Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 14, 2012

Eating in Alabama: a journey of good health


CNHI

— By Christine Tibbetts

CNHI News Service

What to eat before we die? That’s what Alabama wants us to consider. They already recommended a hundred places.

I’m concocting a recipe of my own, using the illustrated “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” brochure and honing in on the cooks and chefs, culinary

teachers and farmers with living-longer theories.

Let’s ignore the dying idea for now.

Launched my culinary journey in Montgomery, Mobile and Monroeville, also eating and cooking in Auburn and Atmore, with some learning in Perdido.

In the process I got my hands dirty at a thriving urban farm in Montgomery, and rested my head in AAA Four-Diamond grand hotels in Mobile and Montgomery.

Kept finding ways to eat wisely. One lesson happens at Cool Beans Café de Art in downtown Montgomery.

“Let your eyes be your guide; choose food colors,” owner Shari Rossman advises. “Eat first with your nose, then your eyes.”

“We can address many health issues naturally with a good diet,” she says. “The culprit’s high fructose.” Rossman won’t have it in Cool Beans.

If fine design aids digestion, Montgomery’s The Alley is a place to eat and drink.

Stroll between courses to experience walls, lighting, tabletops, floors. Style.

Vinegar was one big discovery on this Alabama road trip. Made from figs and tomatoes, blueberries and grapes, satsumas and sugar cane. Thirteen kinds, sure to keep

me kicking.

That’s what Jim Eddins told me at Perdido Vineyard. Perdido’s the town name too.

Thirty years a Marine officer, Eddins, now farms, emphatic about “growing antioxidants.”

I went to Perdido expecting a routine wine tasting place, and got much more, including the wines.

Now I need a class to know what to do with fruity vinegars, beyond salad dressing, pasta tossing and drizzling on vanilla ice cream.

Wind Creek Culinary Studio in Atmore off I-65 is one Alabama cooking school possibility. I joined an evening class there with Chef Jay Norris teaching Red Thai curry

with fresh Gulf shrimp.

“Learn to do all you can in the kitchen,” he recommends. “The fewer hands that touch your food, the better.”

Escape is the connecting hotel, one of eight Four Diamonds in Alabama, with level 15 devoted to culinary and spa visitors. Hypoallergenic everything.

Will one cooking class help my good-health quest? Maybe. But yoga retreats, raw food preparation weekends and other wellness special events here might.

So will knowing the farmer who grew my kale and cucumbers, squash and tomatoes.

Jetson Brown farms 25 raised beds in downtown Montgomery. Get groceries here, or just stroll the landscaped, paved Alabama River walk to look into his lush edible gardens.

“America has dietary-related diseases that can be fixed,” Edwin Marty says. He sees Montgomery’s urban farm as a living laboratory giving more than access to fresh food.

“Flavor grows here,” he says. “We teach people to prefer fresh and local in Alabama.”

Marty is Executive Director of the Hampstead Institute. Their goal? Fifty percent of the food consumed in Alabama locally grown.

Another Alabama chef caring about kids and what they learn about food is Garry Anderson. He learned to cook in Ireland, and today is part of the Auburn University

Hospitality Management program.

He taught me how to make pasta in the Ariccia restaurant connected to The Hotel at Auburn University and closely tied to culinary education.

Mobile thinks healthy too, including the elegant Four-Diamond Battle House, especially when the World Leisure Congress arrives Sept. 7–12, 2014.

First time ever in the U.S., this international group discovers ways leisure can be a force for well being.

Access to meaningful leisure experiences is no less important than shelter, education, jobs and health care, they say.

How cool is that? International focus to help me relax and I can learn it in Mobile, home of Mardi Gras and site of America’s fourth largest estuary system.

Do believe it’s back to Alabama for me.

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Christine Tibbetts covers travel destinations or the Tifton, Ga., Gazette. Contact her at www.TibbettsTravel.com.

x x x x

When you go:

www.alabama.travel

334-242-4169

www.yearofalabamafood.com