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In this month’s Smithsonian Magazine: How the Hot Tamale Conquered the American South
My first food memory—besides crying over a mouthful of Tabasco-drenched crackers my momma had sprinkled on the floor to deter my fondness for rat poison—is biting into a spicy tamale at Doe’s Eat Place (a renowned steakhouse, now with several locations throughout the South, owned by the Signa family, who got their start selling tamales) in downtown Greenville. It was like dreaming with my eyes wide open—moist, rich, filling and delicious—and I’ve been in love ever since. I eat a dozen in a sitting whether at Doe’s, where, wrapped in parchment rather than the more usual corn husk, it’s merely a warm-up for the gargantuan steaks, or at a spot like Scott’s Hot Tamales, a tiny white shack on the edge of Highway 1 serving only tamales and soda. I’ve flown all the way from my current home in Maine to Greenville to satisfy a sudden, overpowering tamale craving, lying to my family and friends that I’d really come all that way just to see them. I would do practically anything for a Delta hot tamale…
Calvin Trillin on Delta Tamales in The New Yorker, and I love that someone has the title ‘Biscuit Boss’ on their business cards.
Above, Dockery Farms
‘Blues Musicians in Unmarked Graves Are Finally Getting Some Respect‘ from The Daily Beast:
The problem gets occasional publicity when a rock star steps in and buys a tombstone for a blues great. Janis Joplin bought the headstone for Bessie Smith. John Fogerty and others paid for a monument for Robert Johnson. And more quietly, local blues societies have labored for years to locate the graves of their heroes and place headstones on unmarked plots.
But no one has done more than Steven Salter to right this wrong.
As head of the Killer Blues Foundation, Salter has been searching for lost heroes of the blues for more than a decade and raising money to put headstones on every unmarked grave he can identify. In the past decade, his foundation has laid 22 headstones, with four more almost ready to be installed.
The exhibit Wade Wharton had been working on and so excited about — I still have a voicemail from him talking about it on my phone — will take place now as a tribute to him. UAH’s Art and Art History Department will open ‘Wade Made‘ on January 27 in the Union Grove Gallery; a reception will be February 2 from 2p-5p, and the show will run through March 21.
When an Abita Springs congregation needed a new church building, they thought they might find one the needed repair that they could bring in from the Delta. Instead, they found what they were looking for in Nova Scotia and it cost only $9000 to move it down.
True Detective on HBO. Yes.
On mint juleps, from William Alexander Percy’s autobiography, Lanterns on the Levee:
…I remember Mother would be in white, looking very pretty, and would immediately set about making a mint julep for the gentlemen — no hors d’oeuvres, no sandwiches, no cocktails, just a mint julep. After the first long swallow — really a slow and noiseless suck, because the thick crushed ice comes against your teeth and the ice must be kept out and the liquor let in — Cap Mac would say: “Very fine, Camille, you make the best julep in the world.” She probably did. Certainly her juleps had nothing in common with those hybrid concoctions one buys in bars the world over under that name. It would have been sacrilege to add lemon, or a slice of orange or of pineapple, or one of these wretched maraschino cherries.
First you needed excellent bourbon whisky; rye or Scotch would not do at all. Then you put half an inch of sugar in the bottom of the glass and merely dampened it with water. Next, very quickly – and here is the trick in the procedure — you crushed your ice, actually powdered it, preferably in a towel with a wooden mallet, so quickly that it remained dry, and slipping two sprigs of fresh mint against the inside of the glass, you crammed the ice in right to the brim, packing it with your hand. Last you filled the glass, which apparently had no room left for anything else, with bourbon, the older the better, and grated a bit of nutmeg on the top.
The glass immediately frosted and you settled back in your chair for a half an hour of sedate cumulative bliss. Although you stirred the sugar at the bottom, it never all melted, therefore at the end of the half hour there was left a delicious mess of ice and mint and whisky which a small boy was allowed to consume with calm rapture.
Above, a 20k home in Hale County
The February issue of Fast Company:
The Heart of Hale County: For 20 Years, young Design Idealists Have Descended on this Sad and Gorgeous Place with the Best Intentions. What Have They Wrought?
