Photo credit: Malte Jager
My late Great-aunt Barbara, whom I write about in Hello! My Name is Tasty: Global Diner Favorites From Portland's Tasty Restaurants
, put together a spiral-bound, home-printed, 66-page family cookbook in 2000 that I treasure. In it are recipes from our extended family, as well as some stories attached to them. I highly recommend doing this. It's such a loving way to keep family culinary traditions alive, generation to generation. My contribution to the book is "Liz's Chicken," which is really just an ever-so-slightly (slightly) tweaked New York Times Cookbook
recipe that I first made when I was 8.
My mom was heading out of town for a conference — she's a retired Cincinnati Public Schools psychologist — and I decided that I would cook a special dinner for my dad and brother while she was away. Beth, my 9-year-old next-door neighbor and best friend, and I, like the professionally food-focused folks that we both would become, spent the day running back and forth between my kitchen and hers preparing sherry- and soy-marinated chicken (Liz’s Chicken!), broiled asparagus, risotto, and a layered dessert of mocha and chocolate mousses in chilled wine glasses topped with chocolate chips. Beth eventually became a pastry chef
and has thrived vocationally in the culinary arts for years, while I, of course, became a food writer after years of working in food service.
I also did other things professionally, like work at a Cousteau marine camp as a scuba Divemaster, as a farmhand on various international farms, and as a housekeeper at resorts and hotels. An early piece of advice that my older brother gave me: Try out as many different jobs in as many different places as you can while young. I pass that kick-ass advice along. Get it while you can.
Left: Beth (right) and I in our favorite professional attire; Right: Us on one of my recent holiday visits to Cincinnati.
In the fall of 2015, when we were settling in to work on Hello! My Name is Tasty
, my friend and hopefully cookbook collaborator for life, Chef John Gorham, decided to organize a 10-day back-to-his-roots cookbook road trip from D.C. to Savannah. So much of the Tasty n Sons
and Tasty n Alder
menu inspiration comes from the Southeastern region of his youth. Some of the dishes in Tasty
that hail from John's youth are the "Carolina Peel n Eat Shrimp," "Low-Country Hushpuppies," "Crab Boil," "Mustard-Braised Cabbage," "Pressure Cooker Collard Greens," "Pressure Cooker Spicy Green Beans," and "Monk's Cheesesteak." No Liz’s Chicken.
John, his friend Mike, Tasty
photographer David Reamer, and I flew from Portland to D.C., piled into a black Tahoe with tinted windows, and drove from D.C. all the way down to Savannah, with many stops along the way. One of them was to pick up John’s brother, Brian. On the agenda: tasty regional foods and visits with John’s friends, family, and mentors. On our second to last day, we ditched the Tahoe and spent the day cruising around Tybee Island on golf carts, eating conch fritters, drinking spiked slushies out of Styrofoam cups, and doing doughnuts in a pier parking lot. Never grow up!
Much of the road trip didn't make it into the book, so I’m sharing some favorite spots and stories here in a choppy scrapbook style. (Most of the photos are by me, but some are by David Reamer.) We did a series of outtakes posts for Powell's to celebrate the publication of Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.
, starting here
and ending with this one
, that people seemed to dig, so I’m doing something like that again here. Here we go!
I used this photo for the loose itinerary (filled with barbecue and Calabash seafood) that I printed for everyone pre-road trip and titled, "Slow Coastal Drive to Savannah With Lots of Seafood,"
because John summarized the trip early on via email in those exact words.
It was in part
a peaceful, slow coastal drive, but we also did things like propel ourselves 30 stories high on Myrtle Beach Boardwalk’s Slingshot ride. John has a hefty fear of heights, so it was a big deal. I'm sure people at the other end of the boardwalk heard me screaming, "HOLY SHIT FUUUUCK!" when Brian and I shot up into the sky like a torpedo. We might have had some Long Island Ice Teas at a Boardwalk bar beforehand. Who's to say?
An early piece of advice that my older brother gave me: Try out as many different jobs in as many different places as you can while young. I pass that kick-ass advice along. Get it while you can.
