Placemats

For a while, I’ve had the idea of laminating paper menus from some of our favorite restaurants so that our children can have something different at each meal to use as a placemat.

Chez FonFon Menu, 2008

Av got them laminated for us, and they turned out great!

We’ve got placemats now from Bright Star, Lusco’s, Attman’s, Cotton Patch, Walnut Hills, Primo’s, McGuire’s, Stamps Superburger…

Laminated Menus

Niki’s West, Mary Mac’s, Wintzell’s, Schwartz’s in Montreal, Faidley’s in Baltimore, the old Sal and Sam’s, even a peach pie wrapper from The Varsity that I guess can be a drink coaster…

Laminated Menus

Hopefully when they get older the boys will have a good time deciding which placemat to use – and it will give them something to practice reading with too.


I’ve also been saving mayonnaise and applesauce jars for catching lightning bugs!

RC and Moon Pie Festival, Bell Buckle Tennessee

This weekend, we drove up to Bell Buckle, Tennessee for the RC and Moon Pie Festival. We got to see some of the contests – there was the RC dash, where contestants walk with cans of RC on their head, and the watermelon seed-spitting contest. All day, there were different activities: a race, people clogging, a RC-Moon Pie recipe contest, a wading pool play called “A Midsummer’s Nightmare” where GooGoo Cluster tries to steal RC Cola from Moon Pie, and towards the end of the day, the largest Moon Pie is cut into and served.

There were some special painted pieces for sale too – this table ($1800):

RC and Moon Pie Festival, Bell Buckle TN

Stool ($950/pr):

RC and Moon Pie Festival, Bell Buckle TN

Chair ($1400):

RC and Moon Pie Festival, Bell Buckle TN

Gosh you know I *loved* those and they’ve inspired me to take out my paints and do my own thing. It’s great that a lucky someone is getting to take these home!

Daddy of course snacked on a RC and a Moon Pie. Shug is *waaay* too little to enjoy them, but daddy put them on his stroller tray just for a pic, and look at what Shug went after!

Shug Likes RC and Moon Pies, RC and Moon Pie Festival, Bell Buckle TN

The White Lily Answer

White Lily

Thank you – thank you – thank you to Joanne, who emailed me with the answer to the code for Knoxville-milled White Lily!

Look for the “Best if used by” date stamp, like on my sack of flour above. Underneath the “best if” line is a series of numbers.

  • The first number indicates year. So this flour was milled in “8” = 2008.
  • The next three numbers indicate the day of the year. The 108th day of this year was April 17th.
  • The next three numbers indicate the plant code. The Knoxville code is/was 569.

Joanne – really – (and I am sending you an email back too, but…) thank you soooo much!!

White Lily Update

(original post)

I was so tickled to get all those emails about those of you also being interested in buying Knoxville-milled White Lily at the store before it’s all gone!

I didn’t get a response to the email I sent White Lily on Wednesday. This was the message I had sent them:

Hi – I understand that the White Lily mill in Knoxville is closing, and I want to stock up on it so that I can avoid the new flour being milled up north. I plan to purchase several, several, several bags this weekend. Can you please tell me how I can differentiate on the bag between the flour made in Knoxville and that made elsewhere?

So…I decided to call them. I talked to Lori Ann, and asked her to please tell me the code on the bags of White Lily for the Knoxville mill. She wouldn’t tell me the code (and, really, you *know* they have a code on those bags because of all the food recalls that go on, so the FDA and whoever else can trace tainted ingredients back to their source. We aren’t talking produce w/out barcodes.) but she *did* say that everything that is on store shelves right now was milled in Knoxville.

I told her it was my understanding that the mills up north were already making White Lily. Does that mean that those mills haven’t started shipping the flour yet? She didn’t answer that but again said that everything that is on the store shelves right now is from Knoxville.

Really, I would be happy with that explanation but I don’t understand why I couldn’t just get the code so I would know that the ‘x’ number of bags I buy this weekend really are from Knoxville. You know?

She added that there was no way I would be able to tell the difference between Knoxville White Lily and the newly made flour anyway.

