I can pride myself on two recent, major accomplishments. Both have to do with my fondness for down-home Southern cooking. I favor down-home Southern cooking because I am from a down-home Southern home. That, and it tastes good.
I want my chicken fried, gravy on my steak, and I want my green beans cooked and my tomatoes served raw. Too many fancy restaurants serve their green beans raw and then they cook their tomatoes — and give you some sort of hard dark bread with it. This is an unholy aberration I cannot abide.
I find some of the best down-home Southern cooking at the Luckie Street Grill in Atlanta, which features fried chicken, country-fried steak, meatloaf and, on Fridays, beef tips on rice and home-cooked vegetables — and uncooked tomatoes, of course. Imagine my shock, however, when I went to order my vegetables one day and the list on the menu included "Northern beans."
"There must be some mistake," I said to my favorite waitress, Jo.
"This says ‘Northern beans.’ How can you list Northern beans in a down-home Southern cooking place?"
"What do you call them?" asked Jo.
"White soup beans, of course," I answered.
My mother used to cook white soup beans for me.
It’s a little-known fact, but when Jesus fed the masses he served white soup beans with the fish and bread. "Northern" beans aren’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
Jo said, "I’ll see what I can do."
I come in a week later and it says "White soup beans" on the Luckie Street menu. Praise Him.
That was accomplishment No. 1.
Where else I often eat is at the Ansley Golf Club in Atlanta, which has good chili.
Chili is down-home as long as you don’t put mushrooms in it. They serve corn bread with the down-home chili at Ansley. The problem is, the corn bread is sweet. Corn bread is not supposed to be sweet. That’s in the Bible, too. The book of Martha White, 7:11.
If you want something sweet, order the pound cake. Anybody who puts sugar in the corn bread is a heathen who doesn’t love the Lord, not to mention Southeastern Conference football.
Anyway, in late December I went to Ansley and ordered the chili.
"You ought to try the corn bread," said the waiter. "The chef got tired of you complaining, so he quit putting sugar in it."
I tasted the corn bread. No sugar. I called out the chef.
"Verily," I said unto him, "it’s about time you stopped making a sacrilege out of the corn bread."
Accomplishment No. 2.
I feel so good about my two feats, I’ve got two new targets for next year.
I’m going to see if I can convince fast food places to start cutting up their own French fries instead of using frozen ones, and I’m going to see if I can help white bread make a comeback in this country.
Do not underestimate me. I’m on a mission from God.
Lewis Grizzard was a syndicated columnist, who took pride in his Southern roots and often wrote about them. This column is part of a collection of his work.