Avondale, Alabama ~ soul food & country haute cuisine, wood-fired pizza at the P.O. & suds @ a microbrewery!

This past week when the rain slacked off and the skies cleared, friends and I hit the road heading west to Birmingham, Alabama to try the BBQ at SAW’S Soul Kitchen in Avondale.  Why, you ask?  It’s simple.  2 Reasons -this tiny hole in the wall joint has smoked meats, seafood and soul food that is lauded, loudly!  And, the one little block where this soul food haven is located is a loaded little block.  It has it ALL.  From one corner to the other you have, elbow-to-elbow: SAW’S Soul Kitchen, Post Office Pies & Avondale Brewery.

Another hop skip and a jump and you’re at Good People Brewing Company, a favorite I will elaborate on in a later post.

By the time my friends and I arrive, the rain has let up, the sun is out and it is deceptively warm in the car.  We drive around and park behind Avondale Brewery, thinking the walk will do us good, both coming and going.avondale saws building

But, it is frigid cold and when we get to SAW’S and wiggle through the front door, I realize we may be standing for lunch.

All the tables are full!  I remember reading somewhere that because everything is prepared when it’s ordered that a short wait is to be expected.  It works out well; by the time our food arrives we have claimed a table in the corner.  Locals fill the place –you can tell by their demeanor that this is their local grazing hole.  “Blues in the Night” plays on the radio.  The laid back feel of the place worms its way into my psyche.  Immediately, even before taking the first bite, I am hooked!

     “My mama done tol’ me when I was in pigtails, My mama done tol’ me, “Hon a man’s gonna  sweet talk and give ya the big eye…”  Ella belts out those lyrics like she knows.

avondale saws pulled pork sand

I order the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich topped with slaw and a pile of fried onion rings.

avondale saws carolina burger

My friends order the Carolina Burger.  Lord what a burger!  It arrives covered in chili and topped with slaw.  It is unbelievable.  I try a bite and really don’t want to hand it back over.          avondale saws blt

We foolishly order a Fried Green Tomato BLT too.  It is good but I’m as funny about my fried green tomatoes as I am about my cowboy boots.

A man seated nearby is presented with a plate piled with cheese grits, greens and pulled pork.  Again, I want another’s food.  Thankfully, I am beyond full.  I also pass on a deep bowl of Homemade Banana Pudding.  Then comes the knowledge there is a cooler in my trunk… I could get a large container to go!

avondale saws pork and greens 2

avondale

Had it been warmer, we would’ve ordered our food and had it delivered to Avondale Brewery just a couple of doors down and eaten out back under the hardwood trees.  We notice as we walk up that the back patio is deserted.

avondale eleph

Miss Fancy the Elephant, the brewery’s mascot, was a gift bestowed to the city back when Avondale Park was the original site of the Birmingham Zoo.

Raise a trunk!

The offerings are:  the Spring Street Saison, a “Belgian-style farmhouse ale; Miss Fancy’s Triple, a Belgian ale; Battlefield IPA “hoppy citrus and floral”; Vanillaphant Porter, a light-bodied ale with “chocolate, roasted nut flavors & a vanilla twist”; and Mr. Todd’s Brown, a dark ale (Just say, hell yes!).

avondale beer

Now, back to the Post Office…

avondale post office sign big

I’ve always been a huge fan of Eudora Welty and still smile when I think about the first time I read “Why I Live at the P.O.”

I know why I would live at the P.O. –because I am weak for wood-fired pizza!

Remember now, I am a Gadsden girl and therefore my heart will always belong to MATER’S on 3rd & Locust when it comes to my favorite pies.

avondale post office swine pie

But, this Swine Pie is something else!  The crust is chewy, and while I like it this way too, I wish I’d asked for it to be charred.  There is just something about the added smokiness when it is.  Top the crust with marinara, sausage (made in house), pepperoni, bacon and fresh basil leaves –Voila!

Tell the world I am happy here at the P.O. seeking refuge, isolated and well fed.

 

 

*****

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

 

 

an Alabama cold streak…

Ugh-this weather! Spring in the South is unpredictable at best.  Warm temps for weeks, days spent working in the yard and throwing the windows wide to let in the warm breeze while deep cleaning, and now this, a cold streak.

