. As soon as he has his house in order, he intends to put Patsy back on the job.

"But she's fine now -- out in the pasture, eating grass, getting fat," he said.

Patsy's not the only one happy to see the Roman Candy man. One recent morning, Earl Carr walked up to the wagon and belted out a slap-on-the-back kind of greeting.

"Glad to see you here!" he said. "Let me see how much money I've got. OK, give me 10. Just mix them all up."

His customer base has taken a strange turn, Kottemann said. For one thing, it's strictly local. The disaster workers haven't discovered him yet.

"Of course, they don't have a clue what I'm selling," he said.

And for another thing, all his customers are adults.

"There are no kids around," he said. "Right now, it's adults coming in and out, doing stuff on their houses during the day and leaving at night -- like I'm doing. The city won't be back until the kids come back."

Staff writer Elizabeth Mullener can be reached at emullener@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3393.

Scuppernong & Muscadine History - The Earliest Accounts

North Carolina is the home of our nation's first cultivated grape. The earliest written account of the "White Grape," as it was called by our colonist, occurs in Giovanni de Verrazzano's logbook. Verrazzano, the Florentine navigator, who explored the Cape Fear River Valley for France in 1524, wrote that he saw "...Many vines growing naturally there..."

"Grapes of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater"

Sir Walter Raleigh's explorers, captains Phillip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe wrote in 1584, that the coast of North Carolina was "...so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them...in all the world, the like abundance is not to be found."

In 1585, Governor Ralph Lane stated in describing North Carolina to Sir Walter Raleigh that "We have discovered the main to be the goodliest soil under the cope of heaven, so abounding with sweet trees that bring rich and most pleasant gummes, grapes of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater..."

Of Muscadines and Scuppernongs ...

Of the bounteous store of natural gifts that have rolled forth from the Horn of Plenty upon the soil of North Carolina few have been more celebrated than the scuppernong grape. It is a sport of the species Vitis rotundifolia, commonly called muscadine, which is native to the southern states and grows nowhere else save as an exotic. The muscadine, it is no exaggeration to say, could well be substituted for cotton in the first line of "Dixie" if one were to bow to botanical realism. The scuppernong variety of muscadine has a tough skin and is bronzy green in color, rather than black or purplish as were its ancestors. Its size, to use traditional Tarheel parlance, is "about that of a hog's eye." As is the case with all muscadines, the fruit does not grow in conventional bunches, and when ripe it can be readily shaken from its vine. It's abundant juice is so deliciously sweet, with a kind of musky, fruity flavor, that when it's unusual color attracted attention, in the general vicinity of present day Columbia, N.C., possibly toward the end of the eighteenth century, specimens were transplanted or seeds or cuttings sown on neighboring farms and gardens whence in time its reputation spread throughout the botanical world.

At first it was simply called the Big White Grape, for the name scuppernong, as we shall see, was not applied to it until some time after its choice qualities and immense productiveness were known in the Tidewater region of North Carolina. It came to particular notice in Tyrrell County, along the banks of a short stream that broadens into an arm of Albemarle Sound and had long since been suprisingly clear, which was also called Scuppernong Lake, though its official name is Phelps, after one of the two local hunters who penetrated the dense thickets surrounding it and "discovered" it in 1755.

*** Learn more by taking a sip at www.ncwine.org.

Southern Cities with Food Names:

Alabama --- Almond, Bass, Burnt Corn, Chestnut, Muscadine, Nectar, Pea Ridge, Pine Apple, Satsuma, Vinegar Bend

Arkansas --- Big Fork, Grapevine, Possum Grape, Roe, Rye, Sage, Strawberry, Tomato, Walnut Ridge

Florida --- Cherry Lake, Citrus Springs, Cocoa, Coconut Creek, Fruit Cove, Land O’Lakes, Mandarin, Mango, Salt Springs, Satsuma, Sugar Mill

Georgia --- Chestnut Mountain, Crabapple, Fruitland, Orchard Hill, Vidalia

Kentucky --- Berry, Cane Valley, Crab Orchard, Honeybee, Maple Mount, Oven Fork, Pumpkin Center, Rabbit Hash, Riceville, Salt Lick, Sassafras, Soft Shell, Walnut Grove

Louisiana --- Fishville, Frogmore, Jigger, Pecan Island, White Castle

Mississippi --- Alligator, Bourbon, Chunky, Coffeeville, Hot Coffee, Olive Branch, Pecan, Rolling Fork, Walnut

