Made from Scratch

A version of this recently appeared in October/November issue of South magazine.

Ashley bio photo_credit Tim Robison
Author Ashley English. Photo by Johnny Autry.

Southern cook and homesteader Ashley English cooks up an awareness for healthy eating and living through classic Southern recipes and traditions in her latest cookbook, “Southern from Scratch.”

As if dropped from a Southern heaven above, Ashley English’s tenth cookbook, “Southern from Scratch,” was released earlier this year, claiming the hearts of food enthusiasts and, well, just about anyone who enjoys authentic Southern cookin’.

The success of this new Southern classic may be attributed to the progressive mindset English displays towards using smarter and healthier ingredients in classic Southern food, a lesson she learned from her family.

“I thought the reason my family was in poor health was completely based on their diet,” English confesses. “But when I really started to look at it as I was older, I realized it wasn’t necessarily the Southern foods they were eating. It was the processed foods that had weaseled their way in. It’s so important to be mindful of the past.”

As a result, English—who holds degrees in holistic nutrition and sociology, and has worked with a number of nonprofit organizations committed to social and agricultural issues—presents a warm and down-to-earth homage to Southern home cooking that uses reflections on the past as a way to create a happy, healthier future.

“I think, in so many ways, [holding onto the past] informs who you are, who you become,” she says. “Hopefully, as we age, we take what we have learned in the past and use it as a catalyst for bettering ourselves and our lives. We should learn from our mistakes, our families, and our families mistakes.”

With more than 150 classic recipes, “Southern from Scratch” will help you build a from-scratch Southern pantry of your own, from which you can cook and make the most of local ingredients, all while creating traditions of your own.

“I’m able to pass on these traditions to my sons, and they will potentially pass them on to their own families, which is exciting,” English says. “I hope my readers will do the same.”

Whether you’re a hardcore homesteader like English, a novice cook, or simply passionate about good ol’ Southern cookin’, pick up “Southern from Scratch” to create traditions of your own.

Full Circle

A version of this recently appeared in October/November issue of South magazine.

Written by Gen Fuller and Cory Hott.

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From left to right: DW Moffett, Chair of Film and Television, SCAD School of Entertainment Arts, Matt Nickley, writer of “The Buzz,” Shasta Ford, producer of “The Buzz,” Andra Reeve-Rabb, Dean, School of Entertainment Arts, Mark Tymchyshyn, Chair of Performing Arts, SCAD School of Entertainment Arts

With 25 years of experience, SCAD Dean Andra Reeve-Rabb gives us an inside look as life as a casting director, creating the only casting office in the world at the university level, and what to do during an audition.

Andra Reeve-Rabb, dean of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s School of Entertainment Arts, looks around her simply decorated casting office. The office, located in Crites Hall, has only two desks, a couch, a conference table, and a flurry of headshots taped all over the walls.

“This office is set up exactly like my office was at CBS,” she says with a smile. “At CBS, I would see 75 actors a day. All I wanted, honestly, was for the next person to walk through the door to be ‘the one,’ because then I could move on to the next billion parts I had to cast. I never understood why people didn’t make rooms like these safe for actors. It puts them at ease and makes their performance better.”

Reeve-Rabb was born and raised in North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where she earned her B.F.A. in acting and directing. After graduating, she ran to New York City. Her first year in the city landed her an internship with the casting office of a then-unknown Conan O’Brien.

“On day one, they said, ‘Andra, we need three Santa Clauses, two baby New Years, and a homeless man…in two hours,’” she says, frantically. “I knew immediately it was what I wanted to do.”

Her time studying to be an actress and director—and brief time in New York City acting—led her one step further to be a casting director.

“I understood the language on the other side of a table like this,” she says, “and it gave me a little bit of a super power.”

Reeve-Rabb’s time at “The Conan O’Brien Show” eventually led her to CBS, where she became the director of prime time casting for CBS New York. It was her responsibility to find the talent for shows such as, “The Big Bang Theory,” “CSI,” and “How I Met Your Mother,” just to name a few.

It’s her understanding of the inner-workings of the industry that have led her to “discover” the likes of Daniel Craig and Idris Elba.

“There are actors who walk in and you just know,” she says. “When I was at ‘Conan O’Brien,’ I loved casting so much that I would cast student films in the area. I remember working on one and bringing in this young girl. Her audition literally took my breath away because of her honesty and believability.”

The young girl was a young Natalie Portman.

“[Her] talent has led her to cast, oh, you know, nearly every single night of the week for prime time television,” laughs JJ Maxwell, public relations and marketing manager for SCAD. Maxwell has worked closely with Reeve-Rabb to show the world the excellence that is occurring under her watch.

While on vacation in Savannah, Reeve-Rabb was introduced to SCAD President Paula Wallace, who took an interest in her.

“President Wallace said, ‘Well tell me what you do.’” Reeve-Rabb recalls. “So I told her what I did at CBS, and she said, ‘Why don’t you do what you do at CBS, but here [at SCAD]?’”

That simple conversation led to not only the creation of the first and, to date, only casting office at the university level in the world, but also to Reeve-Rabb bringing her entire career full-circle, allowing her to work on the opposite side of the industry.

