Christmas Travels: Mobile

Christmas–it seems like such a long time ago now, doesn’t it? Especially since we’re experiencing a freakish (-ly wonderful) warm front with 70 degree temperatures and sunshine. Makes me feel all warm and cozy like those blood oranges from my mother’s tree. (Yes, I guess that’s why you live in places like Mobile, AL–blood orange trees in your backyard. Not bad, deep South, not bad.)

Other than blood oranges, though, there’s also the fantastic local seafood. One dinner’s catch was gulf shrimp and blackfish. The fish was baked with citrus, the shrimp lightly sautéed with garlic, and there you’ve got a meal featuring the best of the best of Mobile. Thank goodness for a mother who can cook, right? She’s come a long way from her Michigan fare of meat, potatoes, and a green vegetable–I’m seriously so proud of her!

Aside from food, there’s also a little menagerie that I get to visit at my mom’s house. Three cats and one dog that thinks he’s a cat. And top right? That’s totally Dorian’s sister. They look nothing alike–except for the bewildered stare. They have some of the same mannerisms though, like being super talkative and needy, which is incredible given that they haven’t seen each other since they were six weeks old or something. Miss that girl.

Oh, but how did we actually travel from New Orleans to Mobile, you want to know? Megabus, baby, Megabus.

No, really.

Megabus was all of $12/person to go one-way from New Orleans to Mobile, only took 2.5 hours, and let me knit the whole time. Heck yeah, cowl, you’re almost done! The view was pretty rockin’ from the top deck of the bus as well. I’m a convert to the bus riding world now.

Upon arriving in the city, our first order of business was to get some lunch/dinner–dang good barbecue to be exact. You may have seen this restaurant on such shows as Man vs. Food, which I abhor, but there’s a reason for it–the barbecue is just that good.

If you prefer Texas-style dry rub barbecue, then the Brick Pit isn’t for you. Heavy on the sauce, I found the pulled pork to be my favorite–juicy and smoky, the pork paired well with the tangy, chili spiced sauce. G favored the ribs which, if I could ever learn to eat ribs properly without making the biggest mess in the world, I would have agreed with. The rib meat literally fell off the bones and I was jamming on the charred bits. As for the chicken–meh. Overcooked, unfortunately. The sides weren’t bad either–the coleslaw a little pedestrian, but the beans and potato salad were outstanding. If you throw pork butt in beans, you know I’ll like it, and the potato salad was lightly dressed in a mayo dressing with herbs. Definitely unexpected, in a good way.

Fully satisfied by our barbecue feast (it’s a meal hard to come by here in Roanoke), we headed back home for an evening of football: Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions. Thankfully we won. AND I got to enjoy one of my favorite brews: SweetWater 420. Now, can we get that distributed a few states north please?

Other fantastic pre-Christmas eats? Definitely my mom’s pimento cheese (seriously, you’d never guess she’s a northerner anymore–she even said ‘ya’ll’ in my presence!) featuring sun dried tomatoes instead of pimentos. Served on her fresh baked wheat bread (toasted a little) with salad greens and cherry tomatoes, it made the best lunch I’ve had in a long time. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a sucker for pimento cheese…I swear.

I also cooked up a dinner of this Yemenite Eggplant Casserole with fresh pita bread. And the pita, to my thankful surprise, actually decided to form a few pockets while baking. A Christmas miracle to say the least. And, even better, my mom & her husband even enjoyed the eggplant. (I’m always super nervous cooking vegan for people who rarely eat vegan meals–the pressure, you know?.)

But Christmas, of course, is all about the traditional food. My mom’s candy cane danish filled with chocolate is a staple for any Christmas, as is the Christmas morning quiche. This year I made the quiche and filled it with gulf crab, caramelized onions, and swiss cheese. It was pretty awesome–sweet onions and crab tempered by the tangy cheese and buttery crust–I could definitely go for another slice right now. Christmas dinner? Pot roast. How much more Michigan can you go? But I requested it since I’ll never cook one for myself and, yes, this one took me straight down memory lane. And is there anything better than the super soft carrots that accompany a roast? But it wouldn’t be Christmas, ever, without the Gearing family tradition of Jesus’ Birthday Cake. Every year he requests the same thing: dark chocolate cake with a layer of amaretto cheesecake in between, dark chocolate icing covering the whole, heavenly creation. I may not have a sweet tooth anymore, but there’s always room in my heart (and my stomach) for a slice of that cake.

The best gift of all this Christmas–yes, even better than all that amazing food–was getting to see and hear my mother play the oboe for the first time. It’s a long story, but back in the day, my mother was the premier oboe player in all of Michigan for her age. She won every state-wide award, spent countless hours practicing and performing, was on her way to greatness. But when she met my father she dropped out of college and worked to support him. And she stopped playing. Now, years later, she’s picked the instrument up again and has started to play at church off and on. And it was a dream to hear her play Christmas carols on Christmas Eve. She played beautifully and, in many ways, it proved to me that the woman she’s become in her new life is happy and truly, for the first time in years, getting to be herself.

Damnit. I’m just so happy for her. It’s nice to see that all of life’s crappy deals can turn out ok in the end.

And I even got some blood orange marmalade out of it. Not a bad hand, Mobile, not a bad hand.

One Response to “Christmas Travels: Mobile”
  1. Monica says:

    I loved reading about your Christmas travels – I see many parallels with my own. I love hearing about the staple foods in other people’s family’s. Funny – your mom made pimento cheese; my mom made a cheese ball. I wonder if our moms would get along as well as we do. Sweet story about the oboe. Side point: I’m thinking about taking me, mom and sis on a knitting lesson as a x-mas present next year. That is all.

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