North Carolina --- Bayleaf, Cranberry, Lemon Springs, Mount Olive, Scuppernong, Turkey, Walnut

South Carolina --- Appleton, Honey Hill, Orangeburg, Plum Branch

Tennessee --- Bartlett, Beans Creek, Cherry, Chestnut Bluff, Chestnut Hill, Chestnut Mound, Dill, Duck River, East Fork, Fishery, Flourville, Tasso

Texas --- Apple Springs, Chocolate Bayou, Flat Fork, Grapevine, Honey Island, Mesquite, Oatmeal, Oyster Creek, Pear Valley, Pecan Gap, Plum, Plum Grove, Quail, Raisin, Rice, Rye, Salmon, Salt Gap, Salt Flat, Sugarland, Trout Creek, Turkey

Virginia --- Berryville, Brandy Station, Mayo, Orange, Plum Point, Rice, Saltville, Troutdale, Troutville

A sampling of the wacky names of cooking teams at the 2004 Memphis BBQ Championships:


[Click here for May Festivals]

Cajun & Creole Terms - A Brief Glossary ...

  • Andouille - A spicy Cajun sausage made with pork.
  • Bayou - A sluggish stream, bigger than a creek but smaller than a river.
  • Beignet - A square shaped type of doughnut without a hole.
  • Boudin - A Cajun sausage normally made with pork, rice, and seasonings.
  • Cafe Au Lait - Coffee with milk or cream.
  • C'Est La Vie -“That’s Life!”
  • Cher - A term of endearment or “my sweet.”
  • Crawfish -A small fresh water crustacean related to the lobster.
  • Etouffee -A method of cooking something (usually shrimp or crawfish) smothered in chopped vegetables over a low flame, tightly covered, until tender.
  • Fais Do Do -A type of street dance derived from European religious festivals. Originally “Fete de Dieu” or  Festival of God.
  • Grillades -Beef or veal round steak, browned, then simmered until tender in browned tomato sauce. Served over rice or grits. GUMBO – A thick, savory soup with chicken, seafood, sausage or wild game.
  • Jambayala -A highly seasoned mixture of any several combinations of seafood, meat, poultry, sausage, and vegetables, simmered with raw rice until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Lagniappe -An old Creole word for “something extra.”
  • Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler -“Let the Good Times Roll!”
  • Pirogue -A Cajun canoe, originally made from a dug-out cypress log.
  • Roux -A basic ingredient for many Louisiana recipes, especially gumbo. Essentially seasoned flour that is slowly browned in a skillet.
  • Zydeco -A lively accordian based Creole music. The term is derived from the word haricot, which is French for string bean.


During my five-year tenure as a South Carolina resident, I became quite familiar – and terribly fond – of the unique little regional dish called Chicken Bog. Although the dish is not particularly pretty to look at, it certainly packs a great deal of savory flavor. That flavor, often subtle upon first sampling, can deliver an unexpected peppery finish. Black pepper is frequently the only spice added to this traditional dish, but it is the rich broth rendered from the boiling of the chicken parts that is truly the star of the show.

The origins of the entrée now known as Chicken Bog likely dates back to the Charleston, SC area during the late 17th century. History books tell us that Madagascar rice was brought over by sea captains from Africa and that rice, later referred to as Carolina long-grain rice, was grown in bogs (rice fields half submerged in water) in the shadows of live oaks dripping with creepy Spanish Moss. This is very likely how the term “Chicken Bog” originated, while others claim it is simply because the chicken (and frequently chopped sausage) is “bogged” down in the mounds of cooked rice. No matter which school of thought you subscribe to, one cannot deny that rice has long been an integral part of life in the SC Lowcountry. The little community of Loris, SC, not far from the popular golf capital of Myrtle Beach, continues to pay tribute to their beloved Chicken Bog each fall with an annual, week-long “Bog Off” festival.

Chicken Bog is most certainly a derivative of the SC favorite Rice Pilau. Pronounced “perloo” or occasionally “perlowe,” Pilau has been documented in nearly twenty different spellings and many more variations! Even the Spanish claim a close cousin of Chicken Pilau – arroz con pollo or rice with chicken. The worldwide popularity of the combo of rice and chicken should tell you how satisfying, readily available and simple to prepare this dish can truly be.

