Brother Zoettl’s Workshop

Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman Al

This spring, I took the boys and another family we’re in a pod with to Ave Maria Grotto in my hometown of Cullman, Alabama. It was a gorgeous day, the azaleas were in full bloom, and we took what felt like a thousand pictures.

Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman Al

At the end, though, a surprise — we were invited by a volunteer to enter Brother Zoettle’s workshop — the space that the artist/creator of Ave Maria Grotto utilized to make his pieces. It’s being cleaned, organized, and restored, and we got to see the tools and collections that were used to construct his original works.

Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman Al

The Grotto website explains that Br Zoettl was a Benedictine Monk of St Bernard Abbey here, and that he grew up in Landschutt, Bavaria-Germany. The Grotto has hosted people since 1934 to see his works in miniature.

Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman Al

Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman Al


More pics of the Grotto and of the Abbey church here.
Straight to Ale has a couple of beers named in Br Zoettl’s honor
A documentary, Brother Joseph and the Grotto:

Greensboro, National and In Color

Aaron Sanders Head Studio, Greensboro AL

Aaron Sanders Head‘s studio and gallery in Greensboro, Alabama

We went earlier this year and visited the studio of Aaron Sanders Head — a textile artist who was recently written up at Bitter Southerner

Aaron Sanders Head Studio, Greensboro AL

“More so than painting or sculpture, everybody has a relationship with textiles in some way,” he says. “No one really feels ostracized by a quilt, for the most part.”

Aaron Sanders Head Studio, Greensboro AL

…and if you’ve read enough about Greensboro and the Black Belt, you’ve undoubtedly come across a certain amount of outside hero worship for people who have come here from elsewhere. But Sambo was not that way. And Rural Studio stays humble, humble, humble, head down doing the work. And Aaron, too, says:

“Coming here was never part of a savior point of view, was never to come here and fix Greensboro — because it’s not broken,” he says as he clamps a lid back onto the indigo vat. “We want to use our existing talents to feed into what we saw here as already being a magical community.”

Aaron Sanders Head Studio, Greensboro AL

Aaron’s also teaching classes at Atlas Obscura on dyeing, and other sessions on quilting culture and practice.

Aaron Sanders Head Studio, Greensboro AL

When he does in-person classes again in Greensboro, I’d like to go with a friend and take a session or more on natural fiber dyeing. There are classes later this year in Mobile and Dallas.

Aaron Sanders Head Studio, Greensboro AL

The gallery showcases the work of other artists as well

Aaron Sanders Head Studio, Greensboro AL

And Sarah Cole’s Abadir’s Pastry was doing a pop-up on the weekend we were there, but it looks like she’s welcoming people to her bakery and other places now, the schedule updated on her IG.

Abadir's Pastry, Greensboro AL

We bought one of each on the stand above. Delicious.

Sourdough Whole Grain Talami, Abadir's Pastry, Greensboro AL


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At ReckonSouth, a piece includes Aaron, Sarah, and Ian who is a professor at Alabama:

“Our plan is to help make Greensboro a spider web for artists,” says Tim, who’s busy writing songs and is looking forward to contributing to the local live music scene. “We want to make everybody come here.”

…“It’s a town with a pretty high threshold for weirdness, for new stuff and experimentation,” he says. In his experience, locals often ask him what he’s doing so they can help connect him with others who could help him out. “There’s a big infrastructure for support here that doesn’t exist in a bigger city.”

…“There are people who say, ‘I could never live in a small town,’” Ian says. “But they don’t know this one. It’s its own little world.”

This Week’s Various

As always, all images unless otherwise noted copyright Deep Fried Kudzu. Like to use one elsewhere? Kindly contact me here.

Affiliate links are sometimes used. That means that if you purchase something via one of the links, it costs you nothing extra, but may generate a commission, offsetting the cost of DFK… e.g. as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Also: remember that Bookshop is fab because they’re giving orders to indie booksellers. Grateful for your support. xoxo!

Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden, Chauvin LA

from a 2017 visit

Kenny Hill’s Chauvin Sculpture Garden in Louisiana has been damaged by Hurricane Ida

Rural Studio Glass Chapel, Masons Bend AL

Rural Studio Glass Chapel, from a 2009 visit

Rural Studio by Breadtruck Films has been shortlisted in the architecture video of the year category of Dezeen Awards 2021

At the ‘Luminous Lookout’ show at Baton Rouge Gallery Center for Contemporary Art, work by  Dawn Black, Kathryn Hunter and Kelli Scott Kelley. Kathryn Hunter’s company is Blackbird Letterpress.

