Thursday, October 22, 2015


           The Jack Turns 27

By Doc Lawrence
LYNCHBURG, TN-Saturday marks the 27th year of this event-my favorite in America-where teams of champions the world over gather in the park beside the world’s most hallowed distillery to compete for big cash prizes based on barbecue excellence. For the past decade I have served as a judge at the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tennessee alongside some of the biggest names in food, spirits, music and media to determine the planet’s best of the best.

Teams from across the country and around the world light the coals and fan the flames going head to head in an intense battle of smoking, seasoning and searing. Only one will emerge Grand Champion. If you live in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Louisville or Birmingham, it’s an easy drive. If you live in New York, Washington or somewhere in the middle of Montana, hop on a plane to Nashville, find a ride and head on over to “The Jack,” as the event is known the world over. You'll get a taste of Lynchburg in Jack Daniel's Hollow, see the international teams parade and enjoy some of the finest barbecue in the world.

The World Championship Barbecue is a combination of culinary expertise and friendly but serious competition with a $10,000 prize going to the Grand Champion.

Award-winning teams from around the world compete for the coveted title of Grand Champion in seven categories: Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork Shoulder/Butts, Beef Brisket, Dessert, Cook's Choice, and Jack Daniel's Sauce.

A Tennessee tradition: No visitor is a stranger. I’ll be in the Judges Pavilion Saturday, lodging at nearby Parish Patch Farm Resort and after the awards, attending the South African Wine Dinner at fabled Cortner Mill Restaurant on the Duck River in Normandy.

Come over and say hello. We’ll take some photographs, do an interview and include you in the stories published, broadcast and podcast next week.

Sunday, October 18, 2015



“There'll be peace without end
Every neighbor a friend
With every man a King.”

       "Every Man A King" by Huey Long and Castro Carazo

By Doc Lawrence

Holly Clegg with Tailgating Centerpiece
Nothing anywhere compares to the food and outdoor celebration in Baton Rouge on game day. Here in this college town and capital city of Louisiana, the aromas, laughter and music aren’t all that unusual because this is one of those top-tier food shrines that dot the Southern landscape. Ask someone to describe in just a few words the defining cuisine of their city and they will likely stammer searching for some common thread. In this river city, it’s a fusion of European, African, Caribbean, traditional Southern, Mediterranean and more that continues to evolve, embracing new ingredients and cooking styles, but remaining true to its culinary roots.

Game day means LSU football. Legendary Tiger Stadium is a powerful reminder of Huey Long who as governor and U.S. Senator, constantly promoted LSU’s football program and wrote the LSU fight song, Touchdowns for LSU.

Tailgating at LSU incorporates culinary heritage with Deep South panache, showcasing music, food, wonderful beverages and some dancing. There are no strangers on game day. Even the “enemy” is welcome to have a drink and some gumbo. Lovely handmade centerpieces beautify the stadium parking lots. “It’s a special touch,” observes Baton Rouge resident Holly Clegg, a Louisiana cooking superstar and devoted LSU fan. She will be the first to tell you that food tastes better served alongside table decorations.

As a mother, wife and cookbook author, Holly Clegg appreciates the ability to create a tasty dish that is both convenient and healthy, offering expert advice for nearly 20 years on quick, flavorful and healthy eating . With nearly 1 million books sold, she has been featured in USA Today, Country Living Magazine, and First for Women. The American Culinary Federation of New Orleans also recognized her as one of the Top Louisiana Chefs of 2011.

Holly Clegg brings her Southern charm to every aspect of her life. “After all,” she says, “I’m a LSU fan which means I’m just as serious about food as football.” And the tailgating feast doesn’t get much better than Holly’s amazing creation:

16 (2 tablespoon) servings 
1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups roasted red pepper hummus
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat Feta cheese 
3 tablespoons sliced Kalamata or black olives
1. In bowl, blend together cream cheese, yogurt, oregano, garlic, lemon juice and season to taste.  Spread on large round serving plate.
2. Carefully spread hummus over cream cheese.  Sprinkle evenly with remaining ingredients, refrigerate until serving time.
Serve with pita chips or vegetables (cucumber rounds).

With my recent introduction to the native varietal wines from the historic Portuguese region of Tejo, tailgating at LSU provided the perfect setting to enjoy some of these wines with Louisiana food. Why Portuguese wines? The thrill of wine enjoyment is expanding the palate with new taste adventures and these delightful wines fit seamlessly. We enjoyed the Conde De Vimioso, a gentle high-value and high-quality white wine that enhanced our enjoyment of the wonderful food.

Adventures in food and wine are integral parts of Deep South tailgating traditions. For more original recipes from Holly, visit her website:

The historic cookbook, Jim Sanders Cooks for Wine Lovers, has been reprinted and will be released this week. It is not only a collectible but includes Jim’s never duplicated wine pairing chart.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015



By Doc Lawrence

It’s a boomtown, a place near the top of popular tourism destinations in the Deep South. Nothing in the ascension of Asheville, the western North Carolina vacation spa, came about through accident and the very informative book by visionary business leader Marilyn Ball takes readers along an amazing journey beginning when the evolution of the city was taking root.