Chicken Bog has become highly favored by residents of South Carolina’s Pee Dee region because it’s quick and easy to prepare, can satisfy large legions of diners, and is versatile enough to serve at formal gatherings or pot luck suppers. Old timers in the region fondly recall the days when burly men in denim overalls cooked up Chicken Bog on riverbanks in huge black iron kettles and served it steaming hot alongside fresh butter beans, artichoke relish and juicy home grown tomatoes. Makes the mouth water doesn’t it?

There are as many variations of chicken bog as there are for chili in the American Southwest, yet I count myself as a member of the “simpler the better” tribe. In an effort to introduce many of you to this earthy delicacy, I have opted to leave you with the basic recipe found below. You will surely be amazed with its simplicity and ability to leave you full and completely satisfied --- especially on a cool fall night. Give it a try and don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you have a special Bog recipe you’d like to share with the world.

Country Captain - A Georgia Treasure
-- from the fine book "Southern Food" by John Egerton

What Rice Pilau is to coastal South Carolina, a delicious dish called Country Captain is to the state of Georgia. Some believe that British colonials brought the dish to our country from India, although many Georgians still like to dispute this claim. These folks often hypothesize that a ship's captain in the spice trade perhaps shared the recipe for Country Captain to some friends in the port city of Savannah, and that their enthusiasm for the unique dish eventually made it a fixture in both the city and country kitchens of the Peach State.

The popularity of Country Captain was given a huge boost by Mrs. W. L. Bullard of Warm Springs, GA, in the 1940s when she served it to then President Franklin Roosevelt and U.S. General George Patton. Their vocal praise of the meal helped to rekindle a colonial flame.

Through the years, Country Captain has retained a dominance of Indian spices in the seasonings, but Southern touches are also now apparent. The version offered below closely resembles several others that have found a permanent place in the region's cookbooks:

Country Captain

  • Cover 1/2 cup of currants with boiling water or chicken broth; set aside and let stand to become plump and soft.
  • Fry 4 strips of bacon crisp in a skillet, drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside.
  • Cut up a frying sized chicken into serving pieces (or use 4 chicken breasts if you prefer white meat); place in skillet with 2 or 3 tablespoons of hot bacon grease.
  • Cook until tender, turning the pieces frequently to assure uniform browning; remove and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Mince 2 ribs of celery, 2 medium-sized onions, 1 medium-sized bell pepper, and two cloves of garlic; saute these ingredients in the skillet in 2 or 3 tablespoons of bacon grease.
  • Add 2 cups of fresh or canned tomatoes (peeled, cored and chopped), 1 tablespoon of curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon of mace, 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
  • Stir well, bring mixture to a boil,  then reduce heat to low, cover skillet, and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Then, in a large baking dish, arrange the chicken pieces and cover with the skillet mixture and broth from the currants.
  • Cover the dish and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Add the currants, 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 cup of slivered almonds, and the crumbled bacon ... then return to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve hot with freshly boiled rice; Mango Chutney is an excellent accompaniment; this recipe will serve 4 people generously.

DIRT FOR DINNER? (Added August, 2005)

Rural Southerners are known for living off the land, Mother Earth. Entire agricultural economies rely on the rich soil to produce the freshest crop. It is hard to believe, though, that many do not stop at growing FOOD in the dirt, but that the DIRT for some is also the food! The Southeast is the geographic capital of “geophagy,” which is the practice of eating earthy substances - like clay - to add minerals to the diet. At over a dollar a pound, edible earth - because you don't just munch it straight from the garden - is not dirt-cheap so why do people do it?

The dirt on geophagy is that the practice began in Africa with pregnant and lactating women who needed to satisfy nutritional cravings. These women were drawn to eat the flavored clay pits sold at market by instincts, which were definitely right-on as these pieces of clay contained high levels of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, and iron. The tradition of geophagy then spread from Central Africa to the United States with slavery. Americans now eat clay, dirt and other pieces of the earth for a variety of reasons. Commonly, it is a traditional cultural activity that takes place during religious ceremonies, as a remedy for disease, or even during pregnancy - similarly to those in Africa. There are just as many, though, that just plain love the taste of dirt. A study done in Mississippi showed that at least a quarter of all schoolchildren and their parents ate dirt. A number of reasons were given: earth is good for you; it helps pregnant women. The number one answer to the question, "why?" was that it tastes good; it is sour like a lemon.