Colorful Train Freight Containers Waco TX

freight containers, Waco TX, 2021

A Short Autobiography by F. Scott Fitzgerald, at The New Yorker Classics

Rick Bragg has a Pulitzer, sure, and now he has the Fitzgerald Museum Literary Prize for Excellence in Writing

Missing it this weekend but planning for next year: the James K. Polk Home and Museum Dark Horse Dinner, with music, bar, and whole hog roast, which makes homage to a dinner Polk once held in Murfreesboro as he launched his campaign for governor. The lavish political bash was said to include “40 fat sheep, 40 fine shoats, six beeves, 300 pounds fine ham, bread and vegetables without limit, the generous juice of the grape, whisky and old cognac.””

Graham's Edgewood Market, Edgewood TX

Graham’s Edgewood Market, Edgewood TX, 2021

Real Lane Cake, From The Original Recipe

Lane Cake, pre-icing, from 2010

This obit for an Arkansas native: Although she spent the last three years of her life in Colorado, Dot was the quintessential Southern lady. She could bake a Lane Cake, grow and arrange flowers, make biscuits from scratch, clean her already immaculate home, sing “My Old Kentucky Home” each year on Derby Day, and set a table properly, all without breaking a sweat (because, as she said, “horses sweat; men perspire, and ladies glow”).

First Home of Tennessee Williams, Columbus MS

first home of Tennessee Williams, from a 2017 visit

Strand Magazine is publishing a long-lost work of Tennessee Williams which was found in his archives at Harvard’s Houghton Library: his 1952 ‘The Summer Woman’. From The Guardian:

It follows an American academic who visits Rome each summer to continue his relationship with a woman he first met when she was working the streets. But as the years pass after the end of the second world war, he finds hostility towards Americans growing.

Robb Report mentions Dallas’ Emporium Pies ‘Fine Pies for Fine Folks’ and their “Lord of the Pies” in a feature on fruit pies around the country. This one is described as a “monster of an apple pie: a deep-dish delight boasting ten full chopped apples that get soft-baked with housemade caramel and topped with crispy cinnamon streusel.” 

High Museum Atlanta

High Museum, Atlanta, from 2015

Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe at the High in Atlanta, through January 9, 2022

St Andrew's Episcopal Church, Prairieville AL

St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Prairieville AL, 2017

An interview with Rev. Allen T. Stanton at DailyYonder on Changing the Way We Think about Rural Churches and he speaks to the permanency of these institutions

“Which leads to the other thing, which is the rural church is one of the few places where you have a large cross section of the community gathering each week. You’re your full self within the church. And that means that you can also do high impact, low-cost programs because you have your nurses, you have your teachers, you have small business owners, elected officials, and they’re gathering in a common space. They have common values. They care about the community and they’re in a place that’s already trusted.” 

…and in that, he’s talking too about how nonprofit leadership is a natural fit here: rural churches are the perfect venue for things like summer literacy programs. Let’s think more about this. If you’re in N or Central AL and want to get this or similar started or it’s established and you’d like volunteer help, I’d love to hear more.

Koolickle - a Kool-Aid Pickle. A Delta Specialty.

koolickle, 2006

There’s a restaurant in Denver, Split Lip, serving slugburgers and kooklickes, and yes, one of the founders is from Mississippi. And at Chicago’s The Delta, they’re doing fried koolickles and tamales.

Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens, Summerville GA

Paradise Gardens, 2009

Finster Fest at Paradise Garden in Somerville, Georgia is on this year: October 9-10

Fireworks Stand, Wills Point TX

Fireworks Stand, Wills Point TX, 2021

Super Random.

The State Fair of Texas’ winner for sweet foods Big Tex Choice is ‘The Armadillo’ which is a “semi-frozen cookie butter ice cream sandwich in the shape of an armadillo that’s been deep fried and dusted with buttery sugar.”

1stDibs features Memphis designer Sean Anderson

A Drink-by-Drink Tour of DC’s Most Historic Cocktail Bars and the Quadrant at the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton has an 89-page drink menu

Food things: If you’re thinking of making those Levain Bakery-style gigantic chocolate chip cookies, I used the recipe from Modern Honey and they turned out great  // Made this 2020 Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival recipe for ‘gourmet macaroni & cheese with Boursin‘ and we used rigatoni instead — was delicious // I have a friend who bakes gefilte fish in marinara for Shabbat; I didn’t have marinara so for first night RH, tried it with the only sauce in the pantry — sweet & sour — deciding it would either be amazing or atrocious, and it was pretty good! We named it ‘General Tso’s Gefilte Fish‘. I know, I know…

My wife wasn’t one for tradition, for formal. So I’m writing this instead of an obit by EJ Montini in the Arizona Republic.

