In commemoration of the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (no, I do not watch this show or any other show for that matter－we have a Firestick and internet only. No, not a fully loaded, or even partially loaded one, just the basic one where you pay for add-ons and subscriptions. Let me back track, I did pay for the last 3 seasons of being Mary Jane because I LOVE MARY JANE PAUL. She is me, I am her, we are Pauletta (in my soul at least). Okay, and I have paid for the past 2 sessions of How to get Away with Murder but haven’t committed to splurging on the current season).
Back to the matter at hand! I didn’t blog about it, but I spent two weekends in a row in Atlanta this part September－can you believe that it’s already November? Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving.
Euphoria rings through my food-loving flesh at the thought of dressing
With cranberry sauce
And cornbread baked to golden brown perfection in a cured, cast iron skillet
Cooked to amazingness, and generously spiced with the perfect combination of sugar, nutmeg, vanilla extract, cinnamon and butter
Baked macaroni and cheese with crispy edges－although I am definitely lactose-intolerant and aware of the fact that my stomach will be bloated and I’ll be the one sneaking around letting off little stink bombs wherever I stand
Fried corn－like only my adorable dear (translation: grandmother－the matriarch of the Smith family) can prepare it
Lasagna－my mom makes this dish (she can’t really cook for real, so she has mastered this one thing)
Savory sweet potato pie with my secret ingredients－ginger and a hint of cayenne powder, only because I SUCK at keeping secrets
Of course there is turkey, ham and whatever other meats are prepared, but I love the sides and fill up on them, with several helpings, and have no room for meats
And a consolation prize for all of the random, “you should’ve left that at home” items people waste their time cooking and carrying to my grandmother’s, as if anyone except for them and their sad children will eat it when you have dears food as the alternative. You get a heartfelt thank you
Back to Atlanta. I accidentally drove 13 hours (one way) to Atlanta to attend a conference that wasn’t until… the following weekend. So of course I had to return the next weekend for the originally intended trip. During weekend one, to avoid it being an epic fail, I visited Old Lady Gang with my mother (who took the waste of a trip with me).
Upon arrival, we joined the line of about 15 other people－we arrived about 15 minutes before they opened.
It was a hot day in Atlanta, however being from Milwaukee (where it had started to cool) I didn’t complain about having to wait in the sun. As my mom and I basked in the sun rays that caused sweat beads to trickle down my spine, we could hear others complain about how hot it was. I personally tried to ignore the griping because a) I’m from Wiscansin, home of 8 month winters and b) I was trying to stay positive－Charlie Brown womp, womp discourage me NOT!
Finally we were inside and seated.
I won’t waste time on decor because… it looked like a restaurant, it was clean, I didn’t go there for decorative inspiration－really it was hot outside and by the time we got in my vision was half blurred and I could barely make out where I was. NO. JUST KIDDING about the last part.
We were sat by a friendly host and immediately my eyes were glued to the menu. By this time, it was after 10:15 am. I had not eaten breakfast. My stomach was giving me verbal reminders that we needed nourishment to sustain.
Seated next to us, two hilarious women who I’m assuming had just come from church. How can you make that assumption? They had on makeup and church clothes (translation: Sunday’s Best, they were suited and booted, looking rather fancy, dressed to impress, a step higher than job interview fashions) but again, I was in Atlanta and it almost seemed like Black people there only had closets full of Sunday’s Best. Not a casual Fashion Nova Netflix & Chill set in sight.
It was Sunday. Late morning. You know what that means…BRUNCH! millennials and nay (they) mommas love brunch－Mimosa me please (requested through puckered, semi-sophisticated lips).
Because we were in ATL I knew the brunch would be “southern inspired”. No problem.
Macaroni & Cheese
And as an appetizer, the fried deviled eggs
Chicken and Waffles
Along with Mimosas, we ordered sweet peach tea.
In the section we were seated in (closest to the bar) the seats are placed within close proximity to each other. Unless you are a turtle, you are seated so closely, you’re almost forced to communicate with your neighbors. I saw this as a plus. As a little caterpillar still peering out of my cocoon that’s disintegrating because it’s time for me to come out, I saw it as a helpful nudge towards social engagement.
I laughed and conversed with my neighbors and vuala! The deviled eggs appeared.
They were beautiful, golden, and hot! It was clear that whichever chef was at that prep station was playing no (clap) games (claps)－ I introduced this manner of speech in an earlier blog, feel free to hit the link to read it and acquaint yourself. Clap explanation
The problem is, I am a young foodie.
I can cook.
I do cook.
I do cook well.
I go to restaurants, savor the flavor of dishes I enjoy, go home and recreate them, adding my own touches to take them to what I think is the next level, and keep practicing until the dish is incredible
Deviled eggs, I have already mastered. The fried factor was something new to me and I was ready to experience it, then replicate its goodness at home
I tried my best to lay my preconceived notions aside and fall in love with the dish
It didn’t happen.
