Thinking of this passage from the book, about her father being given credit for saving her mother from septicemia — by champagne:
I once wondered where he, who’d come not very long before from an Ohio farm, had ever heard of such a remedy, such a measure. Or perhaps as far as he was concerned he invented it, out of the strength of desperation. It would have been desperation augmented because champagne couldn’t be bought in Jackson. But somehow he knew what to do about that too. He telephoned to Canton, 40 miles north, to an Italian orchard grower, Mr. Trolio, told him the necessity, and asked, begged, that he put a bottle of his wine in Number 3, which was due in a few minutes to stop in Canton to ”take on water” (my father knew everything about train schedules). My father would be waiting to meet the train in Jackson. Mr. Trolio did – he sent the bottle in a bucket of ice and my father snatched it off the baggage car. He offered my mother a glass of chilled champagne and she drank it and kept it down. She was to live, after all.
The NYT’s obit for 101yr-old self-taught Kentucky artist Helen LaFrance
“We are so pleased that the National Park Service has made our family home in Jackson, MS, a National Monument. Our parents sought justice and equality for all Mississippians and knew such change locally would impact globally. Living a life of service, our parents didn’t make sacrifices for accolades or awards. Our father fought for his country during World War II, and our mother equally served on the battlefields here in America…” said Reena and James Van Evers, the two surviving children of Medgar and Myrlie.
(gentle warning: language and, well, descriptions of marsupial anatomy) ‘Ode to the Virginia Opossum‘ by Sarah Ebba Hansen from the fall Story South
Also, because #funfact, in 1907, Helen Longstreet, a postmistress in Gainesville GA fed two possums persimmons for months, then shipped them to the White House as a Christmas supper present for Teddy Roosevelt and family. She wrote on the box, “These o’possums surrendered near the Wren’s Nest, Atlanta, both contending smilingly for for the honor of furnishing the Christmas dinner for the American Prince and his family.”
Clinton White House china on display, William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum, Little Rock AR, 2015
Of all the Presidential Christmas supper menus in the Mental Floss piece linked above, I’m most drawn to the Clinton’s in ’93, mainly because beyond the usual, they included ambrosia, watermelon pickles, eggnog and syllabub. According to the NYT, there was also a sweet potato punch:
… a recipe Mrs. Clinton recently clipped from an Arkansas newspaper. It is made with pureed sweet potatoes, the juices of pineapple, orange and lemon, ginger ale, and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
“Before you make a face,” she said, “I’ll send you a copy. I haven’t tried it yet, but friends of mine who have say it takes a little courage to try, but it’s actually good. Here we try everything.”
A South Carolina man is offering to reimburse plus pay a finder’s fee for a family heirloom cast iron skillet that his father accidentally donated to Goodwill: “this item has immense sentimental value as my mom grew up in a farmhouse with a wood stove in North Carolina. This skillet was what her mother cooked with on that wood stove. My mother has moved this skillet from Greenville to Hilton Head to Greenville.” It’s a lidded Griswold, #8, 9, or 10.
The mom of one of my besties has 8x10s of her ultra-80s mall Glamor Shots session (as of last year, there were still five of their studios open) displayed prominently in her living room. It definitely belongs with the other greatness at OldSchoolMoms.
Prefacing this with: there’s a television in my office and I can pack away an incredible amount of ambient Amazon/Netflix in a week. But haaaa the most unbelievable — there are…a few — part of the newish ‘The Secret’ movie (hey, these are hard times and we all need movies in which we know it’s all going to work out): the characters from Louisiana and Tennessee calling the highways “The 59” and “The 65”. Cue SNL’s The Californians. Also: ‘ambient television’ (can I just watch something I don’t have to pay attention to?) is a term we’ve needed for a while now, and thank you Kyle Chayka in The New Yorker.
In fact, for many Jewish families, the tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas is almost as sacrosanct as avoiding leavened bread on Passover or eating latkes during Hanukkah.
As Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan famously responded to Senator Lindsay Graham when asked where she was on Christmas, “You know like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”
While we have our regular place we go for Christmas Day Chinese, I will say that one year we did Christmas Day at the now-shuttered Creole Kosher Kitchen in the Quarter. An Asian family walked by, looked in the windows, shrugged, walked in, and — in the sweetest, most good-natured way, everyone just burst into laughter. Love.
