Monday, February 21, 2011

Princess... kind of

Grace's concoction from the dress up bin: John Deere Princess. It's a lazy Saturday morning for us girls.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Sandwich With the Ground Beef and Stuff

While grocery shopping Sunday afternoon, Erin asked me to retrieve a can of Manwich. Only she didn't want Manwich, she wanted whatever Meijer calls their generic version -- something along the lines of Meijer Sloppy Joe Sauce. I gladly fulfilled her request, and then the trouble started.

On the way home, I mentioned that I really wasn't a huge Manwich fan. She immediately became annoyed with me, asking why I would eat something I didn't like for the past eight years. (And no, I didn't manage to fall into this obvious trap.) I told her that it wasn't that I HATED Sloppy Joe mix, but that I was used to my mom's version which tastes significantly differently from canned Sloppy Joe mix.

Now I realize that traditionally saying "But this isn't how my mom made this!?" will get you kicked in the Sloppy Joes, but I was careful to differentiate the two products. In fact, they are not even called the same thing. The "ground beef in some sort of tomato-based sauce served on a bun" that my mom served was always referred to as a "Spanish Hamburger," a term no doubt found offensive in some corner of the planet.

I have no idea the origin of the name "Spanish Hamburger." It sort of reeks of "Hey Billy Joe, this here Mex-ee-can restaurant will put that meat they stuff in the burrito on a bun for you instead, if you ask 'em real nice." And in much the same way that they don't speak Mexican south of the border, the Spanish Hamburger was born.

The biggest difference for me is that my mom's recipe included cheese, which covers a multitude of sins. In our family, it made up for the fact that the ground meat being used was probably 99.99999999% fat free and scorched instantly upon hitting a frying pan.

Next time we see my mom, I plan to discreetly ask her for her recipe. And then perhaps I'll cook up some Spanish Hamburgers on my own. Perhaps me doing the cooking will offset the anger generated by fixing a meal because "I like my mom's better"...)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Southern Swing

This week for work, I'm visiting school districts in Mobile, Alabama, Jackson Mississippi, and Jonesboro, Georgia. With such an intenerary, I decided that one requirement was that I would get some good southern cooking at some point during the trip.

I realize that this probably doesn't shock those of you who know me, but I frequently plan driving trips around where I'll be eating. I make a quick pass through and, and I make a little list of GPS'able locations for restaurants. I am perfectly content to drive ten extra miles and pass 25 Chili's to get to a locally owned restaurant. It's what I love about traveling.

So last night I took off in my Toyota Yaris rental car from Mobile (it was either the Yaris or a 15 passenger van, and while there was something appealing in a "Magical Myster Tour" kind of way about the blog that might result from me randomly picking up 14 other people to join me in the van, I chose the Yaris in an effort to avoid being killed by a random grifter and left for dead in a Mississippi swamp) and headed toward Jackson.

My dinner location for the evening was a BBQ joint just outside of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. How can you drive through Hattiesburg and not want BBQ? I hopped off the freeway at the designated spot, drove a few miles, and the GPS told me I was there. The only problem was that I was on a four lane road surrounded by strip malls, and none of them showed any sign of being Leatha's BBQ Inn.

After I went past the designated spot, I made a U-turn and drove past it two more times, still not finding the restaurant. So despite its #1 rating on Tripadvisor, I decided that the place must have burned down or closed, and I dejectedly pulled off the road to begin searching for a new restaurant, preferably something like a Zaxby's, so that at least it would be someplace we don't have in "the north."

As I turned around, I noticed a little driveway behind the stripmall. I made my way down the path, and at the end was a barn with a few cars in front of it. There was no external lighting and no sign, but there were lights on inside. As I pulled closer, I noticed a hand made wooden sign hanging on the porch announcing Leatha's. I got giddy.

Inside the barn was a big open room filled with tables covered in random plastic tablecloths and white washcloths for napkins. There were maybe eight people inside, plus the staff. A kind-faced woman approached me and told me to sit anywhere.

"What can I getcha to drink?"
"Do you have sweet tea?"
"As muches youcan drink, honey."

Ah, I've found my people. The walls were a pictorial history of Leatha's from the past 50 years, and there were a steady stream of walk-in customers lining up at the counter for carryout.

After a few minutes, a heaping plate of pulled pork and potatoes hit the table in front of me, and the long drive to Jackson and pouring rain were quickly forgotten as I devoured some of the best BBQ I've had in a long time.

$12, a gallon of sweet tea, and 10 minutes later, and I was back on the road to Jackson. I called Erin and told her how cool the place was and that I felt like I'd just eaten on the set of "Fried Green Tomatoes." The evening took an ugly turn when it snowed on me as I pulled into the parking lot of my hotel in Jackson (snow in MS?), but nothing could have dampened my happiness at getting to eat dinner in a place like Leatha's. Two thumbs (and five newfound pounds) up.

I found a few pictures via of Leatha's. If you decide on a visit, just make sure to go where your GPS tells you and then pull behind the strip mall a ways to find them. It's worth the hunt.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

No Interventions, Please

Grant: "Daddy, what's your superpower?"
Daddy: "I don't know...what's yours?"
Grant: "Karate!"
Daddy: "Indeed. What do YOU think daddy's superpower is?"
Grant: "Drinking."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011