Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The South Wins at the Southern Kitchen

Southern Kitchen
9576 S. Congress St.
New Market, VA

Southerners will still argue over The War Between the States.

Just a mile from the Southern Kitchen here in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, 247 young, green cadets from Virginia Military Institute drove the Yankee invaders out of the valley in the Battle of New Market 149 years ago.

The South may have ultimately lost The War of Northern Aggression, but even the most fervent Lincoln-worshiping, federal-government-loving A-Rod fan must concede the one battle (besides New Market) the South won hands down:

Good cooking!

And the victory that is good Southern cooking is celebrated every day here at the appropriately named Southern Kitchen.

Tourists and locals alike pile into this quaint small town café just off the tractor trailer-clogged I-81.

No meal at the Southern Kitchen is complete without starting off with that only-in-Virginia concoction known as peanut soup.

Granted, the beautiful Shenandoah Valley isn’t exactly known as a peanut growing region. But the family that has run the Southern Kitchen for generations somehow snagged a recipe from Virginia’s peanut-growing Southside many years ago -- and the good folks traveling I-81 have been grateful ever since.

I expected peanut soup to be thick and goopy -- like liquid peanut butter.

But instead, it is surprisingly thin and light with a delicious earthy nutty flavor counterbalanced by the sweet taste of onion. Small bits of peanut and onion provide just a touch of texture to the velvety soup.

The quintessential Southern dish is fried chicken. So there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to sample some at the Southern Kitchen.

The thin but crispy crust locked in the juicy goodness of my moist tender dark meat. Not the greatest fried chicken I’ve ever had, but not bad.

Like most Southern sides, my candied yams and green beans were loaded with sugary sweetness.

Of course it would be an insult to the memory of Robert E. Lee to stop by a Southern restaurant in rural Virginia without sampling some good old Virginia country ham.

The Southern Kitchen’s version was topped with a ring of pineapple to cut the moderately salty cure in the ham.

All of the good Southern cooking I sampled was good, if not spectacular.

The spectacular part came when my waitress brought out the peanut butter/chocolate pie.

Oh. Yeah.

I devoured that piece like Grant took Richmond.

Two inches of sweet chocolate topped by three inches of fluffy meringue topped with a drizzle of chocolate syrup, this pie was the Scarlett O’Hara of roadside dinner pies.

Almost too beautiful to eat.


After the first bite, it was clear this was no ordinary diner chocolate pie.

A barely visible thin layer of sweetened peanut butter between the crust and the chocolate produced an explosion of sweet peanutty flavor.

The chocolate and peanut butter went together like, well…

…chocolate and peanut butter.
Instant induction into the Suit757 Diner Pie Hall of Fame!

The Southern Kitchen and its blue ribbon pie made me proud to live in the South.

Sure. All those damn Yankees can gloat all they want about how they ground the heels of their boots into the throat of the South’s desire to determine its own destiny and live in freedom.

The states no longer have the right to self-determination.

The federal government won the right to dictate every detail of our lives from womb to tomb.

We are all Obamacare slaves to a growing federal leviathan.

But the Yankees can’t stomp out the Southern way of life -- or good Southern cooking.

They can’t make us cheer for A-Rod.

Or eat nothing but a steady diet of pot roast and boiled carrots.

There’s no doubt the South wins the war for good peanut soup, fried chicken and chocolate pie.

And thank God for that.

After all, as those teenagers from VMI understood a century and a half ago here in New Market, some things are worth fighting for.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

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