Navigating the summer slump.

Hi. My name is Whitney, and I am a TV addict.

I’ve been one all my life, since the days of bingeing “Fraggle Rock” and “Scooby Doo” while sprawled on ’70s-era shag carpeting. When you had to get up and turn the dial to change a channel. Before TVs were flat or hung on walls.

It’s true. This is one of my earliest memories:

Somehow, I even ended up in a job that’s TV-adjacent. So I get paid to talk about TV and entertainment all day, like a kid in a candy store.

Since we’re now in those dog days of summer — the TV slump before fall premieres, when good TV is hard to come by — I’m often asked what I’m watching. People are looking for ideas. Luckily, I’ve found some! Continue reading

Culinary Cousins: Perfect Cheese Grits

These days, it’s dark early. It’s fuh-reezing outside. I’m permanently stressed out. That’s a looming, dangerous triumvirate — veritable DEFCON 5 territory that calls only for comfort food.

Very few items warm my heart and soul like cheese grits. Say it with me: Cheeeeese. Griiiitts. Mmmm. But it’s very important that you prepare them properly.

Read all about it: Perfect Cheese Grits

Catching up on Culinary Cousins.

I’ve been cooking and baking and eating — even growing — and posting over at Culinary Cousins, I just haven’t had a spare second to tell you about it. So let’s play a little catch up:

I can’t explain how, but I grew some romaine lettuce. 

Read all about it: Tuesday Refreshment…
Continue reading

Monday Musings: On pollen, tragedy and rubbernecking.

(I know it’s not Monday, but let’s just pretend it is.) And I won’t wish you a happy Monday, because it wasn’t.

But, first.

When I lived up north, I forgot about the dust cloud of pollen that envelops our southern cities for a couple of weeks in the spring. I’m lucky that I’m not much affected by it, but I can imagine the agony of those who are during this time. It’s just inescapable.

That fine, yellow powder is a blanket over every outdoor surface. Our cars turn yellow, our wipers work overtime and pollen crust clings to the sides of our windshields. The air hangs heavy with it until a soaking rainstorm comes along to wash it away. Then we’re left with the chalky remnants along street drains and sidewalks.

Even Oliver isn’t immune. During a walk last week, he was just rifling along, nose skimming the grass. Then I looked down and saw this. Pollen nose.

Oliver

As we all are, I’m just stricken by everything that happened in Boston yesterday. But, at the same time, not surprised. Is that just the world we live in now? One in which I’m desensitized to violent news or the prospect of terror events in America? That’s the shocking part. And it scares and saddens me.  Continue reading

Monday Musings: On Anglophilia and Fashion Week.

Good Monday to you. I’m getting this Monday Musings in at the eleventh hour, but here are some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week:

the_best_exotic_marigold_hotel

I just watched a terrific movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. When my mom raved about it a couple of months ago, I’d never heard of it. No idea why, since it is excellent. Even though it takes place in India, it fulfilled my every Anglophilic craving — primarily because it is chock full of the British greats from all your favorite movies. Think Judi Dench. Bill Nighy. Tom Wilkinson. Maggie Smith. In the same movie.

This weekend I went to Charleston with friends to send one of us off into the bonds of matrimony, and also to attend Charleston Fashion Week. I don’t consider myself especially fashionable, choosing comfort over suffering for the sake of art or beauty or whatever anytime. But it was a blast. As you know, Charleston’s a food city and we ate amazingly at 39 Rue de Jean and Poogan’s Porch. The show was flashy and glamorous and exciting. Plus, we met the Moonshine boys, who are young and cute and enthusiastic and smell like earthy, woodsy, clean gentlemen. Delicious. I hope they make a great success.

Someone might need to take away my New Yorker card. I subscribed this week to a magazine called Garden & Gun. I think that means my re-acclimation to the South is complete. Oh, and if you’re interested in picking favorites for a totally different kind of March Madness, go vote in their Southern Food Bracket. I don’t know what I’m going to do when Coke goes up against Cheerwine. Dilemma!

Have a good week, all.

A new venture.

Today is an important day. The birth of a new venture.