Rollie-Pollie pendant and cicada from Mimosa Handcrafted

Prospect.5: Yesterday we said tomorrow in New Orleans is rescheduled a bit; the first wave of openings will be October 23, all open by November 13

Fruit Stand, Nectar AL

fruit stand, Nectar AL, 2021

Yes yes yes, Tennessee Farm Table with ‘Tennessee Apple Butter Making in Appalachia

Okra, Isom's Orchard, Athens AL

fruit stand, Athens AL, 2021

Growing heirloom okra across the country, at Modern Farmer

Joe Minter's African Village in America, Birmingham AL

Our sweet Hilda Minter has joined the ancestors. We didn’t visit much at all over the last year because we were careful about not getting each other sick. So many of our visits, just gone.

We went to the visitation. Heartbroken. This is all I can say about it.

Lafayette County Courthouse, Oxford MS

Lafayette County Courthouse, Oxford MS, 2017

Larry Brown’s Fire Notes from the 1992 first issue of Oxford American

Jimmy Lee Sudduth at the Ogden

a Jimmy Lee Sudduth at the Ogden, 2014

Sean Brock’s Audrey in Architectural Digest. I see Mose T, and a Jimmy Lee Sudduth riding his bike. Nick Offerman does woodwork and constructed the bar.

Two of the folk artists whose work he’s collected use mud and wild berries to create their pieces, a process Brock employs in his kitchen. He says, “It’s the same as what we do with lima beans and cabbage, sourcing and cooking them in a way that becomes a new, luxurious experience. It also speaks to our responsibility towards zero waste by respecting and working with the full potential of our ingredients.”

Watermelon Rind Pickles

watermelon pickles, 2006

I’m dreaming about making watermelon pickles again next week. If you can or “put up” fruits/vegetables, this is big. Over safety and accuracy concerns:

Last August, the Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach—the arm of the land-grant university that works directly with farmers, business owners, and families on practical science applications—quietly informed 4-H members that canned goods made with recipes from the Ball Blue Book would no longer be accepted for exhibits at county fairs.

The next time I visit my friend Suzanne in Cambridge, we are doing this:

New Iberia, LA

New Iberia, Louisiana, 2021

And now, Cicada Shells on her Shirt by Kiwicha

Ray's Drive Inn, San Antonio TX

Ray’s Drive-In, 2016

KSAT Explains: San Antonio’s Deep Growing Taco Culture

Gómez (The Original Donut Shop) said part of the restaurant’s appeal is how traditional it is. They’ve kept the same recipe for their carne guisada tacos since 1954. And along with the papa ranchera, the carne guisada is one of the most popular. They’re also known for their toasted bean and cheese.

“It’s part of our culture now,” Gómez said. “The bean and the cheese.”

And, of course, the tortillas are homemade.

“We start here at 4 a.m. just to have everything fresh by 6 a.m.,” Gómez said.

…and their next stop? Ray’s of course.

Twin Eagles, Shreveport LA

Twin Eagles, Shreveport LA, 2021

Clicking through the places on this (pretty great) piece in the UK version of National Geographic, 10 of the best backcountry adventures in the Deep South. Would love to do the Land Rover off-road drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains they mention. It’s the Vintage Overland teardrop camper with — I’m not super clear — maybe one of these Biltmore LR programs? Also, being on horseback at Saint Helena Island, South Carolina sounds pretty great too.

Guntersville Lake

Isom's Orchard, Athens AL

Trying to get all of us on the boat as much as possible before the weather changes, and excited about football and other fall activities. Had my first sip of apple cider slushie from Isom’s Orchard in Athens, Alabama, so hello, autumn.

Two great things & maybe you can be a part! 

*** This summer I contacted a couple of my Alabama state representatives — Rep Rafferty and Rep Rolanda Hollis, and they will be introducing legislation to repeal the “Pink Tax” which is the sales tax on feminine products and diapers. Can’t be more excited! Let me know if you want to stay in touch about this and I’ll make an e-mailing list for updates.

Working on submitting Alice Finch Lee to the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. I need to do research & show my resources, so if you have information to share, let’s talk! ***

Sweetest wishes for a fun weekend and an interesting, fulfilling week coming up. xoxo!

Texas Sheet Cake & Rosh Hashanah

Texas Sheet Cake

hey, shawty


Well, this year was a different Rosh Hashanah for us.

We stayed home. We went to a friend’s back yard to hear the shofar blast on second day. We had one member of family in who hasn’t been here since the boys were babies.

Also, we (especially Shugie) made an amazing Texas sheet cake.

Sunray, Texas

I lived during elementary school for a little while in Sunray, Texas and among my sweetest memories there are of cooking with 4-H where we made everything from bread-in-a-bag to tacos. Sunray was terrific. It felt like we knew everybody, Friday night football games were *everything* and if you wanted to eat out, you went to Dairy Queen. Seeing jackrabbits and prairie dogs and tumbleweeds was fun. Rodeos were huge entertainment. I spent my life daydreaming about horses, reading The Black Stallion over and over.

