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My Great America Road Trip – First Stop Alabama!

July 10, 2020

I started this blog because of my wanderlust. I’m not good at staying in one place. I even move homes from one state to another pretty frequently. I’m very, very good on the road – moving from place to place with my pack on my back. Finding a new hole in the wall, or the occasional luxury splurge to rest my head in between long days discovering new parts of the world. The second best thing about travel, meeting new people is first, is the food. You never really know a place until you taste it. And I have – I’ve eaten from carts in Jaipur, on the sides of mountain in Nepal and Peru and Morocco and Chile, with my face shielded from sand in the Sahara, and at the top of Cinderella’s Castle in Orlando. And I’ve loved (nearly) every bite. I’ve especially loved that someone else has cooked it for me.

But now we find ourselves under house arrest. Not only can I not don my pack and fly off to some far flung locale, I can’t spend every night drinking wine and laughing with friends in dark, crowded restaurants, which is my preferred activity when stuck at home.

So, in March, basically for the first time in my life, I took inventory of my pantry and set out to feed myself. The pasta was ok. As days became weeks and months, I progressively got more adventurous, and more skilled at creating my daily repast. African peanut stew, remains my favorite, but I visited Morocco, Cambodia, France, and more as I experimented. My Fourth of July spread. created because of a dare from the great James Taylor, with bbq chicken, focaccia, and a giant flag cake, was delicious, but kind of sapped my interest in feeding myself. A couple days of pasta later, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and in need of inspiration.

I did what I always do when I need a lift, I started googling the places I could go when this bloody thing is over. And I was looking at all the things I could do and eat!

I’ve always wanted to take the great American road trip. Stopping off to see the sights, eating bizarre regional cuisine (I’m looking at you Cincinnati and your spaghetti with chili atrocity)  and learning what makes each state its own. SO – I’m going on that trip. At least, I’m going to eat the food. And I’m doing it the way I always wanted to do the drive – alphabetically!

First stop – Alabama!

Here’s what I know about Alabama. Tuskegee, Selma, Rosa Parks. Also my friend, the great conductor Ray Daniels is from Alabama. so that’s good. And so is Channing Tatum, Beyond that I don’t know much.

When you google food in Alabama, the whole first page of results is about white barbecue sauce, which, apparently, was invented by Big Bob Gibson in 1925. I’m not sure why, but I’m assuming that it was because he had a lot of extra mayo and needed something to make with it. Now, it is the most beloved food in North Alabama and maybe every where else. Fun fact about Big Bob, when he opened his barbecue stand, the sign had a dancing pig, chopping up pork for guests. More recent signs have been less cannibalistic.

White barbecue sauce has a lot of recipes out there but its basically 2:1 mayo and apple cider vinegar, then spices as you choose. I didn’t have much mayo, so I used some plain yogurt in there too. And then I added horseradish, onion and garlic powder, a shit ton of black pepper, some red pepper, and salt. My eyes watered from the vinegar as I whisked it, and a quick taste induced the sour lip and eye purse, but I carried on.

I don’t have a grill and I only had skinless chicken thighs, so my crispy grilled chicken fell a little short despite my gorgeous cast iron grill pan. When it is browned on all sides, I slathered it with sauces and let it cook through – turning and slathering as I went.

I plated it with some chopped scallions, my favorite garnish and went in for a bite.

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Holy cow was it good. It was tangy and creamy and spicy goodness. It was a much more nuanced flavor and didn’t remotely resemble some chicken with mayonnaise on it, which was my great fear.

I have a ton of the sauce left, and I am scheming up what to put it on next – potato wedges are heading up the list.

When this is all over – I’m heading your way Big Bob’s!

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One Comment
  1. Mike M. permalink

    Nice – The yogurt based sauce on grilled chicken in very middle easternish, no? So that doesn’t sound a crazy as it might if you think of mayo as just funked up yogurt type stuff…. Also, FYI – There is a great recipe for grilled bluefish where you slather on spiced up mayo on it while it grills – but in that case, the idea is the oil in the mayo helps pull out some of the stronger flavored oils from the bluefish…. (I’m assuming you’ve had bluefish at some point when living in MA – it doesn’t freeze or travel well because it is such an oily fish.)

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