My cousins are as obsessed with food and cooking as I am. Maybe it’s in the genes, or maybe it’s because we were raised at the same hearth of good, southern food. And we’ve traveled the world to taste everything else that’s out there.

I’m pleased to tell you that we’re combining our interests and talents to launch a new food blog, called Culinary Cousins. The most interesting part, I think, is not in our shared interests but in our differences. We are in our 20s and 30s. We’re newly out of school, we’re married, we’re single, we have kids, we spoil our dogs. Some of us eat healthy, some of us (ahem) are addicted to chocolate, and some of us have to obey dietary restrictions. I think that runs the gamut, and I’m excited to see what we have to say and share.

You’ll find us all over at www.culinarycousins.com, so come. Check us out. We’re a work in progress, but growing slowly.

My first post is up today: the best. ever. macaroni and cheese. Promise.

Start your engines.

I’ve had a few weeks off of work and I’ve been trying to whittle through my adventures list. As I realized earlier this summer, I almost never take the time to play tourist in my own hometown. So I seized this opportunity to make good on a daughterly birthday or Father’s Day IOU: taking my dad to see the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Dad is an avid NASCAR fan. Sure, he grew up and has lived near at least three of the major raceways. But he also understands and is thrilled by all the physics of racing. Where I see a bunch of adrenaline-fueled, cocky young bucks driving cars around in a circle, Dad sees stuff like “drafting” and driving skills and properly maintained car parts.

I started to understand the NASCAR fascination a bit more when I went to my first race at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway a couple of years ago. Sure, there were the requisite shirtless, beer-swilling, mullet-sporting fans who’d camped there for three days. But sitting in the stands, only feet from the track — where several cars wrecked right in front of us — I could feel the energy and the danger. It’s so loud you hear nothing but the roar of engines and the zing! of cars speeding by. You smell burning rubber and feel the reverberations of the cars on the track. It’s sort of thrilling, even when we had no idea who was who or what was going on. Dad was watching on TV at home so he narrated the race for us by text message.

The raceway at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

At the race in 2010. I was excited; Ann not so much.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame and museum opened a couple of years ago in uptown Charlotte, and it’s housed in a sleek, architecturally interesting building that I used to drive by every day. There’s been plenty of news and controversy about it, and many friends have already been, so my interest was piqued. On a sunny day in early September, we set off. Continue reading

Playing book club catch up.

I can’t remember if I told you, but I joined a book club back in March. It was actually an item on my life to-do list, though luckily the invite just came my way without much effort.

My grandmother was in a book club for years in her small, southern town, and I always idolized it. Once a month, they dressed, hosted a ladies luncheon and discussed what they’d been reading. Their book club was organized a bit differently than I’ve ever heard:  the 12 members each selected a book at the beginning of the year, one per month, and then passed them around through the year so that everyone read all 12 books, but not at the same time. I think they discussed more than books too – like current events and, inevitably, the goings-on about town. We are more traditional. We choose a new title every month, one member at a time, and then we all read the same thing. It’s not as cost-efficient, but our discussions are centered on just one book. And we meet at a wine bar. Continue reading

Cooking Spree: Pimento Cheese

Growing up, I thought pimento cheese was disgusting. I guess it was because the only kind I ever ate was from a plastic tub in the grocery store that had been sitting there for who knows how long. It was pink and overly mayonnaise-y, had no distinctive taste (especially not of cheese) and was just grody all around.

One year, I went to a July 4th picnic and someone brought homemade pimento cheese — a revelation. You could see cheese in it, the pimiento wasn’t overpowering and it had a hint of garlic. That was the first time I realized there was another kind of pimento cheese.

I’m not sure why it’s a southern staple (or why we spell it wrong), but you’ll find pimento cheese on menus and in homes all over the South. The classic way to eat it is sandwiched between two slices of white bread, but you’ll also see it stuffed into celery sticks, in grilled cheese or melted atop a burger. Yum. I prefer to eat it with something crunchy for texture, so I serve mine with Triscuits. Something about the salty crunch with creamy cheese just works. Keep reading »