As I load the grandbaby and drive her back to Gadsden, I notice the temperature gauge in my car.  It reads 40 degrees.  And, it is raining.  When I park and walk her in, I realize with a start that this time last year, Isaac and I were in England and Whales.  From daybreak until sunset we had walked in the rain, chilled to the bone. This morning looks, smells and feels identical –identically miserable.  In Ireland several days later, the rain had tapered off but the persistent chill lingered.  I dreamt of luxuriously hot baths and my own bed.  With just this brief lapse of time, memories of the trip now hold a golden patina.  Until this morning, I’d forgotten the soul-sucking weather.

We could be half-way to a city we have never seen…

This thought brings a smile and a deep yearning for some place warm; for does not warmth sometimes bring with it happiness?

A trip today is impossible.  But soon enough there will be time.  Today, I can enjoy rural Alabama.

FARM A

Although it is cold now, I know the Southern sun will burn away the chill quickly.

And it does, almost immediately.  The rain stops, the clouds clear.

 

Perhaps there are minute things about us, as people, that change as we grow but our base –the principal part of us -seems to stay the same.  I seek out warmth and comfort when out-of-sorts.  And, a book to get lost in.

FARMJ

For me, sublime is defined as a warm place to snuggle in and read, breathe in fresh air and be lulled to sleep by songbirds and sunshine.  When I was young, I’d hike Dunnaway Mountain behind my parent’s home in search of the perfect spot.  Today, I am wandering along a friend’s pastureland.  Happily, I do not know where their property ends and someone else’s begins!

Private Property –what does that mean, exactly?!

 

FARM C

God gave me long legs for a reason~

I find a cozy spot with an amazing view and settle in to read.  Yet all around I find things that draw the eye.

FARML

 

 

What is it about the smell of cedar that draws?  The smell of the oils that seep within your skin..

 

FARM H

 

 

 

 

I concentrate on the travel book I’ve read a half a dozen times.  Frances Mayes writes about old towns, culture and WORK!  It is why I return to her writings again and again.  When I squint, the sun dances between my lashes.  It is so warm.

FARM F

I awaken to the sound of hooves against hard soil.  A massive bull has unknowingly run near me and it is the sound of his hooves -the mighty weight of his hooves slurping against the pull of red Alabama mud-that jolts me completely awake.   Jesus, God and Mary!  Until this moment, I’d been unaware there was a bull in the pasture!

FARM G

Walking calms.  I gather my things and decide to roam the hills; one more beautiful than the other calls until I am there, looking back across the lake and beyond to another even more glorious field that beacons as well.  My darling cousins, the Pentecost clan, lived on a farm.  I was always envious of their lolling pastureland that sidled up to Green Valley Mountain.

FARMBFARM I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three tiny woodland ducks on the water.  They are small enough to be bass bait. Two dive below the glossy surface of the water and I find myself counting.  1, 2, 3, 4…  Just as I catch my breath, they resurface and the three swim on. They continue on in this way, two disappear deep down below. And, I wonder –does one always stay atop, afloat as watchman, or does he count his brothers’ time off down below; do they keep score, these animals free to play?FARMM

A lone swan swims, seeming not to have a care in the world.

I want to be that swan.

 

 

*****

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMPHIS!

I started daydreaming about Memphis a week before the trip was even a sure thing.

Because I’ve always loved New Orleans, the history of the place, the sound of jazz and smells of rich food wafting into the streets, I thought I might also enjoy Memphis.  Besides, who isn’t a fool for BBQ & Elvis?!

I still haven’t forgiven my mother for not letting me go to an Elvis’ concert with my best friend in 1976.  Yes, I was in the 4th grade, but it was a birthday gift from her mother!  As I researched and planned the Memphis trip, I realized that visiting Graceland was not an option –too structured for a road trip.  Generally, I choose a few things I’m interested in and just go with it, letting the rest of the trip spontaneously unfold.  For some reason, the idea of keeping a ‘schedule’ seems to suck the fun out of things.

