Author Expo ~Gadsden, Alabama

Put something on the calendar, and I’m sure not to do it. But, isn’t life about stepping out of your comfort zone? Being somewhat reclusive and shy (although those who know me well roll their eyes and mumble just beneath their breath “whatever”) it is often difficult for me to participate in an event where I am expected to be verbally outgoing and open.

Writing it is one thing, doing it another.
The quiet folks know what I mean. You are just so “exposed” when you are right there in front of others….talking.  What I didn’t anticipate from this social engagement was – well, any of what actually took place. Allow me to explain.

This year, Gadsden Public Library hosted the Alabama Library Association Annual Convention. Being a hometown girl, I was graciously extended an invitation. This in itself garnered a smile. But, the idea of an Author Expo which is hosting 32 Alabama authors, companies from across the country -who graciously sponsor the authors -and more than 500 librarians, was enough to make me hesitate and then take two steps back. That is a lot of people! And yet, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that deep down, I absolutely couldn’t wait to attend. After all, I would be surrounded by people like me –writers and readers who eat, breathe and live for a love of words!

 

Arriving early, I had to smirk and acknowledge a blonde moment; I eyed the jam packed parking lots and wondered how many blocks I’d be walking in heels, carrying a heavy box of books. So THAT is why it was so important for my assistant to meet me when I arrived! I noted the city’s kelly green trolley car shuttling folks to and from the event.

 

Gadsden was going all-out and it filled me with a deep sense of pride!

 

This year’s theme for the convention is “Libraries ImPOSSIBLE” and it is improbable that anyone will leave displeased. There are a list of events sure to draw a crowd and delight everyone who attends. For example, the Reception Block Party downtown on Broad Street with live jazz and a performance of Imperial Opa. Tuesday night, out-of-towners joined the regulars for our Literary Pub Crawl where those who gather get to sample the amazing beer at Back 40 Beer Company and discuss a particular literary great before strolling over to Blackstone Pub & Eatery to continue the fun.

 

Then today, Wednesday, filled with bestseller speakers and the Books-A-Million Author Expo at 210 at the Tracks.  I arrive and find the place packed. The vibe is amazing –beautiful bare bulbs sneak down from the blacked-out high ceiling. Music of the Etowah Youth Orchestra fills the air and already I can smell something spicy and….could it be chocolate wafting from the back reception area? Harp & Clover, Gadsden’s newest, trendiest –swankiest even – Irish Pub, located within walking distance over on Court Street, has catered the event. I also notice that folks are meandering about with food in hand; several sipping wine and a few others cold beer. My assistant, Megan, and I introduce ourselves to our sponsor, set up books, arrange seating and head to the reception area to fill a plate and find a table.

 

Neither of us it seems knew exactly what to expect. I’d wondered at the necessity of an assistant but after we sat and caught up on senior life at SHS (my old alma mater as well) a swarm of readers buzzed about, and time began to fly. We would pause, talk, laugh and share stories with these women –some from Alabama, others from across the country -before they moved on to another author; then another swarm would alight. And so flowed the events of the night.

 

I found in collecting my things afterward that, while I was light on books to carry back to the car, I was filled with stories, their stories. I couldn’t help but smile. It was a wonderful thing to have a woman point out something in particular that spoke to her from the memoir and then share with me a story of her own. Other than the Russian from NY and our friendly Spaniard, Tito, who would wander over between signings to discuss culture, tradition, family –most of my readers were women and I was delighted because the book was written for US, after all.

 

Just two cobblestone blocks away, I wrap up my evening with a Guinness at Harp & Clover and chat up my dear friend Dee as he moves back and forth through the establishment, deftly working the crowd. Such an exquisite end to a most enjoyable evening. From now on, all of my pub crawls in Gadsden, Alabama will end right here! I recommend the Dubliner, a burger topped with “house-made bacon jam & Cahill’s whiskey infused cheese” and of course the Bread Pudding.

 

*And, I do believe I’ve just claimed a new place to hide away and write…the little niche in the back corner should do nicely.

