A Travellerspoint blog

Southerners, Food, & Alcohol

Southern Crazy

"Here in the south, we don't hide crazy. We dress it up and put it on the porch." That was a slogan on a dishcloth in a shop in The Hammock Shop Villages. That, in part, is why I love the south.

I've already written about my jealousy of southern writers, so I'll move on to my obsession with the food.Two other reasons I love the south, besides the lovely writing, are the food and the southern love of a good drink. First, the food. I believe that the only true American foods are hamburgers, fries, pizza, and southern cooking. Feel free to disagree. It's my opinion, but I'll warn you ahead of time: I'm not open to changing my mind. That said, all southern cooking has its roots in Africa, so we stole it, adapted it, and made it American. The best southern cooks and recipes come from what grows in the southern soil and lives in the waters along the eastern southern seaboard. Farm to table and sea to table are not new concepts here.

I had some awesome food in my recent visit to South Carolina's Pawleys Island. The charming and welcoming South Carolina Writers Association hosted its Dream Conference there in October and I ate and drank my way through the warm days. Clam chowder, oyster sliders, shrimp and grits from the amazing Rusty Table, balsamic glazed pork from Websters, and hush puppies from The Deck were perfectly cooked with fresh ingredients and just enough heat. I could go on, but I'm making myself hungry just thinking about the (delicious and fattening) southern foods. So much so, I've decided to do a southern-themed Christmas dinner. Cornbread, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, creamed corn are on the menu, so far. I'm testing a shrimp & grits recipe. Let me know if you have a good one!


As for alcohol...I've consumed my share of wine, but have never had the stamina for anything much stronger, so I wouldn't make a good southerner. I have the utmost admiration for anyone who can handle their liquor. It seems that bourbon is a way of life in the south. A luncheon partner at the writers conference bemoaned the fact that the bar was closed and he had forgotten his flask of bourbon. Then again, maybe it's not a southern thing. Maybe it's a writers thing. I have enough trouble writing sober and keeping my crazy to myself, so I'll probably just stick to wine.

Posted by teethetrav 07:21 Archived in USA Tagged south_carolina novel pawleys_island south_carolina_writers_conferen myrtle_beach litchfield_beach southern_writers south_carolina_writers_associat the_rustic_table websters Comments (0)

Pawleys Island South Carolina

Southern Writers & Inspiration

Going almost anywhere excites me. Going back to places I know and love has a special feeling. But there's something about going somewhere entirely new that opens up possibilities and gives me a sense of giddiness. As anxious as travel can make me, I love the entire experience. I love being in an airport and wondering where everyone else is going and why they are traveling. I love remembering the last trip I took. This trip, I sat in the airport recalling last January's trip to the Cayman Islands for my daughter's wedding. Our airport trauma was lugging her beaded gown through the airport, through security, onto the plane where the flight attendant got angry at my son who had carried the dress like it was a Faberge egg the entire way, only to watch her try to fold and stuff the gown into a compartment. He. Was. Not. Happy. And she called security. Yikes. But it all ended well and, after that, the trip and the wedding were perfect.

So far, this trip is fairly uneventful. I did get pulled aside at security because I had a suspicious item in my carry-on. Turned out, it was my breakfast muffin. Every the TSA guy shook his head and laughed. Other than being seated behind someone who had a "companion kitten" on his lap (seriously? that's a thing?) this was a quick flight to Myrtle Beach where I picked up my cool rental Jeep that I got for points and headed to Pawleys Island to the South Carolina Writers Conference I'm attending at the Litchfield Beach Resort. Low country. It sounds like a place writers go to write, doesn't it? I've long envied southern writers and their ability to tell stories set in swampy, marshy places with names like Pawleys Island, Edisto, and Murrells Inlet. Let's not get me started on southerners and their ability with words. Pat Conroy, Carson McCuller, Eudora Welty, Lee Smith...There must be some magic, some kind of alchemy which occurs due to the combination of Spanish moss, soupy humidity, and an unabashed love of alcohol.

