Monday, May 12, 2014

Southern Comfort (Food)

Our third objective coming down to Atlanta was to visit with John Mark's family, namely his mother and grandmother. It was Mother's Day after all. Secretly though, my father was more focused on getting some good old fashion home cooked southern food.

Up until now, the only "southern" food my family has enjoyed came from our pit stops at Cracker Barrel. So we were very excited to get something more authentic.

But before we'd get to indulge in John Mark's grandmother's home cooking, we had a few meals at some southern restaurants.

Mary Mac's Tea Room
The first taste was Mary Mac's - a local favorite in Atlanta. Unfortunately, when we arrived at 1PM, there was a long line outside waiting to be seated. Apparently we arrived just after a party of 25 (celebrating someone's college graduation). We put our names down and just enjoyed the perfect Atlanta weather.

But by 2PM we were seated and enjoying some delicious comfort food. My father went with the Shrimp & Grits while my mother went with the Grilled Liver with Onions. We also had some Fried Green Tomatoes appetizers. Everything was super delicious and reasonably priced (around $13/dish) though the portions were a bit smaller than we were expecting. Definitely no Cracker Barrel!

The next meal was much later that night after our Stone Mountain Laser show. Unlike Manhattan, apparently almost everything closes in Atlanta around 10PM. So we went where John Mark and Jenn usually went late night for food - Waffle House.

Waffle House
Apparently, this is THE late night spot for southerners. Aside from the obvious waffles, the famous menu item is the Hashbrowns. You can get them done as follows:
  • Smothered:  sauteed onions
  • Covered: melted cheese
  • Chunked: grilled ham
  • Diced: grilled tomatoes
  • Peppered: jalapeƱos
  • Capped: mushrooms
  • Topped: chili
  • Country: gravy
Since my father is truly a glutton, he went with the "All the Way" option which meant all of the above. I'm not gonna lie, it looked like bad dog food. But as my father always tells me "it all looks the same after it goes down anyway."

Meanwhile, I was saving space for John Mark's grandmother's cooking the next day so I just had a small waffle. After all, we were at WAFFLE house. When in Rome...

Grandma's Home Cooking
Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera with us when we met up with John Mark's extended family on Mother's Day for Sunday lunch. However, when we arrived around 1PM, we were greeted by a dozen people who were excited to see a cute half Asian-half white NYC toddler and handed large glasses of sweet tea.

Of course, my father couldn't help but eye the delicious food waiting for us. It was all set out on the kitchen counter and when they let us loose, we filled our plates buffet style. Never meeting a buffet line he didn't like my father piled on the roasted turkey, chicken, cooked green beans, creamed corn, fried okra, gravy and my new favorite thing - cornbread dressing. It was like Thanksgiving Dinner, but without the pilgrims.

Unlike the northerners who have "stuffing" with turkey, the southerners have dressing. Dressing is dish made with cornbread, bread crumbs, butter and herbs. It has a more solid texture than stuffing (which is usually more loose), but has a very similar salty/savory flavor profile. I had never had it before, so we were very excited to try it. After that, I came to realize there are only 2 types of people in the world. People who love cornbread dressing and people who've never had it before.

After our enormous homecooked lunch, we were then confronted with our choice of three different homemade cakes and pies. My father opted for the sweet potato pie while my mother went with the pineapple cake. You really couldn't go wrong either way, but I'm sure my father's belt got a good workout holding his belly in.

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