cHaOs in the kitchen~ “Custer’s Last Fight”, Anheuser Busch 1952

When I was growing up, I would stand for hours staring at this picture that hung in my grandparent’s home, morbidly fascinated by the chaos, the scalpings!

My grandfather, T. E. Stephens (Pop-Pop) was gifted the picture when he, Mother and Grandmother Libby visited her sister Willa Jean in New Mexico in 1956.  Pop-Pop and Jean got along beautifully and when he told her how much he liked it, she sent it back to Bama with him.  Jean was our family’s outdoorsman –she once killed a walrus in Alaska.  It pains me that I do not know her “story”, but I think that the two of them- Pop-Pop with his easy sense of humor, and the audacious Jean would smile to see it now handing above my kitchen table, so that the family can enjoy a good scalping with each and every meal!

 C's Last Stand

     The cleaning and reframing were painstaking, but well worth the effort.  The picture is a depiction of The Battle of Little Bighorn, often referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand”.  It is titled “Custer’s Last Fight”, Anheuser Busch 1952.  The original painting was presented to the Seventh Regiment U.S. Cavalry.

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

Wandering around Manhattan & pondering growing up in the South~

An Excerpt from Chapter 2, WE SHARE THE SAME SKY

 

Who would think that wandering aimlessly throughout Midtown

could be calming? It is not quiet, it is not serene. Perhaps it is a

melding with the constant movement of the masses that is tranceinducing.

Whatever it is, I find it odd and pleasant. But, why

question what works?

 

Rizzoli Bookstore catches my eye. Here I am in the city at last,

and I can’t shake the habitual need of a good book and a place to

crash. Rizzoli’s is the quintessential bookstore. Built-in oak bookshelves

run from floor to ceiling in the three storied space. The open

staircase and rooms are lit with chandeliers, although the interior

is flooded with natural light from windows that make up the entire

front facade. I would shop here for no other reason than to take

pleasure in the sheer beauty of the place.

 

I browse the children’s section and try to find a gift for the kids.

Some of my earliest memories are related to books. Curled up in

her lap, Mother would read to me, coax me into following with her;

running my finger across the words, I trailed her motions from left

to right. Moving through the book, we spent as much time discussing

the illustrations as we did the meaning. Always busiest during

those days before I entered school, I knew this was precious time

she set aside especially for me.

 

I cannot help but smile when my random search is interrupted

when I come across the Miroslav Sasek collection. This is

Rome reminds me of a dear childhood friend. How many times,

I wonder, did she carry it and others back and forth between our

houses tucked away in an old yellow Samsonite suitcase she had

covered with stickers?

 

Scanning the section further, I notice they don’t have a copy of

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. There

isn’t a bookstore in all the South that doesn’t have it and Harper

Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird up front and on display. With good

reason, gifted storytellers are held in much esteem in our region.

Storytelling seems a talent bestowed before birth, rather than being

acquired with time and knowledge.

 

Books brand within the heart a place that is all their own. As a

child, Beatrix Potter was my favorite author and was an easy bribe

that Mother would use to get me to behave during church services.

If I managed to mind my manners throughout the sermon,

she would let me visit the tiny library while she straightened her

Sunday school classroom.

 

One afternoon she took longer than usual and as I sat there turning

the glossy pages, I thought how wonderful it would be to take the

book home. Not check it out, but take it, for it to be mine. Sliding

off my Mary Janes so they didn’t click against the hardwood floor,

I tip-toed to her classroom and peeked through the door. Sure that

she was thoroughly preoccupied arranging art projects and cleaning

away the paints, I took the book and slid it under the backseat of our

car. After my bath that night I reread it, ran my fingers over the same

glossy illustrations then tucked it away underneath my bed. But,

when I rolled over to say my prayers, I realized I couldn’t.

 

The following Sunday I returned it to the library and apologized.

Home from church and still filled with guilt, I walked down

the road to my best friend’s house. Since it seemed we often wound

up in trouble together, I thought she might be the best person with

whom I should confide. Sitting at the kitchen table, we made pineapple

sandwiches and listened to her mother carry on a conversation

with Ricardo Montalbán who was on TV.

 

We slathered mounds of mayo on soft white bread, tore

slices of pineapple to fit, then crammed our mouths full. These were

our favorite summer time sandwiches and they had become an

afternoon ritual. In between mouth-fulls, I told her what I’d done

then asked her the all consuming question. “Do you think I am

going to hell?”

 

Laughter in the living room rose above the noise of the TV. Her

mother came into the room, walked to the table and sat down with us.

She asked if I would make her a sandwich.

 

I nodded yes and was glad. It gave my eyes a place to go, helped

to ease my embarrassment. She took the sandwich then and tried

it, saying between bites “People from Alaska don’t eat pineapple

sandwiches.” I almost reminded her that she was Mexican, but took

another bite instead. I knew that by trying my sandwich, she was

being nice. Besides, she couldn’t fuss with a full-mouth.

 

“Now, your people are Baptist, right?” “Yes mam,” I said, trying

not to look down. “And you are saved, isn’t that right?” “Yes mam,”

I responded quickly. “Then why do you worry that you will go to

hell if you are saved and your church believes that once saved always

saved?”

 

I had to think about this a minute. I had heard this quoted

often enough, once used in defense after a certain man in my family

stated without thought that Sunday morning fishing was better than

fishing any other day of the week. And, then I told her the truth,

“Because, I don’t believe that people who keep doing bad things get

to go to heaven just because they once got saved. Unless people

who do bad things are really, really sorry and pray for forgiveness, I

think they go to hell with all the other people who do bad things,”

I explained. Putting her hand on top of mine, she laughed and said,

“Child, you are not Baptist at all! You are Catholic!”

 

It would be years later before I realized that, for me, comparing

the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church and conservative

Protestant Church was much like comparing the platforms of the

Democratic and Republican Parties. While I agreed with many

beliefs and issues from each, I could not agree with all from either.

This shared meal and conversation is my last memory of the family

with whom I was so close. At the end of summer, my parents purchased

land for our new home and we moved from our small neigh-borhood out into the country.

My friend and her parents returned

to Alaska. But, our common, once shared love of books continued.

***

Back outside into the city and noise, the sun is shining and I

decide that sightseeing, squeezed in with the few stores I want to

visit, might not be a bad thing. On Madison Avenue, I pause to

take in the Roosevelt Hotel New York. Built in 1924, it was dubbed

the “Grand Dame of Madison Avenue”. I make my way inside. A

stairway leads guests up into the lobby. A magnificent chandelier,

marbled floors and the black ironwork immediately remind me of

New Orleans. How wonderful it would have been to be a guest here

during the twenties, engulfed in the bustle of gay nightlife!

 

Not having anything else nearby I care to see, I head for Bergdorf

Goodman, and wish again that it was the holiday season, that

their famous store-front windows were decorated for Christmas.

Basement Level, I find the beauty department and perfume.

