What else would N.C. television personality Bob Garner choose for the title of his latest book other than “Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm”?
“The book title just seemed inevitable,” he said in a phone interview last week. “Once it was mentioned, there was no going back.”
Garner, 67, is known for his signature murmur of gustatory delight after tasting food on air for “North Carolina Weekend” television show on UNC-TV.
This is Garner’s fourth book and the first that isn’t entirely about barbecue. Garner has a series of local events to promote the book, starting Monday night at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books & Music.
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The 187-page book does mention the state’s signature varieties of smoked meat and sauce, but it also explores other North Carolina food traditions, including fish stew, Ocracoke fig cake, banana pudding, collards and even Moravian chicken pie. The book is part cookbook, part essay collection, part dining guide.
Garner describes it as a meandering journey across North Carolina exploring foods that hold an emotional connection for those who live in the state.
“I just love that people get misty-eyed about certain foods,” he said. “People get misty-eyed because of a sense of place, memories, and it gives them a sense of identity. ...When everywhere is looking more and more like everywhere else, people really like to cling to things that are distinctive.”
Garner relishes the state’s lesser-known food traditions.
There’s muscadine and scuppernong grapes, which English settlers first planted in North Carolina, leading to a wine industry and the birth of the state’s best-known winery in Duplin Country. .
Then there’s the “livermush crescent,” a stretch from the Piedmont Triad, down to Charlotte and over to Marion where German settlers brought their mixture of pig parts and cornmeal. Garner jokes that those immigrants “took scrapple and just by naming it livermush made it less appealing.”
Among Garner’s fans, the ones most delighted with his latest book are his six grandchildren, ages 2 to 12, who love teasing him about how he tastes food on television.
“They pretty much named the book,” Garner said.