Well, I couldn’t help myself, so I very nicely asked her if she read the article in the NY Times which says that two other sources could tell the difference. She said that it was a (okay, yes! I did take notes!! you know me!!) “flawed test” and that one of the testers was a “former employee” so there you go.

I told her that the other tester, though, was not employed by the company and she gave me the pause. You know, …….the pause…….. After a few seconds, she said that they had a “lady in their kitchen that worked there over 14 years that could not tell the difference” and that the color change between Knoxville and the other mill was due to the fact that “flour changes color in age” meaning I guess that the other mill’s flour may have been older than the comparison from Knoxville. So how long then has the other mill been making White Lily without shipping it since everything on store shelves right now is from Knoxville? I’m not sure how much sense that makes.

Lori Ann was really nice and I thanked her for helping me. I do wish that she would have just told me that code, though! Maybe they aren’t supposed to because then they would have so many people wanting to stock up and freeze Knoxville flour. Of course, they are still making money on any sales no matter where the flour originated, so…not sure that makes any difference either…

It sounds like their office has had a *lot* of calls about this. If anyone else has any questions – or wants to try to get the code(!!) – their # is 800.595.1380. You have to promise me you’ll email me if you get it! hahaha!!


Updated: got the code!

Fried Pickles

Last night for supper, I made up some fish, and to go along with it, fried pickles.

Av loves fried pickles…

His favorites are from Ezell’s Fish Camp in Lavaca, Alabama:
Fried Pickles at Ezell's Fish Camp, Lavaca AL

These are from somewhere else…not quite as good because they’re so thin and there’s so much extra crust:
Fried Pickles

These were a mostly cornmeal crust:
Fried Pickles

These came from a barbecue place in Fultondale, Alabama where they fry the whole spear:
Fried Pickles, Porky's Pride BBQ, Fultondale AL

The secret to really good fried pickles is that the pickles are cut thick enough to stay “pickley” and of course that they not at all be greasy. These turn out great…

  • In a skillet, put oil on to 350*.
  • Prepare a plate with paper toweling so the finished pickles can drain well, and set the oven to 200* so that if you’re doing several batches, or if they will be done a little earlier than other things, they can stay nice and warm.
  • For every two people, you need one whole pickle (if you’re serving this as a side dish). For this recipe, I really suggest Claussen because they really do stay crisp. Cut into nice-size piec

Fried Pickles

  • The egg wash ratio is: one egg to one cup of milk. This egg wash is enough for at least six or seven pickles (12-14 servings):

Fried Pickles

  • In a Ziploc bag, put enough flour (or cornmeal, or a ratio of cornmeal to flour that you like) to coat the number of pickles you’re cooking plus seasoning – the amount of seasoning is going to be different for every family according to taste…but we like things pretty spiced-up, so I put several great-big dashes of Tony Chachere’s in the bag. If I weren’t using Tony Chachere’s, it would be something like cayenne pepper plus garlic salt and pepper. None of this is exact – it’s just whatever looks and sounds good:

Fried Pickles

  • Put the pickle pieces in the egg wash:

Fried Pickles

  • Remove them with a slotted spoon so the extra egg wash can drip off, then place the pickles in the ziploc bag and shake to coat. Shake, shake, shake.
  • Make sure the oil is at 350* (if you put them in at a lower temperature, they will soak up the oil). Lift each pickle piece out of the bag separately and gently place in the skillet to fry:

Fried Pickles

I use an electric skillet to fry in sometimes, just to make certain the oil is kept at a certain temperature without me having to think too much about it.

The pickles only take a few minutes on each side (get one side golden brown, then flip to the other side). Place the finished pickles on the plate with the paper toweling, and place that in the 200* oven to stay nice and warm while everything else finishes.

Fried Pickles, Y'all

Oh these turn out so great! Super-crisp and not at all greasy. Yum!

If these are for an appetizer, they can be served with a nice dip – remoulade or comeback sauce is nice.

Salt and Pepper Shaker Tassel

Salt and Pepper Shaker Tassel

Last year, there was an article in Mississippi Magazine about salt and pepper shaker tassels. All you do is just take an old salt or pepper shaker, thread a cord in the top, and put a tassel in the other end.

