Monday, May 2, 2011
The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, April 14th and traveled to Concord for “Lunch and Learn” sponsored by the garden club in Pike County. Sally Neal and Angie Williams coordinated the Meriwether club’s trip.
Held in the recently renovated Strickland Country Store, the ladies arrived to find delightful table arrangements featuring market baskets filled with colorful fresh produce from rhubarb to radishes. The Concord club introduced and thanked the many members who made the luncheon possible and also awarded their annual horticulture scholarship. Guests brought picnic lunches and the Concord club provided drinks and desserts-a simple plan that has worked brilliantly for over a decade with many clubs attending from throughout the Redbud District in Georgia.
Speaker for the Lunch and Learn was Sheri Castle from Chapel Hill, NC who is a noted food writer, cooking instructor, and delightful storyteller. Recently publishing The New Southern Garden Cookbook: or Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes, Castle encourages cooks to use fresh produce in season and grown locally. The cookbook is organized in a unique way A to Z by the main garden ingredient: apples, asparagus, beets, blackberries to turnips, winter squash, and zucchini.
But Castle’s great sense of humor and cooking tips were the delight of the day. She began telling about her entrance into the cooking industry by being a ghost writer and test cook for a number of famed cooking personalities who really could not cook. Then she lived in Italy to become a Mediterranean cook which she compared to being a good Southern cook. She pointed out while Southerners are known and judged for those special holiday and Sunday dinners, their faces really light up when asked about fresh vegetables and fruits from their gardens. Mama’s and Grandmama’s specially orchestrated meals are food memories that make up our most tenacious nostalgia.
Some of Castle’s basic cooking guidelines were to always use freshly ground black pepper, Kosher salt, large eggs from free roaming chickens, butter instead of margarine, milk, yogurt and dairy products that are always whole and not low fat, real buttermilk and not powdered, fresh cream not ultra pasteurized, and fresh stone ground corn meal. She recommended using light, thin aluminum metal baking pans, and insisted on preheating the oven twenty minutes before baking. Vanilla flavoring should be pure and not a flavored item and spices needed to be fresh and not from the wedding gift spice rack given to you when you married three husbands ago!
Each recipe is prefaced with a anecdote or cooking tip such as Ozark pudding cooked by Bess Truman to cheer up a homesick Harry Truman, the French Huguenots bringing the recipe over for their taverns, or thinking of the eggplant as a huge oversized berry. Merry Weather Garden Clubbers lined up to purchase her book and compliment her on her talk.
The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club will be in May and the club will tour the new Warm Springs Winery.
Posted by Sally Neal at 12:06 PM