 

I think that my love of perfume began with an obsession for

bottles. Later it was an association of scent. There have been times

when I have caught a sliver, a hint of a scent; I remember it, but

cannot at that moment place it, rather it is only the pleasant sensation

of association I recall. Chanel No 5, fox fur and pointy high

heels remind me of my GrandMosie readying to go out on the

town; short platinum hair curled and pinned. Lemon and verbena

lotion mingled with an earlier dabbing of Chloe remind me of my

Grandmother Libby, always elegant, even when tending her flower

beds; auburn locks tucked beneath a wide brimmed straw hat.

 

Looking about, I could make a wish list a mile long. Everything

about this place calls out to the female in me; white marble floors,

colorful glass jars set atop white, French-style cases. The place is

both very modern and chic. Moving from counter to counter, I find

myself lingering over the Coco Mademoiselle. Hints of patchouli

and orange have me walking away wanting.

 

Next I head to Takashimaya for the flower arrangements, tarry

for a while admiring the gardenias and orchids, ponder a pot of

ginger tea and finger sandwiches, then decide I’d rather have real

food and so hail a taxi to Lower East Side.

*****

 

Arriving at Katz’s, I pile my belongings onto the table and slide into

a chair.

 

Katz’s Delicatessen opened in the Lower East Side in 1888.

The aroma, so wonderfully rich, is agonizing. I look about. It seems

nothing has changed since I was here in the early 90s! The establishment

opened over a hundred years ago and became a favorite

neighborhood eatery. They even provide the same military shipping

for our soldiers oversees that became so popular during World War

II with the slogan, “Send a salami to your boy in the Army.”

 

The menu offers too much! New York Egg Cream with chocolate

or vanilla syrup” jumps from the menu. Mixed with milk and a little

seltzer it is listed as Heaven on Earth. Surprisingly, it doesn’t contain

egg. Smiling, I notice it is only offered in Large or X-Large, so dessert

will be first. When it arrives, the waiter pauses to ask, “Well,

what do you think?”

“It is very similar to an old fashioned ice cream soda, but better,”

I tell him, not just being polite.

 

It is impossible to be unhappy while eating anything that holds

even the slightest semblance to ice cream. I remember stopping at

a cafe for a sundae after a day of shopping with my aunt Karen

on my first trip to New York. The waitress had set before us a

monstrous dessert unlike any sundae I had ever seen. Of course,

this was long before there was such a thing as Cold Stone Creamery

or Maggie Moo’s where ice creams and toppings are blended

into strange and wonderful confections. My favorite way to eat

ice cream, however, is the way my Pop-Pop prepared it. He would

pack a tall glass with store bought chocolate ice cream, then fill

it with cold milk and place it in the freezer. He left it there just

long enough for the milk to ice over. The chocolate took on a thick

frosty consistency, icy around the edges. The mix of almost frozen

milk against the icy chocolate was incomparable. I wonder how

many valuable memories I have lost along the way. So many I am sure.

And yet, the memories where food and family are intertwined

are most often remembered.

 

Scanning the menu a second time because I cannot choose, I

notice they offer tongue. I thought only Southerners still ate these

things? Tongue, tripe, knuckles, ears, feet or snout, some things

are meant to be thrown out! That is unless they are cooked down,

rendered unrecognizable, and provide the rich base for black-eyed

peas, pintos, or stew. Liver is a delicious exception.

 

I decide on the corned beef, which the menu states requires a

full month of dry curing. A gentleman seated at a neighboring table

is presented with his Cheese steak just as I’ve placed my order. If

he were still within earshot, I’d recall my waiter, but he is too far

away and caught up in conversation with someone who must be

a local. I sit and sip my dessert. People watching, I try to pick out

other tourists. We are easy to detect. Nearby, a couple argues and

it is apparent by the disdain with which they regard each other that

an agreement may not be reached any time soon.

 

For every problem, is there a solution? I have been told that

there is and I have sat long in debate on why so often it is that

people refuse the answer. Dismissive of the solution, people instead

cling to anger or personal agendas. My friend and I had discussed

it at some length when in closing he tied the answer up neatly,

stating, “For there to be a compromise, something has to be more

important than self. In choosing one thing, you must be willing

to give up the other. Rarely do you get the cake, the platter it sits

upon, the china, the silverware and someone to feed it to you.”

 

Elbow deep in corned beef, I’ve yet to eat so much that I cannot

hear when I notice the already raised voices of the impassioned pair

rise yet higher. The next question comes quiet and fierce, “What do

I have to do for this to be over?” The query matches the scowl on his

face. She says nothing, just stands and walks away. And, I look past

them to the waiter who lingers, as if searching for something to say.

 

What is necessary to gain emotional independence? Can it be

removed like shellac, this film of need -scrapped away, flaked off,

filed down, down to nothingness? In reality when you are guarded

from the pain that can be inflicted by another, there is only so much

happiness you can allow. When you begin to deaden an area of

the heart, can it be contained? Or, once allowed to set in, does the

deadening continue to spread like Gangrene and rot away at what

little good flesh is left? Packing away the remaining majority of my

sandwich, I head back out into the streets, southward again.

 

The streets become more brilliant in color, and heavy with scent.

Teenagers loiter around the storefronts. No one attempts to send

them away. Chinatown! Fish and turtle fresh from the boat line

the walkway and crabs with brilliant unbound blue claws move

about within tattered baskets, hapless, oblivious to their demise.

Rummaging through the piles of trinkets in a souvenir shop, I realize

I am at a loss. Shuffling things, I call the children. Telling them

where I am and describing everything, I ask what they would like,

then purchase a flat screen print fan for Anderson and a variety of

Chinese coins for Isaac.

 

A sign in a restaurant across the street advertises crispy fried soft

shell crabs and steamed mussels. Another lists Dim Sum. I will

have to return! The streets are full of people and full of stuff. I like

this overcrowded, busy feel, with people smiling and chatting in the

warm sun. The place seems so contained; a contradiction I admit,

because you side-step something strewn across every curb.

 

A fantastic shop catches my eye. From floor to ceiling, there are

wares stored in clear plastic containers and bins. The place appears

almost a mix between an herb shop, modern apothecary and a

county farmer’s Co-Op where planters purchase feed and seed.

One could teach science from this shop or Macbeth!

 

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

 

 

Bins are everywhere, filled with waxgourd, cassia bark, abalone,

tiandong, turtle shells, shark fins, dried octopus and sea cucumber,

cordyceps! All these would seem so odd had I not grown up in a

region chock-full of home remedies and medicine based on so much

tradition and mountain folklore. How I remember afternoons spent

foraging for persimmon to rub on skin blistered with poison oak or

ivy, digging up sassafras root to steep for a cleansing tea, rolling slim

rabbit tobacco and clove cigarettes to smoke so that our lungs would

be strong. Queen Anne’s Lace and honey are supposedly wonderful

for ulcers -which it is that truly aids, who knows. For years, we

kept English honey bees not just for the love of that golden sweet

substance but also to ward off regional allergies and treat burns. The

idea is that the honey produced from the same pollen laden plants

will reduce one’s allergic reactions during hay fever season.

