Old-Fashioned Groceries, Raw Milk, And Counseling by T-Model Ford

Food and Wine did a feature on ‘America’s Best Little Food Towns‘ a few years ago, and of the six included, one was Water Valley, Mississippi. The piece featured four different places, one being the Fiddler’s Loft where local musicians would play — and where Little Red Hen Bakery provided their “Grammaw’s five layer chocolate cake 5.0” but while we were in town, we visited The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery, which they described this way:

This market in a renovated 140-year-old building sells ice cream made from lemon pound cake, freshly baked buttermilk chess pies and impeccable local produce for prices that owner Alexe van Beuren calls “cheaper than Wal-Mart.”

Also in 2012, the NYT ran ‘They Made Main Street Their Own,’ the grocery’s owner is featured, talking about how the 140-year-old, 10k sq ft brick building was purchased for $110k.

Ms. van Beuren, who had no plans to include a kitchen and prepared foods among her offerings, now has both. The initials of her store stand for the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Not everyone gets the shorthand, she said. “Beans, tomatoes and corn” was one resident’s guess; another was “better than country.” In a nice piece of serendipity, Dixie Grimes, a talented chef who had been working at a high-end restaurant in Oxford and who showed up one day and asked if Ms. van Beuren needed a cook, has the quote on her key chain.

That’s Brown Family Dairy milk, pasteurized but not homogenized (the best way for milk to be). 

There’s also a BTC Cookbook available at Square Books (where you can get a signed first edition) or on Amazon.

Meats and cheeses along with salads marked that they’re made by Dixie, including marinated mushrooms, pickled radish, curried rice, and her Copper Penny “old-school Southern chilled salad – perfect with barbecue”.

Several years ago, we used to drive all the way out to Alexandria, Alabama to buy milk from Wright Dairy (which was also pasteurized but not homogenized). They did have their dairy store closed for a while, but beginning November 5, will open it on Saturdays from 9a-1p to sell their butter, cheese and raw milk labeled as ‘for your pet’ as required by Alabama state law. 


Earlier this month at The Guardian:
Heartbreak specialists: how Mississippi bluesmen got me through my divorce
After splitting with my wife I spent the summer with real-life blues musicians. Getting advice from heartache experts seemed ideal but I found it hard to use (though the content isn’t quite as PG as you might wish — here’s part from Water Valley):

But I also needed a place to hole up and lick my wounds. My friend Bruce from Fat Possum Records offered me a trailer in the small town of Water Valley, Mississippi…

James “T-Model” Ford, who was in his early 80s, and his drummer Spam, were the most frequent guests. They would pull up outside in T-Model’s 1979 powder-blue Lincoln Continental, and unload guitar equipment, bottles of whiskey, boxes of fried chicken.

T-Model had been through more heartache and horror than I could possibly imagine. His father beat him so brutally as a child that he lost a testicle. Later on, his father stole T-Model’s first wife, and what really hurt was how willingly she went. T-Model watched another wife die on the kitchen floor after drinking poison to induce a miscarriage. He had been shot, stabbed, pinned under a fallen tree, beaten senseless with a chair by one of his sons, poisoned by the woman he had loved the most.

I was a sorry, heartbroken wreck that summer, and the bluesmen hated to see a man brought down so low by a woman. They would open the whiskey bottle, and give me their best advice. I liked the idea of this – getting divorce counseling from heartbreak specialists – but I found their recommendations hard to use.


T-Model left us about three years ago, but his music lives forever. Here’s Pee Wee Get My Gun on Amazon.

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