Growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and living in Houston,Texas after college, barbecues were a way of life.  There is nothing better than planning the menu, drinks, guests, music…so by the time the big day is here, my mouth is watering, drink is in hand and I’m ready to have some BBQ fun!

This southern belle judges a barbecue by the sides served. I believe that more is more! You can’t ever have enough sides, the more the merrier just like the guests. Yes, the main event sizzling on the grill is important, but sides are the kicker – from platters of mac and cheese, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, kicked up casseroles…the list goes on and on. If I’m the guest at a BBQ, you will always find me snooping around the kitchen looking at what sides will be served.  

I’ll never forget when I was living in New York and barbecues came to a screeching halt. There were no backyards to grill in the city, and if there were, I was not friends with those who could afford backyards.  My barbecue cravings were replaced with deli cravings – a giant mouthwatering pastrami sandwich with a side of coleslaw and pickles from Carnegie Deli would do the trick. However, I missed the magic of backyard barbecues with family and friends. 

I started dating a New Yorker, Jimmy McDonald, and one summer weekend we went out to his parent’s home at Rockaway Beach.  As we headed out the door on Sunday morning to the beach, his Mom told us they were going to barbecue ribs and watch the U.S. Open Tennis Matches in the afternoon. What a treat!  I was finally going to have a New York barbecue and my mouth started watering.  A few hours later, we arrived back to their house smelling the delicious ribs on the backyard grill. They gathered around the TV, his Mom brought out the ribs on a platter and passed around plates with napkins. That was it. No baked beans, no potato salad, no corn on the cob, no cole slaw… This southern belle was baffled, how do you have a barbecue without sides?  Clearly they had never been to a real barbecue!  

That afternoon, heading back to the City, I realized our culinary styles were going to clash and could be a huge issue. The McDonald family “eat to live” whereas the Sweeney clan “lived to eat”.  How would we ever resolve this?  A year later, I moved the skinny New Yorker, to New Orleans, married him in St. Louis Cathedral and taught him the ways of the southern palate.  

Our 1992 New Orleans Wedding

After attending LSU tailgate parties, eating his way through New Orleans, attending Louisiana festivals and eating my Mama’s food, Jimmy is now a converted foodie, several pounds heavier and you will find him right by my side grazing on the tasty side buffet!  

At the 2013 Taste Awards in Los Angeles


(Marinated Black Eyed Pea Salad) by Liberty’s Kitchen


3 (15 oz.) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 large Vidalia onion or other sweet onion, small dice
2 red bell peppers, small dice
4 ribs celery, small dice
2 Tbsp. cilantro, rough chopped
Toss above ingredients with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette and chill overnight. 
May be served cold or at room temperature.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

2 oz. lime juice, freshly squeezed
4 oz. canola oil
2 Tbsp. honey
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup loose packed cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Place lime juice, canola oil, honey, jalapeño peppers, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper in a blender and puree until emulsified.

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