 

Many of the plants we used as medicine were toxic in their raw,

natural state. So, as children, we were taught to be wary. Foolish

it is to go foraging and prepare the unfamiliar. I once knew a man

I will not name who kept a jar of Clay County moonshine laced

with wild bilberry that floated around bruised in the bottom. It was

reported to be an ailment for the eyes, but somehow the concoction

seemed to defeat its proposed purpose. And, of course, there

is Southern Elderberry wine made from the plant’s delectable fruit.

Certain species are as noxious as the polk weed we boil off in the

beginning preparation of polk salat. A rule of thumb learned early

in rural life is that if you don’t prepare it yourself, you don’t eat it.

Old Man Waldrop used to pluck the poisonous berries from

the polk stalk and chew them. “To cleanse the blood,” he would

explain. Our mothers said this was foolish. But in this case, we children

were the wiser; we knew that man was so mean the devil didn’t

even want him.

 

Last year, when I began planning this trip, I purchased three

guide books of the city. While mapping out Chinatown, I was

surprised to find that there are almost 300 restaurants within the

neighborhood’s boundaries. Some sounded better than others, and

although I had my list of wants written out well before I left home,

 

I have found that once I get into an area several things tend to

dictate choice. The first two are my mood, and the prolific bragging

of locals. Often as not, however, I choose a place to dine based on

nothing more than the way a place feels.

 

Today, I am looking for an eatery called Sweet-n-Tart Cafe. My

new friend Karen suggested I try the congee, a type of rice porridge.

In the South, there is a particular fondness for a dessert that is

also considered a staple. In our home that staple was rice pudding.

It ranked right up there with the various biscuit topped cobblers:

blackberry, peach or sweet potato. Rice pudding even held its own

at the table when presented along with butter pound cake. All

these family recipes were handed down over the years. Along the

way, others crept in. Some were come across accidently and yet

others long searched for -like the recipe for Lillian Carter’s Peanut

Butter Pound Cake.

 

Rice pudding back home is a buttery, dense pudding loaded with

vanilla, sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. The overall consistency can

be described as velvety. Usually it arrives at the table crusted with

a browned sugar and butter topping. It is wonderful hot from the

oven, at room temperature and even straight from the fridge, ice

cold. Like banana nut bread, rice pudding is a staple breakfast food

as often as it is dessert.

 

During my childhood, rice pudding appeared most often when

times were lean. Those were the days when a summer evening meal

consisted of fresh scrubbed vegetables from the garden and fish

from the trotline. Lean dinners in the winter were often bowls of

pintos and cornbread or skillet fried potatoes with onions. As the

seasons changed, fish gave way to game: fried dove or quail with

gravy, braised rabbit, smoked turkey or venison. All of these could

be taken within a five mile radius of our home. The variety may not

have been great, but there was usually plenty. Biscuits with butter,

cornbread with sorghum, molasses or honey -these were present at

almost every meal. Other times, they were the meal. More staples.

How often I sat at the kitchen table during the late evening with

Grandpa, feasting on only this and black coffee. I wish I could

remember the things we talked about and the stories he told as

clearly as I remember the food. Just as there was always Grace before

dinner in one grandparent’s house, there were always stories in the

other. Rice pudding, however, was common at both dinner tables.

 

Cash Only is posted on the door to the tiny restaurant. As of

yet, this has been the hardest adjustment I’ve had to make in the

city. Thank goodness the guidebooks warn tourist up-front. If not,

it would probably be as close as you could get to having a Southern

woman in true distress. At the counter, I order the Congee with

Hong Dou. “Good for you,” says the man nodding his approval and

making a circular motion with his hand around the stomach.

“Thank you,” I tell him. It is all I know to say.

 

Congee is made by cooking rice with water until it breaks down

into a porridge-like consistency. It is usually flavored one of two

ways: salty and robust with flavorful meat, or glutinous and sweet

with red beans, dates and palm sugar. I am in want of the latter.

 

The congee arrives and the serving is more than I anticipated.

It is a meal and has the wet consistency of porridge rather than

the thickness I associate with rice or bread pudding which, when

scooped, holds together. I have to admit to being somewhat putoff

by the addition of beans. Trying it though, I am pleased and

notice a chewiness that regular rice pudding does not have. It is

warm, sweet and heavy, very much a comfort food. Admittedly, it

is probably healthier than the rice pudding I grew up on because it

is cooked without butter and cream.

*****

 

I hail a taxi, but after several blocks the feeling of being caged con-

sumes me so I ask to be let out. I need to move, to walk. There are

so many people out and about. It is hard to get used to.

 

Rosy peaches the size of my fist catch my eye. Walking through

the open store, I concentrate on breathing in the clean smell of fresh

produce. Although the rich scent of dirt has been washed away,

there lingers another that calms; describable only as the scent ofsummon. There are so many packages! I purchase a box of fortune

cookies, pay and walk back out into the crowds.

 

This visual shopping, or window shopping as Mother calls it, is a

method I use to fill my tank. When I find myself stuck in a funk this

uncomplicated appreciation supplies a quick jump-off, a charge that

sets me back on track. I do not need to own these things to enjoy

them and because there is no predetermined direction or reason,

only leisure, it provides relaxation. The textures and colors I absorb

and inadvertently my needs are filled.

 

The warmth of the sun is veiled again by the gathering of storm

clouds. Collectively they attempt to blanket out the last sunlight

of the day; as if in protest, colors along the street burst against this

ruddy light.

 

Are there fixed stages to this madness we call life, I wonder. At

varying times we are consumed by different needs, different worries

and different desires. Is there a pattern? I believe there is. My life

is not as different, has not been so different, from that of so many

women. Many of us face similar obstacles and we draw strength and

understanding from each other’s experiences. The discoveries that

lie between us, between the layers we create together –this is life!

Yes, I believe there are patterns, just as there are with the weather,

the seasons, the stages of life.

 

But, why is it that I have spent the majority of my mature existence

trying to improve myself, my place in life, only to look back

longingly for the person I used to be?

 

As a child I did not worry about the past or the future. I did not

look so severely upon myself. Nor, did I fret over the actions of others.

Every day was looked forward to.

 

Journal Entry

The trip so far is proving relaxing, but I am far from understanding

what I need or even being sure how I feel. I cannot let go of the

immense disappointment I feel, the anger or even the resentment.

My confidence has been destroyed. Everything had seemed just as

it should.

 

Journaling is supposed to help, but I can feel waves of angst rising

within me, threatening to overpower all rational sense. Emotions –

how quickly they can consume! When happy they elate the soul,

when unpleasant they can drown even the strongest. I must focus

on the positive –I am healthy. My children are healthy and happy.

I have wonderful parents, a brother and sister-in-law and nephews.

