There's good food everywhere you go in the South, so long as you go with a heart to eat as the locals do.
On a trip to Tuscaloosa, I imagine it will be all funky barbecue shacks and quaint buildings with exposed brick. I'm thinking that vegetables in this area of the country are likely to be greens, canned corn, okra, beans and slaw. In fact, I'm thinking, slaw is probably a food group. I don't mean that in a bad way, either. I love slaws.
At a restaurant, I meet cooks Betty, Pearl, Bertha and Sinead, black women, born and bred here. They love to cook and are passionate about feeding people and seeing them smile. The food they prepare is wholesome, simple and delicious. Some of the dishes are traditionally heavy, in fact too heavy for me to do more than taste, but that's why I'm here.
The people who are coming to this growing area of the Bible Belt are from the Middle East, Mexico and India. They want healthier dishes and new selections. The University of Alabama is nearby, and students from around the country look for foods which are not so full of fat and calories. There is also a huge Mercedes Benz assembly plant nearby, and many German people live locally.
I am sharing with you my version of a recipe for Betty's vegetable casserole. I cut down on the heavy ingredients as much as possible. She uses frozen mixed vegetables, but I substitute fresh.
—By Chef Steve Petusevsky