Thank you –Amanda Jackson and Carol Roark Wright with Gadsden Public Library, and also Megan Potts, my assistant, for a wonderful evening!
Already I’m looking forward to the next Writer’s Expo in Huntsville and Chattanooga. And, Megan, I’m going to hold you to the agreement to go sight-seeing, history hunting and helping with book sales.

The only way to find –is to seek.
Nothing worth having just happens; you have to go looking for it!

image

 

*****

 

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

Join me and other Birmingham Bloggers! http://www.bhambloggers.com/

b hap bloggers pic

…And, so, I find myself standing under the eaves of some back street, wet, caught between the easy banter of old men.

GreenwichVillageStreet

Some Things Are Just Different Up Here

–wherever I go

It occurred to me this morning while I was out dusting my roses, that I have never stayed in a house long enough to reap the rewards of all my plantings.

In my late twenties, I began to take on the habits of my GrandMosie and Grandmother Libby, taking clippings from roses whenever the children and I came upon them.  They too began to pick out favorites, casting furtive glances as I carefully cut.  We wrapped the stems in a moistened napkin and stashed them away in my backpack just as I had seen my grandmothers do time and time again.  Once home the trimmings were dipped in Root Tone and the children would take them and plant them gingerly in the nursing pot with the others.  The following spring, we would transplant all those that had survived and taken root.  Amazingly, they almost always did.  Our backyard on Magnolia Street filled and then overflowed, roses waving like a rumpled tapestry.

Then the children and I moved back home to Rainbow City and I –now in my thirties – discovered a love of azaleas wild and hybrid, magnolias, evergreens and pear trees.  And so I planted, watered, nurtured.  Eventually … I moved again.

Several summers ago -almost twelve years later -I took a late evening drive back to Rainbow City.  When I neared the homeplace I slowed, astounded by the growth, the sheer beauty of all I had planted so many years before.  It was just as I had thought it would be, what I had imagined when I chose the plants and placed them.  A sudden wistfulness quickly consumed me; then just as quickly was squelched when I noticed a woman out back, watering and smiling.  And, did I see her talking gently to my plants?  I wanted to stop and tell her their history, which ones were planted on birthdays, and other special occasions.

Perhaps someday I will put down permanent roots as well.  Until then, I will continue my love of planting –wherever I go.

More than I bargained for ~ Selma, Alabama 2004. Dr. Hardy Jackson & Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham, Alabama’s Finest Storytellers

There is a certain thrill that comes in experiencing the unexpected, visiting the unknown.  Perhaps we are born with a yearning to explore new places.  Once fed, the hunger to roam becomes more urgent, as almost unwittingly there is the construction of a new appetite.  I have this appetite.

Although my mantra is any road trip is a good road trip I was not overly intrigued by the idea of visiting Selma, Alabama.  I was, however, motivated by the possibility of any unforeseeable events that may lay in store along the way.

Our little group had agreed to meet up early that Wednesday.  There before the others, I remember parking and looking about, wondering if in fact our vehicles would be the first in any parking lot on JSU’s campus.  Jacksonville seemed eerily silent before sunrise.  Leaning against the car, I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the solitude, knowing it very well could be the only quiet moment of the day.  Admittedly, I was anxious.  This was the first time I’d ever ventured off with a group of folks I did not know and although I fought against it, my mind kept whispering trapped in a car for a long period of time.

One by one they began to arrive.  Quickly I slid in behind our driver for the day –a highly intelligent, unpredictable, fun-loving fellow who also happened to be our Southern History Professor, Dr. Harvey Hardaway Jackson III.  The remaining crew consisted of three female students all of whom I’d already labeled as “talkers”.  For this I was exceedingly grateful as I tend to be overly quiet around folks I don’t know.

Hardy –forgive the informality, but many years have now passed and the friendship is surely sealed, forever tight –Hardy had offered up an open invitation in class that anyone who cared to join him should, as he was scheduled to speak at the Selma Public Library regarding his latest book Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State.  Dog-eared copy in hand, I was the first to sign up.

Once on the road, we fell naturally into the previous day’s discussion on why it is we Southerners think and act as we do.   I can honestly admit that prior to his classes, I’d never paused to question such things.