Yet beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and flowering fully in the post–Civil War era, fueled by an enormous body of writing in the popular press, Appalachia became known as a land apart, home to what William Goodell Frost, president of Berea College, identified in 1899 as America’s “contemporary ancestors.” These curious creatures were alternately viewed either as a genetic and cultural reservoir of America’s best (noble poor rural white people of northern European ancestry who spoke Elizabethan English and lived a lifestyle like that of the colonial era), or as a sad example of America’s worst (degenerate poor rural white moonshiners and feudists who spoke substandard English).4 Distorted though they may be, those two views of Appalachia are still present in the popular imagination, as best-seller lists and television shows indicate.5
Dolceola Recordings is a music label ‘focused on analog field recording of American traditional music’ — and their first recording trip was to Boykin/Gee’s Bend in 2015. Their ‘Say You Don’t Love Me: The Last Recordings of David Kimbrough Jr’ was released in August (dir of indie record stores)
If you were to substitute “Maycomb, Ala.,” the setting for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for “Bloom County,” you would have guessed the correct literary inspiration for the setting. You’ll imagine the delight I took years later when I received a fan letter from Harper Lee, who eventually tried her best to convince me not to end Opus’s comic life a decade later. I told her I’d reconsider if she brought back Boo Radley. We remained in a standoff.
…She brings his techniques into dialogue with the work of a global cast of important artists—from Flaubert and Baudelaire to Elizabeth Bishop and William Faulkner—underscoring how Evans’s travels abroad in such places as France and Cuba, along with his expansive literary and artistic tastes, informed his quintessentially American photographic style.
Of course, the story begins with that high-ceilinged old house on the edge of town, living with his much-older maiden cousins and their bachelor brother, a necessity due to the drama with his mother and her situation. He makes sure to note that it was some of the happiest times of his childhood, mainly due to his relationship with the youngest of the cousins who was herself in her 60s:
As she was a child herself (many people thought her less than that, and murmured about her as though she were the twin of poor nice Lester Tucker, who roamed the streets in a sweet daze), she understood children, and understood me absolutely.
And I have to go back to his beautiful description of the first meal of the day, described in abundance:
Breakfast was our principal meal; midday dinner, except on Sundays, and supper were casual menus, often composed of leftovers from the morning. These breakfasts, served promptly at 5:30 A.M., were regular stomach swellers. To the present day I retain a nostalgic hunger for those cockcrow repasts of ham and fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried catfish, fried squirrel (in season), fried eggs, hominy grits with gravy, black-eyed peas, collards with collard liquor and cornbread to mush it in, biscuits, pound cake, pancakes and molasses, honey in the comb, homemade jams and jellies, sweet milk, buttermilk, coffee chicory-flavored and hot as Hades.
The Capote historic marker in Monroeville, Alabama, 2006
If we can stay with Truman Capote for just a moment more, there’s this piece in the LA Times from 2006, It was the Joanne and Truman Show, about the the great friendship between him and Joanne Carson; the space in her house post-Johnny that she made for him; her support of him after he was made a social pariah after parts of his ‘Answered Prayers’ came out, and his of her after the divorce and the friends stayed by Johnny; the auction of his items by her at Bonhams, much of it going to pet-centered charities.
The ‘centerpiece’ of that auction? The unfinished short story Joanne asked him to write, about his chance meeting with Willa Cather one snowy day in New York. Vanity Fair published it in 2006.
I was still amazed to think that Willa Cather wore sable coats and occupied a Park Avenue apartment. (I had always imagined her as living on a quiet street in Red Cloud, Nebraska.)
And back to the LA Times story, including mention of items on the block:
In addition to knickknacks such as embroidered pillows, pens and many Baccarat decanters, there are Polaroid photos, some taken by Carson, of Capote cavorting in her pool after a face-lift and 80-pound weight loss at a Florida spa. (He gained it all back, she said with a sigh.)…
“the baby blanket made by his Aunt Sook, who raised him; the Courreges jacket he wore to Studio 54; the tuxedo he wore to his famous Black and White Ball; his dancing slippers; and little notes he’d leave around the house, including one that simply reads, “I am a genuis.”