Though it tastes good, all dirt diets aren't the best. Unfortunately, many Americans who practice geophagy (or quasi-geophagy) are eating unhealthy material such as laundry starch, ashes, chalk and lead-paint chips because of psychological need. These materials have no nutritional benefits and can lead to intestinal problems and disease. Eating inappropriate objects and material or, pica, can even happen by simply picking up dirt from the yard. There are good sites for nutritional clay in the Southern United States so anyone thinking of geophagy should consider these resources.

**** Source: Turner South

THE DIXIE WAY - Timeless Southern Customs Live On
- Taken from Best Read Guide, Charleston, SC - 2001

Names - Many Southern men are addressed as “Bubba” - but mostly by other men. This popular nickname is a corruption of the word “brother” and may be retained without shame even into a ripe old age. The W. Todd Hamilton III’s of the South, however, are more likely to be addressed as “Brother Hamilton” - often spoken with a rich Southern accent.

On the feminine side of the ledger, it’s usually “Sister” in lieu of the given name: Sister” Hamilton, not “Sister” Sallie. Many Southern gals have double names - two first names like Martha Jane, Mary Louise, or Betty Jane. South of the Mason-Dixon Line, not many female children have been named Scarlett. That name was virtually invented by Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind. However, many Southern belles are christened Tara, which was the name of Scarlett O’Hara’s plantation house.

Attire - The Deep South knows few seasons, except maybe hot, hotter and hottest. But in order to inject

a little variety into Dixie wardrobes, Southern women pretend that the temperature follows the calendar. After Labor Day, no pastels, no sleeveless dresses and, above all, no white shoes. When Easter comes, it’s time for linen and cotton again. Dainty white gloves for all occasions seem to have dropped by the wayside, but other traditional rules remain: velvet in the winter and chiffon in the summer are for evenings only. Pearl and discreet gold items are suitable for daytime jewelry; save the sparkly stuff for after dark.

Gentlemen wear coats and ties - almost always for work and church and usually at restaurants and the theater. Dark suits in the winter; linens and seersucker in the summer. No white shoes after Labor Day for them, either.

Even on the hottest, most humid days of summer, Southern ladies and gentlemen carry a sweater, shawl or light jacket. In the Deep South air conditioning is rated the most important discovery since cornbread. And in most buildings the rule of the more AC the better is strictly observed.

Young folks - Southern youth as a matter of course call their elders “sir” and “ma’am.” They also accord to those older and wiser the dignity of their surnames, prefaced by Mr., Mrs., or Miss, as necessary. They do not tend to use the term Ms., although the traditional pronunciation of “Mrs.” sounds like mizz. In the case of familial closeness, the honorary prefix of Aunt, Uncle or Cousin is normally used with first names.

Thank You Notes - Southern women keep the stationary suppliers in business. After every gift, every occasion, every kindness, out comes the monogrammed notepaper and away goes a sweet little letter of thanks. One of our better traits!

Gullah History and Language
-- Story courtesy of our friends at The Gullah Gourmet - www.gullahgourmet.com.

Gullah is a culture unlike any other in the world. It is a manner of living, working, story telling and beliefs that trace roots to the first slaves arriving in the Lowcountry of South Carolina in the early 17th century. These original African immigrants were the primary builders of the lucrative rice trade of early colonial America. The skills they had utilized while developing a flourishing culture in Sierra Leone and other Western African countries gave them the know-how to adapt these agricultural talents to the swampy marshlands of coastal South Carolina.

Still surviving in communities around Charleston, Hilton Head and Georgetown, South Carolina, the Gullah island lifestyle is simple in practice, but rich in heritage. It is a way of life that is constantly being threatened by the ever- increasing coastal development around these areas.

It is here, on these barrier islands among the Gullah communities, that traditional storytelling, cooking and crafts thrive and intrigue visitors to the Low Country. The world-famous Charleston Sweetgrass basket, a 1000 year-old art form, still survives and visitors to Charleston's Market can watch the basket ladies in action as they use weaving tools made of bone to preserve this millennium-old craft. The Gullah people are known for their superstitious nature and their most interesting dialect.

Gullah, the dialect, is a manner of speaking which was at one time common among the people of the South. It is part Elizabethan English and part African. It's spoken in a rhythm and most times spoken rapidly which makes it difficult to understand for even those who grew up around it. The language still lingers in the unique "geechee" accents carried by many descendants of these original settling plantation families.

