Thursday, January 24, 2008

Southern Belle at Heart


Anyone who has ever been to Northern Virginia (where I grew up) can attest to the fact that it is an entity on its own, completely unrelated to the rest of the state. While the whole of Virginia is considered to be the South, Northern Virginia is most certainly not. It is as Northern, Yankee, metropolitan, and progressive as a suburban area could ever be. It is not the South, dammit. It’s different.

Please consider the evidence - there is no Southern food in Northern Virginia. None at all. There is New Mexican, Peruvian, French, French, French, and Italian, but no traditional Southern food. And yet, I somehow managed to fall in love with cornbread, greens, hushpuppies… I love it all.

There is no marked Southern accent, certainly not one as defined as you would hear in Central or Southern VA. And yet, I use “y’all” in every day speech. My friends from home make merciless fun of me for it, but I still say it.

Perhaps Virginia seeped its way into me. Stealthily, it leaked through the Silicon Valley that is Northern VA, dripped through the massive malls with parking lots that look like Benz dealerships. Somehow, there is a little bit of the South in me.

Northern Virginia ain’t got nothin' on North Carolina (for the uninitiated, that’s pronounced Noth Caralahynah) when it comes to being the South. I had the pleasure of visiting NC for the second time this year, this time for a science blogging conference. Oh, what’s that? You didn’t know I was a giant dork? Sorry, but that’s just how it is.

There is some seriously good Southern food to be had in NC, along with people with a completely awesome Southern drawl that I could listen to all day. After the conference, at which we were served excellent pulled pork from Bullock’s and Locopops (if you have never had a Locopop, I feel very sorry for you. Check them out the NPR podcast about Locopops) my new blogger friend Aaron and I went in search of good Southern food. And we found it, at Crook’s Corner.


Nothing says Southern food like a pig up on a pole. Inside though, Crook's Corner was way more arty and urban than I predicted from the wall of hubcaps outside.


I must have stared at that menu for a good twenty minutes before deciding on shrimp and grits. I think I made the right decision. Huge shrimp, bacon, mushrooms and scallions were piled on top of cheesy, creamy grits. The grits were just stupid good. This may be because they were about 60% butter and cheese, 40% creamy white corn. Not a bad ratio.



There were also giant cheddar jalapeno hushpuppies that were just eh (innocuous cornbread more than hushpuppy) and a giant biscuit, as big as my head.




I also can’t forget to mention the infinitely polite server who looked like he had a mother of a hangover, and did I mention the giant pig on a pole? It was awesome.

There may be a bit of the Southern belle in me yet. Just don't expect me to bat my eyelashes. Or wear pastels. Or giggle. And really, I am not that friendly. So ok, maybe it's just the Southern y'all and the food that I love. I am ok with that.



16 comments:

JC said...

Hey, I ate there! And I had the shrimp and grits too! Good stuff, and I agree that the place was different than I was expecting from the outside.

Anna said...

No way! You ate there as well? How cool! I was so tempted by the biscuits and gravy, but I went for the shrimp. Can't say I was disappointed. When were you there?

JC said...

November of '06 for my sister's birthday. I even took the same photos you did (except I skipped the food)! Here's teh blog post. You were admiring the persimmon pudding from their menu. I'm glad the place met your standards!

JC said...

Oh, and if you're a Southern belle you have to say "shrimp" with two syllables.

leena! said...

Ugh, those shrimp and grits looked sooooooooo good! Nice food porn, Anna. It makes me excited to move back into the country in three months!

Anna said...

JC - D'oh. Slightly embarrassed now. I totally remember reading your post too! Sorry. Kind of weird and random (in a good way) that we wound up going to the same place! Maybe my subconscious mind lead me there.

My shrimp has only one syllable. I am not all that Southern, it would seem.

Leena - Three months! That's so soon. Will you be sad to leave or excited to arrive?

JC said...

Don't be embarrassed - who remembers blog posts from over a year ago?

DD said...

maybe the south seeped into you during the four years you spent in charlottesville ;)

oh quit it, you still love me!

Hillary said...

You have the most conglomerating identity I have ever heard of - a Russian living in Boston who claims she is Southern at heart :)

Aisha said...

Anna- when I lived in Durham I ate a Bullocks several time. My favorite were the hushpuppies dipped in honey butter. I wish I had known about Crook's Corner when I was there, the food looks great. I'll have to check it out next time I'm there.

Anna said...

JC - I reserve the right to feel bad. I am sorry that I didn't remember. I am scatterbrained.

Archna - I will always love you. But sometimes you're mean! C'ville did not affect me in any appreciable way besides making me hate Thomas Jefferson. And Kate Spade bags.

Hillary - Very astute observation :) I like to think that I take the best of each culture. And then mess it up.

Aisha!!! Hi! I did have Bullock's hushpuppies and they were fantastic. Have never had them dipped in honey though. Sounds wonderful. There is a lot of really good food around the Raleigh/Durham area. I really like it there. Do you ever miss it? Do you go back?

coturnix said...

Perfect Choice!

Crook's Corner is THE ultimate Southern Restaurant. I heard (a non-confirmed legend) that shrimp-and-grits were invented by an old chef at Crook's Corner some decades ago. But even if the legend is not true it is still a place to have the BEST shreyamp (see, two syllables!) and grits in the world.

weddingproject-us said...

Yum, nothing better than southern biscuits. Ya'll is the only southern thing I say. One word makes me sound REALLY southern in this crazy Vermont town. (And let me add for you, Vermonters are not known for their cuisine. When you are done with grad school, and write your book, come up here and open a restaurant based on your international cuisine. It will be very much appreciated.)

Shrimp. jc are you kidding me? Shrimp always reminds me of Forest Gump.
Oh Florida is such a crazy mix. No one had an accent there when I was a kid. Now it's almost like they taught it in school.

Meade Skelton said...

Well, I grew up in Loudoun County, and I think its "Southern Lite". But I have been to the Deep South- and even that isnt as Southern as it probably once was.The whole South is becoming less and less Southern...

I have a slight Virginia accent myself. But it was nurtured by my Richmond parents, and older relatives from Tidewater. Compare Northern Virginia to the real Northeast, and I think its more Southern. But I will always consider myself a Southerner-moreover, a Virginian.

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Meade Skelton said...

Back again. Im not sure what part of Northern Virginia you grew up in. But they DO INDEED have Southern food in Northern Virginia. There are BBQ joints on rural Rt 50- places such as Aldie and the General Stores. Thats where I used to get mine. I was reared in Northern Virginia, and I grew up on SWEET TEA, Grits, collard greens, Virginia ham and biscuits. You make Northern Virginia sound like NJ. While it is rather transient, I would never describe it devoid of Southern fare!