I am here hoping some of the luck of the southern writers will rub off on me as I try to find a publisher for my latest book, a family saga inspired by historic events. It's called GOODBYE, LOVER and it's about an introverted bartender who discovers three tiny skeletons in a trunk in her grandmother's attic which upends everything she thought she knew about her family.

Wish me luck!


Posted by teethetrav 13:11 Archived in USA Tagged south_carolina novel pawleys_island south_carolina_writers_conferen myrtle_beach litchfield_beach southern_writers Comments (0)

Christmas Markets 2016

NYC & Berlin

Some of my earliest memories took place in New York City, especially at Christmas time. I was born and lived in the Bronx, and my father’s business was on 35th Street in mid-town Manhattan, the part of the city that I’ve known and loved all my life. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered Soho, the Village, Central Park, Museum Mile, the High Line, and all of the other places I grew to love. For me, 30 West 35th Street was the center of New York. It was the perfect location nestled between 5th and 6th Avenues, next to the back entrance of Orbach’s department store. Orbach’s is long gone, (it’s now a Banana Republic) along with B. Altman’s, Gimbels, and FAO Schwarz, the toy store with the foot piano featured in the movie BIG. 30West.jpg
Every year at Christmas my family would visit all the windows. Very few are left: Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and a couple of others remain and are worth seeing, especially now with all the available technology. Now, the windows are interactive and dazzling. Back then, we would visit the windows, shop, leave our packages at my father’s store and go to eat. Our favorite restaurant, also long gone, was Mamma Leone’s where we would eat until we could not eat anymore. And then we would have warm zeppole, dripping with powdered sugar. To this day, no one has ever made it better, in my opinion. ChryslerBldg.jpg
Just a few blocks away from 30 West 35th, I met Patience and Fortitude, the stone lions who still guard the greatest public library in the world. Near the library is Bryant Park, which was not someplace to go back then. It harbored homeless people and drugs and just wasn’t safe. Now, it’s a destination. Every year the park hosts one of the city’s holiday markets as well as an ice-skating rink and a tree. It’s become part of my new traditions, in addition to visiting the amazing Rockefeller Center tree.
Last week, I went to Bryant Park to the Christmas market. Inspired by the European markets, the vendors there have a wide array of hand made and home made products and you never know what you're going to find. If you go, you are not only supporting small businesses and artisans, you can find unique products like the truffle honey I found.

A few days ago, one of the Christmas markets in Berlin was attacked and shoppers were killed. There was talk of closing all the German markets for the rest of the season. They decided to reopen and yesterday wary shoppers returned. As someone who lives close enough to NYC that I saw the cinders and ash from the Twin Towers when they fell, and as someone who was in Paris during both the Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan attacks, I’ve thought about fear and terror quite a bit. Fear is real. All over the world there have been irrational, horrific, sometimes random attacks in unexpected places like Nice, a beautiful beach town. Whether I go to New York, to Paris, or to a movie theater, I have decided that if I stop traveling, if I give in to fear, they—whoever they are—-have won. If markets close, if I cower in my home, if I choose fear, then I lose out on so much. And that is not acceptable.

Posted by teethetrav 08:17 Archived in USA Tagged paris berlin nyc macy's christmas_markets bryant_park charlie_hebdo orbach's fao_schwarz bataclan mamma_leone patience_fortitude b.altman's lord&taylor Comments (0)

A New York City Day

From Harlem to the East Village

It’s funny, but I don't think about NYC as a place to blog about. To me, NYC doesn’t seem like travel since I was born in the Bronx and my father worked in Manhattan most of his life. Although we moved to New Jersey when I was young, we were never more than an hour away so going to NYC was something I took for granted. I never knew New York was, well, NEW YORK. I don’t know how old I was before it dawned on me how lucky I was to have grown up in and around one of the greatest cities in the world and that this was a place that people aspired to come and visit. Now, when I go to New York I make it a point to talk to tourists. I ask them how far they came to be here and where they are from. I want to know if it’s their first time and what they have seen. Last week I met a couple from Australia who were here for two weeks. We had a great chat about what they had seen so far, where they had eaten, where they were staying, and their impressions of New York.

