Friday, February 22, 2013

Southern Style

Well, here I am again, back home from three weeks of caring for my sister in North Carolina. She was pretty ill, but she's on the road to recovery now, thanks for asking.

Each time I visit North Carolina, I am happy to sample Southern dishes. Not having any Southern roots, myself, it's as foreign a cuisine to me as one from a different country. North Carolina has recently been swept by a foodie craze, too, so there are all kinds of variations on traditional dishes and North Carolinian cooks are coming up with new twists all the time.

On a day trip to Salisbury, NC to check out retirement communities for my sister, I stopped in at the Sweet Meadow Cafe for lunch. It's a funny, funky little place with friendly, slightly wacky servers and good food. When I said I wanted a table for one, the server patted me firmly on the back and stated loudly, "Good for you! No need to tolerate inane conversation when you have a good book to read!"  Later in the meal, the other server asked about my book on dog intelligence and crooned, "Oh, dogs! I love dogs! We don't give them nearly enough credit for how smart they are!" Of course, she is correct, we don't.

I chose from their daily specials a plate of red beans and rice. While this dish originated in Louisiana, it has migrated north. My plate had bright yellow rice, but was not very spicy - they may have used saffron to color the rice rather than cumin or turmeric. In any case, it was a good accompaniment for the red beans in a spicy sauce, topped with slices of smoked sausage and drizzled with a creamy sauce with basil in it to gentle the heat. On a spiciness scale of 1-10, my server said this was a 6. I thought it was exactly right, assertive enough to get my attention without searing my internal plumbing.

The sausage was rich and slightly salty, a very nice accompaniment to the rice and beans. I may try to replicate this dish as home. I don't think it would be too difficult and it would remind me of time spent with my sister.

My sister and I are just two years apart in age, but we have never been good friends. As children, she was a bit of a bully and I was a whining, pesky little sister - not a good combination. As we grew older, she was the "good sister" that the nuns always praised and asked me "Why can't you be more like Nancy? - she's so diligent and kind." I can't think of anything that would have made me resent her more than to be compared unfavorably to her saintliness. And, as if that weren't bad enough, the very same nuns would chide Nancy for not being as friendly and outgoing as I was. Sheesh!  No one presses my buttons as fast as Nancy and no one drives her crazier than I.

So, you might think that three weeks of enforced closeness in the same small house would have been a recipe for disaster. Oddly, it was not. While we didn't always see eye-to-eye and sometimes even had spats, overall we got along surprisingly well, reminiscing and giggling together over silly things. Some days, she did my laundry; other times, I walked her little dog. I went with her to doctors' appointments and she introduced me to her favorite restaurants. In retrospect, it was overall a good time. I guess we aren't destined to be best pals, but we did have fun together and I feel good about how our family rallied to help her, each in our own way.

And that's even more satisfying than red beans and yellow rice.


Blogger katiez said...

Sisters.... I totally understand. Mine is 5 years older and I was always the pesky, annoying little sister. We've gotten quite close, though, in recent years - caring for our mother who pushed our buttons equally LOL
Now, sadly, she has a rare cancer.... but we both have hope for a little more time. I'm glad you had good time with yours....

Friday, February 22, 2013  
Blogger nancy namaste said...

I am glad to see that you are back and happy for you that you were able to connect with your sisters. I'll bet that both Buzz and Cora were wagging their tails, in their different ways, to see you again. Family is often the place where we have the most painful history; kudos to you and your sister that you managed to navigate the divide. Now, when we get together I will have to give you MY recipes for red beans and rice. I learned my recipe right from my Missississippi born grandmother so it's right from the land of cotton (as it were). But I will allow that other people do different variations. I'm generous that way.

Friday, February 22, 2013  
Blogger Diane said...

Welcome back home....I'm sure you were welcomed warmly and much tail wagging too. Enjoyed reading of your time with your sister. I have some similar experiences with my two younger sisters. I'm the older "bossy" one!

Friday, February 22, 2013  
Blogger Greg said...

Welcome back! I'm glad all is well. That is a big beautiful plate of food.

Saturday, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Toons said...

I too am glad you are back and everything worked out with your sister.

Saturday, February 23, 2013  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

If things were that bad, you wouldn't have gone! You are a noble, loyal girl, and three weeks was a LONG time.

Saturday, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Hungry Dog said...

Welcome back! I've missed you! Glad your sister is recovering.

There's nothing quite so particular as the sisterly relationship. I'm close with mine but the older I've gotten the more I've realized that's quite rare. Perhaps the silver lining of this bump in the road is a newfound appreciation for each other.

Saturday, February 23, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Katiez, I'm sorry to hear your sister is ill but glad that your last time together will be close and happy.

Nancy, I would love to have your recipe for red beans and rice - authentic! I'm making a version tonight for dinner but will look forward to yours, too.

Diane, you are lucky to have two sisters. Even in the most contentious times, no one rallies around like family.

Greg, it was indeed beautiful. Loved the bright yellow rice.

Toons, thanks for the good thoughts.

Cookiecrumb, three weeks seemed like an eternity while it was happening, but small in retrospect. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Hungry Dog, I was hopeful that this time would bring us closer. I'm not sure it did in quite the way that I had hoped, but then my hopes may have been unrealistic.

Sunday, February 24, 2013  

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