“The exciting part about being at SCAD and starting this casting office is that we’re in Hollywood now,” she says. “I’ve been able to reach out to my industry friends in L.A., New York, and Atlanta, and say, ‘You have an incredible talent pool here. I have nearly 300 actors who are training to do what you’re casting for.”

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In the past two years she’s placed students in 252 roles on professional projects, from Netflix shows, to movies being filed in Savannah.

“SCAD has immersed students into a real-world setting, preparing them for what they will actually experience on future production sets, something unheard of in the academic world,” says President Wallace.

What could be more amazing than having your first scene as an actor with John Travolta or Morgan Freeman? Being cast in a Netflix show and getting to film 12 episodes in New Zealand–and then going back to class the next day?

“I now get to see the Daniel Craig’s and the Idris Elba’s as they are starting out in their freshman years of college,” she says.

Her passion for connecting the pieces between casting, acting, and directing, and her ability to find that chemistry that transforms words on a page to Emmy-nominated and award-winning pilots, has seamlessly translated into her work at SCAD. A poster for, “The Buzz,” a collaboration between 120 students from seven different departments at SCAD that won a College Emmy, hangs prominently and proudly on the walls of the casting office. In 2018, Reeve-Rabb was named one of Variety magazine’s “Top 10 Entertainment Educators in Film and Television.

“That’s truly the most humbling thing that’s happened to me in my career. I’m not saying that to brag,” she says, leaning forward in her chair. “I’m saying that if Variety looks at what we’re doing at SCAD and points to that, that means we’re doing something amazing.”

And humble she stays, with her mirrored CBS office to remind her from where she came. Now working on the opposite side of the industry, Reeve-Rabb has become a prime example and lesson in the art of coming full circle.

Visit scad.edu for more information.

Husk Savannah Advertorial

A version of this recently appeared in the October/November issue of South magazine’s paid advertorial section.

A passion for Southern cuisine provides strictly Southern delights.

Executive Chef Chris Hathcock, a Husk veteran—having worked at Husk Greenville since its opening, alongside Chef Jon Buck and Chef Sean Brock—maintains the philosophy of Husk by celebrating Southern ingredients and exploring the “foodways” of Coastal Georgia. He is both passionate and expressive, conceptualizing dishes that showcase a depth of flavor. Thanks to Chef Hathcock’s rich culinary expertise, the cuisine at Husk transforms the essence of Southern food and highlights the unique ingredients of Coastal Georgia. Chef Hathcock reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Savannah. The location itself is unique and charmingly Savannah. Located right in the heart of Savannah’s Landmark Historic District, 12 W. Oglethorpe Avenue speaks to a modern and minimalist theme. The second floor is home to a spectacular Husk Bar and raw bar, with handcrafted cocktails from Bar Manager Kevin King. The combination of the ambiance and the celebration of the food grown in this region provides a true taste of Savannah.

12 W. Oglethorpe Avenue Savannah, Georgia | husksavannah.com | 912.349.2600

Southern Crafted

A version of this recently appeared in October/November issue of South magazine.

Savannah may have been late to the craft party, but we sure did show up in style.

It’s been nearly a decade since the explosion of craft distilleries in America, and with more than 1,500 open distilleries across the country—almost 300 of those opened between 2016 and 2017 alone—it was only natural for the trend to start migrating to Savannah. But per usual in the Hostess City, the trend came late, with Savannah’s first distillery since the Prohibition Era—Ghost Coast Distillery—opening up in early 2017. 

And although Savannah has its fair share of craft breweries, it’s still surprisingly lacking in quantity when compared to the rest of the nation. But thankfully, in typical Savannah fashion, we practice quality over quantity, and with distilleries and breweries like Savannah Spirits and Moon River Brewing taking the lead, Savannah won’t have a need for quality assurance. 

The oldest craft brewery in town, Moon River Brewing opened in 1999 thanks to an obsession with creating the ideal restaurant and brewing experience. A large variety of brews are made in-house, with some available year-round, some only seasonal, and some surprises, with bottling occurring in the coolers downstairs. 

And thanks to the surge of interest in breweries and distilleries, being a brewer in Savannah isn’t as lonely anymore.

“I think there’s a lot of talent in this industry when it comes to making beer,” says John Pinkerton, co-owner of Moon River Brewing. “We’ve seen a lot of breweries cycle through over the years, but more have seemed to stay recently, so it’s a lot less lonely as a brewer.”

The secret to longevity as a craft dispenser isn’t quite a secret at all. According to Pinkerton, it’s all in the passion and craft. 

“If you have the passion and the knowledge, you’ll do okay here,” he says. 

Overnight Luxury

A version of this recently appeared in August/September issue of South magazine.

For these transplants from the North, being Southern hosts was always in their nature.

Monique and William Armstrong had it all in the North; Monique: a career at the United Nations that allowed her to mingle with folks from all over the world, wearing $1,000 suits and scarves; William: a flourishing career as an artist, working on films with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, and Woody Allen. The couple had two houses in New Jersey, six blocks away from the ocean, a guesthouse, and a loft in New York. Or, as Monique puts it, “We were just having fun.”