A Very Brief History of the Four Types of Barbeque Found In the USA
-- By Lake E. High, Jr. (President, South Carolina Barbeque Association - www.scbarbeque.com

There are generally considered to be four types of barbeque in the country and they, by and large, are broken down by the type of sauce use in basting and also as a finish sauce, used when the barbeque is being served. Those four, in order of historical emergence, are Vinegar and Pepper, Mustard, Light Tomato and Heavy Tomato. And while there is always disagreement on the varieties of preparation, such as whether one should use a dry rub or a wet rub and various other culinary arguments, all of the many sauces used in America generally will fall into one of those four basic groups.

North and South Carolina share three of the four types of barbeque sauce that Americans normally use. But only South Carolina is the home of all four.

The "original" barbeque sauce, dating back hundreds (yes, hundreds) of years is Vinegar and Pepper, the first and simplest of the four. It is found on the coastal plains of both North and South Carolina and to a slight degree in Virginia and Georgia.

The second (in order of historic evolution) of the four sauces is the one that is distinct to South Carolina and the one that people most often think of as South Carolina style - Mustard Sauce. That sauce is the product of the large German heritage found in South Carolina.

Starting in the 1730s and continuing into the 1750s, the British colony of South Carolina encouraged, recruited, and even paid the ocean passage for thousands of German families so they could take up residence in South Carolina. They were a hard working, sturdy and resourceful people who were given to an intensive family-farm type of agriculture, as opposed to the plantation system favored by the English settlers. Those German families were given land grants up the Santee, Congaree, Broad and Saluda Rivers as they came in successive waves over a twenty plus year migration. Those rivers all flow into each other and fall from the South Carolina upcountry to the low country. The simplified map on the home page of the Carolina Q Cup (carolinaQcup.com) shows the location of mustard sauce in South Carolina.

The first German settlements were in present day Dorchester County, and then successive waves of settlers moved on up the rivers to the counties of Orangeburg, Lexington, Newberry and the northwestern part of Richland County. (The middle and southern parts of Richland were settled by English settlers.) These German settlers brought with them, in addition to their European farming style and the Lutheran Church, the common use of mustard.

South Carolina mustard sauce can be clearly traced to those German settlers and is still in abundant evidence today, even after 250 years, in the names of the families who sell mustard based sauces and mustard based barbecue to the public. The Bessinger family is the most prominent in the mustard based barbeque business, but other German names are legion in the South Carolina barbeque business - Shealy, Hite, Sweatman, Sikes, Price, Lever, Meyer, Kiser, and Zeigler are other examples and there are many more. (There is even a Dooley's barbeque in Lexington County, which everyone generally thinks of as an Irish name, but which comes from the German Dula family [pronounced Doole], as in the infamous Thomas Dula who became "Tom Dooley" in the Kingston Trio's 1960s song, "Hang down your head Tom Dooley.")

The Scottish families who settled primarily in Williamsburg County in present day South Carolina low country are the most famous South Carolina preparers of Vinegar and Pepper barbeque. The most prominent present day Scottish barbeque family is probably the Brown family, but there is also McKenzie, Scott, McCabe and many others who have remained, like the German families, true to their heritage. This simple Vinegar and Pepper sauce is the first, and therefore the oldest, of the South Carolina basting sauces.

The third type of sauce found in South Carolina, in terms of the evolution of sauces, is Light Tomato sauce. This sauce is (or was) little more than Vinegar and Pepper with tomato ketchup added. This occurred after tomato ketchup became a readily available condiment around the turn of the last century; that is, around 1900. It was a simple thing to take the tried and true Vinegar and Pepper and add some ketchup, which brought a little sweetness and other spices to the mix. That style of sauce is most famous in North Carolina in the Piedmont region of which Lexington, North Carolina, is the acknowledged barbeque center. It is also popular in the upper middle part of South Carolina and in the South Carolina Pee Dee region which is the upper coastal plain area of the state.

The fourth sauce in South Carolina and, for that matter, the rest of the nation, is Heavy Tomato sauce. This sauce has evolved only recently, that is, in the last sixty or so years, and it's the last of the four major types. It has spread rapidly over the majority of the nation due to modern transportation, modern marketing, and the insatiable sweet tooth of the modern American.

Heavy Tomato sauce is most often seen in the type of sauce popularized by Kraft Foods and it is found on every store shelf, thanks to the miracle of twentieth century motorized transportation. It and its newer cousin, Kansas City Masterpiece and its many imitators, is the type of sauce that most Americans think of as barbeque sauce.

