We’ve had a grand time, these past few months, eating our way around the Magnolia State of Mississippi. Travel, eat, travel, eat. Tough life, huh? We haven’t had much time to write about everything, but we’re putting together a great series of articles chronicling our trips with recommendations of some serious grub and cool things to do and see.
I have long heard of this magical elixir, but I’ve never tasted it.
Maybe that day is coming soon — I hope!
LOUISE, Miss. — Hoover Lee’s small batch honey-brown Mississippi Delta marinade imparts a flavor that reflects its maker — a dash of the Deep South with nuanced notes of Asia.
“My main thing was trying to get a sauce that tasted like roasted Cantonese duck — that type of taste,” the 73-year-old native of China says in a booming baritone with a distinctively Southern cadence.
And that blending of cultures has proved hugely popular, despite Lee’s unwillingness to market by more than word of mouth.
It’s also putting this fading farm town of about 300 people on the culinary map. Recipes and stories featuring the sauce have appeared in regional newspapers and magazines, and Southern Living magazine recently named it an editors’ pick.
“It’s surprising to me that it’s beginning to move fast,” says Lee, who has been concocting the sauce from a secret recipe and selling it out of his Lee Hong Co. general store since the early 1980s. “In the past I’ve just been dealing with local people.”
Now he even gets recognized on the street 1 1/2 hours away in Jackson.
“‘That’s Mr. Hoover, the Hoover Sauce man,’” Lee says he often overhears people say. “It was just a hobby that turned into a working hobby now. I’ve just been blessed.”
Salty and sweet
Hoover Sauce blends the saltiness of soy sauce with the sweetness of, well … Lee won’t say. Whatever it is, it works magic with chicken and baby back ribs, and he says people drive for miles to get it.
Though he has yet to sell Hoover Sauce online, Lee increasingly finds himself packing up jugs of it to ship to customers around the country and beyond. He’s sent it as far west as Hawaii and as far east as France.
“You know, the guy could make a damn fortune if he’d market it,” says Billy Ray Adams, a Hoover Sauce customer who uses it on steak, ribs, hamburgers, wings, pork, venison sausage and nearly anything else.
Lee seems about as versatile as his sauce. In a region not known for prosperity or for a tolerance for minorities in the past, he not only has run a successful business in a town where few remain, he also served as the community’s mayor and an alderman for many years.
Lee was born in 1933 in the Canton region of China, but less than a year later he and his family moved to Mississippi, where his father had run a store since 1917. Tensions between China and Japan prompted the return to the U.S.
Running the store
After a stint in the Army and graduation with a business degree from Mississippi State University, Lee returned to Louise at his father’s request to take over the family store. He decided to honor his parents after his brothers declined to return to Louise.
“I said, ‘I tell you what, I’ll come back here for five years. I’ll run it for five years,’” Lee says. “And I’ve been here ever since.”
Today, the store is one of the few remaining businesses in Louise. Several Chinese families carved out lives in the area as storeowners, but most have since moved on. The Lees stayed, saying they found a greater acceptance than others in the Delta.
Lee gave the store to his sons in 1997, but the Hoover Sauce hasn’t let him slow down. Not only won’t he say what’s in it, he makes it himself and hesitates to even show outsiders the room where he mixes it.
“Visualize,” he says. “I have a line of mixers, which I use to blend basically soy sauce plus a sweetener and other spices.”
Even his wife must mostly visualize. She’s not allowed to help make it.
“No, I just have to clean the pots and the pans,” the 70-year-old said. “He loves it. He does it all himself. I can’t even fuss about the area. He keeps it a mess, but I clean up behind him.”
Lee became interested in cooking watching his mother and sisters, and the men who cooked stir-fry at parties held by the area’s Chinese families. He began his search for the right sauce after sampling several uneven attempts at Cantonese duck.
“Some would hit the mark and some wouldn’t,” Lee said.
He refined his sauce during the 1970s, when he first got into local politics and often found himself cooking for volunteer firefighters and church gatherings. Only later, after many requests from fans, did he consider selling it.
Today, he sells it in quart-size glass canning jars and large plastic jugs for $6.95 a quart or $21.50 a gallon. He sells enough to keep him busy, but doesn’t track exactly how much he moves in a year.
