Chuck Reece and three partners launched The Bitter Southerner in 2013 to tell the stories of a new(er) South. The weekly web magazine won the Egerton Prize from the Southern Foodways Alliance honoring "artists, writers, scholars and others, whose work addresses issues of race, class, gender, and social and environmental justice, through the lens of food.” Reece’s career began and has returned to journalism, but has zig-zagged over the years through politics, corporate communication and design.
What was the food highlight of your year?
Eating Frank Stitt's quail pie at Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham. I'd never had the chance to eat there, even though I'd been hearing about the place for 30 years. But that pie ... oh, my goodness. I actually wrote a little about it in a story:
When I was young, my daddy’s greatest pleasure was quail hunting. I grew up with my stroller guarded by his hunting dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Rusty, who, after my mom, was the great love of my father’s life. The delicate meat of those little birds was part of my childhood.
That night at Highlands, I had an appetizer of Stitt’s quail pie. In the kitchen, they’d braised a bunch of quail until the meat fell off their bones. They added vegetables to the braising liquid, cooked it down and thickened it. Then they added back the quail meat and poured the whole mess into a perfect, lard-enriched pie crust with a beautiful brown lattice on top.
It was perfect. It was like they’d cooked cherished moments of my own history and fed them back to me.
What was the music highlight of your year?
I was just overjoyed to hear so much great music coming out of the South — across every genre. It's amazing how much great stuff comes out of this region. But the single musical highlight of my year was probably something that happened last week. I saw Patterson Hood perform a song at Eddie's Attic called "What It Means." He had written the song the night riots broke out in Ferguson, Mo., after the grand jury there refused to indict the policeman who killed Michael Brown. Patterson had posted the lyrics that night, at about midnight, on his Facebook page, and certain of his fans just pilloried him for it in their comments. One of them even told him, "I hope you get shot by a cop." God almighty. It was a beautiful song, straight from the heart of an artist who was trying to make sense of what he was seeing. But to see him do it for the very first time in public — he had to put on his glasses so he could read the lyrics off a music stand as he played — was just tremendous. What made it more tremendous was that he preceded the song by addressing the "fan" who had wished him death at the hands of a policeman. "I got kids, man," he said. "Don't come to any more of my shows. Don't buy my records. I don't want your fucking money." Blew me away.
Was there a moment when food and music came together in a memorable way?
At the Fall Boogie in Waverly, Ala. Great barbecue from Jim and Nick's. Great music from a bunch of wonderful bands. Great atmosphere in one of the coolest unknown little towns in America.