This Week’s Various

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Moundville Church
above: Black Belt church

Took my breath away — this article from the Washington Post: ‘After a Lifetime of Capturing What Was, Christenberry Faces What Is

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma AL
above: the Edmund Pettus bridge

Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama’s 7th District is opposed to a resolution to rename Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge and here’s the reasoning (agreed):
“I am strongly opposed to changing the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The historical irony is an integral part of the complicated history of Selma — a city known for its pivotal role in Civil War and the civil rights movement. The bridge is an iconic symbol of the struggle for voting rights in America, and its name is as significant as its imposing structure. Changing the name of the bridge would change the course of history and compromise the historical integrity of the voting rights movement. As inheritors of the legacy surrounding the historical events that took place in Selma, we must safeguard that history–good and bad and resist attempts to rewrite it,” Rep. Sewell said.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain by Brian — thank you! — used via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Longread piece of the week: First there is a Mountain, on the late Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain in California

G-d is love, in fact, is like a chant, repeated on every available surface on Salvation Mountain. At first glance it seems like rote, Hallmark sentimentality. Give it a minute though, and it’s suddenly, arrestingly, profound. Or at least it was to me, a confirmed atheist, wary and even suspicious of religious dogma. It’s not “Jesus loves you” or “G-d loves the world.” G-d is Love.

Amistad Mural, Talladega College, Talladega AL
above: the murals at Talladega College before they were taken down for restoration

“Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College” opens at the Birmingham Museum of Art June 13. Through September 6. While you’re there, be sure to take in ‘Between Fantasy and Reality: Frank Fleming’ through August 9.

The home in New York where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda lived — where he is believed to have written ‘The Great Gatsby’ — is on the market for almost $3.9MM.

‘Yours Truly’ in the New Yorker, on some of Nelle Harper Lee’s correspondence from decades ago going up for auction.

But the final letter, dated November 21, 1961, hints at the beginning of Lee’s long career of nonpublication. She tells Caufield that Esquire has turned down an article she submitted because, she says, the editor did not believe that there were segregationists who also despised the Ku Klux Klan. “This is an axiomatic impossibility, according to Esquire!” she writes. “I wanted to say that according to those lights, nine-tenths of the South is an axiomatic impossibility.”

At Yellowhammer:  ‘Mockingbird’ faithful expected to flock to Alabama when Harper Lee’s new novel debuts


And you know you’ve made it when your recipe for cracklin’ cornbread is published at Smithsonian (Nelle Harper Lee’s recipe).

Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market, Money MS
above: Bryant’s Grocery in Money, Mississippi — 2011

Very nice: Chaz Ebert will be producing a feature film on Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. It’s not the only movie being made: Skyland Pictures announced they are basing theirs on Mamie Till-Mobley and David Barr III’s play The Face Of Emmett Till.

The Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi has opened.  More about the process here.

Old Monroe County Courthouse - To Kill A Mockingbird
above: at the old Monroe County Courthouse Museum

The inaugural class to the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame includes:
Johnson Jones Hooper (1815-1862), Augusta Jane Evans Wilson (1835-1909), Helen Keller (1880-1968), Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), William March (1894-1954), Albert Murray (1916-2013), Helen Norris Bell (1916-2013), Andrew Glaze (b. 1920), Harper Lee (b. 1926), Sonia Sanchez (b. 1934), Sena Jeter Naslund (b. 1942), and Rick Bragg (b. 1959). 

Next year, this list needs to include William Bradford Huie and Truman Capote.

Georgia peach Flannery O’Connor is getting her own postage stamp, complete with peacock feathers.

Star of Bethlehem Quilt by Freedom Quilting Bee, About 1968

above: a quilt from the Bee, made in the 1960s — when photographed, was on display at the B’ham Museum of Art

Gee’s Bend quilters Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway have been named among the 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowships! Yes, yes, yes!

The community of Boykin, Alabama, known to many as Gee’s Bend due to its proximity to a bend in the Alabama River, is home to some of the most highly regarded quiltmakers in America. These include Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway, three of the chief quilters from the oldest generation of quilters who represent this profound cultural legacy. Described by the New York Times as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced,” the quilts are known for their improvisational and inventive quality, often being compared to 20th-century abstract paintings.

The quiltmaking tradition of Gee’s Bend dates back to the early 19th century when female slaves used strips of cloth to make bedcovers. Gee’s Bend’s quilts were first noticed nationally in the 1960s when the women were members of the Freedom Quilting Bee which was organized during the Civil Rights movement to help produce a much-needed income stream into the community. The quilts made by the quilting bee were sold throughout the U.S. In the early 1980s, the staff from the Birmingham Public Library revisited the area as part of a photography and oral history project. Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway’s quilts have been on exhibit all across the nation, including exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Franklin BBQ, Austin TX
above: the crazy line at Franklin’s. Bring a chair and a cooler.

An Austin kid is charging $50 to stand in line for you at Franklin Barbecue. CultureMap calls it ‘genius’ but anybody who’s ever even thought about Friday lunch at Galatoire’s knows that’s been going on for a long time.  After news got out about the hiring of stand-ins, Franklin tweeted that their policy is “1 person paid = 1 to-go order.”

From the NYT: History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names

The Mississippi legislature passed the bill to establish the William Faulkner Scenic Byway.

Ezell's Fish Camp, Lavaca AL
above: coleslaw with Lance crackers at Ezell’s in Lavaca, Alabama

Kim Severson writes The North Carolina Way: A Food Sisterhood Flourishes in North Carolina in the NYT:
Back in the 1970s, when Nathalie Dupree and Shirley Corriher were cooking together in Atlanta, they wanted to avoid the kind of relationship in which competition slides into rancor.

So the two women, who went on to build national reputations, developed the pork chop theory. The idea is that one pork chop in a pan cooks up dry. But two produce enough fat to feed each other, and the results are much better.

The pork chop theory is as good an explanation as any for what’s happening in North Carolina, where women dominate the best professional kitchens.

Does the ‘Sisterhood’ aspect of this bother anyone? Not me, but it does this writer at the region’s Indy Week, in New York Times Article on North Carolina Women Chefs Does a Disservice to them and the Profession.  It makes good points though, and is worth a read.

Hotel Talisi, Tallassee, AL

above: the Hotel Talisi when it was still in business

Bless the man trying to bring back the historic Hotel Talisi.  The place was almost as if preserved in amber before the fire.  ADECA needs to figure out how to help if only so we can all get back to that fried chicken.

If Bon Appetit had only gone to trial in the ’80s after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati asked the magazine to prove ‘Derby Pie’ had indeed become a generic name (after Kern’s sued them twice)…

Geeshie Wiley’s ‘Last Kind Words’ has been covered and released on Rhiannon Giddens’ ‘Tomorrow is My Turn‘ album.  Really, though, no one will ever be able to do it like Geeshie did:

Truly various:

5 Ways to Raise Kind ChildrenThe Church of TEDThe art we should all make this summer (if you can resist). Whiskey Can’t Hide Its Age, Either

Trying to figure out why some think (from this NPR piece) that it’s better to pay to have school lunches on disposable plates rather than the infinitely reusable (albeit boring and industrial) plastic food trays that have been used forever.

Stanford’s Most Popular Class…is called ‘Designing Your Life’
Here’s what they learn: gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability. All reinforced by design thinking-based tools, from a daily gratitude journal to a deck of cards featuring problem-solving techniques. In lieu of a final exam—the class is pass/fail—students present three radically different five-year plans to their peers. Alumni say they still refer back their “odyssey plans”—a term that Evans coined—and revise them as their lives and careers progress.

A Case Against the Phrase ‘No Problem’ from NPR. Also: at what entree price point should servers stop calling guests ‘guys’? I’m thinking anything over $1.

And why ending emails with ‘Best’ is the worst.

Possibly the best thought all week:
In Star Trek: The Next Generation Best of Both Worlds, when fighting the Borg, Commander Shelby advised: Data, fluctuate phaser resonance frequencies. Random settings. Keep them changing. Don’t give them time to adapt. 

That’s not much different from Einstein’s quote of: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. 

Do random things. You’ll get way too bored in life and the collective will consume you. You can’t possibly know you have a skill until you try. This isn’t just about trying “one scary thing.” It’s about trying one new thing. Whatever you do, don’t fully adapt to life.

Luling, Texas Watermelon Water Tower
above: the watermelon water tower in Luling, Texas

Saving Southern Cuisine’s Most Delicious Endangered Ingredients from Bon Appetit in its interview with David S. Shields, author of Southern Provisions. The interview mentions what almost became the ivory-billed woodpecker of watermelons, the Bradford, *and* at the end, Shields is asked:

How would you define Southern cuisine?
Southern cuisine is a cuisine that has corn or rice as its central grain instead of wheat and barley. The hog is its principle meat, rather than beef. It combines European, African, and Native American ingredients and attitudes to create a distinctive, local taste that has both a refined city cuisine and a down-home country style.

If we wanted a Faulkner quote of the week, it would be this one:
“And so maybe if you could go to someone, the stranger the better, and give them something–a scrap of paper–something, anything, it not to mean anything in itself and them not even to read it or keep it, not even bother to throw it away or destroy it, at least it would be something just because it happened, be remembered even if only from passing from one hand to another, one mind to another, and it would be at least a scratch, something, something that might make a mark on something that was once for the reason that it can die someday, while the block of stone cant be is because it never can become was because it cant ever die or perish…”
Judith Sutpen in Absalom, Absalom!, Vintage Corrected Text, p. 101

Wakefield, ca 1860, Furman AL
above: Wakefield in Furman, Alabama

From WABE: Antebellum Meets Avant-Garde On Alabama Black Belt Tour

At the Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale MS

above: Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi

Not something any of us necessarily considered we’d be saying a dozen years ago but is absolutely true now: Al Jazeera did a fabulous article on the Delta and the Blues.

Some purists who remember the old juke joint before it was discovered object that the tourists have ruined its authenticity, but Po’ Monkey doesn’t see it that way. “I got love for everybody,” he says, pausing to encourage an Englishman to dance with a local woman. “My people come from all over the world.”

…and just this month, many of my friends were going on about their article, The Route of Division on Birmingham Bus 50.

Also: Al Jazeera with Filthy water and shoddy sewers plague poor Black Belt counties

At Munchies, The American South Is Still Eating White Dirt (geophagy)

These words from NOLA Defender:
The interior of Yo Mama’s ground floor suggests the possibility of a Waffle House Bordello. If Waffle House took to open a house of ill repute, and said bawdy burger house was allowed time to become badly dated, the feel would be exactly thus.

From the Mississippi Business Journal: Against all odds, Grammy museum rising in Mississippi

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart TX
above: we’re standing in line at Black’s in Lockhart.  Got a best-of barbecue list? This should be on it.

Southern Living has come out with their own clickbait list of ‘The South’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints‘ and if two of the three Lockhart places aren’t in — let’s just be generous and say the top 20 — it’s not a great list.  See what you think.  Is it the season of ‘barbecue best-ofs’?  Garden and Gun, TripAdvisor, and Travel and Leisure, have come out with their own lists lately too. Yawn.

In truly awful news, B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue which although new is on a couple of ‘best of’ lists already, was destroyed by a fire Wednesday night, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Harriet Tubman Museum in Macon has opened.

Lonnie Holley
above: visiting with Lonnie

Lonnie Holley will accept a residency at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston this fall which will include an exhibit of his works, and he will be in concert at the Charleston Music Hall on September 12.

Africatown, Mobile AL
above: sign to Africatown, in the Mobile area

The L.A. Times: African Slaves’ Origins Live on in Alabama’s Africatown

Interior, Dreamland in Tuscaloosa (the original)
above: the original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa

Pork Ribs and Politics: The Origins of Alabama Barbecue.  And in case you ever wondered why ‘Dreamland’ is ‘Dreamland’:
John “Big Daddy” Bishop, for example, grew up in Jim Crow Alabama and worked for years as a cement finisher but long aspired to own his own business. As he would later recall, one night he had a dream in which he ran a café and saw himself waiting on customers, and he found he could not shake the dream out of his head. Bishop opened a café he called Dreamland in Tuscaloosa in 1958.

Remember the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ and how the restaurant that inspired the book/movie was actually Irondale Cafe in the Birmingham area?  Well, Irondale Cafe has opened another restaurant in Hoover, and named it:
Fried Green Tomato’s
The apostrophe hurts.  As one commenter noted, ‘truly is a land of opportunity when tomatoes are able to own businesses.’

From the Post and Courier: Funeral homes get in the catering business to put out the traditional spread:
A growing number of funeral homes have begun incorporating food service into their amenity packages, giving mourners the opportunity to savor pound cake made according to their late grandmother’s recipe or knock back martinis mixed to their late grandfather’s specifications. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, nearly one in 10 U.S. funeral homes features a banquet hall or dining room. Although the concept dates back to the early 2000s, its popularity has picked up rapidly since 2011, when only 6 percent of funeral homes were outfitted for memorial service meals.

…“My biggest focus is to make the food as lovely as possible,” says Waldrop, who’s discovered relatives exhausted by discussions of death notices and floral displays are often eager to talk about the sangria that accompanied every happy occasion in their late aunt’s life. They feel confident when choosing fried chicken over salad, or ordering a favorite pasta dish.

“I change the pace and make it upbeat,” Waldrop says. “I always say, enjoy the send-off. Let’s face it: The best times in the world are when you’re eating.”

From UNC: Over 1000 audio files from the Bill Ferris Collection are now streaming

Dockery Plantation

above: Dockery’s

At Smithsonian: Where the Blues Was Born – At Dockery Farms, the original bluesmen created a sound that would become legendary And here, the late BB King leads a tour of Dockery’s:

Among the five restaurants in Food and Wine’s 2015 Restaurants of the Year (coming out in the July issue): The Grey in Savannah.

The Civil War’s Division of North and South is Reflected in Cookbooks: Naval blockades kept the South starving for salt and other foods, a fact reflected in the recipes of the time, from Smithsonian:
The only Southern cookbook of the war years was The Confederate Receipt Book. Published in 1863, it had a revealing subtitle: “A Compilation of over one hundred receipts adapted to the times.” And those were the worst of times, most miserably manifested in a recipe for Apple Pie without Apples: “To one small bowl of crackers that have been soaked until no hard parts remain, add one teaspoonful of tartaric acid, sweeten to your taste, add some butter, and a very little nutmeg.”

That recipe is actually still around — I’ve seen it in other, more contemporary cookbooks.

The Americana Music Triangle — as they put it, How is it that here, in the tiny triangle between Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans, nine distinct genres of music came to life? is now live.

These musical traditions continued to evolve over time, building up to the moment when two emerging technologies — radio and records — would collide to capture, define and spread the Americana Music Triangle’s distinctive sounds to the rest of the world. Enter Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock ‘N’ Roll, R and B/Soul, Gospel, Southern Gospel,Cajun/Zydeco and Bluegrass: nine distinct musical traditions that couldn’t have happened anywhere else, or any other way.

Too bad they couldn’t have made it just a bit bigger triangle to pick up Alabama’s Sand Mountain and continue going up that line to, say, Bristol — and move it over on the left to pick up more of Acadiana, but nevertheless it’s a good tool with driving trails from: New Orleans to Natchez, Vicksburg to Memphis, Memphis to Nashville, Nashville to Muscle Shoals, and Tupelo to New Orleans.

An app seems a natural next step and they let me know today that it’s in the works.  Excellent.

The May 15 ‘Inside Appalachia’ from West Virginia Public Radio: we’re taking a road trip through the region to find people who are reviving the old recipes and bringing something fresh to our plates. This episode is also helping us kick off a new segment, called Appetite Appalachia, which features restaurants and recipes with Appalachian roots.

Just because.
Rooster El Camino at Ms. Billie's in Irvington AL

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