After three short days in Memphis, it seems there is no such thing as bad cholesterol; it all tastes incredibly good. The chicken fried steak and the crunchy fried chicken, smoking hot hush puppies, and fried green tomatoes, every bite is positively restorative to someone who inhales clouds of confectioners’ sugar on a daily basis. Late night beignets drizzled with dulce de leche and early morning doughnuts oozing Jack Daniels pastry cream should be approached with caution then abandon. Memphis encourages us to bring our soul but forgets to remind us to bring our stretchy pants.
Surrounded by new faces that would soon become friends, our formidable hosts from SAVEUR magazine navigated our food travels. Criss-crossing the city, we squeezed into chrome legged chairs and leatherette banquettes, perched on bar stools, resting elbows and cellphones on laminate tabletops, smooth wooden bars, and linen draped banquet tables. We spiked our meals with hot sauce, laced our coffee with cream. Sugar poured freely and so did the local spirits. Three days provided a tapas of a city brimming with history, culture, and distinctive cuisine.
Personally, Memphis reminded me that my diet is severely lacking in anything batter-dipped, anything plumped in dangerously hot oil. Reunited with fried food made me realize that we should never have broken up.
The festival of lights is mere days away, affording me the opportunity to rekindle my love affair with foods plunged into sizzling oil. Hanukkah is notorious for encouraging copious consumption of latkes and jelly doughnuts. This season, inspiration stems from two Memphis restaurants; The Liquor Store, who introduced me to the genius that is a biscuit beignet, and The Four Way Soul Food Restaurant, serving up the sweetest yams to ever snuggle up alongside a behemoth serving of fried chicken. The marriage of the beignet and the yams resulted in a sweet potato jelly doughnut, which some folks might consider a sensible holiday indulgence.
Memphis is a city I hope to return to, although the next go around will be markedly different. SAVEUR brought together globally diverse creatives, affording us the opportunity to share and consider food cultures and traditions beyond our own kitchens. That in itself, is a gift far more lasting than a deep fat fryer and a new pair of pants with a stretchy waistband. Happy Hanukkah.