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Music to Your Mouth

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Music to Your Mouth
John Currence Making Tamales / Photo by Tim Zielenbach

Social media platforms have made it so that essentially every event that occurs in real life is virtually over-explained, over-exposed, over-Facebooked, over-tweeted, and over-texted.

I’m sort of over it.

The argument is out there that our pervasive obsession with technological connection has thwarted our ability to experience things as they happen. And has perhaps also made it so that the real life incidents often pale in comparison to the digitally enhanced imagery we’ve seen or the overly effusive descriptions we’ve heard of wherever it is we are or are going, and what we are eating, seeing, or doing.

That’s why it’s so unequivocally marvelous when a real life, real time event exceeds all the hype.

It’s likely implicit that anyone avidly interested in Southern food and Southern food festivals has already heard plenty about the Music to Your Mouth Festival that happened in mid-November at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina. Top-shelf words have been effusively and emphatically utilized to describe every aspect of the festival: the food was amazing, the chefs were incredible, the venue was extraordinary, the weekend was magical.

The things is, and even though it’s exceedingly tempting to call people out on over-using vigorous words to describe daily occurrences, The Music to Your Mouth Festival deserves all that rapturous emoting. Seriously. Thus, if you’re inclined to do so, go ahead and read all the hype, the tweets, the texts. Immerse yourself in descriptive paragraphs of the overall wonderment. Peruse the posts on Facebook and blogs. Marvel at the gorgeous imagery. You can do all the social media bingeing you want with Music to Your Mouth because the real deal will exceed all the virtual hype.

The venue for this extended weekend of culinary ecstasy is Palmetto Bluff, a property that touts itself as the “ultimate Southern escape.” Unexpectedly, given this day and age of euphemistic PR sound bites, the tagline is refreshingly accurate. At Palmetto Bluff, no detail is left unattended. In addition to the superior natural aesthetic of Lowcountry beauty that comprises the setting, the uniform excellence of service and cuisine is impeccable. The real coup, however, is the void of preciousness and pretentiousness. How they manage to accomplish this feat of remaining-humble-while-being-exceptional is a mystery, but it’s done to perfection. Example: my colleague and I were walking about, taking photos and enjoying the gorgeous marsh-side setting when we realized we’d forgotten some things we’d be needing for the weekend. Within seconds, we were somehow engaged in conversation with a boat captain from the property. Unprompted, he insisted on going to a store and bringing us the necessary items. We resumed wandering and soon realized we had no idea where we were in relation to the house in which we were staying. A golf cart pulled up and a super nice gentleman described the pathways in detail before offering to ride us back to our destination. We chatted with who we thought was merely an amiable fellow resort guest. Upon being dropped off, we found that our happenstance chauffeur was actually the resort’s General Manager.

It’s like the place is peppered with employees masquerading as fairy Godmothers. Or rife with extremely efficient and kind male employees—as was more accurate in our particular case.

The Music to Your Mouth Festival itself is just sublime. I wrote rapturously (I’m not immune to whipping out top-shelf words, myself, you see) of a cooking class offered with Oxford Chef John Currence that was facilitated by SFA Director John T. Edge on the Friday afternoon. The class was followed by a “Potlikker” party on the inn’s lawn overlooking the water. Allan Benton’s bacon was hanging from clotheslines, a full pig was being roasted by Rodney Scott, chicken and waffle, taco, and roasted vegetable stations all comprised some of the yum-tastic lawn décor. After I sent a picture to a friend of the retro Chevy truck whose bed had been turned into the coolest condiment bar around, the response was, “You mean an awesome truck at an awesome place filled with awesomeness.” Had “surrounded by awesome people,” been added, it would have been a very succinct summary of the event. Yeah, it was pretty awesome.

This festival is unique in the sense that it affords a rare opportunity to mingle with Chefs and other culinary figures in a manner akin to a giant house party. Just that the house in question happens to be one the most prestigious properties in the South and the party happens to offer world class food and the people happen to be rather famous in the Southern culinary world. So not REALLY like your average house party at all. Or like mine anyway—I shouldn’t speak for you.

My colleague and I equated ourselves to high school freshmen who were somehow able to secure an invitation to the big upperclassmen bash. We were somewhat star-struck that these people with whom we always feel lucky to work with on a professional level through The Local Palate, people who we regard with reverence and admiration for all they are doing to elevate Southern food and educate on all matters pertaining to Southern food culture, could also just hang out. Turns out these revered culinary figures are just people too. And fun people at that. Who’d have thought?

The festival’s Saturday afternoon culinary tent isn’t packed with people vying for freebies and hoovering food from all available outlets. It’s a tasteful appreciation of culinary excellence. At the front of the tent two Southern chefs would team up on the half hour to provide demos with running commentary from John T. Edge. Oh, and the Saturday night oyster roast blows any other out of the water (off the half shell?). Five story tree house, piles of shellfish, personal shuckers…is it possible to overuse the word “awesome?”

Social media saturation withstanding, Music to Your Mouth can’t be overexposed. It was weeks ago and I’ll tell you what: I’m still not over it.

Mentioned in this post:
John Currence