“Truman never could spell that word,” said Carson.”
original Holy Cross School in the Lower 9th Ward, St. Alphonsus in the Lower Garden District, the B.W. Cooper buildings along Earhart Boulevard and the Bolden home in Central City, plus an 1860s era cottage on St. Andrew Street in Central City, and the French Benevolent Society tomb in Lafayette No. 2 Cemetery on Washington Avenue
Country Music Tue & Fri Night, Gordo AL, from a visit in 2011 (sign since removed)
I emailed Jack Lewis years ago and asked him to please please please give the world more Olde Surber Station Radio: A Bluegrass and Old Time Music Radio Show but said he didn’t have time as he was was off doing other things. It was perfection and here’s the first episode. Friends: I’d like to make a Google map of old-time and bluegrass live shows. I’m talking corner-of-a-convenience-store-Friday-night-performances, private houses that open up for this kind of thing weekly or monthly, and opera houses, even though we’re not talking the opera or The Opry. Contact me, please, if you know of one, even if it’s not doing anything right now.
Hotel Talisi keys, 2005
The founder of Bookshop, a website utilized to order books from local-indie shops across the country (though I don’t see Square Books in Oxford, I do see Thank You in Birmingham): “I’m trying to un-disrupt the industry. Most Silicon Valley companies are trying to disrupt the industry, which means that all the old players go out of business and they create a new way of doing it,” he said. “We’re trying to bring in force all the dinosaurs. We’re trying to keep all the dinosaurs alive.”
Robb Report on 10 Great Bakeries Delivering… and this: (Domique Ansel): Christmas Morning Cereal. This is no simple box of Cheerios. Every year, Ansel sells cartons packed with puffed rice that’s covered in caramelized milk chocolate and mixed with smoked cinnamon miniature meringues and candied hazelnuts. It’s crunchy and sweet with just the right amount of spice from the cinnamon. It’s not quite on sale yet, but you can get notified on his site about when you can buy this addictive snack.
In the National Review, Joseph Epstein with Our Literary Drought reaches back to Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities (one of my favorite, favorite books) in answering ‘What is the last novel you can think of that caused a genuine stir?‘ — and laments that TheAtlantic, Harper’s, and “most sadly” The New Yorker have given incredible space “to politics, to the detriment of their former cultural and literary interests.” And here’s the NYT’s 100 Notable Books of 2020.
On the market in Jarreau, Louisiana: ‘This is the world’s premier collection of Louisiana French Creole and Acadian architecture, art, decorative arts and furniture…4 houses, 3 auxiliary buildings, 75+/- acres on 4 parcels of property…Maison Chanel bears witness to Louisiana’s unique cultural heritage and constitutes the single most comprehensive repository of architectural elements, decorative arts, and material culture from the region before 1830.’
There is an indigenous horse sanctuary, Sacred Way, in the Florence, Alabama area that also includes an interpretive center/museum.
Coincidentally, that recipe is pulled from Stefan Gates’ The Extraordinary Cookbook, with a jacket that looks a lot like David Sedaris’ new The Best of Me (Amazon here, Square Books here)
Hotel Talisi (Tallassee, Alabama) is on the cusp of being declared a public nuisance. It’s gone from a fab, unique small-town hotel experience with a restaurant serving some of the world’s great fried chicken to a guy setting it on fire (by accident, kinda-sorta), to insurance drama and a rebuild, to it becoming a, well, hostel for feral cats with fleas
Watched Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix last week. At this point, not sure why so much weight was put on this being a story set in Appalachia.
This review at KUNC mentions: “there is no culture, there’s only the strife. This family may be JD Vance’s home, but nothing of the beauty of Appalachian life pokes through.”
— and indeed, it’s just filled with misery. People behaving badly generally, profanity throughout, and bad parenting that would probably generationally necessitate therapy. Have you ever been in a social setting (ball game, grocery store) and witnessed people talking to each other in an unnecessary yell? There’s just so much underpinned angst that the person’s voice modulates that way? These people’s default setting is…that. If I hadn’t known this was set where it was, with those accents, it might as well have been set in some poor community probably anywhere else in this country.