As more and more Americans heard about barbeque they wanted to have some for themselves. Since they had no real background in the preparation of real barbeque they were easily sold the idea that the "barbeque" sauce they had seen on TV and found at the local supermarket was just the thing they needed to do the job. And while a heavy tomato sauce is a legitimate type of sauce, it is almost always used by the average American incorrectly, that is, slathered over various meats that have been grilled over high heat.

The most unfortunate thing is that those Americans who live far away from the initial area where barbeque was first introduced by the native Indians to Europeans colonists (South Carolina) and who, therefore, don't really have any historic connection to the earliest barbeque, are actually being mislead into thinking they are eating real barbeque. Regrettably, they are missing out on the true original and the very best types of genuine barbeque.

Another casualty of American television is the confusion over just what barbeque is. Hints to its true nature, however, can sometimes be found in the use of the word "barbeque" in the language. It has become popular to say that barbeque is a noun and not a verb. Well, barbeque is, most properly, used as a noun that refers to a specific thing but sometimes it can also be used as a transitive verb.

Unfortunately, most Americans who live outside of the South in general and North and South Carolina in particular, use it as a verb or, if they use it as a noun, use it incorrectly. Midwesterners or Yankees will say to friends, "I'm going to barbeque some hamburgers tonight." Or they will say, "Let's put some brats on the barbeque and break out some beer." And while everyone will be having a great time sitting around in the smoke, the use of the word in that way is incorrect. That neighbor is going to grill some hamburgers, not barbeque them. The cooker he is going to cook them on should be called a grill, not a barbeque.

The second proper use of the word, the transitive verb usage, can sometimes be seen in such usage as the term "barbequed chicken" or "barbequed beef." It is common to barbeque various meats with beef and chicken being probably the most usual but real barbeque can including lamb, turkey, goat and even possum and other exotic creatures. But those animals are termed "barbequed (insert the name of the animal)" where the term "barbequed" in that usage is a transitive verb describing the way the animal was cooked.

The incorrect use of the term barbeque on television, in movies and in magazines which is, more often than not, written or spoken by people who know nothing about real barbeque, has led to the misconception, for instance, that beef is barbeque. It's not. Don't forget, barbeque is more specifically a noun, a specific thing, and that specific thing is pork, not beef or fish, or beaver, or shrimp or anything else. It's quite possible to barbeque beef; tens of thousands of people out west do it all the time. And it's oftentimes delicious. But it's "barbequed beef" not barbeque. The term barbeque is always properly reserved for pork.

Indeed, it was the Spanish who first introduced the pig into the Americas and to the American Indians. The Indians, in turn, introduced the Spanish to the concept of true slow cooking with smoke. So, in that first fateful coming together, way back in the 1500s, the Spanish supplied the pig and the Indians showed them how to cook it. That is when authentic barbeque was first eaten.

The first true colony in the Americas, by the way, was in South Carolina. The very first Spanish adventurers that one reads about in the history books were actually Conquistadores, bent on gold and conquest, not on colonizing. The Spanish colonists, who came only slightly later but still in the early 1500s, came to South Carolina and they named their colony Santa Elena. It was established in the area that we now call Port Royal in Beaufort County. That colony lasted almost 20 years and it boasted a fort with several cannons, a church, a bakery, blacksmith foundry and shop, a pottery kiln and nearly 500 colonists including over 100 families. It was in that first American colony that the white man first learned to prepare and to eat real barbeque. So, people were eating barbeque in South Carolina even before that name had been applied to the area by the English.

If one wants to experience all four of America's styles of barbeque there is only one state in the nation where that can be done - South Carolina. The true barbeque aficionado can not say that he has completed his barbeque quest without a visit to South Carolina where the art of barbeque was invented and where it is still practiced in both its purest tradition and its most diverse styles.

So, y'all come to South Carolina and eat barbeque with the people who know the most about it and have the longest history of preparing it. There is a great culinary adventure waiting in store for you in South Carolina.

