Sunday, May 20, 2012

Soul Food in Macon Georgia USA

America’s Deep South is known for soul music and soul food, and Macon, Georgia, is the place to get a taste of both. Famous in spring for the blossoms on the 300,000 cherry trees that line its streets, it’s also a city rich in southern and, in particular, African-American heritage. It’s a pretty town to explore, and full of places to enjoy old-fashioned home-cooking and hospitality.

 While the term “soul food” denotes a heartwarming style of down-home African- American cooking, it has its roots in sadder days of slavery on southern plantations. African staples such as rice, sorghum, black-eyed peas, and okra were brought across the Atlantic on slave ships. Slaves supplemented their meager diet with greens disdained by their masters: collards, kale, and turnip tops. They adopted corn, an ancient staple crop of southern Native Americans, to make sweet cornbread and grits, a coarse porridge. Poor households made do with the cheapest cuts of meat, and nothing was wasted.
The term “soul food” came into use in the 1960s, by southerners both black and white who had migrated north and missed the regional cooking they grew up with. It has evolved into more nourishing, tastier menus of tender baked ham, fried chicken and pork chops, beef stew and barbecue ribs, side dishes of okra, collards, squash, or black-eyed peas, and desserts such as sweet bread pudding or potato pie. Greens are cooked with smoked or salted meats, diced onions, vinegar, and seasonings in tasty broths, and even lowly grits have made it on to fashionable menus today, often mixed with cheese in the manner of Italian polenta.
Deep in the heart of Georgia, Macon is a good place to discover both soul food and southern culture. Its roots go back thousands of years to the ancient Native Americans who built ceremonial mounds here. The city was founded in 1823 and prospered as a market hub for surrounding farms and cotton plantations.
Handsome antebellum mansions and Victorian homes grace its historic neighborhoods. Sites like the Tubman Museum and Douglass Theatre pay tribute to Macon’s strong African-American heritage.
Macon has a great music legacy as a cradle of soul and southern rock. The Georgia Music Hall of Fame pays tribute to local boys Little Richard and Otis Redding, and others who launched their careers here.
Later, Mama Louise’s soul food (see panel, right) kept the Allman Brothers Band going when they were still struggling musicians. In Macon, a little soul food and music is all the southern comfort you need.

The thousands of Yoshino cherry trees that line Macon’s streets are a froth of white blossoms in March

Best Places to Eat Soul Food

H & H Restaurant

Soul food and music go hand in hand at H & H Restaurant in downtown Macon. It was founded in 1959 by the late Inez Hill and her goddaughter and cousin, Louise Hudson, and “Mama Louise” is still cooking up a storm and welcoming customers with her warm smile. The restaurant is situated in an unassuming red-brick building with a small sign. Inside are simple tables with red-checked tablecloths, and walls covered with autographed photos of the Allman Brothers.
Mama Louise fed the penniless band in their early days in Macon, and when they became famous, they took her on tour with them.
Otis Redding and other Macon musicians also feature on the jukebox.
The “meat-and-three” menu, which changes daily, offers main dishes such as fried chicken, roast beef, fried fish, or baked ham, accompanied by collard greens, okra, black-eyed peas, corn, and green beans. Leave room for the potato pie and other desserts. Breakfast is also served, with grits, of course, and homemade biscuits.
807 Forsyth St., Macon; open 6:30 AM–4 PM Mon–Sat;

Crispy southern-fried chicken uses crushed crackers or even cornflakes for the crunchy coating
Also in Macon
Jeneane’s at Pinebrook (; inexpensive) is another Macon restaurant where you can choose from a daily menu of tasty meats, fish, and soul-food side dishes: greens and creamed corn, rutabagas, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cheese grits. The pecan and chocolate pies are highly rated.
Also in the South
Mama Dip’s Kitchen in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (; inexpensive), features traditional country cooking in a pleasant, airy dining room with a wrap-around porch. House specialties include chicken-fried steak, pan-fried pork chops smothered in gravy, and chicken and dumplings. Swett’s (www.; inexpensive) in Nashville, Tennessee, is for anyone who loves southern cooking. Family-owned since 1954, it may feature pig’s feet or pork shoulder alongside such daily favorites as fried chicken, meatloaf, turnip greens, and fried cornbread.
In New York
Located in New York’s Harlem, Sylvia’s (; moderate) is one of the most famous soul food restaurants in America, run by fabled southern matriarch Sylvia Woods and her family. Main dishes include Southern classics like smothered chicken and pork chops, oxtail, gumbo, chitterlings, fried catfish, and short beef ribs. The Sunday Gospel lunch with live music is legendary. Macon Festivals Macon hosts several lively festivals throughout the year. Among the highlights are: International Cherry Blossom Festival The town is painted pink for this 10-day festival, held in mid-March when the blossoms are at their peak. It features concerts, events, exhibitions, food fairs, parades, and hot-air balloons. Tubman Pan Africa Festival African music and dancers, Caribbean steel bands, masquerades, and cultural demonstrations foster peace, love, hope, and unity at this April celebration. Georgia State Fair Also in April, the oldest state fair in the Southeast offers amusement park rides, agricultural exhibits, and entertainment. Ocmulgee Indian Celebration Indian nations of the Southeast gather at the Ocmulgee Monument in September to celebrate their heritage through storytelling, dancing, music, and art.

A Day in Macon 

This moderately sized city is perfect for strolling, whether admiring the cherry blossoms, nibbling on peaches and pecans from the State Farmer’s Market, or building up an appetite for the next meal.
MORNING : Explore the ancient Indian mounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument, with structures and exhibits telling the story of 10,000 years of Southeastern Native American habitation and the distinctive Mississippian culture.
AFTERNOON : Visit the Tubman African American Museum with its art, artifacts, cultural exhibits, and a huge mural depicting the journey from Africa to America. Cross the road to the exhibits of music and memorabilia in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, then wander down to the river where a statue of Otis Redding gleams in the sun.
EVENING : Take the self-guided Lights on Macon walking tour of the Historic District to see grand antebellum houses, such as magnificent Hay House (“Palace of the South”), and the pretty Lee Alumni House, with its archetypal southern verandas, lit up in all their glory.
Getting to Macon 
The closest international airport is Hartsfield- Jackson Atlanta, 80 miles (130 km) away. There are some commuter flights to Middle Georgia Regional Airport, 10 miles (16 km) from Macon. Renting a car is recommended.
Where to stay in Macon
Ramada Plaza (inexpensive) has a pool and is a short walk from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Marriott Macon City Center (moderate) is conveniently located for the downtown historic sites.
1842 Inn (expensive) has romantic rooms in an antebellum mansion.
Downtown Visitors Center, 450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd;

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