Supplies:
shaker with a hole in the bottom (so those screw-cap ones obv. won’t work)
either skinny gold cord, or embroidery thread & embroidery needle
various ribbons (or you can use yarn, etc)
hot glue

This project is *so* much easier if you use a shaker that is short, because you won’t have a hard time getting the cord or thread to go through the top holes and down to where you can reach it on the bottom. If you use really tall shakers like these:

Salt and Pepper Tassel

…it’s a lot more difficult (these are 4″ tall) and rather than tying a knot in the cord, I’ve had to glue the cord to stay put. It still looks good, but you just have to be careful to do a very neat job hot gluing.

The shakers must have a hole in the bottom so you’ll have a place to nest the tassel:

Salt and Pepper Tassel

To make the hanger, I took embroidery thread and put it on a long needle to get it to go from the bottom of the shaker, through one of the top holes, and down through the other.

Salt and Pepper Tassel

Salt and Pepper Tassel

I placed little tiny dabs of hot glue at each hole in the top of the shaker to secure the thread. I flattened out the glue while it was still hot so it would look neat and not at all noticeable.

I like brown and turquoise together, so I got five different patterns of brown ribbon:

Salt and Pepper Tassel

…and cut them all either 12″ or 13″ long so there would be some variation. I wanted the ribbons to hang somewhere around 150% the length of the shaker (so since the shaker is 4″ long and once the tassel is made the 12″ strips will be folded in half to be 6″ long, that pretty much works out).

For this tassel, I cut seventeen strips of ribbon. Some ribbon patterns I only cut two of and others (like the skinny one) I cut more. Here are all the strips laid out:

Salt and Pepper Tassel

I put a new long skinny ribbon underneath all the others, right in the middle, and knotted it:

Salt and Pepper Tassel

Then I pulled down both sides and knotted that with a new piece of skinny ribbon to make the tassel shape:

Salt and Pepper Tassel

I stuffed the top of the tassel in the shaker bottom (and neatly hot glued around the inside there to make it secure):

Salt and Pepper Tassel

Cut fish-tails into the large ribbon ends (I left the small and medium-width ribbons flat since they won’t unravel):

Salt and Pepper Tassel

Fluffed it all out a bit, and here it is!:

Salt and Pepper Tassel

Oh Nooooo!

This morning, my friends Alan and Tammy sent me emails with the article from today’s NY Times about the White Lily mill in Knoxville closing.

Smucker’s has bought White Lily and they are making it up north. As of the end of *this month*, White Lily won’t be Southern any more! And not just that, but what makes White Lily what it is – the source of the wheat and the exact way it’s milled…well, here is the entire article and here are some excerpts:

FOR generations of Southern bakers, the secret to weightless biscuits has been one simple ingredient passed from grandmother to mother to child: White Lily all-purpose flour.

Biscuit dives and high-end Southern restaurants like Watershed in Atlanta and Blackberry Farm outside Knoxville use it. Blue-ribbon winners at state fair baking contests depend on it. On food lovers’ Web sites, transplanted Southerners share tips on where to find it, and some of them returning from trips back home have been known to attract attention when airport security officers detect a suspicious white dust on their luggage.

White Lily is distinctly Southern: it has been milled here in downtown Knoxville since 1883 and its white bags (extra tall because the flour weighs less per cup than other brands) are distributed almost solely in Southern supermarkets, although specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma and Dean & DeLuca have carried it at premium prices.

But at the end of June, the mill, with its shiny wood floors, turquoise and red grinders and jiggling armoire-size sifters, will shut its doors. The J. M. Smucker Company, which bought the brand a year ago, has already begun producing White Lily at two plants in the Midwest, causing ripples of anxiety that Southern biscuits will never be the same.

Maribeth Badertscher, a spokeswoman for the company, said the new White Lily was the result of thorough product testing and promised that customers “won’t know the difference.” But in a blind test for The New York Times, two bakers could immediately tell the old from the new.

The passion for White Lily is more than simple nostalgia.

“All you have to do is take a little bit in your hand and take some all-purpose flour in the other hand and just look at it,” said Shirley O. Corriher, the Atlanta-based author of “CookWise,” about the science of cooking, and a forthcoming companion volume called “BakeWise.” “There’s an incredible difference. It’s much, much finer, much whiter and much silkier. You’re going to get a finer textured cake.”