But in 1999, while working as the lead scenic artist on the sets of The Legend of the Bagger Vance, William fell in love with the history and architecture of Savannah. He called Monique down from New York.

“Choose a home,” he said. “We are staying.”

Monique and William purchased a brick shell and a temporary home, and then hired the construction crew from The Legend of the Bagger Vance, who completed the restoration in record time. (Monique acted as head contractor for
the project; the home is now registered with the National Register of Historic Places.) But after they couldn’t sell their temporary home like they had intended, they decided to keep both.

“So, we started a bed and breakfast and I became an innkeeper,” she joyously says. The outcome: the Armstrong Inns Bed & Breakfast, which now consists of five historic townhomes scattered throughout the city.

The walls of each building are adorned with William’s New York-Nantucket artwork and Lowcountry paintings that help the viewer to see the world differently and uniquely. The halls are filled with Monique’s attentive hostess abilities; the kitchens are brimming with food she stays up late into the night making for her guests.

Running a bed and breakfast can be hectic and chaotic throughout the day, yet, in typical Southern fashion, the couple moves from task to task with poise.

“I cannot plan what I am doing from day to day. Some would say, ‘This woman, I cannot do her life,’” Monique jokes. “I am very blessed because I move from one thing to the other without getting scared, and if something is to happen, I say, ‘Ah well,’ and go with the flow. If you make plans, you are frustrated. You are stressed.”

Perhaps their tenderness and hosting abilities are a result of their former life of luxury in the North, or perhaps it’s simply in their nature.
And although the two would deny the titles of Southerners, they possess all of the characteristics and qualities that define the ideal Southerner.

As Monique reflects back on first moving to Savannah, she says, “It is scary, a new life, but it is a life. It is wonderful. Here in Savannah, we are just in the right place. I know it. I just know it.”

Alternative Perceptions: A Review of Bob Dylan’s “Self Portrait”

When I was twelve, I stole my first record from my grandma’s vast record collection: Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait. I was familiar with his popular works–Like a Rolling Stone, Blowin’ in the Wind, Knocking on Heaven’s Door–but I had never heard of Self Portrait. On the cover was a poorly painted, seemingly half-finished portrait of a man with a vacant expression. I asked grandma about it later and she said it was a beautiful painting by Dylan himself and that it was considered a masterpiece by many. I couldn’t see it. Why would anyone consider this a masterpiece? If this is what the cover looks like, I thought, god knows what the music must sound like. 

The album was released in 1970 to generally negative reviews, with Greil Marcus asking in his Rolling Stone review, “What is this shit?” Dylan was a stranger to the fine arts at the time; his only fine art work known to the public was his infantile painting for the Band’s Music from Big Pink album cover. 

The reproduced album cover for Self Portrait is a mere twelve by twelve inches. Sloppily applied, the colors are bland and muted neutrals. Underlying steel and cadet blues mixed with light greys create a depressive mood and give a base for the patchy, overlying skin tones: a mix of cameo tan and dark goldens. Within certain brushstrokes, it seems as if Dylan did not clean his brush before adding a new color, causing it to look lazily completed. The radical and abstract facial features, outlined with thick grey, seem almost a nod to the French Expressionist Georges Rouault. Yet, because of these frenzied brushstrokes and abstract features, I can’t help but feel Dylan gathered his inspiration from German Expressionism–distorted colors and scales, exacerbation, harsh outlines–to the point where it seems clichéd. 

The self portrait’s resemblance to Dylan is arguably the most problematic aspect of the painting. At surface value, from images of Dylan at the time, it does a poor job of accurately representing him. His hair, thick, long, and brown. His nose, slender. The only similar feature is his slightly rotund jaw. But do we pay millions of dollars for Van Gogh’s olive trees because they really look like olive trees, or because they look more realistic than anyone else’s olive trees? No. We do so because we want to experience Van Gogh’s alternative perception of the world. 

All of this—the lack of representation, the stale similarities to German Expressionism—leads me to wonder why anyone even cares about the Self Portrait portrait. Would it be as popular as it is if its creator weren’t Bob Dylan? Would the Museum of Modern Art have it on display if its creator hadn’t sold more than 100 million albums? By creating what appears to be a half-finished, amateurish painting, Dylan has tapped into our obsession with the perception of art. 

When I play the record, I like to prop the album cover up so I can look at it. I can’t help but feel that the portrait is a visual representation of the music on the album: poorly arranged, chaotic, unsophisticated. I look into the brushstrokes and feel discontentment. I look at the asymmetrical facial figures and remember grandma’s assessment, and can only wonder if she projected her love for Dylan onto a face that doesn’t even look like his. It’s dull, apprehensive, and rudimentary. Yet both grandma and the Museum of Modern Art would argue that it is a masterpiece, perhaps because they want to see a little bit of Dylan’s alternative perception in those brushstrokes. In a way, grandma was right: It is a masterpiece, but only because it was painted by Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan. Self Portrait. 1969. Oil on canvas. 12 in. by 12 in.