I emulate Biblical role models like Joshua, David, Peter and Paul. Jesus is more than a role model. He’s God. I also look up to military heroes like Francis Marion, John Singleton Mosby, Alvin York, Audie Murphy and Paul R. Smith. It’s my culinary heroes, though, who teach me new recipes and inspire me to develop my own skills in the kitchen or at the grill.
We have a lot of culinary heroes right here in Liberty County. George Holtzman, owner of Coldwell Banker, Holtzman Realtors, is near the top of my list. George and his wife Babs can cook!
I heard he made a delicious Brunswick stew — the proper side dish with pork barbecue — so I asked him about it. A few days later, I returned to the Courier after covering a local story, and my editor told me that George had dropped off a large sampling of his Brunswick stew. It was not just delicious — it was the best Brunswick stew I’ve ever had, and trust me, I’ve eaten quite a bit of Brunswick stew in my time.
Last month, I covered a local event that included barbecue with all the fixings, courtesy of George and Babs. Not only was the pulled pork the best I’ve ever had outside the Tarheel state, the cole slaw was perfect. It was just like the slaw I used to smother my North Carolina barbecue sandwiches and hotdogs with. It was no surprise to learn the Holtzmans hail from North Carolina.
Another local culinary artist is Melinda Schneider, better known as the Yellow Bow Lady. She has shared delicious potato salad and sweet potato bread recipes. Recently, I had the opportunity to cover an organization’s Christmas party, which included a traditional meal of roast turkey, baked ham and all the other good stuff. (It’s a sacrifice, I know, but I don’t mind covering news events that include food as part of the agenda.) Anyway, Melinda made the gravy for that event from the turkey drippings. I’d be willing to eat Brussels sprouts if they were covered in that gravy!
Many folks know that I used to work for the Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office, writing for the Frontline newspaper and serving as editor of Quality Time magazine. One of my coworkers there remains one of my top culinary heroes for a vegetable-beef soup she brought to the office for an occasion I’ve long-since forgotten. I haven’t forgotten that soup, though.
Jennifer Scales wouldn’t tell me what she puts in her soup, but for four or five years now, I’ve been trying to duplicate it. I found beef chunks and pieces of ham in her soup, as well as lots of okra, onions, corn and butter beans. My attempts to make an equally-delicious soup have resulted in some okeydokey soups but nothing like Jennifer’s. I’ll keep trying until I get it right.
My mother-in-law is high on my list for a variety of great stuff, starting with her collard greens. Really, though, anything she makes is delicious. When she was able to cook, my mama’s kitchen was the center of my universe. The best thing she made though was her homemade cathead biscuits. I loved them soaked in butter and used them to sop up gravy. They were great smothered in Georgia cane syrup.
Anyone who looks at me now and compares what they see to a picture of me before I got married 36 years ago can figure out my wife can cook, and I mean cook! She didn’t start out that way, though. I stayed lean and mean the first couple years of marriage, and then she found her cooking niche. That was more than 50 pounds ago. I’m not even mean anymore.
My wife remains my top culinary hero — even though she’s now trying to wean me from excessive salt and bacon-seasoned veggies. It’s no big deal, though, because I know how to add more salt and where she hides the bacon bits in our refrigerator.