The sauce draws folks such as Alan Holditch, of Jackson. Holditch mixes the marinade with honey, then spreads it on steaks while grilling. He stocks up every few months, when his job takes him to Louise.
“I’ll stop and get a gallon,” Holditch says. “We’ve got so many friends that use it, it doesn’t take me long to get rid of a gallon. Once every three or four months I’ll have to get another gallon.”
If you can’t get down to Louise, Miss., to get a jar of Hoover Lee’s sweet and salty Hoover Sauce, he suggests making a similar marinade out of bottled hoisin sauce (check the grocer’s Asian section), onion powder, minced fresh garlic and chopped fresh cilantro.
Hoover’s Chicken Drummettes
Start to finish: 40 minutes
3 pounds chicken wings
2 cups Hoover Sauce (or similar sweet-and-salty marinade)
2 cups cold water
1 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard powder (more or less to taste)
Place the chicken wings in a large stockpot. Add the Hoover Sauce or other marinade and cold water. If the liquid doesn’t completely cover the chicken, add more water. Bring the chicken to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 12 minutes. Remove the chicken, drain well and discard the liquid.
While the chicken simmers, make the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup and mustard powder. Set aside.
In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of oil over medium heat until it reaches about 350 degrees. Carefully add the chicken in a single layer (you may need to cook in batches) and fry until just starting to brown, turning for even cooking, about 4 minutes.
Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping sauce.
— Recipe from Hoover Lee, maker of Hoover Sauce in Louise, Miss.
The delicious pickle mix you see above was purchased at Hazel’s Farm Market in Daphne, AL. The pickles are made with TLC in Gautier (pronounced Go-Shay), MS. I haven’t seen them in the local grocery stores, but several roadside produce stands and restaurants carry them. I have even seen them for sale at The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs, MS. Seek them out — they are really tasty. Spicy but not too hot, very fresh! Contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 228 369-9642.
Another specialty item we really dig is the Coconut Cake from Dean’s Cake House in Andalusia, AL. It is moist and loaded with flaky coconut. One bite will transport you back to the days when Granny crafted cakes like this. I’m told they also make a mean Red Velvet Cake and the traditional Southern Hummingbird Cake. Can’t wait to try those out. Dean’s has a web site so please take a look at www.deanscakehouse.com
In a perfect world this guy, not Britney Spears & P. Diddy, would be HUGE!
They also have more fun than anyone else — figure it out & make your choices. You can live to be old, grumpy and flatulent or die young and leave a good looking corpse.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Louisiana has displaced Mississippi as the unhealthiest U.S. state and other Southern states were close rivals due to high obesity and smoking rates in new rankings that deemed Vermont the healthiest.
The overall health of Americans remained static for a fourth year, according to an annual report issued on Wednesday assessing a series of measures also including binge drinking, health insurance coverage, air pollution, infectious disease rates, crime levels and immunization coverage.
Many Southern states were clustered near the bottom of the rankings. The region has some of the highest rates of obesity, which contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer, as well as high rates of smoking, which causes cancer, lung disease, heart disease and other problems.
One in five Louisianians lacked health insurance, while 31 percent were obese. It also suffers from high child poverty, infant mortality, premature death rate and cancer deaths, according to the report.
“We’ve just not made any improvement in the overall healthiness of the nation,” said Dr. Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health insurer, and the private United Health Foundation.
The foundation, American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention advocacy group put together the 19th annual state-by-state rankings.
It was the second straight year that Vermont topped the rankings. It was followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Idaho and Maine.
Louisiana fell from 49th to 50th, replacing Mississippi. Rounding out the bottom 10 were South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada and Georgia.
California, the most populous state, ranked 24th and New York 25th.
Vermont, with the second smallest population of any state, had the third-highest public health spending and an obesity rate of 22 percent, four points below the national average.
It also had low child poverty and violent crime, a large number of doctors per capita and good high school graduation rates.
Hawaii had similarly low obesity, the highest public health spending, little air pollution, low rates of uninsured people, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations and low rates of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Mississippi led the nation in obesity at 33 percent of the population, while Colorado was lowest at 19 percent.
President-elect Barack Obama and leading lawmakers want to engineer a major reform of U.S. health care, which leaves 45.7 million people without coverage while costing more than any other national health system.
The United States trails many other industrialized nations in infant mortality, life expectancy, mortality for treatable conditions and overall health care system performance.
