If you had asked me what I knew about “the South” a year ago, I would have just shrugged my shoulders. Pressed a bit about what I knew about Southern Food, I would have named “fried chicken, shrimp and grits and maybe okra”. If I delved further into my mind about Southern food, I’m sure I would have come to Paula Deen and immediately would have turned up my nose to it all. Even before all of the controversy, I despised Paula Deen.
Fast forward a few months and I find out that my cousin was getting married in Charleston, South Carolina. Around the same time, PBS’s Mind of a Chef came out and featured Sean Brock, whose restaurant also happened to be in Charleston, South Carolina and that the show heavily featured the cuisine of the south. Happy coincidence?Absolutely.
Just as Mind of a Chef’s 1st season with David Chang was immensely inspirational to my trips to Japan and New York last year, this season’s MOAC helped educate me, not only to food of the south, but to the concept of Lowcountry cuisine as well.
As I watched the show, I heard Sean Brock use adjectives such as “fresh, vibrant, and exciting” and I learned about the diversity of cultures through the south and how southern food is about so much more than fried chicken. I was introduced to Chefs from the region who were using local ingredients and pushing the ideas of traditional Lowcountry cuisine into the present. It seems like something I’ve seen in so many places I’ve visited like Barcelona and Oaxaca, and I became very excited to experience it in the South.
Landing in Charleston, I was immediately taken by the lush landscape and wandering waterways. I knew I’d enjoy my time as I drove towards historic Charleston. As a wonderful welcome to the area, I had the opportunity to go to a party on James Island at the family’s house of a friend of the groom. Watching the sun set in such a beautiful surrounding, I knew this was just the start of my great experience in the South.
My food list for Charelston seemed right on point, as the other food lovers I talked to seemed to have the same places on their list as well.
First up was Fig whose Chef Mike Lata is often mentioned as one of the most talented in Charleston. It seemed like the perfect place to be introduced to new Lowcountry cuisine. Simple dishes based on local and delicious Lowcountry ingredients seemed like the perfect combination and I was excited to get to experience it as my first meal in the South.
Throughout the meal, I felt comforted with familiar preparations excellently executed (the gnocchi and pate) and wow’d by the deliciousness of the local ingredients (the tomatoes and sweet corn farrotto). The meal left me eagerly anticipating the days of eating I had ahead.
A trip to the South would never have hit my immediate travel radar, but I felt fortunate to be given the opportunity with this visit. After my solid meal at Fig, I am eager to see what lies ahead for me in the South.
Fig: 232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC