I have to start this post by going over an email exchange I recently had with a reader. I think it was quite enlightening on both sides from various reasons. He sent me a message asking if there was still spots available in the workshop Tami, Mindi and I are teaching in Birmingham, Alabama in July. (details here) My answer was a resounding and honest “Yes! Would love to see you there!” and here is part of the exchange that ensued that made me profoundly sad and just as excited.
Him: that’s great! But why on earth Birmingham, Alabama?!!
Me: ? what do you mean?
Him: it’s A-la-ba-ma. Ugh…
Me: hey! I live here now! Have you ever been to Birmingham? Alabama?
Me: then why the prejudice? Preconception?
Him: I so wish you had it in Atlanta, like the one in April.
Me: so you’ve been in Atlanta? Georgia?
Me: seriously now. Why not Alabama?!
Him: you know, history and stuff. People. Not much happening there.
It went on a bit longer but I will spare you the dialogue format.
Yes. Alabama has a troubled past. So does Georgia. So does South Carolina from where I hailed. So do many states in the US. So what…? It made Alabama history that much richer. Its residents that much aware of the outside view the rest of the world has on them and their desire to prove it wrong that much stronger. I am proud new Alabama resident. I have fallen completely in love with Birmingham and the state surrounding this amazing growing city.
Troubled past makes your present. Your present does not have to follow suit to your past however. Birmingham is full of life, full of neighborhoods vibrant with people casually meeting up for a glass of wine on their back deck or walking over to the nearest neighborhood par or restaurant. Pockets of life, bursting with creativity. Artists, galleries, studios. A music scene bursting at the seam. Many a James Beard nominated and winnning chefs. The food… Oh my, the food. Alabama is not red pick up trucks and barbecue. It is. But it’s also so much more…
One thing that struck me about Birmingham was not only the incredible food scene and how friendly people were (and I come from friendly city Charleston…and we got nothing on Birmingham. Trust me!), but how lush, pristine, clean and green the city was. And how much it was nothing like I thought. And I am sure a lot of us thought. And think. Still. That conversation with a reader is not new or unusual. I am happy to change their minds or at least show them some of the attributes that this city bears.
Birmingham hosts Southern Living magazine, Cooking Light magazine, Oxmoor House, Hoffman publications and numerous crazy talented photographers, food stylists and prop stylists. And I had no idea about that either when I got a call to consider a photo position there. And I was blown away. And so happy to be in this mecca of talents. Both culinary and visual.
If there is one city to discover on your map this year, Birmingham should definitely be it. If there is creativity boiling inside of you but no one to help you harness, shape and deliver it, this city definitely deserves a second look. And more. It’s almost ridiculous to me how much Birmingham has to offer and that I find myself in the midst of it. Yep. Call me a proud new resident.
So, would you join us for a weekend of learning, sharing techniques, tips? Tami, Mindi and myself can’t wait to see you here. Where arts of all forms meet and create. Where Southern charm intertwines with urban sophistication. Some spots are still available. Details HERE.
In the meantime, I am leaving you with one of my favorite cakes. The first one my grandmother taught me how to bake. The quintessential “Gateau Citron Au Yaourt” or Lemon Yogurt Cake.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake:
Makes 12 muffin size cakes or two 8-inch cakes.
Notes: you can use regular all purpose flour for this or you favorite gluten free mix to equal two cups flour total. Most recipes call for canola or vegetable oil but olive oil is what we prefer. It adds a more pungent flavor to the cakes which I like.
For the cakes:2 large eggs1/2 cup granulated sugar3/4 cup olive oil (don’t skimp on the quality)1 cup plain yogurt (low or full fat)zest and juice of a lemon1 cup rice flour1/2 cup millet flour1/2 cup sorghum flour1 tablespoon baking powderpinch of salt
Prepare the mini cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350F and line cupcake tins with cupcake liners, slightly brush the inside olive oil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice and zest and whisk again so that everything is well mixed. Add the rice flour, millet flour, sorghum flour, baking powder and salt and mix until the batter is smooth. (You can do this in a stand mixer if desired)
Divide among the muffin tins, filling no more than 2/3 of the way up. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out free of crumbs.
For the summer berries:
Mix together 1/2 cup each blackberries, pitted and halved cherrries and raspberries.
Toss with 1 tablespoon honey and let sit for 20 minutes. Serve with the cakes.