It may also explain why many Northerners’ attempts to replicate Southern delicacies fall flat. Low-protein flour absorbs less liquid, so a recipe designed for White Lily won’t work with other flours. Cake flour or another low-protein flour like Martha White are the closest substitutes.

A blind test by two bakers, who were sent bags of the old and new product marked only A and B, underscored Ms. Corriher’s concern.

Zoellyn Smith, who worked in both quality control and research and development at the Knoxville plant, accurately identified the new product before she began to bake. Sample A, the new product, had “a grayish color” and made a “dense and chewy” cake, while Sample B, the old, made for silky, rather than stiff, dough and a “light and airy” cake.

“When I looked at just the flour I thought that Sample B was milled in Knoxville,” she said. “After performing the bakes there was no doubt.”

But it did not take a specialist in food technology and plant sciences to guess right. Ms. Hilton, the amateur baker, said, “There wasn’t a big difference, but I could tell the difference.” Even her family knew which batch was made with flour milled in the Midwest. “The biscuits came out just a little more dense, and the texture wasn’t quite as smooth.”

I sent an email this morning to Smuckers asking how I can tell when I go to the grocery store this weekend to buy sacks & sacks & sacks of White Lily whether it was milled in Knoxville or up north. I will update as soon as I hear.

I’m going to freeze bunches of it…

Updated! Update 1, Update (final) 2

Buttermilk Biscuits

How many biscuits can you eat this mornin’?
How many biscuits can you eat this evenin’?
How many biscuits can you eat?
Forty-nine and a ham of meat! (sometimes people sing “and a pound of meat”)
This morning…this evening…right now…

Buttermilk Biscuits 2008

Do you know that song? It’s old, I think I found it on a cd of traditional songs from field recordings. I sing it in my head every time I make biscuits. Unfortunately that’s the only verse I can remember! Then there’s another that goes something like “biscuits in the morning, biscuits in the evening, biscuits at…” is it ‘biscuits at suppertime’? But suppertime is in the evening, so does that make sense? I may have that wrong.

Likely, because I get lyrics wrong all the time. And I get old sayings wrong too. Seriously, I said this to Av last week:

“Well if that’s not the needle in the haystack that broke the camel’s back!”

We both had a good laugh over that one – after I realized I had stuck two different things together – but we both knew what I meant!!

Anyway!

Last week I made my buttermilk biscuits and finally took pics so I can post the recipe! These are extra-special because they’re made in Av’s grandmother’s cast iron skillet. And the great thing about old cast iron skillets is that they’ve been used/seasoned so much that nothing will stick – really. You just have to remember to never-ever put it in the dishwasher, and to just wash it out by hand and dry it off immediately. Good old cast iron skillets can be passed down for generations.

That reminds me of this ad in the paper last year for the iron skillets:

Fant's, Guntersville


The trick to these biscuits is to oil the skillet and put it in the oven cold, then switch the oven to 450* and let it get up to temperature. That’s what gives the biscuit bottom a nice crust.

Oh, and if you (like me) don’t enjoy rolling things out, there’s no rolling with these – overhandling dough makes it tough – so that’s another big plus. These are beautifully free-form.

Ingredients (this recipe makes 14 or 15 biscuits but I make half this recipe all the time and it always comes out. In the pictures below, I have made half this recipe.):
oil for pan
2 cups flour – White Lily is my favorite
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp ice-cold butter, cut into small bits, each a little bigger than a kernel of corn
buttermilk – this amount will always vary but start with 1/2c. and add as needed

Directions:
The first thing to do is to oil the pan – pour some in, swish it all around the bottom and halfway up the sides, then take a paper towel and remove the excess (but don’t get it completely dry). Put it in the oven, and then set the oven to 450*.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cold butter pieces and get them coated:

Buttermilk Biscuits 2008

The reason it’s so important to keep the butter cold is because of the steam that is generated when the butter melts. The steam is what makes the inside of the biscuit so nice and airy. If the butter isn’t still really cold and in little-bitty pieces when it goes in the skillet, it’s not going to make all that steam.