It’s amusing to note that Howard grew up in front of the cameras on “The Andy Griffith Show,” as the blighted Ohio of his “Hillbilly Elegy” is like Mayberry’s oxy-addled inverse, full of boarded-up small businesses and junk cars in the yard. Yet, it feels as false as any sitcom set, a Hollywood vision of poverty…
which ends with “Devoid of politics or insight, “Hillbilly Elegy” is just the story of how some jerk from Yale got a fancy job at a law firm.”
Also: the bottom of the NYT review gives these details:
The Local Palate with 12 Historic Southern Hotels and they must be going by some weird interpretation of the word ‘historic’ (just in an older 20th C building?) because The Alluvian in Greenwood (est 2003) is there, along with the Redmont in Birmingham — nothing against the Redmont (I’ve stayed there too) but there’s not much about it even whispering ‘historic’ albeit the operation has been in existence since 1925…just look at the pics on their site. They include the Watergate Hotel in DC, but not the Greenbrier? No love for the St Anthony or the Driskill? Granted, the 21c in Louisville is in a cool downtown building, but I’ve stayed there and there’s not a whole lot lending a particularly historic vibe to one’s stay.
Mt Ararat Cemetery Nashville, where several Edmondson monuments had been installed, 2011
Tennessee State Prison – 6410 Centennial Boulevard
The Henry Allen and Georgia Bradford Boyd House — 1601 Meharry Boulevard
Z. Alexander Looby House — 2012 Meharry Boulevard
Eldorado Motel Sign — 2806 Buchanan Street
Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church — 908 Monroe Street
Chaffin’s Barn — 8204 TN-100
The Barbizon Apartments — 2006 Broadway
The Firestone Building — 2416-2418 West End Avenue
William Edmondson Headstones — Located in various Davidson County cemeteries
Advice at the Irondale Cafe, Irondale AL, 2017
This review in the AJC for the Magnolia Room Cafeteria” a temple to trout amandine, congealed salad and yeast rolls” in Tucker:
As a South Georgia kid who thought Sundays at Morrison’s was the be-all and end-all, I’ve been a fan of Magnolia Room from the beginning, when I had to explain to a couple of non-Southern colleagues that the gelatin creations were “salads,” not desserts…
As Squires so aptly stated, the beauty of a cafeteria is that you can sit down and eat within minutes. You can ask for a little more gravy, or say, “Oh, I want that piece.”
“I think there is a claim to what Georgia barbecue is,” says Texas native Jonathan Fox. Fox and his twin brother, Justin, own Atlanta’s popular barbecue restaurant Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q in the city’s Candler Park neighborhood. But to find what could be considered true Georgia barbecue, Fox says, people need to venture outside of Atlanta.
“Atlanta’s a tough city. It’s a transplant city. The further you get out of the city, you see more of what I would call ‘Georgia barbecue.’ You kind of lose that true sense of what barbecue is in larger metropolitan areas,” Fox explains. “I don’t think, unfortunately, Georgia would rank up there with your Carolinas, or your Memphis, your Texas.”
Nina Simone was a mountain girl, is what I’m saying. I am asking you to picture her that way, to set aside what you know of this iconic artist and think of her rural beginnings. Her entire experience, her whole world before jazz, before fame and legend and fight, was the Jim Crow South and the hills of the Blue Ridge. That little house in Tryon overlooks some of the oldest geological formations in North America. The railroad tracks she crossed every Saturday to attend her music lessons mark the boundary of the first Cherokee land seizures of 1767.
Ashby Street Theatre (Atlanta, Fulton County)
Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings (Atlanta, Fulton County)
Blackshear City Jail (Blackshear, Pierce County)
Cherry Grove Schoolhouse (Washington, Wilkes County)
Cohutta African American Civic District (Cohutta, Whitfield County)
Downtown Toomsboro (Toomsboro, Wilkinson County)
Kiah House Museum (Savannah, Chatham County)
Old Monticello United Methodist Church (Monticello, Jasper County)
Terrell County Courthouse (Dawson, Terrell County)
Vineville Avenue Corridor (Macon, Bibb County)
Of note, at their Rare Square, a first printing of Faulkner’s The Hamlet at $700; #46 of 200 Homecomings by Willie Morris and William Dunlap and signed by both at $250; a likely second printing of Helen Keller’s Let Us Have Faith, signed, at $650.
