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April McGreger, SFA Symposium, Oxford, MS- After an hour of hilarious stories about the eccentric Mobile-born author Eugene Walter, we were treated to a delicious four-course lunch: Eugene on Eugene: A Tribute to the Untidy Pilgrim prepared by Linton Hopkins chef/owner of Atlanta’s Restaurant Eugene.
Velvet soup - This was my favorite course. The luxurious texture is attributed to long-cooked, just-shy of peanut butter, pureed peanuts. This soup is not about peanuts, however. You taste shrimp, sherry, and herbs with just a gentle undertone of nuttiness.
The second course, chicken salad “luxuriating on a bed of greens” was one of Eugene Walter’s favorite foods.
I, too, love good chicken salad. This leads me to wonder-does mayonnaise get its well deserved applause? What would summers in the South, when lunch tables and picnic blankets everywhere abound with creamy chicken, shrimp, or egg salads, look like without it? I dare not imagine summers without tomato sandwiches and BLT’s, where mayonnaise plays its usual supporting, yet irreplaceable, role. We love these foods, but perhaps we take for granted just how recently mayonnaise came onto to the scene. Eudora Welty wrote about how in her childhood two well-traveled bachelors, Mr. Erskin Helm and Mr. Charles Pierce, had “brought mayonnaise to Jackson.” She didn’t mean in a jar either. As Ms. Welty says, “Of course you couldn’t buy mayonnaise, and if you could, you wouldn’t.”
Delicious cheeses from Sweet Home (Alabama, of course) Farms with honeycomb from Savannah Bee Company and Eugene’s pickles.
I’m not sure if you can tell from the photo, but the color of the pickles is a beautiful deep, dark green, which I think is the work of tumeric in the brine. Chef Linton Hopkins confirmed that the pickle brine contains lots of tumeric and yellow mustard seeds.
The last coarse is avocado sherbet, another of Eugene Walter’s favorite dishes to serve to guests. The avocado delivers an uctuous texture and brilliant color, but the flavor is all lime.
We wash it all down with Eugene Walter’s sweet tea prepared by John Currence of Oxford’s City Grocery.