So making this dessert reminiscent of Texas with Shugie was fun. It’s just chocolate on chocolate on chocolate and the cake turns out more fudge-y than cake-y which is perfect and the icing is the kind that sets up quickly. You can make this in a sheet pan which is obviously the idea but I live with a certain amount of unnecessary baking paranoia that means that I like using a 9×13 dish instead. Either is fine. It’s just going to be a little bit thicker in the baking pan since baking sheets are 10×15.

I believe in Courtney Bond’s recipe from a 2016 issue of Texas Monthly with just a few tiny changes, but most recipes for this dish are incredibly, incredibly similar.

Preheat the oven to 400*. Prep the baking pan or sheet with Pam or similar.

It’s 2 cups sugar and 2 cups flour, then a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of salt, all mixed together in a large bowl.

Another bowl has 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 1 teaspoon baking soda mixed together.


Texas Sheet Cake


In a pot on the stove goes 1 stick butter, 1/2 cup Crisco, 6 tablespoons cocoa, and 1 cup water but you know I’ve also seen someone suggest coffee instead and you know that would be just incredible too. Bring that to a boil, stirring constantly.


Texas Sheet Cake


Carefully pour the hot mixture to the dry ingredients, then add to that the bowl with the buttermilk mixture. Stir until it’s all incorporated.

Bake at 400* and start checking on it around :20 though it will likely be done closer to :25 or so.


Texas Sheet Cake


In the meantime — Courtney suggests :10 before but I needed less time and likely you will too — make the icing on the stovetop. You’ll want the icing to be hot because it will be more easily spreadable, and it’s poured over the cake while the cake is still hot from the oven.

In a saucepan, bring together 1 stick unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons buttermilk, and 6 tablespoons cocoa to a boil. Take it off the heat and add 2tsp vanilla and 1 pound powdered sugar. It’s easy to do this mixing by transferring it to the Kitchenaid but you can use an electric beater also, or by hand as long as you’re quick.


Texas Sheet Cake


If you have people who love nuts, stir in a cup or so of pecans. I forgot to ask if our special guest was okay with nuts, so I made one half with and one half without. I like the look of the pecans uncovered because they’re so pretty, but if you add them to the icing, that’s perfect too.


Texas Sheet Cake


Pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven. Gentle coercion with the back of a spoon might be needed to get the icing to the corners.


Texas Sheet Cake


This is Sunday supper cake. Weeknight cake. Bake sale cake. Funeral cake. Covered dish cake. Dinner on the Grounds cake. Family reunion cake. More than a few somebodies somewhere have had it as their main wedding cake and you *know* it’s been on a million groom’s chocolate tables.


Texas Sheet Cake


Even in the 9×13 it’s still that perfect short, short, short slice. Yessssss.


Texas Sheet Cake

Blue Bell came out with a Texas Sheet Cake flavor this year and Jeni’s has a dairy-free TSC flavor too. H-E-B sells TSC baking mix.

Just in the mood for something chocolate, but maybe not cake? Try considering hot fudge piechocolate bourbon pecan pie, boiled cookies, chocolate chess pie, peppermint barkbest-ever chocolate chip cookies, espresso sorbet, or buckeyes. Most all DFK recipes are indexed here.

JW Marriott, Nashville & Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak

We’re likely going to be in Nashville this fall and I was thinking of our favorite hotels there; the JW Marriott is definitely one of them as its right in the middle of everything downtown. Two blocks from Broadway. Easy, easy.

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

These pics are from the last two or three stays we’ve had here. The concierge lounge is nice, the lobby is great to just hang around in, and the whole space is airy and pulls off something of a luxe-mod feel.

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

The rooftop pool isn’t huge, but still a nice size:

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

Here, the executive lounge. It’s on the 33rd floor so great views, and it hosts breakfast, beverages, and small dishes at night:

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

JW Marriott, Nashville TN

One of the greatest things here at the hotel, though, is Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina. It’s on the 34th floor.

Everything absolutely delicious and the service and views were terrific:

Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott, Nashville TN

Half Lobster, Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott, Nashville TN

Half lobster

New York Strip, Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott, Nashville TN

New York Strip

Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott, Nashville TN


French Fry trio, Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott, Nashville TN

and I almost never order fries but we saw another table receive them and wow, they were fab.

Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott, Nashville TN

Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott, Nashville TN

Really, all positive things to say about the JW. The more I think about it, the better staying a weekend in Nashville sounds. Cheekwood has the William Edmondson exhibit going and Cheekwood Harvest goes through October 31, the Frist has the Kara Walker exhibit going on. Yep. Let’s do it.