Welcome to another installment of “what we really eat”, a place where I share whatever it is I happen to fall into making for dinner as well as mundane bits of our life. This week, you get a sausage, corn, and okra dinner born out of a recipe testing for this past weekend’s Kinfolk workshop (to be shared in detail with you soon!) and a few snap shots of the summer, the summer which seems to be in an awfully rude hurry to get some where. I didn’t swim once. Failure. I’ve also got something special: a mix tape that I made just for you. Because I have crush on you. It’s called French Country. And it’s French music and country music. Paris meets Nashville. It’s essentially my style in mix tape form, one part Wanda Jackson, one part Fançoise Hardy. If you like it, who knows, maybe I’ll make you more. So you’ll have to let me know what you think! I think it’s rad, anyhow. And if you don’t, I’ll just go ahead and think you’re tacky if it’s all the same to you. I jest! But I do really hope you love it as much as I do. I can’t stop listening.
Recipes, mix, and more after the jump…
So, I was testing a recipe for a muscadine sauce for the Kinfolk campfire & grilling workshop Hannah & Rebekka and I hosted last weekend in Nashville, and this supper was born out of those recipe tests. This version of the sauce involves a handful of fresh herbs, raw honey, and dijon mustard. I’ve made the sauce with both muscadines and with seeded grapes from the farmer’s market that could best be described as “muscadine-esque”. It’s great both ways, but using muscadines is far more special if you’re a southern-food-phile like me. You can definitely taste the difference, but feel more than free to substitute grapes. With the sauce on hand, I just baked some cornbread, threw some veggies in the oven, tossed them with thick bits of bacon and my all time favorite chevre from Humble Hearts Farm (I get it at the Sunday Market here in Chattanooga, and the French blend is my favorite, flecked with herbs de Provence), and grilled some Link41 pork sausages that I found in my freezer.
Not every meal is a production. Most meals for the two of us aren’t productions. As a matter of fact last night I ate half a roasted chicken I bought at Whole Foods out of the container it came in. With my fingers. In bed. So. In truth, this section should really be called “what we really eat…on a good night”. My real life is a general hodge podge of baked goods, chores, deadlines, grains & greens, and more empty cans of coconut water than I care to count. With the odd can of Spaghettios thrown in. (True story: I was recognized from Masterchef at the Walgreens buying a can of Spaghettios! They’re my comfort food. Not proud, just fact.) Because I’m a class act. I tell you this because I want the beauty I aim to create her to be inspiration, not discouragement. I never want anyone to think I’ve got it any more together than they do. What I do, anyone can do. Trust me.
I do try to find ways to make everyday life inviting, that much is true. And there are two primary ways to do this: more beauty & more love. Which is simply to say create & notice the things that smell nice, look nice, feel nice, and taste nice & spend time with people you like. Surrounding yourself with love & beauty is more an act of seeing than it is of doing. Your eyes can change an ugly situation into a beautiful one. I try to both create and see beauty for no other reason than because I want to; it makes me feel like I have more air in my lungs, something to look forward to every day, whether that’s plunging my French press, herbs hanging in my window, sending an email to an old friend, or stomping around in my favorite pair of clogs that needn’t ever leave my feet. That desire to improve the texture of life is one of the main reasons I’m a proponent of eating local when you can. If I’d made this dinner with a Jimmy Dean sausage, some Oscar Meyer bacon, frozen okra & corn, and some processed goat cheese this wouldn’t have been worth writing about because it wouldn’t have tasted as good and because it wouldn’t have given me the satisfaction of being connected to the dirt, to the people of the place I live. In short, it would have been less interesting. Would I have been a bad person? Um, no.