Directly after D.C., we made a beeline south to Williamsburg, Virginia — a place that really shaped John as a chef. We got to surprise one of his first mentors, Keith Pritchard. We shared a few rounds of celebratory tequila shots with him and his wife at their pizza parlor, while Keith and John reminisced. Keith told one of his favorite John stories, about when they first met. John showed up at Keith’s Fort Magruder Hotel kitchen asking for a job. John drove a VW bus back then, his hair was long, and he was wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt and flip-flops. Keith said, "Yeah, you sure do need a job — so you can buy some shoes!"
Keith and John.
Later the following day, after arriving in Greenville, North Carolina, we got takeout from Parker's BBQ,
a restaurant John worked at back in the day, and took it to his brother Brian’s for dinner. Over dinner Brian told the story about cooking with John at Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q, also in Greenville. It was Brian's first cooking job and John asked him to prep the potato salad. Brian didn't know anything about food at that point, so he followed the recipe except for one simple step — he didn't boil the potatoes! Everything was mixed — and we're talking a huge, several gallon batch — before he realized what he'd done. Hilarious.
Halloween night in Shelby, North Carolina (about five hours west of Greenville) was awesome. We went to Newgrass Brewing
for a bluegrass show and met all sorts of great folks, including Kibbe Nixon, below. When we told Kibbe that we were on a research road trip for a cookbook of storied regional recipes, she told us that she had the best tomato pie recipe. She wrote her email on the back of a Newgrass coaster and I contacted her once we got back to Portland. It turns out she does
have the best tomato pie recipe. You can find it over on my blog
Now for the story of how I got a very long nickname during the road trip...
This is a photo of me and Brian eating at one of my favorite restaurants of the trip, B's Barbecue
, just outside of Greenville. Mike took this photo of me holding a big breast of their super yummy hardwood smoked chicken right after Brian said, deadpan, "Liz just likes to hold big meat.” We had a good laugh. It's true.
Me and Brian.
After our picnic-table-full-of-foods lunch at B's, David took this photo of all of us. Right before he did, I said "chicken in the teeth" instead of "cheese," and everyone laughed.
"Chicken in the teeth!"
Shortly after that, on our drive west to Shelby, we pulled to the side of the road so that I could pick a piece of cotton — I never had before.
After that I acquired a long-winded nickname that's stuck to this day: Cotton Pickin', Chicken in the Teeth, Big Meat Loving Craiiiiin.
I’d like to end with something John said early on in the trip when we were at Eastern Market
in D.C.(love that place!), eating foods like fried whiting fish, crab cakes, scrapple (pork scraps, cornmeal, flour: pan fried), grits, and fried green tomatoes for breakfast.
David said, “I can't believe that we're eating fried fish for breakfast.” John got a twinkle in his eyes, looked up from the fillet of crisp, golden whiting doused in hot sauce, and said smiling, "Your gut doesn't know what time it is." Cheers to that.
I hope that you have a blast with our cookbook, and do fun things with it like put together Tasty boards for your friends and family or cook breakfast for dinner, just because. The latter is exactly what we're doing for our cookbook launch party at Portland’s Plaza del Toro on August 15th
. Come if you’re in town! The more the merrier!
David took this photo during our last meal together as a group, in Savannah. (John and I had one more meal together — breakfast before our flight back to Portland the next morning, at Clary's Cafe in downtown Savannah — where the cashier was, surprisingly enough, an old high school classmate of John’s.) Cheers to tasty and storied food, to dear friends and family, to honoring your mentors, and to the lifelong pursuit of adventurous, heart-wide-open travel!
÷ ÷ ÷
is the author of Food Lover’s Guide to Portland
and Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.
A longtime writer on Pacific Northwest food and drink, her writing has appeared in Cooking Light
, Budget Travel
, VIA Magazine
, Sun Magazine
, the Progressive
, the Guardian
, and the Oregonian
. She is also an editor and publicity director at Hawthorne Books, as well as co-organizer of the annual Portland Fermentation Festival. Hello! My Name is Tasty
is her most recent book.