Great clip, but sadly a lost art.
Nobody is making music like this anymore. Shame!
From Publishers Weekly
The warm, languid air of the South filters through this engaging book, in which Foose shares the traditional recipes that she ate while growing up on the Mississippi Delta and has returned to after training as a pastry chef in France and traveling the world. Gently humorous stories about family and friends form a seamless part of her instructions for community recipes like Strawberry Missionary Society Salad, as well as pleasant surprises like Tabbouleh, Curried Sweet Potato Soup, and Chinese Grocery Roast Pork that take Southern food beyond stereotypes. Fried chicken and grits do appear, but for such classics Foose emphasizes relatively simple, wholesome preparations that are rich without loading on more butter and oil than necessary. Although recipes for Gumbo Z’Herbs, Chile Lime Skirt Steak, and creamy succotash are mouthwatering enough just to read about, many cooks will be tempted to flip straight to the last chapters, where her enticing breads and pastries provide the book with a winning flourish. The cook may be Southern, but the appeal of the dishes she presents should reach well beyond people who grew up in the land of four-hour lunches and sweet tea savored on a porch swing.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
6 (6-ounce) U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 sprigs fresh dill
1 lemon, sliced into 6 thin rounds
1. With nonstick cooking spray, lightly spray all over the outside of six lunch-size paper sacks. The bags should be slightly translucent after spraying. Cut six 8-inch lengths of butcher’s twine. Set aside.
2. Adjust the racks in the oven, placing one in the lowest slot and one in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
3. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the garlic, salt, oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
4. Place the catfish in a single layer in a dish. Pour the sauce evenly over the fish, and then sprinkle with the pepper. Place one dill sprig and one lemon slice on each fillet. Gently slide each fillet into each paper sack. Gather the mouth of the bag and give it a twist, then tie with twine.
5. Place three bags on a large rimmed baking sheet and the other three on another baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, halfway through reversing the pans. Serve at once, placing an inflated sack on each dinner plate. For maximum effect, slice open the bags at the table.
The sacks can be assembled and refrigerated 1 hour before baking. Add 5 minutes to the baking time if the sacks are coming right out of the fridge.
For added flavor and to round out the meal, place a few blanched asparagus spears beneath the fish and a thin slice of prosciutto or country ham draped across the top of the fish in each bag before baking.
This same dish can be prepared with fennel and oranges in place of the lemon and dill.
To learn more about Martha and her schedule of upcoming events, visit marthafoose.com.
We just stumbled upon this post on the Southern Foodways Alliance web site …
On Thursday evening, October 23, the band One Ring Zero will appear on a special edition of Thacker Mountain Radio at 6pm in the Nutt Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus. This event will be open to the public. In addition to musical guests One Ring Zero and Andy Friedman, this special edition of Thacker Mountain Radio will also feature poet Kevin Young and writer Ken Wells. Later that evening One Ring Zero will play at Proud Larry’s, located at 211 South Lamar Blvd.
Led by Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp, One Ring Zero is a Brooklyn, New York, band described by The New Yorker as the creators of “soundscapes that are both haunting and entertaining.”
“Oxford is one of our favorite places to play, and we jumped on this chance immediately,” said founding member Hearst, a composer, multi-instrumentalist and writer. “We thought it would be fun to tie in with the symposium and do a song based on graffiti from Taylor Grocery.”
In past albums, they have focused on literary themes and have featured collaborations with authors such as Jonathan Lethem. Their latest effort sets its sights on food and features the likes of Mario Batali. “Every song is a different recipe from a different chef, sung word for word,” said Hearst. “It is pretty ridiculous and fun.”
Learn more about these righteous dudes at www.oneringzero.com
On Saturday, November 17, 2007, a historical marker was placed
on Farish Street in Jackson Mississippi, along the Mississippi Blues
Trail, to commemorate the site of The Record Mart. The Record Mart was
owned by Webb’s Aunt and Uncle, Lillian and Willard McMurry, founders of
are remembered for their fair dealing and warm relationships with the
artists both black and white, gospel and secular. This was at a time
when many similar labels were known to be cold, opportunistic and
officials. This is a historic occasion and a huge honor for Trumpet’s
memory and a testament to their lasting contribution to the blues! Other
recently added blues markers include one in McComb to honor Bo Diddley.