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.
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.
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.
“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.”
…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.”
“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.”
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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, 2021
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, 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.”
“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.
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.”
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, 2017
Larry Brown’s Fire Notes from the 1992 first issue of Oxford American
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 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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even in the 9×13 it’s still that perfect short, short, short slice. Yessssss.
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.
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.
The rooftop pool isn’t huge, but still a nice size:
Here, the executive lounge. It’s on the 33rd floor so great views, and it hosts breakfast, beverages, and small dishes at night:
and I almost never order fries but we saw another table receive them and wow, they were fab.
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.