The city is exciting and I am here on a trip I’ve always dreamt of. I

have had two good days. I will have another tomorrow. I will be o.k.

This feeling will not last; the bad passes just as quickly as the good.

It only seems to remain longer.

 

Recognizing that I must have something to distract myself until

I am able to sleep, I quietly put away my journal to read, think

on the words of others for a while, then discover my old journal,

unknowingly packed and so I begin to read and reflect on it as well.

Back and forth I move between the novels I love and the journal,

trying to find some understanding without getting too caught up

in the memories. It is impossible to see things clearly when you are

too close. Clarity comes with distance and time.

*Note 57th Street’s Rizzoli Bookstore was demolished; the domed ceilings, woodwork, chandeliers –all of it, gone.

RIZZOLI TO USE

 

 

 

 

 

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hOlidAy tRAdiTioNs ~

Thanksgiving-Christmas

Pre-holiday activities get me all geared up for the season.  And some of the things I love are irksome to others in the family!

For example, I usually put my Christmas tree up on Veteran’s Day.

My reasoning?

When I was a single mom and shared the holidays with the ex, the time for preparing and celebrating was cut in half.  The kids and I were out of school every November 11th so we started making the most of it and began a new tradition.

Even though the kids are grown, I am still putting the tree up before Thanksgiving.  I LIKE making it one big, long holiday!  Most of us begin the season with a dinner that celebrates family, health and happiness, then spend several weeks rejoicing in our beliefs and the festivities that surround them, and finally close with a party to welcome the New Year!  See?!  One big season of being hApPy!

Another reason I like starting early is because the season is so hectic.  The extra time allows for more relaxing; I can acknowledge and enjoy the moment when that giddy, 0h-i-love-Christmas-feeling strikes –because honestly, sometimes the festive spirit can be short-lived.  You know what I mean!  At times I am absolutely covered up with it –like this year. 🙂 But, there have been holidays I’ve gone through the motions, thankful but not necessarily in a Christmassy mood.

So, Saturday morning I rolled up my sleeves and headed to the storage building. Yes, it was game day -college football/ALABAMA/Roll Tide day.  I told myself I’d be finished before kickoff.

I wasn’t.  With sounds of the game roaring from the other room, I dug out and went through six huge boxes of ornaments and decorations I’d not unpacked in eight years.  I unwrapped them all and reveled at how many memories I found gently folded within the timeworn wrapping paper.  Even the old wrapping paper brought back memories of my children’s early Christmas mornings.  My earliest memories were there too.

Nostalgia in a box.

There were so many ornaments I was forced to choose from our favorites. A blue silk-threaded ball and a glass orb from my childhood (I remember my baby brother, Oba, taking a bite out of one); antique golden glass hearts my Uncle Tim gave me; gold paper stars my daughter, Anderson, and I made when she was little; a snowflake with Isaac’s kindergarten picture clipped inside; plastic snowflakes the kids and I purchased at Nelson’s on Broad St. and gussied up with tons of glitter; paper cardinals drawn, cut, and painted in watercolor from a Christmas spent alone…

And so many from vacations and road trips…

…A sunglass and Santa-hat clad starfish purchased in Orange Beach during the vacation it stormed all week. (It was awesome –we three feasted on seafood, camped out at the indoor pool & hot tub and watched movies all week.)…

…And three Santas purchased in Brighton Beach, the summer I ran off to NYC, alone.

The more eggnog I drank, the gaudier my tree became, covered in layer upon layer of ornaments!

I even pulled out the old ceramic tree Mother gave me years ago.  It was always the first decoration Oba and I put out when we were little.   I played with the wiring and got the inner light to work then washed the tree and its base.  While ordering more plastic lights for it online, I discovered that the 24” vintage one like mine is now worth 250.-300. dollars.  Ah, viNtaGe!

So, even though I was a weekend behind my official putting-up-the-tree-date, it was a wonderful day!  I missed the kids, but revealed in every minute of the Christmas spirit that filled me.

Now, I can look forward to all the other activities that have become family traditions -the kids helping with Thanksgiving dinner, the making of Christmas candies (Martha Washington & Potato Candy!), shopping with the girls, piling up on the couch to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, Midnight Mass at the Vatican… and hours upon hours of Christmas music!

Happy Holidays, y’all !!

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….”

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

Fried green tomatoes @ both Whistle Stop Cafés

When it comes to fried green tomatoes, I thank God Alabama and Georgia are sister states!  However, this weekend was about more than just food.

Well, somewhat!

There are days I crave a road trip, and when I can’t take a long one I pick something I’m interested in, do a little research and take a short one (or two related ones) instead.

Now being a Southern woman, it goes without saying that I am a Fannie Flagg fan.  If the name does not ring any bells, please let me try to ring them.  Fannie Flagg is the professional name for Patricia Neal, an Alabama native, actress/writer/comedian.  You may remember her for co-hosting our local “Morning Show” on WBRC-TV or her appearances on Allen Funt’s Candid Camera & the game show Match Game.  OH, and let’s not forget that little Southern book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and the amazing movie Fried Green Tomatoes! 

Friedgreenbookfilm box red

The Irondale Café, also known as The Original Whistlestop Café is not new to me. Located in Irondale, Alabama in the greater Birmingham area, it is a short 45 minute drive from our house.  And the food is worth every minute of it!  Originally begun in 1928, the business was ran after WWII by three women -Bess Fortenberry, Sue Lovelace & Lizzie Cunningham-who together turned the café into a sensation.  It just so happens that our author, Fannie Flagg, is Bess Fortenberry’s niece.

The idea of visiting both the Irondale location and then driving over to Juliette, Georgia where the movie was filmed struck me as something fun to do.  The trip would take two and a half hours there, two and a half back.  Just far enough to get away for a while and fill my tank (creativity tank/ happy tank & the bottomless pit/hunger tank). You know what I’m talking about!  I just needed to get lost a while, enjoy some soul food and smile.

***

       Knowing how everyone likes to hear how the food tastes and see how it looks, I decided to revisit the Irondale Café first and order a few things I don’t normally get.  Being out of school last Friday because Talladega County schools can’t run buses for all the race traffic was a plus I took advantage of.  It was also my excuse to hit the road!

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The place was packed and plates were fully loaded!  I grabbed a tray and got in line.

 1The pies are always my weakness! 2The special was smothered chicken livers~ a Southern favorite!  I’m not sure what it is about cafeteria style restaurants, but I love how they bring out the little girl in me -I just get so excited about all the choices right there within arms reach!  You get to see the food before you choose…smothered chicken livers

 It is extremely difficult for me to give up something I love in order to try something new.  So, I went for a few -a very limited few- of my favorites…

 

the best fried catfish around

 

 

 

 

 

…cornbread dressing, fried green tomatoes & a huge slice of toasted coconut pie!

Their chocolate pie is still my favorite dessert.

