Like Paula Dean, the gourmets of grease who are planning to cook at Saturday’s Athens Grease Festival can’t say their menus are slimming but they can say they are succulent.
“I wouldn’t say it’s healthy food, ” said festival vendor and retired Tennessee state trooper Brian Scott. “It’s just good home-cookin’ country food.”
Grease festival-goers won’t be looking for falafels and yogurt anyway — unless it happens to be fried. After all, the downtown grease festival is billed as a celebration of all things fried.
Scott has some superb culinary offerings on his menu, including pinto beans and fried cornbread fritters, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks, taco salad with homemade and hand-seasoned chips, loaded chicken quesadillas and — for the faint of stomach — grilled hamburgers.
He and his wife plan to have their “Beans & Stuff” food trailer parked at 6 a.m. and their fare ready to eat before the 11 a.m. start time.
This is his second year operating their concessions trailer. But, even before he went on the road, Scott liked to do grilling and cooking at home, he said. The Scotts cover events in southern and western Tennessee and in North Alabama.
“Our taco salads are above the mark — fantastic,” Scott said. “It’s because we make our own chips.
Like Scott, Lee Michael has always enjoyed the transcendence of fried food.
“I am from Muscle Shoals,” said Michael, a youth minister at Oakdale Baptist Church. “I grew up on the Tennessee River, and we did fish fries at least once a month.”
His mother and father often helped conduct fish fries to raise money for the fire department, so Michael knew how and where to order the food for Saturday’s event. He and about 12 teens and preteen in his youth group called “The Well” will cook and serve baskets of catfish, fries and hushpuppies for about $5 each. The more filling catfish plates will sell for around $10.
With the money they earn from feeding the hungry, they will go to a youth event titled “Strength to Stand” in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., during the Martin Luther King holiday next January.
For the grease event, they will bring three gas-powered fryers, each about 2-feet long, 1-foot wide and 18-inches deep.
Vegetable oils will abound at the event and will be supplied by the Spirit of Athens committee. Once the event ends Saturday night, Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful will collect the waste oil and give it to two farmers who plan to turn it into fuel for the farms.
The festival opens Saturday with a 9 a.m. toga run at the Wellness Center on Washington Street. The opening ceremony — including a mule- or horse-drawn carriage, people in togas, and torches — begins at 11:30 a.m. at U.G. White Hardware on the downtown Square. There will be a Dub’s Burgers eating contest at 2:30 p.m. and a toga contest at 4 p.m. Children’s activities will be held from noon to 6 p.m., and there will be other events for adults throughout the day, including a performance by The Park Band at 7 p.m.