Add the buttermilk slowly, just add until you get to a good dough consistency. Not too dry, not too wet (and the amount used will always be different, I guess because of the weather or something. Not sure.). Be careful not to overmix because that will make the biscuits tough. It should still be messy on your hands when you pick it up to make the biscuit shape:

Buttermilk Biscuits 2008

Take a potholder and get the super-hot, 450* skillet out of the oven, then take little mounds of biscuit dough in your hand and put them in the skillet. You’ll be able to see the minute you put them in that they will start sizzling on the bottom. Get the potholder and put it back in the oven…

I start checking on the biscuits at 8 minutes but I don’t think they’ve ever been done in less than 15. Mostly they take around 20-22 minutes to get nice and golden brown:

Buttermilk Biscuits 2008

Now that is a pretty biscuit! And it wasn’t rolled out or anything! It’s just a pretty shape made by hand:

Buttermilk Biscuits 2008

It’s got that nice crust on the bottom:

Buttermilk Biscuits 2008

Buttermilk Biscuits 2008

…and super-light and airy inside.
These don’t even need butter – they just come out perfect. Well, maybe with a little mayhaw jelly at breakfast…

Happy Father’s Day!

This was Av’s first *real* Father’s Day! We had a cookout with family over, and had a giant iced cookie for dessert. Shug and I got him an iPod since the new car has a plugin for it, and this is one he can put pictures on too, plus a stereo-thingie so he can use the iPod at his office. He loved everything and of course the best part of all was that he really can celebrate the holiday since we have Shug (and of course, Shug saying “dada dada dada!” all the time makes him sooo happy!)!

You Are Being Watched, Arena Shows, Scary Mushrooms, and Rs

Six (at least) Suits of Armor Guarding House, Birmingham AL

We were in a neighborhood that we’re not familiar with on Monday, looking for a restaurant we had heard wonderful things about when we passed by this house.

There are four suits of armor on the roof, at least two on the front porch, and…you can’t see it here, but a faux crocodile guarding the fountain in this home’s side courtyard. And how many homes do you know have a big clock above the front door?

I would love to meet the people that live here. I think.


That reminded me of a place I’ve heard of called Medieval Times – it’s a dinner and ‘tournament’ place where you eat while performers do things like jousting and…oh gosh, you know, I have no idea really, but that kind of King Arthur thing I guess. There are several of them around, even one in Atlanta.

In Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and a couple of other places, there’s a similar-type dinner show, except it’s called Dixie Stampede and I heard that if you go, you either cheer on the Yankees or the Rebels.

When I just Googled these two places, I found two other dinner ‘adventures’ – one called Pirate’s Dinner Adventure and another called Arabian Nights.

I’ve never been to any of those places, but I wonder if it might be fun…I mean, is it so hokey it’s funny, or is it something you can genuinely get into?

I’ve been to a regular dinner theater two or three times – but those are places where you watch a regular play/show on a small stage rather than be in an arena with thirty horses running around. The first time I went to dinner theater was in high school, I think with my Speech and Drama class, and we saw “Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” about experiences in a Catholic private school.

I will never forget it, because we got served a salad with mushrooms and I got choked on one. Could not breathe. I mean, I could not breathe!! My best friend Beky saw what was going on and was just about to either put me in the Heimlich or call the teacher or whatever and I *begged* her – while choking and turning blue – with some kind of impromptu sign language – to Do.Not.Do.Anything.

Seriously, it was high school. We were all having a good time. And I would have rather died there on the spot than everybody know that I was not big-girl enough to eat a mushroom without choking! hahahaha!!!

Well, somehow, it worked out and I’m still here. But that thought of everything stopping and everyone watching me turn into Violet Beauregarde was too much to bear. Oh, especially during high school.

As it turned out, I switched out of Speech and Drama class during the Christmas break for some other elective I was interested in. Speech and Drama had been so frustrating.

Our teacher was *wonderful* – beyond wonderful. She was very big on enunciating every single syllable. “Mountain” wasn’t “mown’n” anymore. It was MOWN TEHN (or something like that). And the word “towel” was supposed to sound like it was spelled rather than “tahl”. Every word that had an “R” at the end was actually supposed to be spoken with an “R” at the end! Can you imagine!?

Nevah!