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Show this Louisiana politician real food

By By Robert St. John / food columnist
Aug. 20, 2003
Robert St. John is the executive chef/owner of the Purple Parrot Caf and Crescent City Grill in Hattiesburg and Meridian, www.nsrg.com. If you have any questions or comments, he can be reached at robert@nsrg.com, or at (601) 264-0672.
The quest to defend the Napoleonic Code brings out the worst in people.
From Huey and Earl Long to Edwin Edwards, Louisiana politicians have a long and storied history, nowhere more notorious than in the governor's office. Now one candidate is trying to drag us into the quagmire.
Jay Blossman, Louisiana Public Service commissioner and current gubernatorial candidate, recently came down with a chronic case of athlete's tongue. While trying to explain why major corporations are choosing to move to the Magnolia State instead of the Bayou State, he told The Advocate in Baton Rouge, "People aren't moving their businesses to Mississippi because they like the way the food tastes."
EXCUSE ME!
This, coming from a citizen of a state whose residents would blacken their house cat in a cast-iron skillet if it stood still long enough. Did he make that comment with a nutria tail hanging out of his mouth? I am tired of this superior attitude towards food coming from some Louisianians.
Read my lips, Blossman as soon as I can wipe the gravy off of them Mississippi has some of the finest food to be found anywhere. Never underestimate the connection between grits and collards and economic development.
I happen to know for a fact that Nissan moved to Canton because the Japanese have taken a liking to turnip greens, rice, gravy and catfish Mississippi sushi.
Did you know that Bernie Ebbers kept WorldCom in Mississippi because of the rolls at the Elite and Malcolm White's gumbo? Northrop Grumman keeps their shipyard in Pascagoula because of the stuffed flounder dishes available throughout the Gulf Coast.
Collectively, as a state, we might have low, gastronomic self-esteem. But Louisiana suffers from a culinary-superiority complex.
As former Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett put it:
Put a jug o' molasses at my feet,
Put nine biscuits in each hand
And I'll sop my way to the Promised Land"
Barnett was dead wrong about many things. But one thing is for sure. He never underestimated his fellow Mississippians' abilities to bake world-class biscuits.
I don't want to start a culinary interstate rivalry here, because Louisiana has a ringer New Orleans. Getting into a bragging-rights discussion over food, while at the same time having New Orleans tucked inside the opponent's state borders is akin to having Michael Jordan on the opposing basketball team. It's just not fair.
To be fair, we would need to carve New Orleans out of the state of Louisiana. Then and only then, could we compare our collective states' cuisines on an even playing field.
Louisiana has great food, but don't be so cocky about it, guys. Show a little humility.
If Blossman spent a week with me, I would make him eat his words. I would take him on an ingestion journey across our state that would make Duncan Hines blush.
I'd be willing to bet a pirogue full of pork chops that Mr. Blossman hasn't eaten lunch at Nick's on Lakeland Drive in Jackson or dinner at City Grocery on the square in Oxford.
I'll bet Blossman has never taken time to appreciate the fried chicken at Fannin Mart or at Peggy's in Philadelphia (either of those yard-bird preparations alone would warrant the construction of, at the least, a Kia plant).
I seriously doubt that he has ever eaten Merigold Tomatoes at the Gallery Restaurant in McCartyville. And even though he lives less than an hour away from the fried eggplant and cornbread dressing at the Dinner Bell in McComb and the trout dishes at Trapani's in Bay St. Louis, I'll bet he's never eaten at either one. For if he had, he would be picking on the food served in Arkansas or Texas instead of Mississippi.
I know for a fact he has never eaten at the Purple Parrot Caf in Hattiesburg where he now has an open invitation to a free meal at his convenience if he can find time to remove his foot from his mouth.
I urge all fellow Mississippians with similar culinary-inferiority complexes to write Mr. Blossman at jayblossman@jayblossman.com and invite him to dinner. Feed him in your home or in your favorite restaurant (no possum or chitlins, please).
Show him what real Mississippi hospitality and authentic, down home cuisine is all about.
Then, and only then, will Jay Blossman eat his words, which are bound to taste better than his foot.

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