Marilyn Ball’s The Rise of Asheville: An Exceptional History of Community Building, (History Press 2015), chronicles the evolution of an exceptional community. The story starts with newcomers over the last fifty years flocking to Asheville, joining forces with locals to breathe new energy into the city. As the author explains, these folks didn’t necessarily intend to be entrepreneurs, community organizers and business leaders, but when they saw a challenge, they rose to it. Meeting poverty and hunger head-on became a  priority no less important than laying the foundation for Asheville’s natural food culture and boosting the potential of the core-and growing-arts presence.

Marilyn Ball traces these citizen movements, a bonding of community that came together to produce the crown jewel that is Asheville.

A retired advertising executive and writer deeply rooted in Western North Carolina’s hospitality, economic development and tourism, Marilyn Ball moved to Asheville in 1977 and has been tirelessly working to foster a spirit of community there ever since.

Several ranking tourism executives have told me that Asheville is the standard of excellence for attracting visitors. My own experience began during baby days when I vacationed with family living in nearby Hendersonville. I’ve followed Asheville’s emergence both as a culinary center and a place where the arts have a happy home.

Marilyn Ball also hosts "Speaking of Travel," an Asheville-based radio show and podcast, a platform to share unique travel experiences. “I’ve come to realize,” she says, “that travel is like love. When you travel you have this heightened state of awareness. The best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”

Ms. Ball’s book is a primer in leadership; a revelation of what happens when collaboration is blended into civic and business ambitions. There is power in one, to be sure. However, embracing the talents and energy of like-minded neighbors leads to the miracle of revitalization. Lessons can be learned from this book: Other cities in the South and beyond seemingly consigned to stagnation, could actually have a brighter future.

Today’s Asheville is the work-product of good people with different experiences building on common purpose. According to the Marilyn Ball, her city is a an example of what can happen when “we venture beyond the boundaries of everyday life and slip out of our cultural restraints. We find ourselves opening to new possibilities, imagining a life of greater meaning and seeing ourselves in a new light.”

For those who wonder how to start a renaissance in their own city, the answers are found on the pages of this commendable book.

Friday, October 9, 2015


Chef Paul Prudhomme

“Have fun. Do something nobody has done before.”
                             Chef Paul Prudhomme

By Doc Lawrence

He was a bear of a man who transformed American cuisine by giving it a lot more heat and down home ingredients. Because of Paul Prudhomme, countless restaurants still serve blackened fish, a style that Chef Paul made popular with redfish. A culinary cousin of Emeril, who once worked for him, and a cultural descendant of the PBS cooking show pioneer Justin Wilson, Chef Paul departed his life in New Orleans, the city where he launched a career of cooking, teaching, cookbook authorship and restaurants.

Before I dined at his legendary K-Paul’s Kitchen on fabled Chartres Street deep in the French Quarter, I had met him prior to fame and fortune at Maison Dupuy, the Vieux CarrĂ© hotel on nearby Toulouse where he operated the outstanding kitchen. Unlike the more animated Emeril and Wilson, “the Cooking Cajun,” Chef Paul was subdued and soft-spoken. Food was his monologue, cooking with fresh ingredients a primary contribution for today’s preferences. Nearly everything was seasoned with myriad peppers and herbs of all kinds, garnished with a heap of joie de vivres.

An ebullient, engagingly happy man, Paul Prudomme expanded our food lexicon. Debris, boudin and tasso are no longer just bayou backwater words.

His cookbooks flew off retail shelves. I’ve always believed that originality accounted for much of his success. Chef Paul's recipes weren’t always easy. Care was demanded and sometimes the ingredients weren’t readily available. Yes, there was a day not so long ago that local fishmongers had no redfish.

Chef Paul’s signature blackened redfish became so popular that a moratorium was imposed on fishing for them in the Gulf of Mexico to prevent extinction.

Paul Prudhomme was a hit on the road. I met him again in Atlanta during an awards dinner at King Plow Arts Center and even at a Kroger supermarket in Sandy Springs where he came to sign books in the wine department. I never saw him dressed in anything other than solid white, and with few exceptions he wore a beret. His handshake was as gentle as my grandmother’s, the feather-light touch of a French Impressionist.

My home kitchen library has many cookbooks. Chef Paul Prudhome’s works line an entire bookshelf and have an exalted place near classics by Craig Claiborne, Edna Lewis, Julia Child, John Folse, Emeril, Nathalie Dupree and others.

It’s football season down South and I’m in the mood for hearty authentic gumbo. The best recipes are Chef Paul’s.