Soul Food - A Brief Description
-- Margaret Jones Bolsterli, University of Arkansas

Popularized in the 1960s, the term Soul Food refers to a distinctive, traditional southern style of cooking. Use of the term implies that this cuisine is limited in popularity to blacks, but it is in fact the native fare of both black and white southerners of all economic and social strata. The distinctive ingredients of southern cuisine, as well as the distinctive styles of preparing them, have been common for centuries in Africa but not in Europe. Sweet potatoes, okra, chicken and fish rolled in meal or batter and deep fried, greens and cowpeas boiled with pork and served with pot likker, and cornbread in many varieties from the basis of a regional cuisine whose roots may be more African than European. Maize and sweet potatoes were taken from America to Africa by Portuguese traders in the 16th century, and peas of the black-eyed type have been eaten in Africa for some 400 years. Even specialized local cuisine with indentifiable European roots, such as French cooking in Louisiana, have been heavily influenced by Afro-American taste in such things as the heavy use of red pepper and the creation of dishes like gumbo based on ingredients, such as okra, that came from Africa. In fact, the black presense may explain why foods like maize and cowpeas, which will grow anywhere in America and were eaten in other parts of the country while the frontiers lasted, remain staple foods only in the South, aside from those areas of the Southwest where they were staple foods of the Native Americans. Some scholars see Native American influences on Soul Food as well.

THE VARSITY LINGO (Added August, 2005)

When you visit Atlanta, GA's most famous drive-in eatery, make sure you know the very specialized language called “Varsity-ese.” Start practicing with the most common terms found below:

Hot Dog: Hot dog with chili and mustard
Heavy weight: Same as hot dog but with extra chili
Naked Dog: Plain hot dog in a bun
MK Dog: Hot dog with mustard and ketchup
Regular C Dog: Hot dog with chili, mustard and ketchup
Red Dog: Ketchup only
Yellow Dog: Mustard only
Yankee Dog: Same as a yellow dog
Walk a Dog (or Steak): Hot dog to go
Steak: Hamburger with mustard, ketchup, and pickle
Chili Steak: Hamburger with Varsity chili
Glorified Steak: Hamburger with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato
Mary Brown Steak: Plain hamburger with no bun (can also get the hot dog version)
Naked Steak: Plain steak (can also be called a Sally Rand steak)
Varsity Orange: The original formula
N.I. Orange: No ice orange
F.O.: Frosted Orange
Joe-ree: Coffee with cream
P.C.: Plain chocolate milk (always served with ice)
N.I.P.C.: No ice, plain chocolate milk
All the Way: With onions-can be hot dog, chili steak, etc.
Bag of Rags - potato chips
Ring One: Order of onion rings
Strings: French fries
Sideways: Onions on the side

****Source: Turner South

[Click here for more about The Varsity]

The Vidalia Onion - How Sweet It Is! (Added 2/1/2002)

The Vidalia Onion story takes root in Toombs County, Georgia over 60 years ago, when a farmer named Mose Coleman discovered in late spring of 1931 that the onions he had planted were not hot as he expected. They were actually sweet!

It was a struggle to sell the unusual onions at first, but Coleman persevered, and eventually managed to sell them for $3.50 per 50-pound bag, which in those days was a big price. Other farmers, who through the Depression years hadn't been able to get a fair price for their more commonplace produce, thought Coleman had found a gold mine! They began to follow suit and their farms were soon producing the sweet, mild onion.

In the 1940's, the State of Georgia built a Farmers' Market in Vidalia, and because the small town was located at the junction of some of South Georgia's most widely traveled highways, the market developed a thriving tourist business. Word began to spread about "those sweet Vidalia onions." Reorders were promptly made and "Vidalia Onions" began appearing on the shelves of Piggly Wiggly and A&P grocery stores.

Through the 1950's and 60's, production grew at a slow but steady pace, reaching some 600 total acres by the mid 1970's. At this point, a push was made for Vidalia Onions to be distributed nationwide and several promotional efforts were begun. Onion festivals became an annual event in both Vidalia and nearby Glennville, Georgia, and production grew tenfold over the next decade.

In 1986, Georgia's state legislature passed legislation giving the Vidalia Onion legal status and defining a 20-county production area. The Vidalia Onion was named Georgia's Official State Vegetable by the state legislature in 1990. In 1989, Vidalia Onion producers united to establish Federal Marketing Order No. 955 for the crop. This USDA program established the Vidalia Onion Committee and extended the definition of a Vidalia Onion to the Federal level. The Marketing Order provided a vehicle for producers to jointly fund research and promotional programs.

Beginning in 1990, technology borrowed from the apple industry was adapted to begin the Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage of Vidalia Onions. Now, some 70 million pounds of Vidalia Onions can be put into CA storage for up to 7 months, thus extending the marketing of Vidalias through the Fall and into the holiday season.