Before we knew it we were nearing Montgomery.  Hardy detoured through Lowndesboro, explaining it was “not so much a town as a string of historic buildings”. The 2000 census placed the population at 140.  As we followed the route taken on the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965, he explained that it was just outside of Lowndesboro that Viola Liuzzo, a young civil rights activist from Michigan was chased down by the KKK and shot.  Liuzzo was driving Leroy Moton, who had recently participated in the second march, to the airport.

Hardy eased the car off the road, stopping at an old white church.  It immediately reminded me of the Baptist Church my grandparents had attended when I was a child.  Oh, how many sweltering summers my cousins and I spent in those small back Sunday school classrooms, making crafts, memorizing Bible verses and sweating bullets during Vacation Bible School.

As he parked, Hardy gave us a brief summary on the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, formerly the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.  Built in 1830, the structure is capped with the dome from the 1820 Alabama Statehouse in Cahaba.cem church

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church ~ Lowndesboro, Alabama

After walking around and taking a few photos, we loaded back up and headed to our next stop.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1857 from a popular pattern found in a book by Richard Upjohn.  The Episcopal church in Jacksonville, AL was based on the same plan.   “You usually find Episcopal churches in settlements where wealthy planters from South Carolina and Georgia settled,” he further explained.

e church selmaSt. Paul’s Episcopal Church ~ Lowndesboro, Alabama

Our last stop before making our destination was Sturdivant Hall.  Built in 1852-1856 as a townhouse for Colonel Edward Watts, the Greek Revival neo-classical architecture is breathtakingly beautiful.  Hardy walked us through the house, discussing various objects and artwork.  A woman nearby explained that workers were brought in from Italy to complete the plaster and marble.  Never did she whisper that the house is allegedly haunted by former owner and banker, John Parkman.

st hall selma

Sturdivant Hall, 713 Mabry Street ~  Selma, Alabama

Before leaving, we all gathered in close for a photo.

hardy's girls

With Hardy Jackson at Sturdivant Hall 2004 ~ Selma, Alabama

Selma Public Library

selma public library

 

 

 

By the time we reached Selma Public Library, I already felt as though the trip had been worthwhile.

While Hardy was busy socializing, the girls and I all went our separate ways.  Longing for a quiet moment, I walked around the library admiring the paintings.  From the corner of my eye, I noticed an older lady had come to stand close by.  There was an ease to her that I still cannot describe; she too seemed caught up in the combination of beauty and quiet separateness.

“Sunflowers are the most beautiful flowers, don’t you think?” she asked admiringly, indicating a nearby painting.  I recognized the softness of her Southern drawl.  She noted the difference in mine as well and as we wandered along she inquired as to which part of North Alabama I was from.  She asked if I gardened and we chatted about growing up in the South.  The sound of her voice was lulling, soothing and it was with disappointment that I realized we had arrived in the area where Hardy was to speak.

Although I was looking forward to listening to my professor’s tales of the South, I was disappointed that my time with her had ended.  As we took our places, she slid in beside me and another girl from our group.  I smiled, pleased that she was joining us and realized with a start, I’d not asked her name nor introduced myself.  I happened to look beyond her to my fellow traveler whose eyes were now weirdly wide.  What the hell is she doing, I wondered.  She mouthed Kathryn…Tucker…Windham, nodding at the woman I’d been chatting with.  Suddenly I understood the peculiar expression on her face.  The knowledge was devastating, as if I had been hit full in the chest with a crowbar.

I’d been wandering about, passing the time with my favorite childhood author and had not even known.  Mrs. Windham had surely been saved from much gushing and stammering.

Feeling equally blessed, I sat and listened as Hardy recounted family tales of courage, feuds, Good Ole Boy politics, his daddy’s poutin’ house, Southern chivalry that was not dead, and all the glorious things that had once separated Southern culture from that of the remaining nation.  I listened to Hardy, but could not keep my eyes and thoughts from Mrs. Windham.  Had the chance, lost it, kept running through my mind.

With his talk completed, Hardy walked about shaking hands and hugging necks.  I noted that the majority of the audience was indeed female.  This garnered a well-deserved smirk; smart man, when he caught my eye, he knew exactly what it meant.  Mrs. Windham joined us for a moment before we left and I learned that she and Hardy were ‘cousins-in-law’.

