Thursday, December 29, 2011

New haute cuisine movement focuses on the South

A headline in yesterday's New York Times is "Southern Farmers Vanquish the Cliches," and in it Julia Moskin reports on a trend among Southern farmers and chefs in the region to revive or remake (depending on your perspective) Southern cuisine. Moskin describes a
thriving movement of idealistic Southern food producers who have a grander plan than just farm-to-table cuisine. They want to reclaim the agrarian roots of Southern cooking, restore its lost traditions and dignity, and if all goes according to plan, completely redefine American cuisine for a global audience.

Their work is being encourage, and sponsored by a new generation of chefs who have pushed Southern cooking into the vanguard of world cuisine--and who depend on these small producers to literally flesh out their ambitions.
California readers, hold onto your hats, because Moskin continues thusly:
Like California in the 1970s--when Alice Waters collaborated with farmers, foragers and cheesemakers on the food at Chez Panisse--the South today has just the right combination of climate, culinary skill, regional chic and receptive audience.
That the South is experiencing a time of "regional chic" is news to me, but I did get a kick out of the chefs and purveyors interviewed putting down Paula Deen as representative of all that is wrong--but too often associated with--Southern cooking. I also learned a trendy word to refer to this revival of Southern cooking and its focus on pork, "lardcore." In fact, the latter surprised me because I don't think of pork as a critical component of the food with which I grew up, though one of my sets of grandparents did raise a pig or two at a time for slaughter, along with a cow or two, lots of chickens, and a big garden. Unlike the fine charcuterie products discussed in the NYTimes article, bacon grease (a form of lard, right?) was ubiquitous. In my opinion, however, there was nothing haute about any of it.

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