Meridian Star

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January 22, 2014

Mississippi, Yours For the Tasting

(Continued)

MERIDIAN —

Mississippi chefs were local before local was cool. John Currence on the Square in Oxford, Nick Apostle in the capital city of Jackson, and Jeremy Noffke in my hometown of Hattiesburg have all been sourcing local vegetables and proteins from day one.

Barbeque gets sweeter and saucier the father one travels the length of the state. In Southaven, dry Memphis barbeque is the norm. In the Piney Woods region of Mississippi (an area 60 miles due north of the Gulf of Mexico) the ribs can be served dry or wet, but the sauce is sweeter. It may get saucier the farther south one travels, but it will always be pork. We leave beef barbeque to those states west of the river.

Crystal Springs in central Mississippi just reclaimed the title of “Tomato Capital of the World” from some town in Texas that had stolen the moniker for a few years. Now that the distinction is back where it belongs, lets take a minute to appreciate what tomatoes mean to our diets. On behalf of Crystal Springs, we say, “You’re welcome, world.”

Vardaman, Mississippi in the northeast hill country is the undisputed “Sweet Potato Capital.” Their healthy, orange tuberous roots are so prolific that they’ve never had a Texas city try to steal their claim to fame.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is the crown jewel of Mississippi cuisine. I will always choose a salty Gulf of Mexico oyster over any variety of oyster from the Pacific Northwest or East Coast. You want fish? We’ve got redfish, grouper, speckled trout, flounder, cobia, pompano, red snapper, yellowfin tuna, and a few hundred other species swimming at our backdoor.

Marylanders tend to cop a superior attitude when talking about crabs, but in reality— from October through March— a large portion of what they are eating in and around Baltimore is crab shipped from Mississippi waters.

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