There is ‘FOOD FOR THOUGHT’ but what about ‘FOOD FOR MEMORIES’?

This morning, I dropped my granddaughter, Bug, off in Gadsden.  She was with me for two evenings and a day. I am specific about the time, because the time is so precious –Every Minute Counts.

 

Our first evening, as we sat on the front porch together, I asked: “What do you want to talk about?”

 

“Well, let’s listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and talk about what we are gonna cook tomorrow!”

 

I listened.  And realized that when Bug said she wanted to cook dinner, and wanted to bake a pumpkin pie that that was exactly what she meant.  It was really how she wanted to spend our time together.

 

Though we have often baked together, we have never prepared and cooked an entire meal. So, I explained it would take up a great deal of our day.  Bug said she didn’t care and got busy creating the menu: BBQ chicken, (No surprise there. I remember when she was four and decided it was to be breakfast; and it was.), mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, and garlic/cheese biscuits.  And, let’s not forget the pumpkin pie.

 

And you see, it was with the pumpkin pie that I almost messed up.  I almost acted like an adult and suggest a more seasonally appropriate dessert. You know –lemon icebox, key lime or a cobbler.  Thank goodness I paused and realized this was not about food, this was all about her –and she had suggested pumpkin because it was what she had set her heart on!

 

The kid knocked dinner out of the park! It was amazing. But, it was the time we spent together snapping the beans, peeling the potatoes, and baking the pie that I will never forget.  I hope she doesn’t either.  It was simple, and it was sweet -a summer memory wrapped up in preparing and enjoying a meal together.

 

***

 

The second part of the Romania lecture on WE SHARE THE SAME SKY was to expound how WE tie our memories to emotions; emotions that are most often linked to people, places and food.  Because I’ve opened by sharing the recent cooking experience with Bug, I will skip the introduction and jump to the excerpt.

 

 

From WE SHARE THE SAME SKY, a memoir NYC 2007

 

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 put-off 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.

 

 

 

Lecture for Romania, part one

Due to unforeseeable circumstances, I will not be attending the International Book Fair this week in Bucharest, Romania.  I had so looked forward to the opportunity to talk with you about your beautiful country.  I further regret being unable to share with you some of the rich history of the Southern United States; reflections of growing up here in Alabama, coupled with excerpts from WE SHARE THE SAME SKY.

What I can do, however, is post an abbreviated version of what I’d intended to share.  I’ve not included the self-introduction.  The lecture is rather long, so there is the necessity of posting it in segments.  And, rather than moving through the text and rewriting what I’d highlighted in the chapters, I will instead post the entire chapter.

I will miss meeting you all.

Sincerely,

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

 

 

PART ONE, LECTURE FOR ROMANIA

I began writing WE SHARE THE SAME SKY following my return from a summer trip I took alone to Manhattan the summer I turned forty.  I was contemplating a major change in my life and knew that the time away would give me the space I needed to think and see things more clearly.  With children in the house, money spent toward a trip for myself –rather than a family vacation- filled me with guilt.  So, I needed a second reason, one that might alleviate what felt like self-indulgence.   I decided to write about my week in the city and include the history of the boroughs and enclaves of Manhattan, the cultural beauty of the place, the ever-changing neighborhoods that continue to foster a sense of belonging for our immigrants.

While I expected to get caught up in the magic that is New York City, I didn’t expect my mind to constantly jump back to the South.  Throughout these days of wandering, images of home and memories of my childhood kept pressing in on me, as if demanding recognition.

You see, I was missing family; I was missing place. There simply is no getting away from who you are or where you are from.  Place retains its significance to the human spirit because we tie to it the emotions of our memories.  Being Southern means having a relationship with the land, a relationship with nature.

Being away, immersed in that immense, fascinating city, I could more easily reflect on the past, the people and events that made me who I am.  The week in Manhattan actually helped me reconnect.

I’ve heard it said that as children, we are closer to our true selves, that we know our passions.   I think this is true.  It is only later when we are busy being adults that we slip up and forget.

 

(Excerpt from WE SHARE THE SAME SKY)

“There is as much dignity in plowing a field as in writing a poem.”

—Booker T. Washington

Awakening, I move about in a stupor and realize that the bed is unfamiliar. The pillow is unfamiliar. The sounds coming from outside my window –all are unfamiliar. Slowly remembrance sinks in and settles like freshly poured concrete. I am snuggled safely within the city I adore! In the subdivision in Rainbow City where I live, there is a small farm down the street that sits so charmingly out of place. Grandfathered in when our neighborhood was developed, the old farmhouse and tiny field remain. Every morning I am graced with the sounds of the family’s rooster trilling and the donkey baying for his morning meal. Here, the glare through the window forces me awake. And yet, thanks to the sound ordinance, rarely does one hear the frustrated, incessant blaring of aggressive horns. I have over-slept and awakened with the capricious nature of an unruly child. Pulling aside the curtain, I take a peek outside, mouth a quiet thank you to Him.

Late last night, I listed everything I want to cram into my day. Far and wide, my desires are spread from Upper West Side through Midtown and Upper East Side. Locating my list on the map, I realize that I will be all over the place. But really, who cares? It is not as if I am following a dreaded agenda. Flip of a coin, shake of the Magic 8 Ball; perhaps I have been going about my decision making all wrong. So, sensibility will not dictate my path, at least not today!

 

Morningside Heights

Is there anything better than sliding into a taxi when you know you are in for a long day? I don’t think so. As I get in and arrange my things, I notice the driver is talking on the phone. Hating to be rude, I jot down the address and hand it to him, trying to smile. He never makes eye contact and never hangs up the phone. Ill-mannered people get on my nerves and my pet peeve is rude cell phone use. Maintaining my silence, I sit behind him and seethe, wanting to tell him to please get off the phone and drive because frankly, he is scaring the hell out of me. I fantasize about reaching from behind and snatching the phone from his hand and flinging it hard out the window –something my father would do. And yet, I know that when he lets me out, I will tip the inconsiderate ass any-way. My mother reminded me several weeks ago that unless one speaks their mind when they are displeased, they have no right to be resentful. Regardless, I am full. And, I am irritated with myself for letting something shake the sense of inner peace I awakened with. In the South, protestant church signs post words of wisdom each week. My favorite is the adage “He who angers you, controls you.”

The driver drops me intact at The Morningside Heights Greenmarket located at 116th Street and Broadway. While planning, I discovered that the market is sponsored by Columbia University and Barnard College. Amazed by the selection of fresh produce in the city, I find myself constantly comparing it to what we have back home. Surprisingly, it seems there are many more open markets available here.

Quickly, I purchase a pint of the plumpest blueberries and wish for some fresh yogurt. The apples are gorgeous. There is one variety that looks similar to those my grandmother Libby called horse apples. Although the skin of these apples is not the prettiest, they always have a good tart taste that makes them perfect for apple pie and apple butter.

Looking over the boxes before me, I think back on my fifth grade year when before morning announcements or even the pledge was completed, I was hauled into the Principal’s office to stand before Dr. Leftwich.

“It has been rumored,” she said “that you have been stealing apples from a nearby yard and selling them on the bus. Miss Mozley, being industrious is one thing, but thievery is quite another.”

My grandmother always reminded me to pause before answering and so I did. I knew that the man who owned the place had seen me a couple of afternoons as he sat out on his back porch. The tree I had chosen the day before was close enough that I had noticed he was drinking tea and cracking pecans as he read The Gadsden Times. I also knew that he didn’t mind or he would have said something. I even hoped that he liked me, although I never saw him smile. Yes, he liked me and he appreciated the fact that I enjoyed his trees, his apples. After all, he had dropped the paper to below eye level and watched as I gathered them in my shirt and climbed back over his fence.

He was not the one who reported me. I knew this. But regard-less of who had, I was either in for a good scolding or a paddling. But, not both; Dr. Leftwich was known for giving one or the other. My only hope was that she wouldn’t call Papa. Double or nothing I thought, then replied, “Yes, ma’am. I’ve been doing just that.”

The following day –because she did not paddle me or even call my father –I left a rosy store-bought apple on her desk. I didn’t think a note was necessary.

What is it about picking your own produce that makes the taste more intense? My children swear that the apples they pick from our trees to bake each morning are better than those from the store and I believe them.

Apples purchased from the grocer sit prettily in the glass dish on our dining room table almost forgotten. It is as if they are there for the eye rather than the palate.

Each year, the children and I look forward to visiting an orchard. For years, we picked our own from an elderly gentleman’s backyard in Riverside. Posted near the bushel baskets was a sign listing the cost, and sitting below on a porch step was an old rusted coffee can where you deposited your money. Some of the trees that grew along the back row of his orchard seemed to be as old as the man himself. Laden with a full load, the sagging limbs were propped up with felled hardwood. When the old man passed away the property was sold, his bountiful trees cut, the land leveled and landscaped. The children and I mourned, then set out in search of another orchard. We headed north.

I had found a listing for a large family-owned orchard in North, Alabama. After a long morning drive, we arrived to find the place boarded up. Disappointed we turned back, but decided the return trip should be a different route, in the hope of coming across something of interest along the way. What we found was a North Alabama Indian mound. The gate, drawn shut and locked, held a sign posted no trespassing, but the children and I pretended not to see. We quickly parked the car and walked to the mound by way of a neighboring cotton field, full and white.

Catching sight of the mound, Anderson and Isaac stopped at once. I walked to where they stood, looking on with awe at the vision that lay before us.

A prehistoric Native American relic of the Mississippian culture, it was an amazing thing to see, just sitting there modestly in a field of lolling green pasture, surrounded by a pearlescent ocean of cotton and the distant emerald foliage of hardwood trees. In silence we climbed the mound, stood and gazed across the land. With unspoken reverence, we turned and descended quietly, then walked back through the high cotton to where we had parked.

Several miles down the road, we happened upon a very small family owned orchard. Although we didn’t get to pick the apples ourselves, no one seemed to care. We bought several bushels and an antique apple peeler to make our work easier. That evening, we set about slicing and filling the dehydrator racks sprinkling each layer with cinnamon; the remaining apples we baked and then topped with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Memories of time spent with my children bring only happiness. I say a quiet thank you. Because of them, I have much to be grateful for. Isaac’s cotton seeds are still in the backseat compartment of my car! When this thought comes, I cannot help but laugh outright.

I continue to pick up an apple from each selection, admire its uniqueness and fresh smell. I think of a quote from Walden, of Thoreau and his reflections on the farm he almost bought but didn’t. He laments, “I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only.” Now this I under-stand. But, when he admonishes “…As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are com-mitted to a farm or the country jail.” I am want to disagree. To own and work a piece of land is to take pride in something that becomes an extension of self; a sense of accomplishment fills the soul of the weary possessor at days end.

Moving around the selections, I watch and listen to the interactions between the farmers and the locals and wish that I was staying somewhere that would allow me to purchase what I really want so that I might cook a meal early in the evening. Within arms reach are the most delectable Roma tomatoes I’ve ever seen accompanied by a beautiful purplish heirloom. I wish I could gather them up, take them back to the room, slice them, dehydrate them and pack them in oil or buy a couple of crisp ones still good and green, to fry.

There is also pineapple, freshly cut. If only I had several slices of a good homemade white bread and some mayonnaise. Is it only Southerners who eat pineapple sandwiches and hot tomato biscuits? Recognizing true hunger, my stomach rumbles at the thought.

The idea of dinner alone makes me miss being at home, cooking and dining with the children. They would be thrilled with this marketplace.

We often shop the farmer’s market in Birmingham. Not so much for the fresh produce –even though the offerings are amazing with over 200 farmers participating- but for all the other phenomenal vendors. Isaac’s favorite is a table of sliced cakes, presented by The Bakery at Cullinard. Anderson heads immediately for the croissants and chocolate sauce offered at another stand. Shelves of homemade preserves, jellies and jams call to me.

 

In our area, the weekend flee markets are where most folks shop for serious produce purchases. These are located closer to Gadsden, our hometown. We frequent Collinsville on Saturdays and Mountain Top on Sundays. Visiting a trade day in the South requires rising early. The best vendors arrive and begin setting up around 4:30 a.m. then pack up around noon. Collinsville Market is located in a small rural town of the same name. It is surrounded by beautiful green sprawling hills of farmland and the distant ridge of the lower Cumberland Plateau. Prettiest in the lambent light of the early hours, the view competes with the winsome sounds of farm animals. The smell of sausage biscuits and fresh coffee drift far and wide.

