Vivian Howard’s Tour of Southern Food Swings Through Cary

Vivian Howard holds an Indian bitter melon in the produce section of Around the World Market in Cary.

In her new PBS show, “Somewhere South,” celebrity chef Vivian Howard explores cross-cultural dishes, eating and cooking with friends along the way. In this week’s episode, airing April 24 at 9 p.m., Howard explores the universality of cooked greens and stops in Cary to get a lesson on saag paneer.

“People all over the state know. If you want good Indian food, go to Cary,” said Howard, after a shopping trip at Around the World Market with owner Manisha Patel and friends Rakesh and Archna Anand. 

Howard and the Anands spend an afternoon making saag paneer, an Indian dish of slow-cooked spinach, rapini and mustard greens with cheese, and the chef reflects that Southerners aren’t the only ones who “cook their greens to death.”

(From left to right) Rakesh Anand, Manisha Patel, Vivian Howard and Archna Anand shop for ingredients to make saag paneer at Patel’s Cary store, Around the World Market.

As with each of the episodes in the six-part series, Howard follows a dish through the many cultures who prepare and eat it. Beginning with a story of her mother’s long-stewed pot of collards, Howard weaves together the stories of Native Americans and successive waves of immigrants to the South. Other episodes explore hand pies, dumplings, porridge, pickles and barbecue.

Howard and her co-producer Cynthia Hill received a Peabody Award in 2013 for “A Chef’s Life,” about Howard and her restaurant in Kinston, N.C., Chef & the Farmer. Among her other accolades are two Emmys and a James Beard Broadcast Media Award. Other than her flagship restaurant, Howard owns the Boiler Room Oyster Bar in Kinston, Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria in Wilmington, and a mail-order bakery business called Handy & Hot.

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