I love New York. It makes me happy that I’ll never get to see everything there is to see or do no matter how many times I go. It fills me with joy that there is always another new restaurant to try, or a favorite one to go back to again and again. Ruby Foo’s on Broadway is one that I’ve been to and over and over. If you go, have a Ruby Foo, their signature drink. Bring a group. It’s a fun place to eat a million little things that you share with friends.
Recently, I went to New York with my daughter to celebrate a significant birthday (hers, not mine). We went all out and ate at two of our bucket list restaurants and, the coup de grace, saw our favorite actor Liev Schrieber on Broadway in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. First, we went uptown to Harlem to eat at the amazing Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. If you don’t know him, read his remarkable memoir Chef. It’s a great book and his is an inspiring, uplifting story that brought me to tears. Speaking of tears, the cornbread at Red Rooster is so delicious I nearly cried. I know. Cornbread. But it is indescribably good. Everything was. And we loved the whole atmosphere and decor. This is a cozy, feel-at-home, unpretentious place and I plan to go back. Hopefully soon.
RedRooster2.jpgRedRooster3.jpgcornbread.jpg RedRooster1.jpg
Next, we saw the show. It’s a limited run and the story is raunchy, sexy, funny, and quite sad. And words do not convey the steamy appeal of Liev Schreiber. Suffice it to say, when his shirt came off, there was an audible gasp throughout the audience. Whew.
We waited outside the stage door and he graciously took photos and signed autographs. What a sweet man. I can’t wait for the next season of Ray Donovan on Showtime!
Finally, it was time to go down to the East Village to David Chang’s Momofuku for his famous noodles. They were everything! Porky goodness with an egg floating on top. But the sublime experience, for me, was the shitake mushrooms on buns.

All in all, it’s a hard call to say what was the yummiest thing all day. Gun to my head, Liev was definitely the winner.

Posted by teethetrav 13:11 Archived in USA Tagged nyc chef ruby_foo red_rooster david_chang momofuku liev_schrieber marcus_samuelsson ray_donovan Comments (2)

Gwyneth Paltrow, Emily, and Me

NYC Barnes & Noble

Gwyneth Paltrow, Emily, and Me

A trick I use when I create a fictional character is to visual who would portray them in the movie. It helps me to write when I can visualize the character; it gives them life, and they become incredibly real to me.

When I created the character of Emily Williams, the mother in my novel HARDSCRABBLE WAY, I visualized Gwyneth Paltrow. I could see Gwyneth as Emily running to classes in yoga pants as she played a privileged but unhappy wife. I even gave her a song to sing because I love that the multi-talented Gwyneth can sing. I imagined Gwyneth portraying Emily as she falls into the depression that strikes her after a tragic event causes the family to lose their money and forces Emily and her daughter to become homeless. I can see Gwyneth rising above the misfortunes to become a stronger, better woman and mother.

When I saw that Ms. Paltrow was going to be at the 5th Avenue Barnes & Noble signing her newest cookbook It’s All Easy, I decided to go, give her my book, and tell her how I created Emily for her to play in the movie. Pretty cheeky of me, right?

I waited on line in the rain April 12 until the store took pity on us brave souls and let us inside. Little did they know exactly how brave I was. It took every ounce of courage I had to pitch my book and gift it to Gwyneth. I was terrified. I think I was afraid security would kick me out for giving her my book and my press release. No such thing. Her people took my cell phone to snap photos of me with her as she signed my cookbook while I told her I wrote a character in my book for her to play in the movie. I told her I’d be honored if she would accept my book.

Not only is she stunning, she is gracious and lovely and I swear, she glows. She seemed genuinely excited as I spoke and she accepted my book. I am so glad the photos are here so I can see her reaction, because I was completely star-struck and not fully present in the moment. I’ve met and spoken with my share of celebrities. None of them caused me to go weak in the knees like she did.

So I pitched Gwyneth Paltrow my book and I’m happy to share these photos. It was an out-of-body experience.

HARDSCRABBLE WAY is available and Barnes & Noble online, and on Amazon as a paperback and an ebook.

Posted by teethetrav 12:48 Archived in USA Tagged nyc amazon novel gwyneth_paltrow hardscrabble_way barnesandnoble tinajgordon.com Comments (1)

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