However, the route to Memphis, Tennessee took me straight through Tupelo, Mississippi –Elvis’ birthplace.  At the time of Elvis’ birth in 1935, the town was commonly known as “the roughest town in north Mississippi”.  It was a great stop.  In less than twenty minutes I saw the house and rode around the town where Elvis had wandered the streets as a kid.

The two room shotgun house was built by Elvis’ father, uncle and grandfather.

plaqElivis birthplace

 The Presley family car, 1935.

P car in Tupelo MS

It was late evening when I arrived in Memphis and not having any particular destination in mind I just enjoyed walking around downtown.  Beale Street was already blocked off and lit up like a Christmas tree.  Doors to the bars were thrown open wide and sure enough the heavy rhythmic sounds from local Blues bands lingered in the street.

abeal

But, I had other plans and headed into A. Schwab. When I was browsing the net I’d discovered the establishment had recently reintroduced an old-time soda bar. Immediately I’d set my heart on having an egg cream soda.  *An egg cream doesn’t have egg in it at all but rather cream, soda water, chocolate or vanilla flavoring.  As I strolled through the store, I found a couple of really nice hats and a metal paddle-car that would be great fun for the grandbaby. The place retains the charming feel of another time; perhaps it is the smell of old wood.  Abraham Schwab, a Jewish immigrant, opened the store in 1876.  In 1912 he moved it to its current location on 163 Beale Street where it is now the last original business.

True to form, I got carried away in my browsing -there are so many little nooks and crannies just filled with all sorts of things.  I decided to return after dinner, thinking there would still be room for dessert.

aaaaabealesstreetuse

­

Let me take a minute to say that if you have never been to Memphis, you may love Beale Street.  It is bright, loud and covered up with folks out to have a good time.  However, other than a stroll to take it all in, I am not a Beale Street kind of girl.  I am smitten with Main Street though!

 amain at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

aflyingsaucer

While roaming around Main Street I came across the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium at 130 Peabody Place and decided to have a small sample of a few. The perks of walking around downtown Memphis are indeed great!

aflying1

I fell hard for the Murphy’s Irish Stout.  I also had the small sample of the Belhaven Black and a Spatan Lager.  They were good, but Murphy’s was much better~

aaaaa

Beer finished, I headed back to 138 Beale Street & Blues City Cafe for the Gumbo Cheese Fries, a PBR & the tamales with a cup of chili -the bartender presented a plate that was monstrous.

photo (30)

I am now a huge fan of Blues City Cafe!  The atmosphere is great and I honestly think that sitting at the tiny bar to the back made it even better!

achiliThere is a huge plate glass window separating the little bar (so cozy) from the rest of the cafe, so you can see everyone dining with family and still be snug as a bug.  It was a packed house, but the bartender got my appetizer in record time and warned me about ordering more food before I had the fries.

The gumbo is poured across the top before they are topped with shredded cheese….

I can’t even begin to describe how good they are!

 

 

 

 

 Saturday Morning –

photo (32)  city market

Out and about the night before I found City Market Groceries & Deli at 66 Main Street and realized they had a coffee bar.  So that is where I was first thing -real espresso & real cappuccinos!   I grabbed fresh baked sausage and chicken biscuits and sat at the bar that looked out over Main Street to watch the early morning joggers freeze their crazy asses off.  It is truly shocking how many there were… If I lived in Memphis, I’d be here every morning, sipping cappuccino, doing a little writing and counting.

The first stop for the day was probably the thing I was most excited about.  I know how odd it sounds but I always visit a cemetery when I travel to a new city.  The information I found on Elmwood Cemetery had me rushing through breakfast.

aelmwoodgateElmwood Cemetery is open every day of the year 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is located at 824 S. Dudley Street.  It was literally a hop, skip and a jump from downtown.  I arrived and pulled into the cottage and went in to purchase a driving tour.  I was not expecting a history lesson or for my new friends to pull out the copy of the deed.  Nor did I expect a rub-down from Howard the resident cat.    deed

The cemetery was established in 1852, but many of the tombstones are much older as they were moved from other cemeteries throughout the city.  Elmwood is an example of a garden cemetery, set up in a park-like layout that includes “sweeping vistas, shady knolls, large stands of ancient trees, and magnificent monuments.”  No kidding, it is beautiful.