 

***

Sunday Morning, arrived and it could not have been a more beautiful day -70 degrees and sunny!  When I drove down Hwy 78 to I-20, Talladega race fans were already crowding the roads.  I cruised along with my windows down enjoying a little Tony Bennett & Frank Sinatra, constantly checking my speedometer because every State Trooper in Bama was out and about.

atl    Lost in a daydream I was in Atlanta, Georgia before I realized it!

       As I exited I-75 South and entered Forsyth, Georgia my heart began to sing.  There is nothing as wonderful as a drive in the country on a pretty day!  I was nine miles from Juliette and I was beyond ravenous!

 forsythA farmhouse in Forsyth filled me with envy!

JULIETTE & THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE at last~

       When I arrived, there were only a few tables taken by families having Sunday dinner; church had just let out. (In the South, dinner is your biggest meal on Sunday, taken at lunch & supper is your evening meal.)

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I chose a little table in the front corner  near the door where I could people watch and snap photos without being too intrusive 😉 y

Leslie brought me the menu, a big glass of sweet tea and a plate of hot fried green tomatoes to munch on while I looked over the menu.

“You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto…”

 f

whistle-stop-cafe-menu-frontwhistle-stop-cafe-menu-back

sToo many things called to me; I was so hungry I couldn’t think clearly.   Oh, what a lie!

I just wanted what I wanted: fried okra, macaroni and cheese, collards & cornbread.  And, that is exactly what I got.

*The macaroni and cheese was so good I could have made a meal on it and the cornbread alone!

When Leslie returned to refill my tea glass and ask if I wanted dessert, I was ready!  As usual, I felt the need to explain that I want to sample, and no, please do not bring me smaller portions!   That’s what a carry-home box is for! 🙂

and the winner is...  I followed my heart and ordered the peach cobbler.

d   Then I ordered the pecan cobbler & the apple dumpling.

“Are you trying all of these?” She asked, trying not to smile.  When I nodded yes, she simply grinned and said, “Yes, ma’am.  I’ll warm them all up!”

I tried the peach cobbler first. It was perfectly creamy with                                        dumpling-like breading in some spots and flaky crust in others!

I set aside my spoon, saving it for last and tried the pecan cobbler.  It had the same flavor as a pecan pie but less of the custardy filling.  Like the peach, it was also heavenly and so sweet it made my teeth hurt!  I decided to box it for later.  I took one bite of the apple cobbler and boxed it as well.  It was good, but I was filling up fast.

The peach cobbler and the dense lightly vanilla flavored ice cream was all I wanted.  If a group of bikers had not come in and filled the cafe and the table next to mine, I’d have ran my finger through the bowl to get the rest of it!  But, I’d already garnered enough raised brows and smirks for one day.

***

bank

After lunch I decided to walk around, see the sites and browse the antique and novelty shops.

       Before the filming of Fried Green Tomatoes began, many of the buildings in Juliette were run-down and overgrown with ivy and vines.  Needless to say, Hollywood gussied it up.  If you pay attention, at the end of the film when Ninny returns to her home and finds it is not the quaint little town she remembers, you will see Juliette as it was before the clean-up and filming began.  Today, the little town remains as it did during filming -quite picturesque and very Southern.

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Directly across the street from the restaurant is Vern Cora’s Antiques.

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I loved the interior of this store as it was so bright and colorful.  I also found too many things I wanted~

My daughter, Anderson, would love Purple Hayes which is next door!  The shop was opened by Delores Hayes after her husband passed away.  She came up with the name by combining his favorite color and their last name.

p

wp

As I walked from store to store, I stopped and spoke with the owners.  It’s amazing how personable everyone was, how willing and eager they were to talk about their little town.  I met Shelley George and Jennifer Yozviak at Ruth & Idgie’s Gift Shop, where they happily showed off the back room as it is featured in one of the scenes in the film.  Gives me an excuse to watch it yet again and look for matching wallpaper!

poAt  The Blackberry Patch I found a turquoise colored mixer I should have purchased, but told myself I didn’t need!aa

And, all about are the quirky props from the film!   Like Smokey Lonesome’s cabin, and the gravestone of Frank Bennett. The town of Juliette really is a lot of fun!

bbdd

The old buildings are the prettiest.

o

The last store I stopped in was Tommy Moon’s store, The Honey Comb.  What can I say, I just have a thing for honey…

Before I left Juliette, I drove out to get a pic or two of the dam.

nn

nnu

dam

little houseAnd fell hard for a little white house!

Every once in a while it’s nice to just get out of town!  By the time I made it back to Oxford, Alabama the race was over and Nascar fans were again filing onto I-20.  Talk about perfect timing~

***

LINKS –

The Irondale Cafe:  http://www.irondalecafe.com

The Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette:  http://www.thewhistlestopcafe.com

 

If you enjoy fall festivals you should head to Juliette this weekend for the Fried Green Tomato Festival!  You’ve just missed the Whistle Stop Festival in Irondale, AL.

The grandbaby and I highly recommend it! 

 me and bug

Me & Elizabeth Rileigh enjoying the annual Whistle Stop Festival!

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

A promise is a promise!

Let’s just cut to the chase -my weakness is a blonde haired, blue eyed girl who has my heart!  Four years ago I became a grandma & it absolutely changed the way I look at almost everything.

       Earlier in the week I invited my daughter, Anderson, to come for dinner.  I hoped to lure her into a visit by promising a pot of chili!  And, I told Elizabeth Rileigh, the grandbaby, that she and I would make cupcakes and decorate them.

One minor problem:  the element in my oven is out and I wasn’t thinking.  Actually, I thought I’d have time to do it this past weekend.  But, I forgot all about it.

       That is until Monday when I called the girls to make sure they were still coming.  When Anderson finished catching me up on her weekend, Rileighbug got on the phone and reminded me, “Betts, we are making cupcakes tomorrow!”

The knot that instantly hit my stomach is indescribable.  If there is one thing I simply cannot stand it is disappointing people -especially children.  If I promise to do something, I’m doing it.

It was, however, too late to get an element.  So I thought back to my early teaching years, and all the times I had my kindergarten and first graders “cook” in class.  The activity would have to be fun, consist of easy steps she could do herself and it needed to be yummy.

       After work, I headed to Dollar General.  It was an easy stop on my way home and I knew they would have everything I needed.  I purchased: two types of Little Debbie snack cakes (a less sweet pumpkin cake that was thin, and a thick vanilla one), a can of cream cheese flavored icing, M&Ms, candy corn and some paper cupcake holders.

The girls were waiting for me when I got home & one of them was really excited about “making cupcakes”.

 

After dinner, Anderson took all of the snack cakes out of their wrappers while Rileigh arranged her M&Ms and candy corn. I located small and medium sized biscuit cutters and warmed the icing in the microwave to make it easier to spread.

photo (8) photo (9)

Rileigh then got to work, using the small cookie cutter to press out the smallest bottom layer of the cupcake (the thin pumpkin cake).