Before heading north, we made one more stop at Old Live Oak Cemetery.  If only the wisteria had been in bloom, large white magnolia blossoms scenting humid air.  Though these were not yet visible, we Southerners knew they were there and could smell them just the same.

“There is glory in the graves” read the inscription on a nearby Confederate monument.  In 1879 Colonial N.H.R. Dawson purchased eighty Live Oaks and eighty Magnolia trees in Mobile, Alabama and had them planted throughout the cemetery.  Spanish moss drapes down from ancient oaks as if trying to enshroud the chivalrous dead; their cannons, still close at hand, aim northward.

live oak cemetery

Live Oak Cemetery ~ Selma, Alabama

I rode to South Alabama with one storyteller, and ended up meeting another.

It was a charmed meeting.  But, as we made the return trip, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been cheated –I’d have asked about her favorite memories, the foods she longed for when she was with family… With a slow smile I realized exactly why she had skipped the introductions.  Was it not so much more to wander, admire the beauty before us together and speak gently, proudly of our South?

On 231, just north of Rockford, Alabama we passed Sears Chapel Methodist Church.  Hardy slowed the car and we lowered the windows.  I imagine each and every one of us held our breath, thought of Mrs. Windham and her love of ghosts and listened for the baby crying in the road.

 

sears chapel

         Sears Chapel Methodist Church, 1860 ~ just north of Rockford, Alabama

*****

It had indeed been a road trip to remember.  Looking back, I am reminded how quickly a moment can pass and how we do not know the moment for what it is until much later. That trip was a catalyst that sent me down another road; a conglomeration of memorable moments those two years with Hardy have become.  They are firmly cemented as well.  While meeting Mrs. Windham was a true gift, it was the tutelage of Dr. Hardy Jackson that took my life in an unexpected and better direction.

How often the unexpected moments become the focal point, rather than the destination. Sometimes you set out on a jaunt, and bring back a little more than you anticipated.

Thank you, Hardy

hardy

Dr. Harvey Hardaway Jackson III.

Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham

Mrs. Windham

  • 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (1969)
  • Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts ((1987)
  • Jeffrey Introduces Thirteen More Southern Ghosts (1987)
  • Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey (1987)
  • Southern Cooking to Remember (1994)
  • Encounters (1998)
  • Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories (2004)
  • Alabama, One Brig Front Porch (2007)
  • Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another (2009)
  • She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life (2011)

Mrs. Windham was a reporter for Alabama Journal, The Birmingham News and later the Selma-Times Journal where she won Associated Press awards for photography and writing.

Mrs. Windham also performed her stories on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Alabama Public Radio’s Alabama Life.

 Hardy Jackson & Kathryn Windham TuckerHardy and Kathryn

**********

photo of me for blog

ELIZABETH MOZLEY MCGRADY

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

Join me and other Birmingham Bloggers!

http://www.bhambloggers.com/

b hap bloggers pic


 

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, the husband 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 we 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

Travis orders 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.

 

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.

 

 

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

 

When my husband, Travis, overheard my plans he decided to join me for lunch.  The place was packed and plates were fully loaded!  We 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!  Travis chose the fried catfish, hush-puppies & coleslaw –and a slice of the coconut pie.

The dressing and the fried catfish are now at the top of the list as the best things they serve!  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 Travis.  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 MCGRADY

https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

small photo of book we share same sky

WE SHARE THE SAME SKY, a memoir

Tate Publishing

January 14, 2014

We Share the Same Sky chronicles an independent excursion to New York City the summer of 2007. The memoir revolves around the typical NYC experience: exploring neighborhoods and cultural enclaves; gorging at Manhattan’s famous and not-so-famous restaurants and bakeries; and contemplation on well-known and unfamiliar city landmarks and icons. Woven throughout is a look into the Southern female psyche with reflections on the influence family and place have on personal identity. In a more constant strain, the memoir addresses the effect our beliefs have on the choices we make in our daily lives, for faith is the inextricable link that ties us all together.

A recent review: http://theleftbankofthecoosa.blogspot.com/2014/04/we-share-same-sky-by-elizabeth-mozley.html