I am Black
Black people, eat soul food
It’s a treat and a stable
Most Black people in Milwaukee are migrants of the south by way of the Great Migration
Our grandparents and great-grandparents moved to Milwaukee when it was booming with manufacturing jobs
With them they carried gleeful southern spirits, and the recipes that kept them close to Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and other southern states.
When soul food is made at home with love, patience, a good story and a football game on TV, it is hard to top
While White people eat average (or just below) soul food and marvel, salivate and go on and on about it (we have a couple of basic soul food joints in Milwaukee in the suburbs, where the clientele doesn’t know better); Black people call bulls** and can only be got, that one time.
Fool me one time, shame on you. Fool me twice can’t put the blame on you – J. Cole
I wanted to be taken back to my dear’s circular, wood grain kitchen table
I wanted to rest my bum comfortably in the cushioned seat I always sat in just in front of the window
I waited to feel the gust of the breeze on my shins as I swung by little legs back and forth, in food heaven, excited about how good the deviled eggs were
It didn’t happen
While the yoke was whipped beautifully, the fried exterior added nothing to the dish. It was bland. As if the egg was dipped in white, all-purpose flour and dropped in hot oil until it looked pretty. For me, it added only a slight texture variation that compromised the addition of flavor and I could have done without it.
Of course I shared it with my table mates to my right who agreed.
Hot corn muffins with honey
the staple of a soul food dinner
My dear is from Mississippi
She can cook in her sleep
Cornbread being a centerpiece that she’d perfected
The corn muffin at Old Lady Gang was again, gorgeous
It was apparent to me that they weren’t in the back setting off any smoke alarms
Not that it was a bad thing, but, the corn muffin was sweet
It was discussed among my small crew (they were promoted from table mates, to my crew by this point) and the verdict was
The chefs simply doctored up a batch of Jiffy cornbread mix with cornmeal and plenty of sugar
Now for the record, I didn’t totally agree with that call
It could’ve been Glory Day’s (another brand of soul food fixin’s that can be purchased at a local grocer)
What I didn’t understand, was what I was supposed to do with honey
I was already eating cornbread cake, how much sweeter did it need to be?!
I ate one muffin and let my mom enjoy the rest
The main course was placed in front of me and again, I thought it was (you guess…) beautiful!
All of the food was pretty, at least at my crew’s table.
I will admit ret now (right now), I do not like fried chicken
Why would you order it then?
I like the fried skin of fried chicken
YES, enough to order it!
So, being that the skin is the most important part to me, it was good. It housed every ounce of the seasoning.
This is a rookie mistake when frying chicken
Although I don’t enjoy chicken, I do know that you must season the chicken, as well as the batter used for the skin. That’s chicken 101!
Maybe the favorite ingredient of the chef was sugar, so other seasonings were pushed to the back row.
I bit into the chicken thigh that was juicy, tender and bland
On to the next item, the collard greens
I love collard greens
I eat them for breakfast
I have sautéed them and prepared them for lunch
And of course I can hook up a mean pot of them for dinner
The greens in my shiny white bowl smelled and looked amazing
Forest green with chunks of pork throughout
I anticipated the flavor marrying my tongue and went in to say I do…
The chef was two favorite ingredients
Salt & Sugar
My crew warned by that several reviews talked about how salty the greens were
At that moment I decided, that was the taste they were going for and moved on
But first a few sips of my intro to diabetes sweet tea (it was good though)
Next, macaroni and cheese!
I love baked macaroni and cheese!
My favorite part is the outer crust that forms along the edge where the cheese meets the baking pan. That’s nirvana in a baking dish
This mac & cheese was cheesy
Yep and that’s that, that’s all I recall about it and I only had about 2-3 forkfuls of it
Old Lady Gang (possibly because of its newness) brings out and joins people from all over
It was great sitting next to women from Atlanta, talking to them about the city, the changes, the positive things that are happening and authentically showing pride for their home
It was great to smile and laugh with black women over a sub-par brunch
The restaurant was clean
The staff－were staffing the place (I personally wasn’t impressed with our server, the manager on duty or the other staff she stood in the corner gossiping loudly about)
Kandi Burruss is a several million dollar, millionaire
With that, my expectations for a restaurant she claims proudly as part of her brand
My expectations for a staff hired to represent her brand
Instead, I got Real Housewives of Atlanta messy
Staff that seemed to be competing with each other in a good ole’ crabs in a bucket fashion
It was sad to see the manager tearing down a staff who needed development and support. It didn’t make her look better, as she must have perceived it did by the way her voice gradually grew louder and louder, showing no shame in her own ignorance as it relates to building a staff and maintaining a business (note taken for my little entrepreneurial self).
But I also am aware that the restaurant is still in its infancy stage and everyone is still learning
The best part was the socialization, laughs and warm fuzziness I felt while bonding with beautiful black women over a meal
Old Lady Gang,