SOUTHERN DECAY IV

IMG_0995 IMG_1021 IMG_1272 IMG_1286

 

IV: OUT OF CHILDHOOD, INTO DUST

My mother’s hand on my baby book is an image that I will keep with me for a long time. It represents the roots from which I came, the trees to my apple. There’s something so Southern about this type of reliquary divination that I haven’t seen in other parts of the world. The idea of cataloguing, of preserving everything from food to the dead is a practice deeply embedded in the culture of the South. It somehow seems entirely natural to liken a baby book to a jar of pickled okra. The act of saving something from the present for the future–of encapsulating memory and loss to later consume as either pleasure or pain. Out of childhood, into dust.

Vegan Paella

IMG_1527

There are no words. None. This dish was incredible, and making it was just as fun as consuming it at a recent potluck I hosted for framily. In these dying days of summer I am soaking up all I can of Carrboro and my North Carolina friends. What better way than through delicious vegan food like this?

IMG_1523 IMG_1526

Vegan Paella

3 cups jasmine rice, cooked in your favorite (or homemade) veggie broth and a pinch of saffron

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

heft pinch Spanish saffron (you can buy it at a very good price at Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes plus a handful for garnish

1/2 block tofu, cubed

2 vegan sausages (I used Tofurky’s Italian style)

handful kalamata olives

handful fresh spinach

fresh parsley, mint, basil or any garden herb you like

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, grated

1/4 cup diced bell pepper

olive oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

In a large wok or soup pot, heat a liberal dose of olive oil. Add onions, tofu, and sausage, and sauté until sausage begins to turn golden. Add saffron, peppers, and carrots, mix to incorporate. Add rice, mixing to fully incorporate sautéed goodies. Remove from heat, add tomatoes, spinach, turmeric, and herbs. This part makes paella a labor of love. Mix, and mix, and mix and get all the goodies incorporated into the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add lemon juice gradually as you mix. (And mix, and mix.) Scoop into a grandiose bowl. Sprinkle reserved tomatoes, olives, and a pinch of saffron on top.

IMG_1529 IMG_1524

 

Serve with lemon wedges for an additional citrus kick. This is one of those great clean out the crisper recipes. You can really add just about any veggie you’ve got to it and it’ll turn out phenomenally. I’ve made a slightly different version of vegan paella before, but hands down this one has that classic flair that really makes paella well, paella. It’s all about that saffron.

Gingery Quick Pick(le)s

IMG_1309

I love pickled foods. That winning combination of tartness, and sweetness, cut with the acid bite of a good vinegary base is absolute perfection in my book. Growing up, we used to go to my great grandmother Ruby’s occasionally for Sunday dinner. At any big meal, always without question there would be a crystal dish filled with Ruby’s homemade pickles. To this day those are still the best pickles I’ve ever eaten.

IMG_1310

Even though these aren’t Ruby’s pickles, they are fantastic and are so easy to make. And what better way to showcase fresh, local cucumbers?

IMG_1312

 

Gingery Quick Pick(le)s

2-3 medium sized cucumbers (A note on cuke selection: don’t get any that are bigger than your hand. They’ll be a bit bitter.)

1″ knob fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup rice vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon agave

Slice your cucumbers into roughly 1/8 ” slices, set aside. Peel and roughly chop ginger and garlic. In a bowl, whisk agave, vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, and ginger together. Add cucumbers and toss to coat. Allow your cukes to pickle for at least 2 hours before serving.

IMG_1324

These pickles will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge and like a fine wine they get better with time. I used them with several dishes kind of as I use kimchi or sauerkraut: as a topping on salads, noodle, and rice dishes. Shown above: hands down the best salad I’ve ever had in my life featuring delicious, gingery pickles on top.

SOUTHERN DECAY III

 

IMG_0418 IMG_0472 IMG_0433 IMG_0190

III: FLORA, FAUNA, METAL

 

The landscape of the South has always been one that has fascinated me. Driving 4 hours in any direction from my current home will reveal an entirely different set of scenery from the one I see every day. Driving South to Florida has revealed a landscape that is far more stereotypically Southern than the ones I grew up in. Regarding this somewhat strange landscape allowed me to recognize a distinct aspect of Southern Decay that I feel has ultimately propelled me to create this photographic series.

I’ve always viewed this landscape with an inherent sense of voyeurism. As if watching a film, I have stood on the sidelines and watched this somewhat alien culture that I grew up in change and shift as the world around it grows in leaps and bounds. I suppose that is the dark underbelly to growth and change–some parts, even microscopic cells, have to die for growth to take place.