The Hairy Bikers strive to find the best of the Deep South, in their latest edible escapade around the globe.
Music, culture and food were on the menu with the Hairy Bikers' latest culinary adventure. Here Si and Dave talk fondly of jambalaya, gumbo and cajun treats, all washed down with a backdrop of blues, and a big serving of Southern hospitality. You can catch the boys in their latest TV show Mississippi Adventures, which starts on the Good Food channel on Sunday 19th August 2012, at 9pm.
**Q: What did you know about the Deep South before the series? Did you have any preconceptions? **
***Dave:*** We definitely had a few preconceptions and prejudices when it came to the food. We've both been on holiday to the West Coast and East Coast. But what was great about this was that we found the most amazing food culture, the most amazing music culture. Throw in two motorbikes and we had the most amazing roadtrip.
***Si:** *I knew about the music culture but I didn't know just how alive it was. It's the lifeblood of every city we went to. Over here we go to see music in a venue, but over it's there in the streets. It's alive and it breaths. Some of the best musicians around perform in bars in New Orleans every night of the week.
**Q: The Deep South is often said to be more of a state of mind than a place. Did you find that? **
***Dave:*** Definitely. You can see the roots of Spanish in the food, with the paella that became the jambalaya; the French brought bouillabaisse and now it's gumbo; then you have the Creole influence with the Negro slaves and spice they brought along. Then you can talk about the Cajun style and fire cooking, which was the first barbecue. You go up to Memphis and there are barbecue restaurants. And then you have the soul food coming in on a pincer movement, then country food that comes off the land. And then the music, with the delta blues in the south. Everything ties into everything else.
***Si:*** There was a lovely lady we met who told us that the Big Easy is whatever it is to you. Everyone takes a piece of the Big Easy away from them, whether it be an emotional experience or a musical one or a food one. She also told us that the Big Easy belongs to you as much as it belongs to me or someone else. It's a generosity of spirit. It was fabulous. Dave: We got it by the bucket-load. The restaurants and chefs were so giving. And the musicians... we got to see some amazing musicians play and they told us about who they were and what they were about. We met Little Freddie King, one of the last of the delta blues men, who sat there on the shore in his zoot suit talking about juke joints.
**Q: You've travelled a lot. What surprised you most about the food in the Deep South? **
***Si:*** What's interesting about that part of America is that it has such a massive influence on the rest of the world, especially with the music. Because it has a relatively short history, neither of us appreciated the depth of culture. American's aren't very good at exporting that depth of culture - we always take on the trash. There's not one genre of music we listen to in this country that doesn't have its roots in that part of the world, and also the relationship with this music and food was intrinsically linked. That was big thing for us.
***Dave:*** The food is very localised over there. You don't go anywhere for a coffee and a beignet other than New Orleans. The Cajun shrimp is unique to Lafayette. And the beer was a revelation. Some of them were as hoppy as anything Burton-On-Trent has ever brewed.
**Q: Did you find any similarities between the regional food of the Deep South and Britain? **
***Si:*** There are artisan producers in the States and there are artisan producers in the UK too. They both want to reference their own geography, because that's the story. There are huge similarities to be drawn but the ingredients are different.
***Dave:** *The mix of ingredients in the UK is mad. We've really embraced a lot of things, and we love curry and Chinese food. In America you get things like soul food, which came out of the plantations. People were eating whatever they could and it was a hard life. Greens, turnip tops, fried chicken. It was a cuisine born out of necessity, but it's so tasty. And that's what we found - even if it was food for sustenance, it still had yum factor. We went to a place called Arnold's in Nashville, which was a 'meat and three' place. You got your meats like beef, brisket, ham or chicken and it was just really good, simple roasted meat. Dolly Parton goes there.
**Q: What were your highlights from the trip? **
***Si:*** We met a lady called Elaine Turner in Memphis, who's part of the most arrested family in the States because of her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. That was a big highlight. And of course there was the visit to Stax Records, home of Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Bobby Blue Bland... you name it.
***Dave:*** On one side of the street you had Sun records, and just up the road there was Stax Records. We met George Klein, who went to school with Elvis and was with him when cut his first records. He showed us where he stood when he recorded Blue Moon Of Kentucky. It was incredible. We couldn't resist belting out a bit of Heartbreak Hotel. Being there at the place where soul music was born sent tingles up your spine.
*Hairy Bikers’ Mississippi Adventure is new and exclusive to Good Food Sundays at 9pm until 23rd September (Sky 247 / Virgin 260)*