 

She then added a little icing to “glue on” the next layer.  Using the medium biscuit cutter, she cut a circle out of the vanilla snack cake.  Icing went on top and she decorated them with M&Ms and candy corn.

photo (6)

photo (10)

 ***

 I think we actually had more fun constructing these than if we had simply baked the cupcakes!

photo (7)

Bar-B-Que… Need I say more?!

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I’ve a tendency to slip away as often as possible when food is involved. 

And, Bar-B-Que calls to me like no other!   Steve N’ Jan’s BBQ is one of those little out-of-the-way places that folks don’t necessarily know about -unless you are a local, that is.  It sits out in the country, on roads I don’t even know the name of but drive daily to and from work -just so I can see the lolling hills of Alabama farmland, old barns and recently baled hay.

I pulled in and parked; opening the car door I was immediately engulfed by the smell of smoked meats!

Daily, I join 400+ students for lunch in our school cafeteria.  My schedule doesn’t allow me to get out and about and until this weekend, I’d not had the opportunity to slip away.  When I arrived, Shelly (Steve and Jan’s daughter) greeted me with a huge grin and was more than happy to recommend everything on the menu!  Steve was busy behind the counter chopping meats while Jan flitted about, being gracious and refilling everyone’s sweet tea.  Last summer, Steve N Jan’s BBQ won The Taste of Lincoln.  I’ve been ready to dig in ever since!

3 4

Shelly stood and chatted with me while I looked over the menu.  When I told her I was having a difficult time choosing she smiled and suggested, “Why don’t you go grab yourself a milkshake and come back at 4:00 when we put out the buffet.  That way you can sample everything!”  I raised a skeptical brow and asked if she was kidding.  “I’ve never heard of a BBQ buffet!  But, I’m too hungry to wait and I’m ordering a lot…” I warned, returning her smile.

I told her I wanted to start with the BBQ Nachos.  She grinned, and headed off in the direction of the kitchen.  “I’ve got something I want you to try,” she said over her shoulder.  “We make the most amazing potato salad -but it doesn’t have any of the regular potato salad ingredients,” she explained.  “Dad also makes a Loaded Baked Potato that starts with this as the base.  He warms it then stacks it with mounds of cheese and BBQ.”  She slid a plate of warm, pork rinds across the table too, telling me that they make these as well.

8My mouth was watering for the BBQ, but after one bite of the creamy red potatoes, I only wanted more.  I’d say there will probably be a time in the near future that I’ll show up for just these, but it would be a lie.

The nachos are amazing as well! 1

As are the ribs…         9 And the onion rings…6

But the best -or at least the best thing I had this weekend- was the 5″ Pork BBQ Sandwich, pilled high with extra meet and loaded with pickles! 57I CAN HEAR WHAT YOU ARE THINKING 😉  Yes, much- MUCH of it went home in a to-go box, or two!

I’ve every intention of returning this coming Saturday for the buffet.  The granddaughter, Elizabeth Rileigh, is a BBQ baby & is always ready to go out to eat!         Love Brisket? They have that too 😉baby girl at el agave

Before heading out, I got to talk for a few minutes with Steve.    He gladly discussed his love of cooking and smoking meats, explaining too how he refused to postpone his dream until after retirement.  The restaurant has been open for four years.  Following retirement this coming year, he will begin opening some during the week.

Hours of operation for Steve N Jan’s BBQ are: Friday and Saturday from 11- 8 p.m.  *Buffet is ready at 4:00.  They open on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for special occasions. Catering for important events is also available. *They are NOT difficult to find and instead of giving you typical Southern directions (i.e. take the road in front of the schools, go past the big house, the old farm with the beautiful pasture and hang a right at the church…) I’ll just give you the address.  You are Welcome!

                         BTW, If you didn’t read this in your softest, Southern drawl                              you must read it all over again -correctly!

Steve N Jan’s Bar-B-Que, 13849 Jackson Trace Road Lincoln, AL 35906 Phone: 205 763-7712  They are also on Facebook!  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steve-Jans-BBQ/133141530061622

You can join me there as well!

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

hOneY, you know I have a thing for you!

photo of bees and flowers to use                Why else would I leave 130 wild, eleven/twelve year old students and head for the hills of Eastaboga, Alabama?

That’s not exactly true.  I am drawn to the countryside like a bee to…  😉   The entire day, I thought of little else.  My father, the herbalist in the family has long lauded its praise.  He insists that local honey is best for all that ails you.

Even if it wasn’t healthy, what’s not to love?!

I met up with Justin Hill of Eastaboga Bee Company this afternoon after having missed him at Oxford’s fall festival & then again at the Anniston Farmer’s Market.  I first learned of his business on Twitter and was shocked to find there was a bee company so close to home.  When I called, a young man with the most beautiful Southern drawl answered the phone and graciously offered to show me his farm.

“If you get here early, I’ll let you help me feed the cows,” he promised.

road pastureland

I turned off Mudd Street and traveled down a long dirt road, wondering if perhaps I was in the wrong place.  I parked out front, knocked at the door and paused before going back to wait at the car.  Brilliant Alabama sun shone down.  Even in October it can be stifling here in the South.  Surrounding fields, acre upon acre of pastureland, rolled like waves, steadily climbing and steepening behind the home place.  In the distance, I could just make out a white super; the air around it shimmered with movement.  I stood and filled my eyes –Alabama is such a beautiful place!  The tension created from being indoors all day began to slip away.

 pic field 2

I’d just begun to wonder if I’d been forgotten when I heard the far off sound of a motor.  Puffs of smoke rose across the pasture.  It was Justin driving a Polaris 570 Ranger.  He pulled up, drawled, “Climb in” and gladly, I did as I was told.  We quickly introduced ourselves, exchanged pleasantries, then rode, talked of bees … and fed the cows!  I shared my spot with Jake, Justin’s dog. (He reminded me so much of my childhood bird dog, Lemon, that I wanted to take him home!) Jake looked at him, obviously puzzled by the change in their daily feeding schedule.  Justin, a 4th generation farmer, works his family’s 300 acre cattle farm.

honeybees_post_cards-r016dfcd52a904a58927e034574095d33_vgbaq_8byvr_512

 

 

 

 

Justin pulled over to show me a hardwood where he had captured a swarm the previous season.  I told Justin that before meeting, I searched the internet for current information on honeybees, apiary regulations and current statistics on Colony Collapse Disorder.  I had no idea that every hive had to be registered, or that beekeepers were required to submit a map marking all of their hives.  Justin patiently explained the ins and outs of his business and corrected several misconceptions I had about beekeeping.


use white boxes
pulling the framebee super

He pulled us closer to a nearby group of supers.  The bees carried on with their work, unfazed by the sound of the engine.  He explained that the black bees I helped rob in my younger years were not English bees, but rather Italian bees.  These were obviously much calmer.  I asked about the various colors of honey and he described being able to taste the difference in them based on the bees’ food source or when the honey was robbed from the hive.  We discussed at length the necessity of feeding new or struggling hives.  I discovered he currently tends over eighty supers!  In 2013 and 2014, Justin was chosen for the Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Bee & Honey Division at the Young Farmers Leadership Conference.

justin photo

 

Before leaving, Justin invited me in to sample his new Honey Mustard and loaded me up with a handful of products available from the company’s website: Honey Hand Sanitizer, emollient hand & body lotions containing beeswax and shea butter, soaps, a honey infused lip balm and a leather conditioner comprised of both lanolin and beeswax.IMG_7881-Body_Butter-Eastaboga-1024x680

IMG_7903-Eastaboga_Lip_Balm-1024x680honey

In the coming season, the company is also scheduled to come out with a Honey Vinegar Sauce/Marinade… and Mead!  Justin’s degree in marketing from JSU is obviously coming in handy.  However, his ingenuity and a hard work ethic are just something he was born with!