But time is money, friend (if any of you get that reference you’re a huge nerd & I love you forever), and good ingredients do the work for you. What you spend when you buy local you get back in time saved & quality of life, from the taste of your food to the gezellig experience of shopping at the market. Pair those good ingredients with your favorite plates, flea market find steak knives (well cleaned…), and these organic hemp buffalo check napkins by Ortolan Organics that I picked out c/o ScoutMob Shoppe (thank you Shoppe!)—they’re sold out of those at the moment, but they have some equally killer striped ones that I wish I had too—and throw in some simple bacon grease buttermilk cornbread and a couple of glasses of homemade kombucha (which I intend to tell you how to make in the near-ish future), and viola! A meal that feels special on a harried week night, a meal that saved me from chicken in bed or Spaghettios. I find I’m happier when I devote a little time & energy to making our meals & home just as nice (ok, almost as nice) for the two of us as I would for guests. Obviously, as indicated by my chicken picking in bed (bonus track inspired by this on the mix!), I don’t always do this. But try treating yourself like a guest when you can. Spruce up the entryway with some fresh herbs in a vase (steal them from your neighbors because you killed your own for extra points), put this mix on, and eschew the paper towels for plaid napkins. It feels good, really good if you get cheap thrills out of table linens, honky tonk, and chanson like me. Just click through the cover or the track list to play. Botanical on cover from A Daily Something.
Life of late has been a whirlwind of good, hard work; people I genuinely like, respect, and trust; and so much of that beauty & love I was going on about. The truth is, I don’t like to use words like “beauty” and “love” because, generally speaking, they’re bad writing. Vague. I don’t even care that they sound lame, which they admittedly kind of do. I care that those words don’t really communicate anything. But right now, exhausted after this past weekend, I want to cop out and tell you that the Kinfolk workshop & preparations were just fat with beauty and love. And hard work. But I won’t cop out on you. I’ll tell you what I mean.
I mean that I woke up early Friday morning before a day of busy prepping & made buttermilk biscuits for new and already dear friends, the Seales, on which we heaped some of my homemade lavender creme fraiche whipped with dark wildflower honey. Her oven runs hot & they were a little, ah, crispier than usual. And it didn’t matter; nothing had to be perfect. Later in the afternoon, after some technical transportation difficulties, I dropped everything Friday afternoon to drive 4 hours back and forth from Chattanooga to Nashville, dodging thunderstorms and 5 o’clock traffic, to pick up Patrick because I had to have him with me—nothing’s the same without him, and I’d rather have him by my side than have work perfectly done on time. We spent Friday night having dinner at Lockeland Table in Nashville with an amazing group of men & women that I’m grateful to now call friends, and I sat happily sandwiched with my partner on one side & a new friend, Ruthie, on the other. She was the woman behind the flowers at our cookout, and is one of the most creative, artless, and effervescent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and someone I already can’t wait to see more of. She’s a tall, pretty girl with a wide, unwavering, red-lipsticked smile, a highly enviable hat collection, and a novelistic Louisiana drawl. Her life story is an inspiration, and I don’t throw that word around. And besides all that, I’m pretty sure she’s solid slumber party material (hint, hint).
Before dinner Rebekka, Sarah, and I took a long walk full of teenage confessions to the restaurant through the boroughs of East Nashville that felt like a walk through New Orleans, and I spent the evening drinking herbaceous virgin cocktails & smoking fake cigarettes in my favorite black, straight brim stetson and a scandalously low cut, gingham maternity dress I’d thrifted earlier that day. I realize the virgin drinks & the dress make it sound like I’m pregnant. I’m not. Just your average recovering alcoholic sporting a maternity dress. I talked everything from tablescapes to my divorce, ate bone marrow and oysters, and pilfered sweet potato gnocchi in sweet corn cream off of other people’s plates. It was communion, a night where there was no mediation between minds, no middle man of social anxiety or posturing on anyone’s part. It was one of those moments when I’m floored by the fact that I’m finally able to socialize without booze. A damn miracle. Nights that gleam that much are a rarity in my life. I lead a happily sparrow brown existence, but that’s what makes all that clinking and laughter every now and again exceptionally brilliant. But perhaps the best part of the night was hobbling into the kitchen before bed and massaging a smoky mustard wet rub into a beautiful, raw slab of pork from Creekridge Farms while Rebekka rinsed chicken livers in the sink next to me before soaking them over night in buttermilk. Beauty and love, that’s what I mean when I say those words. I mean ridiculous $4 dresses and chicken livers, girls in big hats, and being barefoot in a midnight kitchen, hands covered in mustard, with friends.
This pretty soup with celeraic & rocket.
I made homemade lavender crème fraîche & you can too.
Kitchen essentials under $50. Some seriously workhorse stuff here, some of my personal faves/can’t live withouts in the kitchen.
VSCO x The Weaver House. Two of my favorites, a great interview.