Gourmet Grits and Artisanal Fried Chicken

Gourmet Grits and Artisanal Fried Chicken?

Jennifer Aniston isn't the only one making a splashy comeback. The food marketing guru who is in the process of getting "re-orientaled" to the plethora of diverse Atlanta eateries. I couldn't help but notice the rise in popularity (and price) of Southern comfort food.
When I was a kid in Smyrna...
...eating out meant being treated to the Fat Boy's fried chicken (and a fried peach pie), Ponderosa Steakhouse (with A-1 Steak sauce) or later, the fancy Piccadilly's Cafeteria kid's plate (and to-die-for pecan cream pie). Today, few places seem to be billed as a "restaurant" anymore. Rather:

A pub, gastro-pub, cafe, book cafe, diner, marketplace, eatery or grill that is Tex-Mex, Pan-Asian, Fusion, Vegetarian, Dim Sum, New World or Tapas serving artisan bread, gourmet grits, microbrewed beer, organic chips, hand-cut fries, multi-grain biscuits, imported cheese, heirloom turkey or heritage grains.

I'm feeling quite unsophisticated as a former school lunch kid and fan of airplane food (gone with the good old days)!

Don't get me wrong: I enjoy (and jump at the opportunity) of eating most of these genres and gastro-delicacies and am a supporter of Slow Food International and Georgia Organics. Being a Ponderosa girl, creative marketing and happily impressed by the complexity or simplicity of flavors of my meal amuse me. Admittedly, there have been times when I've ordered a dish that had a description as long as this paragraph and as tantalizing as a Danielle Steele love scene. I finished disappointed and hungry. Is this a spa or a brewpub? Granted, small is beautiful, food is art and overeating is an American tradition. However, it satiates my appetite and give me leftovers (how hard could it be at five feet tall)!

Then there is price.

When did a side of grits cost five dollars and fried chicken, twenty? Is it a golden chicken? Being the good green shepherd, I also looked into reserving a non-traditional "heritage bird" for my mom at Thanksgiving. The smallest size would have cost nearly $100. Yikes. As a home-style cook and CSA shareholder, I know how much time and effort it takes to grow and cook a good meal with quality ingredients, especially local, fresh and organic. I also realize that in a restaurant, we're often paying for the ambience, service, etc.

Maybe it's a cultural Asian thing.

I discovered that our beloved Pad Thai was actually peasant food while I was in Bangkok. In addition, it costed fifty cents from a street cart (and not on the menu at nice restaurants). No wonder the server looked at me like I had just ordered a hot dog! The same was true for many favorite dim sum and authentic Asian treats. In New York City, my friend and I broke the bank in a Korean vegetarian shrine. In Atlanta, the gourmet trend is heading East with several upscale Asian restaurants. I'm saving up for them.
Fortunately, you can still get a table-full of authentic cooked-to-order dishes for twenty dollars, on Buford Highway. Including tea, appetizer and dessert! Maybe that explains my love-hate relationship with gourmet food.  As our food and agricultural policies change, so do the price of organic or locally-produced products are more digestible and accessible. Maybe as the distance between the farm, table and family members has grown. The meals and gatherings that remind us and ground us with a connection to family, culture and community, are what we are comforted by and seeking.
Go to Georgia Organics to find a local farmstand or market near you! They also have a great "Eating Seasonally" growing chart to show what vegetables are fresh and in season each month...
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