Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Blogging Manifesto

I rejected the idea of blogging for years because I felt it was a self-indulgent practice that often lacks a clear sense of audience and thus leads inexorably toward blather.

Since I am now blogging (and enjoying it), I hold myself to this one simple rule: no self-indulgent blather. 

This means that I will impose the following restrictions to the things I post in this blog:

  1. 500 words or less.  Anything longer, no matter how much I want to care, seems to fall victim to the sin of self-indulgence.  If you doubt me, just read Emile Hirsch’s recent blog about a conflict he had in a random, unnamed bar in New York City. There is a legitimate point in there somewhere, but I only have so much patience when I’m reading a blog!  By virtue of its blog status, it’s not an article in The Atlantic, and as such it shouldn’t be as long as such an article.
  2. Unless the story involves a former or current American president, don’t drop names.  Unless I know the person writing the blog, and the people s/he is writing about, I don’t want to know with whom that person is planning to meet, dine, or attend a food and wine festival.  Want to see how irritating these things can be?  Check out Marcus Samuelsson’s recent blog post.  I think Marcus Samuelsson is a great Food Network personality, and his cooking resume is nearly unmatched. But, if I want to give a shout-out to my peeps, I’ll do it on Facebook.  If I want to offer some kind of legitimate insight that deserves more than about two seconds of my audience’s time, I’ll do it in my blog.  

The other problem with blogging is that the audience is so ambiguous.  I bet the people Samuelsson’s blog post mentions really appreciated his gesture, but for almost everyone in the national audience the blog got by virtue of being included in The Huffington Post the name-dropping was just obnoxious.  To avoid this problem in my own writing, I have arrived at several guiding principles for my blog:

  1. I live in Greenwood, SC.  Since I’m a professor and therefore generally don’t spend my time gallivanting around the globe, most of my writing will be about this place. 
  2. I think this place is pretty cool and thoroughly under-appreciated.
  3. I want people who don’t live in Greenwood to read my writing, and I think they should read it because Greenwood is typical of any small town in “The South.”  For that matter, I think it’s pretty typical of any small town in the United States.
  4. Since I’m writing about Greenwood, I reserve the right to drop names of people around town and explain why they are awesome.  I hope such activity explains why Greenwood rocks and encourages people in similar places to appreciate whatever is distinctive about their small town.
And this is a 500-word blog post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Food in Greenwood

Every semester, I teach a composition courses that require students to write.  What they write about is entirely up to me.  And, since food is one of the most universal elements of human condition, I always ask them to write at least one essay on an issue related to food.  They might choose to write about how our food is produced, how organic and conventional foods are different, how animals in the food system are treated, how workers in the food system are treated, or any other number of things—what they choose to write about is ultimately up to them.

Inevitably, my students want to know what I eat.  I don’t necessarily want to reveal such things because they are so personal.  I worry about what they’ll think if I tell them my goal is to remain as organic and as local as possible.  A revelation like that might confirm their suspicions that professors are oddballs and somehow elitist; it might make them feel judged if their relationship with food is the complete opposite of my own. 

Despite my reservations, however, there are some beans I’m willing to spill, and when I spill ‘em it often becomes obvious that my students are missing out on some of Greenwood’s real treasures. 

Just last week I explained that my favorite street in Greenwood is Maxwell Avenue, for three reasons:
  1.  The Mill House, which has awesome sandwiches including an outstanding meatball sub, a huge selection of craft beers, and a brick oven that turns out the best pizza in Greenwood. My favorite pizza features a pesto cream sauce, fresh mozzarella, and sundried tomatoes.  
  2. Kickers, which deserves an entire blog post for a lot of reasons, including a constant array of awesome soups, onion rings, pimento cheese burgers, and samosas.  If you go only once, you should order the samosas.  A friend of mine from St. Croix tried them and said they were just like the ones she used to get back home.  I’ve never been to St. Croix, but I can testify to their magnificence just the same—they’ll blow your mind.  I’m not going to tell you exactly what they are—just order them!
  3. The Uptown Market  Stands, which feature fresh produce from growers like Early Bird and Parisi Farms.  Just today I went there and got three heads of broccoli, a half-dozen spring onions, and about a dozen crook-neck squash from Parisi Farms for eleven bucks.  It just does not get more fresh, local, and affordable than that.

My students were uniformly unfamiliar with Maxwell Avenue, so for those that read this blog, here is a map:

For those whose map-reading skills have atrophied with the proliferation of GPS devices and smartphone aps, from Lander University you go south down Montague Avenue/Main Street/Hwy 25 (note Greenwood’s proclivity for complicated street names) until you see Greenwood Community Theater on your right—it’s hard to miss.  Take a right at the first traffic light past the theater—that’s Maxwell Avenue, aka Highway 10/McCormick Highway (yes, another complicated street name).  
For those who just aren’t good with directions, this little video will show you exactly how to get to Maxwell Avenue.

 If Maxwell Avenue is the center of my relationship with food in Greenwood, everything else radiates out from there.  Nearby are my other local favorites:

 T.W. Boon’s , where you can find Greenwood’s best shrimp and grits (I have proclaimed myself an authority on shrimp-n-grits), fried zucchini, and very good live music on the weekends.

Howard’s On Main, which is somewhat like Panera except that it’s a local enterprise, the Howard who gave the place his name is actually the guy in the kitchen making your sandwich, and there is a bar in the back of the restaurant where, again, you can catch some great live music.

Corley’s Market and Grill, where during lunch hours you can get the best burger in Greenwood along with the town’s only fresh-cut fries.  I can’t say enough about the glory of a pimento cheese burger, so I have to say that this local masterpiece can also be procured at the Corley’s Grill. The market also offers in-house specialties like crab dip and shrimp dip, great local products like Happy Cow Milk, and an outstanding selection of (very affordable) beer and wine.  It’s also worth noting that Corley’s employs real butchers who will do whatever you want them to do with your meat.

These are not the only places in Greenwood that play a role in my relationship with food, but they are among the most important.  They are my favorites, and they are places that everyone in Greenwood should enjoy.  If you haven’t been to these places, you owe it to yourself to go.