In his Garden & Gun back-page column, End of the Line, writer Roy Blount, Jr. has waxed poetic on everything from pimento cheese to the under-appreciated mullet (the fish, not the hairstyle). For those hankering for more of Blount’s characteristic dry wit, his forthcoming book, Save Room for Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations, shares a collection of essays, songs, poems, and odes to the food he loves and loathes. As a preview, we asked Blount a few questions about writing, growing up in the South, and the food trends he could do without.
G&G: Over more than thirty years of writing, you’ve covered memorable meals, the hilarity of rutabaga, and your love of grits. Do you ever get tired of writing about food?
RB: Even if you’re not hungry, food is interesting, because you know you’re going to be hungry again before much longer. And you want to be ready.
What do writing and food have in common?
They both should provide not just visual but also oral gratification. And when you get right down to it, both are funny. Look at a potato. Try not to smile. Now look at the word “potato.” See what I mean?
In Save Room For Pie, you have pretty strong opinions in the section “The Way Folks are Meant to Eat.” Would you mind giving us the most important takeaways?
People I grew up among believed in eating as much as possible. The elders had been through the Depression, so they had to make up for lost meals, and I was a growing boy—not just entitled but obligated to eat astonishing amounts. “Where does it all go?” adults would ask approvingly. I was a magician. Not all my appetites were sanctioned, but the one for food was. And so we all talked about how good it was to eat great amounts of, say, green beans just now coming into season and fresh-caught bream that fried up particularly nice. That was the way people were meant to eat. Now, we must eat in full awareness of how we are affecting the environment, the global economy, our health, and the lives of animals that our meals depend on. That is how we are meant to eat now. But I don’t want to lose touch with the old gusto.
How did growing up in Georgia shape your views on food?
If I had grown up in Minnesota, say, I believe I would not be as fond of foods that are fried.
You live in the North now. From your vantage point above the Mason-Dixon Line, is Southern hospitality all it’s cracked up to be?
In Save Room For Pie, I touch on this question from a split-screen viewpoint you might say, taking into account what Southern hosts may say and Northern guests may, unaccountably, think Southern hosts actually mean. In fact, although I live half the year in Massachusetts, out in the country, where the hospitality is sufficient if not showy, I live the other half of the year in New Orleans, where people love to spread beautiful red-boiled crawfish out on a newspaper-covered table and say, “Come and get ‘em, suck the heads, yum yum yum.”
What’s the best Southern meal you’ve ever eaten?
All the best Southern meals I have eaten have been family style. Either in people’s homes or in restaurants like LaPrade’s boat camp on Lake Burton, Georgia, years ago, or Mrs. Wilkes’ boarding house in Savannah still today. The platters full of good hearty food just keep on coming. What we got? Plenty!
What recent food trend are you on board with?
By the time I hear about a food trend, it’s already on the way out. In Save Room for Pie, I take a courageous stand against food reduced to foam, which means foam is probably already no real threat anymore. My book does reflect an awareness, I believe, that kale has peaked.
The book includes many songs and odes to food. Can you share “Song to Oysters”?
I like to eat an uncooked oyster.
Nothing’s slicker, nothing’s moister.
Nothing’s easier on your gorge,
Or when the time comes, to dischorge.
But not to let it too long rest
Within your mouth is always best.
For if your mind dwells on an oyster,
Nothing’s slicker, nothing’s moister.
I prefer my oyster fried.
Then I’m sure my oyster died.
Save Room for Pie is out March 15.