I’m in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend, friends. Excuse the break from tradition this evening while I share travel tales instead of recipes.
I have to admit, when I signed up for Food Blog South, it was the conference that lured me, not necessarily the town. Before coming here, I didn’t know a whole lot about Birmingham, AL aside from what I’d learned in US history classes growing up about the civil rights movement. I had no idea what it would be like to visit. One day hasn’t made me an expert, but I have learned a few fun things since landing here at 10:00 a.m. in a sleep-deprived delirium:
1. People in Birmingham like to refer to the city as “Bham,” which the Internet tells me is pronounced, “bee-ham.”
I feel that I can’t comment on this tendency, since I often refer to my hometown of Houston as “H-town,” and when that annoys non-Houstonians, I only want to say it again.
2. There is so much Wedgewood.
After I’d already spent an hour in the Wedgwood ceramics section of the Birmingham Museum of Art (which is free!), I realized that Wedgwood is much more than bone china, and also that I can look at violet tinted jasper for a long, long time without getting bored. I guess this means I’m getting old.
PS – This page on the Wedgwood website is really cool: http://www.wedgwood.co.uk/our-craft/.
3. The South is not Texas. Texas is not the South.
I knew this. We knew this. But, I used to just make this point to show Texan pride when people would call me a “southerner.” “I might be more ‘southern’ than you,” I’d say, “but Texas is not the South.” Not only have I encountered zero breakfast tacos here, but I actually had trouble understanding accents today. And I found myself just listening with appreciation to the lilt of people’s voices. (Traveling alone left me free to get carried away on clips of conversation from passersby.) I even had to ask a bartender to repeat the sentence, “Would you like some bread?” three times before I got it.
4. There are mountains here?
Well, there are mountains here if we’re comparing the terrain to my flat Texan prairies.
5. THIS PLACE IS BOOKSHOP HEAVEN.
Either that, or I found the two best bookshops in town within a half hour. Maybe I have some kind of book radar. Like the way dogs can detect magnetic fields…
First, I went to a place called Alabama Booksmith, which I basically visited because the name made me nostalgic for an old Boston stomping ground, Brookline Booksmith. That’s why I didn’t know until I got there that they specialized in signed hardbacks and collectibles. Seriously — every book in the store was signed, which is super awesome, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for such a pristine setting. After I knocked over a stack of cookbooks signed by Birmingham chefs, I felt I would be doing everyone a favor by leaving.
After that, I parked at the hotel and walked through a little municipality south of Birmingham (Homewood — is that the cutest name or what?) and found the coolest bookstore, Little Professor Book Center. They had a ton of stuff–two floors, balconies, a spiral staircase, used books, and a café. ::head implodes::
I got myself a book that’s never going to fit in the rollerbag, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking, because I loved it, and it was like a souvenir for myself. I made sure to write “Birmingham” inside the cover, since the book itself has nothing to do with Birmingham.
6. They’re really tackling the farm-to-table thing here.
I swung by a pretty ritzy little place called Bottega (it has a fancy dining room that’s only open after 5:30, as well as a more casual café), but there were plenty of “farmy” looking options for dining. Lunch at Bottega Café was pretty fun — I had a personal pizza made in a stone oven. I opted for something unusual, something I’ve never cooked or sold to customers before: a mushroom pizza with porcini oil, guanciale (super salty cousin of prosciutto?), taleggio (melty sheep’s milk cheese), and soft-cooked farm eggs. Yum. That’s all.
Let’s just say I think it will pay off if I get the motivation up to head to Veranda on Highland for dinner.
I expected it to be all BBQ all the time here (I still hope I get to check out some of that), so all this farm food is an unexpected bonus.
That’s all for now! I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of other food bloggers this weekend, and I’m nervous-excited about tomorrow’s food photography and styling seminar.