Ginger Brown’s Restaurant in Azle was a wonderful introduction to Southern food for the interns from up north. As soon as we walked in, the counter of giant pies, cookies, and cinnamon rolls was staring us in the face. For lunch on a Monday, the place was PACKED. From the very beginning, we could tell that Ginger Brown’s was going to be a much better experience than last week.
Since a surprising number of the interns had never tried chicken fried steak, one of the most Southern dishes out there, that’s what most of us ordered to eat! It was funny to see how their expectations measured up to what chicken fried steak actually is. There was also a blueberry cobbler milkshake- a whole portion of blueberry cobbler blended up with ice cream- that looked absolutely fantastic. Before even ordering drinks, baskets of dense, delicious rolls with cinnamon butter were placed on the table- and they kept coming the whole time we were there.
I’ve been eating Southern food my entire life, so getting a fresh perspective on it from the other interns was interesting. Going into the restaurant knowing in advance that I needed to find heart healthy items on the menu was a challenge. Even the items on the ‘light’ page of the menu were pretty high-fat and high-calorie. There were definitely options, but it was a little more difficult than usual to find a healthy menu choice.
It can be done, though! I ordered a breakfast quesadilla with lots of peppers and onions, and though it ended up being big enough for 3 meals it was easy to portion out. Peyton got a perfect example of a heart healthy dish in the vegetable plate. The veggies weren’t too soggy or cooked in too much oil, so they ended up pretty great! Green beans, corn, mixed vegetables, and beets filled her up (and the milkshake, but that’s beside the point).
If you look for a lean protein like grilled chicken or fish, then order fresh vegetables or a salad as side dishes instead of french fries or fried okra, even Southern cooking can be heart healthy.
On the flip side, if you’re really craving a chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes- go for it! Every once in a while, it’s perfectly okay to get something you want that you know isn’t good for you. There are a lot of emotions associated with eating, and if Southern food brings you joy, don’t feel like you have to take that away from yourself. I’m not encouraging a diet of solely fried chicken, but everything can be acceptable in moderation!