By JAY REED
It’s been a good year for family weddings. In the summer, we traveled to Texas to see the first of the first cousins once removed (I checked the chart) on Daddy’s side get hitched. This weekend we went eastward to Macon, Ga., to see a chapter close, as the final first cousin on Mama’s branch (not removed at all) tied the knot.
Of course, I am mostly excited about how they were made for each other, and all that other love and happiness stuff. But this is not the society page, so I’m going to talk about the food.
Since my own rehearsal dinner, I have long been an advocate of serving barbecue on such occasions, so I am always thrilled to see it celebrated at other nuptials as well.
Beginning a wedding weekend with pulled pork and Brunswick stew is just about guaranteed to bring blessings on any happy couple. Oddly enough, this is the second wedding I have attended in Macon in as many years, and both started out the weekend in the same way: with Fincher’s Bar-B-Q at the rehearsal dinner. Fincher’s has been around for more than 75 years, and was even carried on a space shuttle mission, so I suspect there are a lot of marriages around Macon that have been and will be blessed by the same beginnings.
The next morning, the brother of the bride (aka Chief) and a band of merry gentlemen from his neighborhood invited the men folk to join them at their regular breakfast haunt, the H and H Restaurant. The H and H is not a fancy place — good soul food joints really shouldn’t be fancy, after all — but it is a bit famous among students of classic southern rock music.
Back in the sixties and seventies, when the Allman Brothers were truly starving artists, the two Hs (Mama Inez Hill and Mama Louise Hudson) kept them from going hungry, and after the band got successful they didn’t forget their roots.
Most all of us ordered the same thing: eggs, grits, biscuits and bacon. The bacon was unique in that it still had a rind which we were warned to remove before eating, lest we break a tooth. It was good, but as we left through the kitchen to pay our bill and say hello to Mama Louise, we spotted ham, smoked sausage and salmon croquettes on the stove. We almost turned around to order again.
Macon is also famous for the Nu-Way Weiner stand, which has been there for nearly a hundred years. I had been tipped off that Nu-Way hot dogs would be making a late appearance at the wedding reception, but I wanted to visit the original location and at least get a drink served over their famous Flaky Ice.
After wandering in, Younger Brother spotted a sign for a Spicy Dog biscuit, which sounded intriguing and tasty enough for a second breakfast. Though I have never been against second breakfasts, we did share the biscuit between the three of us. I left wanting more, but I knew there was much more eating to come.
Lunch, just a few hours later, was a casual family potluck of sorts. And, as those gatherings tend to go, the younger cousins played in one part of the house, the ladies chatted in another room and the men ate in front of the SEC game of the week.
The highlight of this meal had to be the tomato pie cooked by Bertha, a friend of Chief’s wife. The filling seemed to be chopped red tomatoes blended with herbs, topped with a layer of cheese. I haven’t had too many of these before now — I only recall one other — but after this one, I have decided I need more tomato pies in my life.
At some weddings, there is a lull between the “I pronounce you” part and the reception. While the umpteenth photo of all the second cousins thrice removed is being taken, the guests are dying of starvation.
Not this wedding.
It was an outdoor affair, and between the ceremony site and the reception barn, the clever bridal party had arranged a stop for sweet tea and snacks.
The first bite I came across was called a beef puff, which was actually a tiny (and tasty) high-falutin’ barbecue sandwich in a pastry instead of a bun.
Next was chicken salad on crispy-thin triangles of cornbread; I’ll take the liberty of naming it “Georgia Bruschetta.” Had I not compared notes with Younger Brother, I might have missed the last one: shrimp and grits cakes.
I was already happy, and we were just getting started.
Kudzu Catering of Macon provided most of the food for the evening, and I suggested to The Wife that we renew our vows just so we could hire them to cater the event. (She suggested an Alaskan cruise, so we may need to renew twice.) Allow me to stir some hunger here: Creole pork tenderloin, Texas caviar, zipper pea hummus, grilled vegetable antipasto, country ham and biscuits, deep fried mac-and-cheese, and Brie en croute with bourbon, brown sugar and pecans. (Oh, and there was fruit. Whatever).
Kudos to Kudzu for trying to make Brie palatable. I tried it and confirmed that I am just not a Brie guy.
Some things ought to have stayed in France.
All the rest was awesome. The wedding cake was one of the most visually stunning I’ve ever seen, with several flavors of cake hidden inside to please all palates. And the pumpkin-flavored cheesecake from the groom’s table was right up my alley.
After a few hard hours of watching others dance (not a big dancer, either), we were rewarded with Nu-Way Weiners topped with secret recipe chili. What a way to end the night.
I’m all out of unmarried cousins in Macon. Heart is happy.
Tummy is looking into wedding crashing in Central Georgia as a new hobby.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .