Sunday, July 06, 2008
R.I.P. White Lily Flour
I love Southern foods.I don't know where that influence comes from. Either it was summer weeks spent in South Carolina as a kid, family trips to Williamsburg slurping peanut soup, my dad's forever fascination with country ham(I used to eat the marrow out of the bone of a fried country ham steak at dinner. Beat that for a childhood food memory) six years spent in Harrisonburg, VA (yes, six years. Let's just say I was studying southern culture for further use later in my life), my time spent at The Inn at Little Washington or perhaps just growing up in Hanover which certainly has a bit of a southern feel for a 'Yankee' town. I don't know where it comes from, but I do know that from the very beginning, I was always interested in the foods of the American south. I think perhaps it's the honesty with which the foods were cooked or the fact that they literally pulled from the farm.(I still can remember taking back roads from Dillon, SC to Myrtle Beach and seeing Bubba sitting on the back of his truck chomping on pork rinds selling freestone peaches) Maybe it was the fact that food was such a big part of life and I liked that it played such an important part in 'day to day'.(yes, I know this could be said of the PA Dutch, but sometimes it's tough to see the forest when you're literally sitting under the trees.) Alright enough of that....when I go see the therapist I'll blog about the professional opinion as to why I'm fixated on southern foodstuffs. (Hmmmm, tell me about your mother.....did she like biscuits as a child????)
On to our regular scheduled programming.....I like making biscuits. Sweet biscuits, savory biscuits, whatever. It's one of those things that southern folk take a lot of pride in. Here's a typical playground scene in Virginia.... 'Your mama's so fat that when they run out of lard to cover the hams they just ask her for a heaping helping from off of her ass'....oh yeah? Well, your mama makes TOUGH BISCUITS.' Enough said, biscuit boy wins that session every time. So, in my quest for biscuit nirvana, I discovered White Lily flour. If you read enough about biscuits you'll soon figure out that everyone has their own 'tricks'. However, one thing everyone agrees on is the use of White Lily flour. On our first trip to Tennessee to 'meet the parents' Karen took me to the White Lily plant in Knoxville, TN. Amazing. It was like a lifelong Red Sox fan at his first game at Fenway. Yeah, I know. Andy, it's just a factory. Well, it's obviously not. Smuckers bought White Lily and has since shuttered the doors of the Knoxville plant. Please read this article NOW http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/18/dining/18flour.html For someone like me who is an ingredient fanatic, this is a huge freakin' deal. When souther bakers are concerned, I'm concerned. Not too much, though. My parents were recently in North Carolina.....before the plant closed.....buying out grocery stores....coming home in a minivan that was loaded down with kilos and kilos of mysterious white powder.....this powder is now stored in the secure confines of the Sheppard Mansion.(before you ask....yes, I actually took samples of the bags to make sure that each one was the pure white original, not the grayer version from a 'newer plant'. yes, I'm neurotic. Lock me up) I'm not talking a bag or two folks. I was gonna take a picture of me with 'my stash', but was afraid that I might look like the fat local sheriff after a drug bust. If you want the old school real deal biscuit. I've got the flour if you've got the time.....
THE MORAL OF THIS RANT....ingredients matter folks. Flour isnt' just flour. Is it a turnip or a tokyo turnip? Grass fed humanely raised beef or feed lot garbage beef? Just picked heirloom tomato or some shit that looks like a tomato but tastes like nothing and was trucked in from California? Think about it before you buy it. If you make the decision to not work hard and find great ingredients, establish relationships with people at your local farmers market; that's cool. Your food just won't be very good. I don't care who you are, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit. You just can't. In the end, it's still heavily seasoned, heavily mayonnaised poultry excrement. However, you can make a bitchin' chicken salad with Beau's milk-fed chicken. Top that off with a thick slice of Kathy Glahn's heirloom tomato and some sweet lettuces and now you have a sandwich that doesn't
deserve to be called a chicken salad sandwich. We should come up with another name. How about....delicious. Let's start to taste our food again, America.