The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

Birmingham and Southern Living

Would you think less of me if I confessed that I didn’t know there were mountains in Birmingham, Alabama? Well, big hills, anyway. What a beautiful town! Em and I had such a wonderful time eating and sight-seeing our way around for, oh, about 18 hours.

We stayed at The Aloft Hotel. Very contemporary with yummy beds. It was also across the street from Tutti Frutti, a yougurt shop where you serve yourself. That’s right, heap on the toppings, Honey. After you build your creation, it’s weighed to determine how much you owe. I think it’s a little wrong that they use a scale to determine its weight right in front of you. Red Velvet Cake yogurt with crushed Oreo’s, chopped up Kit Kat and just a touch of Ghirardelli caramel add up in a hurry.  In more ways than one.

For dinner, we met my friend who took us to The Club. The view overlooking Birmingham was spectacular. Not to mention the hummus and the bibb rolls. And the mushroom risotto.  Interesting tidbit…the producer for the movie Staying Alive grew up in Birmingham and modeled the famous dance floor in the movie with lighted blocks of color after the dance floor in the main dining room there. As my friend, standing on yellow, was telling us about this, the song Staying Alive was growing in my head. It was like someone was slowly turning up the volume as she made her way to the punch line.  Louder, louder, louder until it was all I could do not to burst out with Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. If this etiquette business doesn’t work out, I may just call her up, see if she wants to take that show on the road.

For breakfast the next morning, we ate at Another Broken Egg. It was just as yummy as the beds at The Aloft. And, we saw the cutest couple. Had to be in their 80’s. She was wearing a lavender suit, her long gray hair up in a bun, slingbacks with a square heel, nude pantyhose, pearls around her neck with pearl and gold ear screws. Screws, not clips. I was immediately thrown back to my great grandmother’s bedroom playing with her pearls and ear screws and anxiously awaiting the day it would take me more than 5 minutes to be ready to walk out the door. (Be careful what you wish for, right?) He, the perfect gentleman, was starched and creased. We overheard them discussing what they would be having for breakfast and, get this…when the server got to their table, he ordered for her. When done right (and he did it right), it’s not a show and it doesn’t scream I’m in charge, it’s a nicety. It’s sweet.  It’s thoughtful. Guys should learn how to do this. Honestly, that 82 year old gentleman had me swooning.

And then…the highlight of our trip…we toured the Southern Living headquarters. My life is now complete. I can die a happy woman. Well, after that man from the breakfast place teaches The Hubs how to order my breakfast for me using my name, describing my eggs the way I like them and does it with a twinkle in his eye AND after touring the Southern Living headquarters, I can die a happy woman.  As we walked from the reception area toward the offices and the TK (that’s SL lingo for Test Kitchen), we could begin to smell the smell we all aspire to produce when we dare to try a SL recipe. I didn’t smell the first bag of burned popcorn in this office, that’s for sure. It was heavenly.

Every person we met was so friendly! The photographer who was shooting a bowl of cut up melon with chopped mint didn’t seem to mind at all that we were salivating on her props. It was the color coordination that was driving me insane. And the perfectly ironed napkins. There was an entire rolling cart full of props that I just wanted to pick up and rub my cheek against. It looks so simple, yet…as we all know…not.  We spent the most time in the Test Kitchen where, again, everyone was so willing to let us gawk and drool. We even met the lady who produced the white cake on this month’s cover! I asked her a couple of very intelligent questions, naturally. She was kind enough to act like they were that, anyway.  

Personally, I’m typically intimidated by a SL recipe unless it has 5 or fewer ingredients. Not anymore and here’s why. One of the first things I realized as we walked into these kitchens is that they are so normal! They don’t look anything like the gourmet ones featured in the Homes section of their magazine. They use a regular, everyday Whirlpool oven and a regular, everyday Weber grill. I finally had to say, “Ya’ll are killing me with the McCormick spices and the Arm & Hammer baking soda! I was expecting something really fancy!” (I didn’t say it exactly like that.) Their response was very matter-of-fact. “Of course not. We cook like the average person cooks using what the average person can get at Kroger or Publix.” Well, how about that.

So, I left Birmingham and Southern Living inspired to do 2 things.

1)      I am going to brush up on that little added touch that can make a person feel special. I probably won’t order breakfast for The Hubs, but I might work out a system to remember facts about people I meet so I can ask them about what’s going on in their life the next time I see them.

2)      I am going to be more willing to try things that, at first glance, look too hard. I’m going to dub my kitchen the TK more often, I’m going to organize the shelves in my office and I’m going to start learning how to speak Spanish.

Now, I want to know. What are you inspired to do?

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2 responses to “Birmingham and Southern Living

  1. Jay Remer November 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

    What a fun experience you had; and to do it with your daughter must have been so cool! I love trying new recipes. I am compiling a family cookbook and testing the recipes is part of the job. So my kitchen becomes a TK from to time. One sees food from a different perspective. Throw in a couple of TV cameras and you have yourself a great chance to see just how well the final result feels! In the end, Arm & Hammer and McCormick’s can make you a star! Thanks for sharing and leaving so many wonderful tips!

  2. Tara Poole November 19, 2010 at 11:45 am

    After the passing of my paternal grandfather in April, I inherited his and my late grandmother’s set of bedroom furniture. I was inspired to refinish the pieces, which included two bedside tables, a dresser with mirror and a chest-of-drawers. This was no easy task either considering I had never done anything like that before! It took me until just the other day to complete the project, even working in the sweltering 100 degree summer temperatures. But the end result is absolutely beautiful and I am amazed that I actually did it! But the truly wonderful part is that their memories are preserved to be passed down to future generations and that I had a hand in continuing that legacy.

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