Sunday, October 13, 2013

There's More to Kentucky than Whiskey

As a vast country populated by people from all over the world, you can't beat America for diversity. It's one of the great pleasures of living here, and discovering the diversity of different regions is one of the pleasures of travel.

Diversity, of course, takes many forms. Foodways is certainly one of them. Kentucky, being in many ways a bridge between North and South, draws from the food traditions of each and has some that are unique. Kentucky bourbon whiskey tops the list, of course, but the list goes on from there.

You don't even have to travel to enjoy Kentucky's bounty. Most of it will come to you.

As you may have heard, cereal grains such as corn, wheat, rye, and barley can be used to make products other than whiskey.

Weisenberger Mill is located on South Elkhorn Creek in southern Scott County, Kentucky, in the tiny town of Midway. The creek has provided water to power the mill's turbines since the 1800's. Six generations of Weisenbergers have operated the mill at its present location since 1865. They make a wide variety of flours, corn meals, grits, and mixes, all of which can be ordered online.

The spoonbread (an eggy version of cornbread) is awesome.

Midway and environs have become an upscale bedroom community for Frankfort and Lexington. The cute downtown, bisected by a railroad, has several excellent bars and restaurants. Most notable among them is Ouita Michel's Holly Hill Inn.

If you head into Western Kentucky, the land gets flatter and the local specialty is meat. Owensboro is famous for its burgoo, a meaty stew, and mutton barbecue. Moonlite and Old Hickory are two well known purveyors, but there are many others. The annual festival is in May.

The whole state of Kentucky is full of great barbecue places, and Wes Berry has tried them all. Happily, he wrote a book about it.

Head toward the Tennessee border and ham tops the menu. Dry-cured country ham is the main attraction, but it's all good. Most ham curers also make incredible sausage, bacon and other pork products, and being cured they travel well. Here again, there are many high quality outfits such as Newsom's, Broadbent, Finchville, and Gatton Farms.

For something a little healthier, consider a salad of Bibb lettuce. This tasty variety was developed in the backyard of Jack Bibb's Grey Gables house in Frankfort. Bibb served during the War of 1812 and represented Logan County in the Kentucky House of Representatives and the state Senate from 1827 to 1834. An amateur horticulturist, he developed the lettuce and shared the seeds with friends. It was first commercially produced in 1935. For more, go here.


Chuck Cowdery said...

By the way, the best condiment with country ham is honey mustard.

Unknown said...

You've to try Mrs. Sassards Jerusalem Artichoke Relish, then!