If, like me, you are into honey and all its health benefits you must visit Eastaboga Bee Company’s website and check out the honey & the products: http://www.eastabogabeecompany.com

You can also find Justin on Twitter @EastabogaBeeCompany

Now, about that GREAT LOGO. The following excerpt is taken from Justin’s website.  He said he didn’t mind me sharing it at all!

bee

“The Tree & The Tractor”

How Heritage Became The Symbol Of Unwavering Quality….

What does an antique Oliver Tractor, with a tree growing through the middle of it, have in common with a bee company?

Justin Hill, Founder of the Eastaboga Bee Company, says it’s the opening chapter to the story of his family history.

“The love of farming in my family comes from generations back,” says Hill. “That Oliver Tractor with the tree growing out of it is the foremost symbol of my Great Grandfather, Elvin Hill. It marks the beginning of my family’s history of farming in Alabama.”

As the story goes, Elvin Hill farmed the lands across East Central Alabama in the late 1800s. After a long hard day of working the fields, Elvin parked his Oliver Tractor and returned home for dinner.  Before the meal could be served, Elvin Hill suffered a fatal heart attack.

The grieving Hill family left that Oliver Tractor in the spot where Elvin had parked it. It served as a monument of sorts, which represents the last life act of a great man and the leader of the Hill family.  As the months past, a small tree began to sprout from underneath. Through the years, the tree continued to grow, committing the Oliver Tractor to the very ground it was parked on.

 blue bees

Notes:

While colony loss has been noted and investigated for decades, the rise in numbers during 2006, 2007 (some beekeepers reported a loss of up to 80% of their colonies) created great concern for both apiculturists and agriculturalists.  It was then that the term Colony Collapse Disorder was coined.

Due to the large drop in U.S. hives from mites, disease, harsh weather, insecticides, etc. many farmers now “rent” honeybees for pollination. Thus, migratory beekeeping has become crucial to U.S. agriculture.  Many beekeepers earn more money from renting bees for pollination than for the production of honey.  The business is both necessary and lucrative. However, researchers are currently investigating migratory beekeeping’s effect on spreading viruses and mites.

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

FOR THE LOVE OF FALL…

Each year, I eagerly fill my calendar with dates of fall festivals.  My favorite has quickly become Oxfordfest in Oxford, Alabama –our new hometown.  Oxford lies along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama.   Although Oxford continues to expand and branch out, the autumn celebration is always held in the old downtown area I love.  Here places are set up for dozens of craft vendors, folks working grills and ladies tending tables filled with homemade sweets, or preserves.  The smell of kielbasa with sautéed onions, homemade corn dogs, funnel cakes, and coffee floats in the fall air. 
 brick housedowntown pic oxfordf
big barn varietystore
Not only is the festival a feast for the nose and stomach –it is a feast for the eyes.  How can you not feel happy, walking around with a crisp breeze dimpling your skin, the air rich with the smells of food cooking, vibrant color everywhere? 
 
truck yellow
 plane
purse
Of all the rich craftwork found, my favorites are easily tooled leather and wood.  Everett Martin’s hand-turned wooden bowls and Peggy’s carved/etched & painted gourds are an example of true craftsmanship.  Their shop, Gourds and More, is located in Ohatchee, Alabama.  (If you missed them at Oxfordfest they will be at the Little River Canyon festival the first Saturday in November.)
me with bowls all
beautiful cake plate
bowl inside ox fest
bowl bottom od fest
 How unfortunate I vowed not to purchase anything for myself.
 
 
All about are the sounds of happiness –children and families laughing and talking, a gospel band sings in the distance.  Community.  It just feels right.  Representatives from neighboring churches are present.  Politicians are too –both handing out pamphlets and business cards. 
boy and dog oxfrordfest
Oxford Police Department is also here, busy working with droves of moms and dads who are anxious to take advantage of the Child ID kits.  It is amazing how active the department is in Oxford.  It’s one of the main reasons I enjoy living here -doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if you are out and about you notice that they are out and about as well.  Returning from Publix one afternoon and caught a glimpse of our Chief, Bill Partridge out helping a motorist change a flat.  I sang his praises all the way home.  If I’d had a camera, I’d have posted the pic on Twitter or Facebook to brag!  The man exemplifies hard work and dedication!
bill and luther strange
Chief Bill Partridge with Attorney General Luther Strange 
 ************
My morning ended with a search for Eastaboga Bee Company’s table.  I’ve been wanting to purchase a couple of jars of local honey and only recently learned about Justin Hill’s booming business.  With over 80 hives, they not only produce a ton of honey, they also have select beeswax products.  One of the beers at Cheaha Brewing Company is made using his honey.  Unfortunately, it was not available when we visited this weekend.  Although I missed him at the fall festival, I’ll be catching up with Justin later this week. 
 
bee  honey
 *A huge ‘thank you’ to my son, Jonathan Isaac Parks, for the amazing photographs!

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

When the weather changes, the closet gets changed out and the plate offered at the table follows suit.  It is time for fall foods, folks!  While I am sure some eat biscuits year round, for me they are a cool weather food; as summer is reserved for fresh fruits that are readily available at our local farmer’s market.  Admittedly, I’ve not always been a fruit lover.  (Laughing, because I can hear the actor in Tombstone drawling, “You, music lover”. It’s funny only if you know the film and once you hear it, you can’t UN-hear it.) But, I digress.

It’s fall and it’s time for cool weather foods.  And for me, warm, just-baked breads are at the top of the list!  Of course, the memoir We Share the Same Sky is filled with reflections of growing up in the South, foods my grandmother’s and mother made, breads they baked and the hours we shared around the family table.  So, I thought today I would share an excerpt, followed by a sweet potato biscuit recipe.  My cousin, Dana Lynn, has been at work perfecting our Grandmother Libby’s square dinner biscuits.  Perhaps she will allow me to share these as well in the near future.

