I miss grits.
I used to eat grits for breakfast with toast and two slices of bacon every a.m. except on Sundays.
When I started having to button my pants with a safety pin, I realized, bitterly, that I needed to ditch my grits and bacon habit, or get bigger pants.
Now, I cook for health.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve at 1214 81st Street South in Birmingham, Alabama, is a sprawling, 1,038-acre urban forest. It is also one of the best spots in the city to get away from it all on those days when you don’t have the time or the money to get away from it all.
If you’re ever in Birmingham, Alabama for a conference or meeting and you find that you cannot sit through one more mind-numbing presentation or panel discussion or visit one more convention booth, let me make a suggestion:
Go back to your hotel. Grab your sneakers or a comfortable pair of shoes and walk, drive, bike, catch a bus or cab to the Railroad Park.
Railroad Park is a 19-acre green space in downtown Birmingham on First Avenue South between 14th and 18th streets. It’s directly across from the new Regions baseball stadium.
The Railroad Park's amenities include walking and jogging trails and playgrounds as well as a boardwalk, a natural amphitheater, a lake and several ponds, brooks and wetlands.
The park also features annual, biennial, and perennial flowers, more than 600 trees like the Princeton Elm, and ornamental grasses like Gulf muhly.
If you’re fortunate, you may see a CSX or Norfolk-Southern train move down the tracks that run along the north end of the park.
Will the rumble of the trains, the hum of cars and trucks on the street, or the occasional ice cream truck blaring a music box version of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” spoil your tranquility?
Once you recline on the grass or walk along one of the trails or jog past the tall grasses swaying and hear the whistle of a passing train, you’ll relax. You clenched jaw will loosen. You’ll take a slow, deep breath, and then you'll exhale and think, “Why didn’t I tip out of that meeting sooner?”
For more details about Railroad Park in Birmingham, visit the website at www.railroadpark.org.
When it comes to barbecued ribs, I think it's all about the sauce.
You'll find a lot of good barbecue restaurants here in Birmingham, Alabama. But for me, a good sauce is what separates great BBQ restaurants from all the other rib shacks.
Marinate the pork or beef ribs if you must. Rub them down with the finest spices. Grill them for hours. Cook them in a pit so long that the meat slides right off of the bones. But smother those ribs with a so-so sauce and you’ll bring ruin to a beautiful piece of meat.
So I was pleased to find great sauce when I ordered lunch recently at a barbecue restaurant in Birmingham called Rib-It-Up.
Rib-It-Up is a Birmingham BBQ restaurant located at 830 First Avenue North, just southwest of the heart of downtown. It's place that's best described as a hole in the wall. The building looks dated, both inside and outside, and it's located in a section of the city where washer and refrigeration supply, electrical supply, general machinery supply and surplus automotive supply shops dot the landscape.
After looking over the menu, I ordered the Rib-It-Up Bar-B-Que Ribs dinner. It came with three bones and two sides. For my sides, I picked the turnip greens and mac-n-cheese.
Other menu items included the regular Bar-B-Que rib sandwich, regular and jumbo pork sandwiches, a half-slab of ribs and a bucket of rib tips.
Besides turnip greens and mac-n-cheese, the other sides on the menu included collard greens, Bar-B-Que beans, French fries, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes, yams and field peas.
The ribs were tender and covered with a flavorful sauce that was rich, dark, sweet and tangy. With every bite, I caught a hint of vinegar on my tongue. I couldn’t resist licking sauce from my fingers, although I did use my napkin a time or two.
The cornbread muffin was warm and soft and a satisfying addition to my meal. I’ve had cornbread at restaurants where the bread was too hard, too dry, too cold or too tasteless to bother taking a second bite. This muffin was a treat.
My greens and mac-n-cheese were good, too, but the barbecued ribs, and that sauce, made me smile.
Click here for Rib-It-Up hours and directions to the restaurant.
Disclosure: My opinions about Rib-It-Up are strictly my own. I wasn't paid to write this post, and I didn't get a free meal. If a company ever pays me or gives me anything for free in exchange for writing about them on this site, I'll tell you (and celebrate).