Monday, October 5, 2015



“You and I seem to be verbs.”
                        Buckminster Fuller

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-The amazing stage performance took me back to long ago college classes in far away places. Out of many professors, I had one who never took roll, had no rules and lectured with the freewheeling spirit of a child. Classes were packed. Teaching equaled entertainment. New worlds opened stimulating ferocious appetites for knowledge. The dialectic prevailed and the teacher wanted you to ask challenging questions and freely disagree. We began a journey that would last a lifetime.

As R. Buckminster Fuller, the scientist, architect, professor and man of the universe, Tom Key in his most remarkable performance since his globally acclaimed portrayal of C.S. Lewis, taught theatergoers at The Balzer, downtown Atlanta’s shrine of theatrical excellence, a universal lesson: it takes courage to speak truth to power. For nearly three hours, the audience listened and viewed a chalkboard and geometric models, joining a journey into the higher life of sustainability, clear vision, courageous exploration and acceptance that this is a birthright.
Tom Key as Buckminster Fuller (Theatrical Outfit)

Fuller popularized the geodesic dome and it made him famous. The stage set has one and Key’s performance complimented the dome’s distribution of space, connecting links, balance and gravity. Fuller would call this synchronicity, a term he incorporated in his works side by side with truth.

Learning is joy. Discovery is an exhilarating possibility. The play is equal to a rock concert. Like Bob Dylan was to music, Fuller was a folk hero to the various movements of the 60’s and 70’s, a forerunner of sorts to Steve Jobs and Elon Musk; soul mate to The Dalai Lama.

Tom Key lectures with no sign in the audience of boredom.  His portray of Fuller is sunny and optimistic. Are humans perfect? Are resources here to feed, cloth and house all humankind? If you get on board “spaceship earth” with R. Buckminster Fuller steering, the answer is yes.

After the death of his daughter, Fuller said he waded into Lake Michigan to drown.  A interceding voice spoke:
“From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others”

Eschewing suicide, Fuller resolved to think independently which included a commitment to "the search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them... finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more.” Thus, modern movements of sustainable living and permaculture took off, propelling spaceship earth to stay the course with concern for everything.

His friends called him “Bucky.” Approachable and admired, Fuller amassed enough intellectual acclaim to earn an audience with Albert Einstein who approved of his early essays. He thus joined other thinkers like Joseph Campbell and Frank Lloyd Wright who changed the way we understood the relationship with the land, the basics of nature, the mystery of science and the joy of reaching new levels of understanding. Science and faith, according to The Dalai Lama run parallel.

The current season at Theatrical Outfit at the Balzar is a celebration of courage, stories that “stir the soul.” The stage is uniquely positioned to accomplish this. When one actor keeps your attention talking about physics, evolution, vision, faith and survival, something beneficial is in the air.

The thrill is the journey. D.S Jacobs’ R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe was made for Tom Key.  The moment he leaves the stage, we imagine John Lennon thinking, “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” (678) 528.1500

Thursday, October 1, 2015



By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Today is Jimmy Carter’s 91st birthday and I stopped over to hear Rick Bragg at the Carter Center the other night and signed a tribute book wishing him a happy celebration along with a sincere wish for recovery. Bragg, a dynamite journalist and author, referred to presidential library as “Jimmy’s house” during an hour of remarks before an audience that was even more remarkable because I observed no one fidgeting with a smart phone. Garrison Keillor would have called them all English majors.

A Pulitzer winner for journalism and a University of Alabama School of Journalism professor (“longest job I’ve ever held”), Bragg has an uncanny resemblance to actor Jeff Bridges but speaks in the much the same voice as Southern humorists like Lewis Grizzard sprinkled with a little Jerry Clower and Andy Griffith. He’s entertaining and unscripted, completely natural.

His latest work, My Southern Journey is a collection of stories, some published in Southern Living and Garden & Gun, but fresh as morning dew in North Alabama all the same. Bragg is his best when outraged and his tome on the BP Gulf disaster comes as close to what happened as you’ll read. This country boy ain’t for sale and when something in his dear state of Alabama is ruined, you hear an ear-piercing war cry.

Like Paul’s New Testament letters, Rick Bragg is ferociously quotable: “We are good at stories. We hoard them, like an old woman in a room full of boxes, but now and then we pull out our best, and spread them out. We talk of the bad years when the cotton didn't open, and the day my cousin Wanda was washed in the Blood. We buff our beloved ancestors until they are smooth of sin, and give our scoundrels a hard shake, although sometimes we can't remember exactly which is who.”

The days get shorter and the weather seems sloppy more often. My Southern Journey brightens a dim room, reduces the pain of loneliness. For those who prefer a jigger of truth mixed into some delightful stories, here’s an antidote to those bad weather blues. Bonus: Rick Bragg’s stories go down well with Jack Daniel’s.

Rick Bragg would say that one of the best stories ever from the Deep South is the life of Jimmy Carter. All together now:  
“Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”

NOTE: Tailgating Down South is now on iTunes:

Down South Today, Tailgating episode.