 

From:  We Share the Same Sky (an excerpt from Chapter 2)

Simplicity -free of complexity, refinement or pretentiousness

     The importance of the making and sharing of bread is an amazing thing.   The       women in my family all make a variety of breads. But, of them all, my favorite continues to be the humble biscuit. My GrandMosie’s were the most divine!  She got up early every morning to make my Grandpa breakfast before he went to work. She would fill several with butter and granulated sugar, then slip them to me with a hot cup of coffee at three a.m. because she knew I preferred them hot. I’d eat, drink, crawl back beneath the weight of handmade quilts and fall right back into a deep sleep.  She also made sweet potato biscuits for me and Papa on days we went hunting.  We would eat our fill, then wrap those remaining in paper napkins and tuck them in our coat pockets.  They were thick, dense biscuits, so rich in flavor.

My Grandmother Libby also made incredible biscuits, though they were somewhat odd.  She kept her flour in a huge tin in the cupboard; when she readied to make biscuits she would pull out a stool, open the tin and make a well right there in the flour then work in the shortening and buttermilk.  The biscuit dough was removed, the lid fastened back onto the tin and put away. After rolling out the dough into a long rectangular shape, she placed it on a flat baking sheet and cut it into squares.  She was the only person I knew who made them this way. Always, they were served alongside her falling-off-the-bone, fried pork chops.

Baking bread is often the basis of tradition. And, many of these traditions are linked to religion. Unleavened bread is partaken when receiving the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper; Artos is a Greek celebration bread; elaborate wreath breads are indicative of many German celebrations and King Cake is a common Christmas tradition in countries commemorating the festival of Epiphany.  Southerners in Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana begin the merriment of Mardi Gras with a King Cake iced in carnival colors of purple, gold and green.  Whomever finds the token- be it bean or baby- baked within the cake, receives both a favor and responsibility.   A Christmas custom in Poland is the making and sharing of Oplatek.  This thin wafer has a holy picture pressed into it.  Family members make it together, then share it with close neighbors.  Each person breaks a wafer and as they eat it, forgives the other of any wrong doing or hurt that has occurred over the past year.

Today, wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on earth.  But, I believe that mass production has diminished our appreciation for it.  Surely, the women who grew, milled, and made their own breads viewed the final product very differently. They claimed a connection to the soil, and therefore to the land and to home.  The Russian immigrants who secretly brought over their more resilient grains understood this bond. How true it is, the quote by Aldo Leopold that “the oldest task in human history [is] to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”   In our effort to progress, we have not only severed our tie to the land, we have let go of traditions that connect us to our heritage.

***************************************************************

 

Unfortunately this is not my GrandMosie’s recipe. 

She never used one for breads or pies.

sweet-potato-biscuits

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato prebaked and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cups sweet milk
  • 3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into
    small pieces
  • 4 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into
    small pieces

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and increase the temperature to 450°F.

Peel the sweet potato and mash with a fork, then add the buttermilk and mix until smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and butter; use a fork to cut them into the dry ingredients. Add the sweet milk mixture and stir until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead very lightly, just until it holds together.

Roll out and pat the dough into a rectangle 6 by 12 inches. Use a biscuit cutter or old juice jar to cut out biscuits. Transfer to a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits have risen and the edges and bottoms are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes.


*Recipe was given to me by a dear friend years ago –thank you CW. *Photo via tiny banquet committee.

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

The deepest shade of envy green~ Southern Hospitality

watermelon

Nancy, a dear friend of mine, posted this picture to her Facebook recently and I immediately turned the deepest shade of green!  She explained how a neighboring farmer had left the gift on her doorstep.  The thoughtfulness made me wish I lived nearby.  It also got me to thinking about how much I love this area.  Understand, I am not blind to all that is wrong with the South, but for me it is a love that goes deep enough to appreciate all this region has to offer.

The greatest of which is still good ‘ole SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY.  And, yes, even today it still exists.

Being hospitable in the South is often defined by food.  Always has been and I have a feeling it always will be.  It is one of the things I love about HOME.  It is also the easiest way we Southern women know to say, “I love you” or “I appreciate you”.

When the children and I moved to Oxford, Alabama in 2007, our neighbor across the street whom we had not yet met, left a plate of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies on the little café table in our carport.  When we returned from school that afternoon, the children and I were all smiles.   Anderson poured us tall glasses of milk (mine with crushed ice) and we sat down and devoured the still warm cookies.

Looking back some of my sweetest memories involve food.

I remember Mother surprising me in the campus parking lot while I was in college.  She was standing next to my vehicle holding a chocolate Coca-Cola birthday cake.

And, the first year I taught elementary school, I returned home and was surprised and delighted to find a pot of chicken and dumplings warming on the stove.  My father had come, cooked supper for us and returned home.

My heart hurts with the memories too of all the trips my Grandpa and GrandMosie made to Talladega County when I first moved away from home.  They would show up out of-the-blue bearing gifts –always a sweet potato and pumpkin pie.  They are still my favorites.  (I enjoy them warm, but still prefer a slice after they’ve cooled in the refrigerator, with a glass of sweet tea of course.)

For me, food will always be associated with hospitality or small acts of kindness.

“Be good to strangers; be better to family,” my Grandmother Libby used to say.

In the South, when someone is sick, you take them food.  When a family is placed in hardship, folks show up with casseroles, buckets of chicken… desserts.  That’s just the way it is around here.  And, I like it!

Even at work, I am surrounded by teachers who bring and give –many mornings there is something fresh baked, or a box of doughnuts from Lamar’s waiting in the workroom.   And, boy does the faculty miss Ms. Camp and her wonderful zucchini bread since she retired.  Though I’m not sure which we miss most –the bread or her contagious laughter!

It seems the older I get, the more rushed life becomes.  I hope that in the future this changes, but I doubt it.  The one thing I am sure of though is that I want the giving to continue –even when I am tired, even when I am busy.

I hope that looking back years from now, my kids will remember the meals shared with family, will remember the hospitality that is part of their heritage.

 

Coca-Cola Cake

If you haven’t had it, you need to ASAP!~

  • 2cups sugar
  • 2cups all-purpose flour
  • 1cup Coca-Cola
  • 1 ½cups small marshmallows
  • ½cups butter or margarine
  • ½cups vegetable oil
  • 3tablespoons cocoa
  • 1teaspoon baking soda
  • ½cups buttermilk
  • 2eggs
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½cups butter
  • 4tablespoons cocoa
  • 6tablespoons Coca-Cola
  • 1box (16-ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  *In a bowl, sift the sugar and flour, then add marshmallows.

In a saucepan, mix the butter, oil, cocoa and Coca-Cola.   Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients; blend well.  *Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk then add to batter with eggs and vanilla extract.  Mix well and pour into a well-greased 9- by-13-inch pan and bake 35 to 45 minutes.   Remove from oven and frost immediately.

Coca-Cola Cake Frosting

Combine: 1/2 cup butter, 4 tablespoons cocoa and 6 tablespoons of Coca-Cola in a saucepan. Bring this to a boil and then pour over confectioners’ sugar.  Blend well and add the vanilla extract and pecans.  Spread over cake, carefully.  When cool, cut into squares and serve.

coca-cola-cake

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU