What is in a name?

Wasn’t it Shakespeare who penned: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet”

Brilliant. There is something to a name. I say this because I have a very special name- Alice Grey. Not just Alice but “Alice Grey”. You must use both. I am a southern belle through and through.  

I have to say, I have always felt immensely special to have two names…one just wasn’t enough. And ya know it’s really funny- I am definitely not an “Alice”. I need that little added umph that the second name gives. Have you ever met a girl with two names that wasn’t spunky? I rest my case.

So do you think your name has an impact on your personality, your life, your own personal brand? Would you be you if you had a different name? Would I be me if mom and dad had called me “Sally”? It is an interesting thing to think about.

I can’t tell you how many times people comment on my name. Just the other morning in the airport, the security guy, checking my id, even asked- “Grey? What an unusual name. There must be a story behind that.” Now that guys sees 1000s of names a day…I must be REALLY special.

PS- I also think there is something interesting about birth dates as well…they also impact one’s personal “brand”….and I am not saying this just because I also have a SPECIAL birth date (Christmas Eve).

meat and three…hold the meat

I love a plate of good southern vegetables. I don’t even need meat when my plate is filled with yummy southern veggies-fried okra, corn, butter beans, collards, sweet potatoes, field peas and much much more. My grandmother’s country cookin’ was the best. No one….I mean no one could ever cook collards (Collard Greens) quite the way she did…not to mention the spicy sweet chow chow that she made to top the greens.

We all have comfort foods and we use those comfort foods to soothe our souls. I don’t feel anything real stressful or challenging…yet I am craving comfort foods. Cookies yesterday, southern veggies today.

My schedule was stacked so I didn’t have much time to pursue lunch, yet I couldn’t quite shake the veggie craving. I pass by an S&S cafeteria everyday on my way in for lunch- though I have never eaten there, so I decided to give it a shot. Not too far from the office and an easy place for take out. I ordered a plate with four veggies- green beans, collards, fried green tomatoes and squash casserole. They were out of the fried green tomatoes so I subbed for cooked cabbage.

Oh dear….perhaps it was because it was after 1:00 before I could get out for lunch, BUT these were the WORST, MUSHY, overcooked, over salted veggies I have ever tasted. I’d like to think my standards are too high, but it had been so long since I’ve had a veggie plate such as this, I feel certain I wasn’t being overly picky.

Now I know that a cafeteria is designed for the blue hairs and they probably eat around 11…but seriously this place should have been flat out embarrassed to serve up a plate such as this. Only a few bites taken and I was finishing out my lunch with Halloween candy. Candy corn is considered a veggie right?

No one will ever be able to cook up veggies quite like my Momo…so I guess my comfort food cravings will have to be satisfied with precious memories of days spent with her shucking corn and making peach preserves!

shrimp and grits

I can remember the first time I realized that grits were quintessentially southern. I was 13 years old and had traveled to NYC on a school trip. I was used to eating grits for breakfast most mornings so it seemed natural enough to ask the waitress if they had Gri-its on the menu. (back then, the eastern NC accent gave way to grits with two syllables). The waitress looked at me like I was crazy. So I said it again, “gri-its”. “Oh” she said…and proceeded to bring me a sprite. WHAT? I tried again to tell her what I wanted, but we just couldn’t see to communicate. I couldn’t even believe that the whole world didn’t eat grits for breakfast. Oh sheltered southern child!

I wonder how many grits I have eaten in my lifetime? Seriously! When I studied abroad, I carefully packed a six month supply of instant grits in my luggage! I really thought that I would “need” them because how in the world could the french offer an equal breakfast! But, I must admit, one taste of the croissant from the boulangerie down the rue and I forgot all about my southern roots.Oui, Oui, Oui!  So what did I do with all of those grits you ask? We had a “grit” party at my school!!!! I invited all the yanks, west coasters and a few french to my grits party. And let’s just say, the grits paired very well with a light bordeaux!

Fast forward a few years, grits continue to be a comfort food for me. Though I don’t eat them as much now that I am “grown” up and know how much butter and cream it takes to make them to my liking. Over this long weekend, I spent some time relaxing and catching up on my magazine reading. The September Food and Wine has a southern focus and offered a recipe for a lightened version of shrimp and grits, I knew this was one recipe I had to try. So what makes this new for me…clearly, I have had a lifetime of indulging in this southern delicatessin….the grits have spinach in them! In all my years, I would have never dreamed of adding spinach to my grits.

Though I do love stone ground grits (Anson Mills are the best)…quick cooking makes life easy for a weeknight dinner. Add a little cheese, some spinach and a handfull of chives and you have the basis for this dish. Most of the time, the shrimp and “gravy” are cooked with bacon or country ham fat. This recipe lightens the fat content by pan cooking the shrimp with a little canola oil, paprika and white wine.The white wine is reduced and the result is a tangy rich sauce. YUM. And as a bonus…dinner is served in about 15 minutes start to finish. The result, a delish, rich version of a southern classic.

Remember to buy FRESH shrimp…the best you can find. Like friends, not all shrimp are created equal.

My Word

What is one word to describe yourself? One word. Easy enough right? I have been deliberating this question now for weeks.  It all began when a reporter from Greenville Magazine asked me to provide five words that describe myself. I asked the natural question- Do you mean words that I would use to describe myself…or words that others would use to describe me. We all know there is a potential for differing answers on this one! I polled a number of friends and colleagues who know me fairly well, and came up with a nice mix of descriptors: adventurous, optimistic, curious, zealous, fun. But really…I wouldn’t feel good about using any ONE of these words as the sole descriptor of me…my essence. Me to the core.

So then…that  very same week, some girlfriends and I went to see “Eat, Pray, Love” and there I was again, faced by Elizabeth Gilbert with the very same question- What one word describes me? My word. My core. My essence. Damn…the universe is making me do some serious introspective deliberation. In the quiet of the day this question has lingered…In the busiest time of the day, this question has lingered. I searched my sole. One word just couldn’t do….I am a mix of things…some really juxtaposed against each other. I’m a little bit small town….yet…a little bit big city. I love highly sophisticated art but collect incredibly basic folk art. I navigate to fine dining at Michelin starred restaurants…yet crave good ol’ southern bbq.

And after weeks of soul searching…the conclusing hit me hard…I commingle. How could I have not seen my word from the beginning of the quest?  After all, it’s the name I chose for my blog. COMMINGLE- to mix or mingle together; to blend. A fine word I fell in love with at age 12.  A fine word to describe me- age 34.

What is your word?

An adventure close to home

Some of the best adventures are those not planned. Spontaneously, a couple of friends and I headed out to find an architectural salvage yard. It wasn’t too far from Gville. My friends were looking for doors. I was along for the ride to find what I could find. I do love anything old! We drove down a windy dirt road, just off of a main SC highway. We rounded the corner and there was a house (of sorts) with hundreds of doors…everywhere. I mean everywhere. I have never seen so many doors in my life- all shapes and sizes.  It was really the most interesting place- there were old bricks, lumber, hardware, lights, shutters, a few mantels…and a PERFECT banister for me!

The bannister, from a house in Pickens County, was painted a burnt brown color. Not the best color…with peeks of green and natural wood showing through. It’s a mahogany bannister and I have a feeling, my interior designer will tell me to strip it down to the natural wood. Something perfectly old with fabulous wear and imperfections for my new house!

I think I may have been a tad over dressed for this adventure.

Boiled peanuts go well with everything

My typical boat picnic is less than gourmet. Sometimes its a soggy turkey sandwich on plain ol’ wheat bread and sometimes its cold fried chicken from a convenient store (which isn’t good hot so imagine it cold-yuck). When C and I first started dating, I would dream up fab picnics- gourmet wraps, a light pasta salad, fresh fruit and homemade cookies. Oh the glory days. It didn’t take long to realize that C was happy with a basic lunch as long as there was sunshine and cold drinks…and some good tunes of course. So I quit putting much adieu into the lunch and let boiled peanuts be the centerpiece of the lunch (really there are some days when the main course is so bad we just eat peanuts!)

But this particular saturday, we had a very special guest joining us- C’s cousin M…who we both adore and don’t get to see nearly enough. I couldn’t possibly subject her to our typical less than stellar lunch. As I was flipping through this month’s Bon Appetite, I found a great sandwich recipe- surely a great complement to a day on the boat catching up. I hoped upon hope that Snag would be there to sell us some of his unbelievable boiled peanuts. No need for dessert…too hard to keep it cool on the boat.

So I stopped at the Fresh Market to pickup the ingredients: Ciabatta bread, black forest ham, oven roasted turkey, genoa salami and provolone cheese. I decided to make the pesto mayo to accompany the delish cold cut assortment. But….they were out of pine nuts. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $8.00 for pesto when we practically have a basil farm in the back yard. I decided to try a substitute for my pesto. I used raw almonds. It actually turned out pretty well. I don’t think it was as good as my normal recipe, but it is better for you and much less expensive. Pine nuts are really expensive and apparently they easily go rancid.

I mixed a little of the pesto with the mayo for a perfectly delish accompaniment to the sandwich. And Snag didn’t let us down…he was there at the convenient store next to the boat ramp with big ol vat of peanuts. A perfect lunch…a little bit of southern and a little bit of gourmet.

Quintessentially Southern

Doughnut peaches. Does it get anymore southern than this?

That’s right- a little round flat doughnut shaped peach! Found them at the Saturday market downtown. They were so interesting in shape and size that I just had to try them. 3/$1 – Can’t beat the price. The woman working the produce stall told me that someone created this fancy little peach for high browed southerners. Ok – I’ll buy that and three peaches please.

Compare the differenence in size between a doughnut peach and a regular peach!