That’s fodder for a slew of upbeat dispatches–but what does it add up to? I asked dozens of designers and architects who have worked (or still work) there and in other social-design contexts how they judge success. Most replies acknowledged how frustrating it can be to try to answer such questions definitively. But in Hale County, at least, the irrefutable responses involved personal stories: This person got a house; that person got a job. On an individual level, for sure, design and architecture have changed lives in this place–definitively, and for the better.
Pull back, and it gets harder to gauge the impact.
The pull of Crystal Bridges is great: a NJ Frank Lloyd Wright home has been purchased by the museum and will be moved to its grounds in Arkansas.
The Jemima Code, an upcoming book and pop-up exhibit, focuses on the 150 cookbooks that are a part of Tipton-Martin’s personal collection of 300 rare, African-American cookbooks.
Tipton-Martin said food has always been a part of the African-American lifestyle.
“My goal is to make sure that African Americans — women in particular and cooks in general — take their rightful place among the role models in the culinary industry,” Tipton-Martin said. “When they do that they will be able to be the voice that touches all those areas that I work in, whether it’s social justice, food insecurity, health and nutrition.”
‘What Mrs. Fisher knows about old southern cooking, soups, pickles, preserves, etc.‘ is available at Open Library, free. It was written by Abby Fisher in San Francisco, published in 1881; she previously had been a slave in Mobile.
The Times-Pic is doing a ‘58 King Cakes in 58 Days‘ feature. Here’s a recipe they ran for king cake pie. Who wants to be the king cake baby sitting at the top of the king cake milk punch at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House?
Japanese Suntory (which I didn’t know was a real company; I thought it only existed in the movie ‘Lost in Translation’) makes plans to purchase Jim Beam.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is being built right now in Atlanta.
All Things Considered gives us a little piece on King Ranch Chicken, and the NYT discusses comeback sauce. Austin has been blessed with the opening of Gus’ Fried Chicken.
With a menu that includes: pickled andouille, hoppin john with potlikker, fried chicken that you can order ‘Nashville hot’ (with a side of buttermilk for an extra $3), catfish (that can also go Nashville), Memphis BBQ spaghetti, boudin, hot brown, and grilled pimento cheese, you can tell Boston’s State Park is trying to bring in a big swath of Southern food. How well they pull it off I’m not certain even after the Boston Globe piece, but if they’re going to all that trouble, they should consider offering Zapp’s or Golden Flake rather than Utz.
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis won’t be reopening in March as planned — it will be April, and the director says that’s to better familiarize the employees with the new technology and exhibits.
The ‘recently unearthed’ short story by Zelda Fitzgerald, ‘The Iceberg’ is here at The New Yorker. As they put it, ‘The tone is lighthearted, winking, and ironic, and the story seems to presage some of the tensions in Zelda’s own life: between independence and entanglement with a man, the twinned and, sometimes, conflicting desires to write and to be admired, and the pressures of a search for the right kind of self-expression.’
Know what, beauties? We need plenty of reality (see this snippet above from the census people) but let’s keep the lovely things going on as the main course. Thus, Good Stuff Happened Today. If that doesn’t fix things, flip through this slideshow of tiny people, and then top of off with this, and play it loud:
Members of the Cherokee Nation, who have a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, may request seeds from the Cherokee Heirloom Seed Project. From CNN:
Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker explained the seeds’ lineage to CNN. “This strain of seeds came with us on the Trail of Tears,” he said…
“They have been preserved and grown every year before that, and they are the basic foods G-d gave us that we grew long before the contact with Europeans,” Baker continued.
The seeds available through the Cherokee Heirloom Seed Project possess unique traits that have long made them valuable to the Cherokee Nation, said Baker. “[The seeds] have specific properties to them that are resistant to drought and they are part of our history, culture and heritage and they mean a great deal to us. The big seed companies are genetically engineering and coming up with seeds that are drought tolerant, that we possess naturally.”
Ending this weekend, and interesting as to how this exhibit was displayed (no labels for individual items; the collection presented as large environment) : “Ray Yoshida’s Museum of Extraordinary Values” at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center