aagravebest

An hour driving tour is not what you’re really in for, unless you never get out of the car.  I stopped and walked so often and hit replay on the audio because I couldn’t trust that what I had heard was accurate, that it took me almost four hours!   pan elmwood

beautiful elmwood

 

 

 

 

Some of my favorite stories were about a madam who later turned her ‘mansion’ of pleasure into a hospital during the yellow fever epidemic; a lesbian tryst that ended with a slit throat- poor Alice; the tale about moved Union coffins, chalked-in names and unexpected rain.  And, of course, Shelby Foote’s burial site. Every Southerner knows Shelby Foote –our Civil War historian.  He is buried next to Nathan Bedford Forrest’s family plot. The general and his wife are no longer buried at Elmwood. (…and suddenly I knew that my next novel would be set in Memphis & got the briefest glimpse of my protagonist!)

shhh elmaagravegreat

More than 75,000 people are buried in Elmwood. When the site lists “soldiers of the American Revolution through Vietnam, mayors, governors, senators, madams, blues singers, suffragists, martyrs, Union generals, Confederate generals, civil rights leaders, holy men and women, outlaws and millionaires” it means it!  There are over 1,000 Confederate soldiers and veterans buried in the Confederate Soldier’s Rest.

 

 

 

*****

LUNCH ran late…but there were several places I wanted to try!  Lucky for me THRILLIST ran their first issue on Memphis several days before I left.

aaainsidebar    pim cheese fries

I headed to The Second Line in Midtown for some “simple, authentic New Orleans fare”. I had roast beef po’boy on my mind -but I just couldn’t have one if it wasn’t at MOTHER’S in NO.  So… I decided on an order of the andouille, crawfish & pimento cheese fries. (And if I’ve neglected to mention it before, a take-home box is always presented with the meal. I have this thing about sampling and then taking much of it to go.) Besides, another place was calling my name – loudly!

 

***

Although I had not admitted it yet, my heart was set on eating at Hog & Hominy in East Memphis.

hog & hominy

 

I’d heard about the wood-fired Red Eye Pizza – with pork belly, celery leaves, fried egg and fontina.

 

 

 

The Red Eye PizzaJ. Cole with Southern Living Magazine ranked them  #4 in “The South’s Best New Restaurants” in 2013 with food created by chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman. (They won the 2013 Food & Wine Best New Chefs award.) The two are known for combining their  “Italian Roots with Southern cooking” and have just launched a new cookbook.

 collardsI agreed to their small samples of beer while I waited on the Red Eye, trying the Wise Kung Fu Draft, Mama’s LIttle Yellow Pill & Wise Tiny Bomb Draft.  The pizza ended up being one of the best I’ve ever had!! That’s saying a lot considering I grew up in Gadsden, Alabama feasting on Mater’s pizza.  The charred crust added to the smokiness of the pork and it was surprising how much flavor the celery leaves added. pb pie

My waitress made sure to tell me the recipe for the peanut butter pie was in the cookbook!  The bottom layer was like cheese cake.  It and a slight saltiness of the crust cut the sweet of the peanut butter; a layer of fresh sliced bananas separated the two.  It was ice cold & divine!

 Rather than venture out again later that evening, I opted to stay in and watch old WWII movies.  Sunday morning I awakened to a downpour, reevaluated & adjusted my plans and headed back to Bama.  A box of French pastries from la baguette on 3083 Poplar Ave & a couple of lottery tickets eased my angst at having missed the Peabody Ducks and breakfast at the Arcade Restaurant, Memphis’ oldest cafe.

So, another trip to Memphis will be necessary!   I intend to see the Peabody ducks parade through their grand hotel and there are several more places I want to eat.  Let’s not forget I didn’t get my egg cream soda!   And upon awakening, I’ve decided that Memphis is the perfect location for the novel I will begin working on…

…the reasons for another visit just keep adding up.

A moment of weakness

 

 

aaaticket

 

*****

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!

photo3

 

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.)

wsc

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.

cc

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

bz

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

Bar-B-Que… Need I say more?!

ext use

 

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