Inspired by sculptor Joe Minter’s quotation referencing “art in the presence of 100,000 African Ancestors,” the exhibition …bridges North and South in a debut of newly acquired gifts from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Featuring 22 works, including an assemblage by Thornton Dial, sculpture by Joe Minter, and quilts by celebrated Gee’s Bend artists Lottie Mooney and Lola Pettway, this exhibition explores themes of origin, communal ritual, foresight, and spiritual reflection.
Chinese restaurant, downtown Selma AL, 2020
Podcast: listened to Splendid Table #721, ‘Let’s Talk Chinese American Food’ and this, from chef Lucas Sin: “I am so sick and tired of people telling me that American Chinese food made by Chinese Americans for the last 100-200 years or whatever it is, isn’t authentic. It’s such a silly way to characterize a cuisine…” and later, two points, “…a place of respect. You have to understand that these are real human beings are cooking this food and respect for the people making the food…” and “…second, a careful study of history. When you start to understand how important this cuisine was in sort of shaping American history…”
This is a big thing to glean from his thoughts here, especially, on recipes: “despite the fact that there’s so much Chinese food everywhere and there is remarkable similarity between the Sesame Chicken in Arizona and the Sesame Chicken in New York, despite that fact there’s no headquarters saying “this is the recipe” all this information just passed through this diaspora, this network…and everybody just knows how to do these things…”
Sesame Chicken from the Chinese spot in the old (still steepled!) KFC next to the Goodyear tire store will be served in this home tonight.
Also: loved what he said about people coming in and saying they are “elevating” a certain type of food, which often makes me wince. “American Chinese food doesn’t need to be elevated…elevation sort of assumes that the person ‘elevating’ it has a higher than thou type of position, that they know better…”
Frito Chili Pie had a hand in starting Alice Waters‘ important work with reforming school lunches and food attitudes (from her ’08 Edible Schoolyard):
Parked in the middle of the asphalt, this building sold soda pop to the children during their recess and lunch hour, and it also sold something called a “walking taco,” which is as perfect a symbol of a broken culture as I can imagine. Opening a plastic bag of mass-produced corn chips, the food workers would simply pour in a kind of beef-and-tomato slurry from a can. The kids would then walk away…
PS: that “beef and tomato slurry” has a name, and
And goshamighty who else has ever called chili a “beef and tomato slurry” even if it’s from a #10 can off a Sysco truck? Hey, it’s Frito Pie weather and no one should let this dissuade them from — occasionally, according to one’s health tenets — enjoying what is most certainly one of this planet’s great culinary (maybe low-brow since one is traditionally eating it directly from a chip bag with a plastic spoon/spork (extra points if it came from a Friday night HS football game concession stand), but still…) comforts.
It’s that “walking taco” — that **perfect symbol of a broken culture** as she put it — that got Alice to agree to develop the garden at the King School in Berkeley so that the students there could absolutely rightly have “experience-based learning that illustrates the pleasure of meaningful work, personal responsibility, the need for nutritious, sustainably raised, and sensually stimulating food, and the important socializing effect of the ritual of the table”
PPS: Just going back to football game food for a sec: how about those rubbery cheap pickles from a wax paper sleeve featuring an anthropomorphic pickle on it…pretty sure those, stadium cheese, and stale popcorn make up the first three blocks of a high school football game bingo card.
Shug’s bar mitzvah won’t take place as planned this coming weekend. We were advised by the shul medical committee that starting this week, no in-person congregating will be taking place due to the general uptick in contagion. We’re okay and agree with it as the well-being of our community (though we were going to keep it spaced and only minyan-size) absolutely comes first. I’ve tried to frame this whole thing since March as a positive: that the boys will have the most interesting stories to tell their kids and grandchildren. As it turns out, Shugie and Shug have decided to have their bar mitzvahs together later this year — I guess an unexpected plus in having them 15 months apart! We’ll be celebrating late 2021 and we’re all looking forward to that. Have a happy, healthy week, friends! xoxo!