A southern treat brought home
My first granddaughter, Kelsey, is at college in Virginia — two states and 400 highway miles away. Sweet Briar College is a four-year girls’ school with a small student population on a large rural campus (3,250 acres).
The college is set in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, in an area where the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders through. The view is breathtaking — rolling meadows and old-growth woods, with a spine of mountains as a background.
Kelsey picked her school, and is happy with her choice. That said, it’s a long way to drive for a weekend. Our family walks a line between heading south every chance we get and letting her fly, just like others with a student several hours away.
The trip back and forth from the “flatlands” of Ohio to and over towering mountains in West Virginia and Virginia, and on down to the foothills where Kelsey’s college waits, is pleasant enough. The roads are mostly interstate highways, with ample opportunity to exit and explore.
Our family enjoys finding new places — driving five miles off the interstate just to see what Mossy, West Virginia looks like, stopping at little shops and restaurants we see by the roadside, taking half an hour to stop at Tamarack in Beckley to walk around and decompress before continuing on with a cup of good Greenbrier coffee.
Last weekend, Heather took a fast trip south to spend a little time with Kelsey. They stayed at a hotel in Lynchburg, 12 miles south of Sweet Briar. Friends of Kelsey’s joined them for a dinner of appetizers at a Tapas restaurant downtown.
The culinary highlight of the weekend was Saturday lunch at the Market at Main, where Kelsey ordered a uniquely southern sandwich — fried green tomatoes, bacon and lettuce on multi-grain bread. The bacon was crisp, as was the lettuce.
The fried green tomatoes, much beloved of southerners, were tangy, sweet and well coated with flour and cornmeal — crunchy outside, tender on the inside.
Heather’s Caprese Salad was as unremarkable as Kelsey’s meal was memorable. In true southern style, Heather did the owner a favor by pointing out the farmer’s market across the street, where he could have bought vine-ripened fresh tomatoes — and saved his money on the mealy, pale ones that were in her uneaten salad.
He kindly reciprocated by taking the salad off her tab. I’ll be sure to have a meal with the nice folks at Market at Main the next time I am in Lynchburg.
You have to love southerners for their kindness and their cooking.
One of the popular offerings on the breakfast menu at Market at Main is their sweet potato pancakes. I’ll try them at home this weekend, then see what the difference is next month in Lynchburg. I love my job.
3/4 pound sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of ground cinnamon, optional
1/4 cup butter, melted
chopped roasted pecans
Place sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan of boiling water, and cook until tender but firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, and immerse in cold water to loosen skins. Remove skins, chop, and mash in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Mix mashed sweet potatoes with eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and butter. Blend sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture to form a batter.
Preheat a lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Drop batter mixture onto the prepared griddle by heaping tablespoonfuls, and cook until golden brown, turning once when the surface begins to bubble.
Good with jam, syrup or applesauce.
Nutmeg and cinnamon are optional — use according to your taste. Chopped roasted pecans are also optional, but good scattered on top — yum.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.