This summer my travels have taken me from the Gulf of Mexico to the Memphis countryside, and I have found one singular accessory more useful than anything else in my luggage--a jar of black peppercorns topped with a built-in grinder. There is nothing that finishes a dish quite as well as freshly cracked pepper. I really don't even know what those gray-white-black specks that come in those cardboard shakers are, but my guess is if they ever were peppercorns, they were ground several years ago. One thing I do know--they are flavorless and therefore useless.
Bringing along my own pepper feels a little snobbish, but the multitude of dishes that have benefited from it (greek coleslaw, pimento cheese, summer vegetable soup, tomato basil bruschetta, homemade pasta with bacon-cream sauce) make it clear that it's not a matter of elitism but one of taste.
I can't wait to go through airport customs and have to explain this one.