Megan Thompson Aston
I spent the first 10 years of my life in Northern Florida, which I often affectionately refer to as “Southern Georgia” to distinguish it from tropical South Florida. Rather than palm trees, we had Spanish moss-covered oaks. My family and I grew up swimming closer to alligators than to dolphins. My childhood consisted of nearly every country song cliche. Dirt roads. Double-wide trailers. Horses. The works. And ya know? I loved it. It was in these formative years that I learned how to properly mix a cathead biscuit ( it’s with your hands, of course ), that you always save bacon grease for the next batch of cornbread, and that salting grandma’s food was surely a sin. From holidays to family reunions, food was the star of the show and everyone had their spin on what made a dish special. My aunt never made a macaroni & cheese that wasn’t baked and topped with breadcrumbs. The “secret” to my grandmother’s green beans was fatback and a touch of brown sugar – sorry, Nanny. Of course no family gathering was complete without a large bowl of banana pudding. Who made the pudding was an honor bestowed only to those who were known not to disappoint.
When my family moved to the foothills of North Carolina, it was there that I experienced snow for the first time and spent the next 16 years of my life learning the differences between Lexington style BBQ, Eastern Carolina BBQ, and the controversial Carolina Gold BBQ. I was, and still am, a fan of it all. Though I was now 500 + miles north of The Sunshine State, all the same traditions of my previous region of the deep south still rang true – with a few additions. The strong Moravian culture in the area introduced me to Chicken Pie – not pot pie, yall. Chicken Pie. Not a pea, not a carrot, not a potato to be found. Also, Tomato Pie? Holy yes. Dang, they love some pimento cheese up there. You can keep that business to yourself. AIN’T MY THING.
Truthfully, it would be years before I’d start to fully grasp and understand that these traditions, these recipes, have roots deeper and connections stronger than just with the matriarchs of my own family. Their origins are diverse, multicultural, and often divisive. Despite our differences, a love and connection to this food is something we all share. It has the power to bring us to the same table to break bread, share stories, and make new friends. I’ve dedicated myself to using good food, a listening ear, and my own personal platform to bring people together to create positive progressive change.
Health and nutrition became important to me when I began to see the results from years of an indulgent diet manifest in poor regulation of blood sugar, digestive issues, inflammation, and poor circulation – practically all before 20 years old. I was young and I didnt have health insurance. If I wanted to feel well, I had to figure it out for myself. It was at that point when I dedicated myself to learning a new food lifestyle that included less animal products, more colorful locally grown vegetables, and less prepackaged processed food. I gave up soda. I completely gave up sweet tea – say a prayer for me. I even gave up bread for a while – 10/10 would not reccomend. I wanted to be in control of what was fueling my body by overseeing as much of it’s process as possible. With that in mind, I taught myself how to grow vegetables, bake my own bread, and make nearly everything I could from scratch.
This freedom to explore food, cooking, and gardening was afforded to me largely due to owning and operating my own organic skincare business until 2018. Being my own boss enabled me to award myself the flexible schedule these things often demand. Unfortunately, not all folks can say they have the time or resources available to do the same. So, after moving to the Northshore of the Greater New Orleans area, I started Darling Girl. My goal is to make plant-based scratch made meals more approachable and obtainable to my new community by creating beautiful food inspired by the nostalgic recipes we all know and love.