Local foods sold with a Southern spin

It’s practically a scientific fact: Southern foods are seasoned by the stories that gather around them.

Grandma’s recipe for squash casserole doesn’t taste the same until someone recounts the time Uncle Jimmy tripped over the dog while carrying the dish to the table, spilling squash all over Grandma’s fancy woven rug, and she laid into Jimmy because everyone knew that the dining room doorway was the dog’s favorite place to nap. The Christmas cake is always made with artificial rum flavoring because Great Aunt Ann absolutely refused to cook with even a drop of alcohol. And don’t forget the time that cousin Bobby, as a little kid, hid in the pantry and ate an entire jar of pickled watermelon rinds.

The tales add flavor, no doubt about it. Which is probably one reason why even the fanciest little jars sold in specialty stores just don’t taste as good as what Mama made.

Entrepreneurs Jennifer and John Maley are trying to change that. Their new online store, Local Market South, pairs each Southern-made treat with the story behind it. You’ll learn that Pine Street Market in Avondale Estates makes its bacon and sausages with local pork and natural casings; that High Road Craft’s Caffeine & Cacao ice cream (yes, the ice cream is shipped) resulted from friendships between the owners of the ice cream company, Jittery Joe’s coffee in Athens and Cacao chocolate shop in Atlanta; that Atlanta’s own Hot Squeeze began as sauce for a pork tenderloin at a catered luncheon.

“It’s an irony of brick-and-mortar stores that, even though you can talk to a person about [a product], they don’t necessarily know where it came from or why it’s being made,” says John Maley, a digital brand manager by day who built the site on nights and weekends. Adds Jennifer, who lined up the vendors and wrote the copy, “We wanted to tell the stories behind them. The story of the ingredients and their connections to the South.”

The couple, both Georgia natives, are dining enthusiasts with ties to the area’s local food movement. Jennifer, who works in development at her alma mater, Emory University, writes a weekly blog for Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Together, the Maleys also still occasionally contribute to their own blog, Food We’ve Eaten (though they’ve been a little busy this summer getting Local Market South off the ground).

The Maleys hope the online store, which launched this month, will eventually lead to a physical store, too. “I want to have demos and tastings,” Jennifer says. In the meantime, they’re focused on growing the site. More products and vendors are coming, they say.

“The expectation isn’t that this is going to be some huge dot-com phenomenon,” John says. “I think the natural next step might be to take the concept to brick and mortar. We’ve always got ideas.”

Images: Local Market South pantry items; John and Jennifer Maley (photo by Anne Richmond Boston)