Gravy

How does a chef’s taste in things other than food wind up influencing what’s on the plate? For example, if they like rocking out to, say, the Butthole Surfers—is that relevant?

If you were to meet Bill Smith riding his bike around town, you might not realize you’d encountered an avid rock fan. Bill is 66, bespectacled, usually wearing a baseball cap over his white hair. He’s the chef at Crook’s Corner, the James Beard Award-winning Southern restaurant. The giveaway as to his musical predilections might be his t-shirt. Does it read Drive By Truckers? Or maybe Corrosion of Conformity?

Today: the story of Bill Smith’s t-shirt collection and what it tells us about the intertwined worlds of music and food in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Direct download: BillSmithTurnsUptheVolume_July2015Revision.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:12am EST

Five years ago this week, the BP oil spill ended. On July 15, 2010, the well that had been spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico was capped, after 87 days. It was the largest spill in the nation’s history, and had a devastating impact on Gulf Coast fisheries. The long term effects of the spill continue to reveal themselves for the Louisiana Coast, which has supported communities of fishermen for centuries. But the oil spill isn’t the only thing they’re up against. The land is disappearing, and both man-made and natural disasters are speeding up the sinking process.

What would it be like if the place you’d lived your whole life started to disappear? For Tony Goutierrez of St. Bernard Parish, that’s not just a nightmare scenario. In this episode of Gravy, producer Laine Kaplan Levenson tells us Tony’s story, and what he’s trying to do to maintain his life on the water. 

Direct download: Holding_Onto_the_Bayou_Gravy_Ep._18.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:42am EST

Charleston, South Carolina has become the center of discussions about race and violence in America these past few weeks. The massacre of nine African American parishioners at a historic black church there has prompted a national discussion and collective soul-searching: how did this happen in 2015? What work still needs to be done to prevent this sort of racial hatred and terrorism?

But Charleston is also home to a historical bright spot, a moment from 150 years ago that is still inspiring South Carolinians today. In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, an unusual dinner party was held in Charleston that brought white and black residents together. In this episode of Gravy, producer Philip Graitcer brings us the story that dinner, and how it’s still resonating today.

Direct download: A_Charleston_Feast_for_Reconciliation_Gravy_Ep._17.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:13am EST

It’s easy to love fried chicken. The light crunch of a crisped wing or leg, followed by the moist meat of the interior; it’s understandably beloved. But there is more going on with this comfort food than you might think. Fried chicken has both been the vehicle for the economic empowerment of a whole group of people—and the accessory to an ugly racial stereotype. How can something so delicious be both? In this episode of Gravy, Lauren Ober goes from a Virginia Fried Chicken Festival to a soul food restaurant in Harlem to find out.

 

Direct download: Fried_Chicken-_A_Complicated_Comfort_Food_Gravy_Ep._16_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:08am EST

Lexington, North Carolina calls itself the “Barbecue Capital of the World.” (In fact, the state legislature got a little more specific about it, dubbing the city “the Hickory Smoked Barbecue Capital of North Carolina.”) For more than one hundred years, pitmasters there have been cooking pork shoulders slowly over coals from a wood fire, and slicking them with a sweet, red barbecue sauce.

And so, when Lexington officials began to renovate a municipal building, they were thrilled by an unexpected barbecue-related discovery. In this episode of Gravy, Sarah Delia takes us to Lexington to learn what that was, and what it might mean for a barbecue landscape in which some are worried history is being forgotten.

Direct download: A_City_Built_on_Barbecue_Gravy_Ep._15.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:48am EST

People are often surprised when Robin Amer tells them her family is from the South. That’s because her family is Jewish, and a lot of people don’t realize there are Jews in the South, especially in tiny towns like Natchez, Mississippi. But Robin’s family has lived there for 160 years, and their traditions—and foodways—are a unique hybrid of their European Jewish heritage and their Southern home.

The Jewish community in Natchez has been dwindling for years, though. Now, it’s down to only a handful of people, including Robin’s 96-year-old grandmother and 98-year-old grandfather. In this episode of Gravy, Robin returns to Natchez to learn what might be lost when they’re gone.

Direct download: The_Last_Jews_of_Natchez_Gravy_Ep._14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:39pm EST

Once you’ve left home in search of a better life, what might make you return? During the Great Migration, six million African Americans left the South for the North. Donnie “Pen” Travis was one of them. But that was just the start of his journey.

In this episode of Gravy, Eve Abrams brings us the story of one man’s migration, and how farming prompted both his depature… and his return.

Direct download: A_Migration_Reversed_Gravy_Ep._13_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:30am EST

Most of us know the Kentucky Derby from the front side of the track: the fancy Derby hats, the mint juleps, the thrill of the race. But there’s a whole other world to racetracks in the South—and one with food that tells a story about who’s working there.

In this episode of Gravy, we follow the horse racing seasons from track to track to learn about the workers behind the scenes, and what their food tells about who they are.

 

Direct download: Tamales_for_the_Derby_Gravy_Ep._12.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:14am EST

What kind of view of a city can you have through its restaurants? Or—more specifically—through its strip mall restaurants? Christiane Lauterbach’s multi-decade career proves: a whole lot.

Christiane is a woman full of contradictions. A loner who is unfailingly gregarious. A self-described hermit who loves to ramble around her adopted city of Atlanta, Georgia. A French transplant who refuses to claim a Southern identity, but has changed the way Atlantans think about their restaurants. In this episode of Gravy, we learn how a Parisian woman came to document the evolution of a Southern restaurant scene, and what her work reveals about Atlanta’s global population.

Direct download: Hip_Hop_to_Bibimbap-_the_Atlanta_of_Christiane_Lauterbach_Gravy_Ep._11.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am EST

You probably have a mental image of Bourbon Street: drunken revelers, neon signs, debauchery of many kinds. Well, it once was just a residential street in the heart of the French Quarter—totally normal. No Big Ass Beers or Huge Ass Beers. How did it go from that to the temple of over indulgence that it is today?

In this episode of Gravy, Rien Fertel brings us the people’s history of Bourbon Street—and the story of the wickedly strong cocktail that has become one of its staples.