Regional pride has led to many a foolish notion. Admittedly, I always believed that Southerners held a closer relationship to the land and therefore held the prime pickings when it came to pro-duce. Looking about, I acknowledge that I’ve been proven wrong on both counts. Before walking away, I watch a small family load their purchases into four worn arm baskets; supple, they easily bend and allow the carrying of much weight. What is it they will cook for dinner tonight? What are their traditions, and is this trip to the market one of them? I think on our family’s beloved catfish Sundays. Grandpa farmed and fished all week. GrandMosie began cooking early that morning while we attended our various churches. Gathering at their house after services, we children fought over the fried fish with the longest crisp tails. We gnawed them down to the nub before beginning on the flesh, filled our plates repeatedly, then lazed away the afternoon waiting for stomach pains to pass. It was a happy gathering. What a shame that in today’s haste, many have let the tradition of Sunday supper with extended family all but slip away.

I watch the father help his wife, guide her gently through the throngs of people. He is protective of her, she of the children. The

Breathing deeply and enjoying the early morning air, I decide to move on. It occurs to me that all of this walking, where the wander-ings of body and thoughts meld, has helped clear my mind. Physical exertion, be it callisthenic or aerobic, alleviates depression and anxi-ety. Wandering is much like pacing in that it requires constant yet thoughtless movement; while the body moves about as if by its own accord, the mind is free. For me, this is proving therapeutic and provides time to reflect on the important things, to examine what exactly it is that has brought me here, not just to this city, but to this juncture in my life. Perhaps with realization, healing and creativity can begin again. It is not that I have become blind to the limit-less joy God places in the smallest of things, rather I have become distracted by circumstance. Time to wander, to think, to remember and reflect –without these we lose something fundamental and vital to self.

 

Days That Ran Long

 

Standin’ here,

Hands spread

Across faded green,

I listen undeterred

To moans and groans behind me

Of ungodly ugliness.

I care not

For I’ve found a treasure

That’s less than grand sight

And slick worn feel

Bring back dusty memories

Of skinned knees, stringy hair,

Days that ran long and knew untold endin’s.

Who would’ve known

That city folk congregated in search

Of fine Wedgwood and walnut

Would find themselves subjected

To grandeur so rural,

That’s beckonin’ calls to those

Whose memories once held rough edges

Hewn by hard work and time.

It stands there inquirin’

Remember me? Remember

The gatherin’s…

I become absorbed

In its green flat formica

And long since lost its shine chrome-

Where many times did

Families coagulate

When such things were so,

To feast on meals

Pulled from the ground, wrung by the neck

Then presented to kin whose presence

Represented true survival

Of hell and brimstone storms

Characteristic of a glorious

Southern Sunday morn.

 

EM 2004

 

*Please join me on Facebook at WE SHARE THE SAME SKY and also on Twitter @ElizabethMozley and @CentipedeYAread

 

Thank you all! ELIZABETH

 

Image result for we share the same sky

One addiction leads to another~ Antiques & BBQ

There are chaotic days. There are boring days.

And then, there are road trip days! So, when the promise of hours spent riffling through antiques in Atlanta, Georgia was waved beneath my nose like a tasty morsel, I took the bait, completely!

At forty-eight I still don’t know my way around the city.  It is one thing to set out on foot around town with a general idea of where you’re heading; it is entirely another to navigate around Georgia’s capital city, dodging idiots and taking back-roads to avoid road construction.  Needless to say, I laud the finesse of my driver.  Not only was it hot as hell in Atlanta this fine July day, the traffic was unbelievable.

I think for me the love of rummaging through old things began as a child.  Clearly I remember slinking away to my GrandMosie’s back bedroom to pull out her collection of Sarah Coventry jewelry.  It was the same in her closets –and thus began my love of vintage clothing.  She didn’t do away with anything.  My cousins and I tried on her dresses from the 30’s and 40’s and fought over her pointy crocodile pumps.  Another layer was added to my obsession when I began attending antique auctions with my parents.  Here, I fell hard for furniture.  A summer or so later, my sister, Suzanne introduced me to a salvage store in Cullman, AlabamaSouthern Accents Architectural Antiques.  Forever since, I’ve been owned by this infatuation with all things rusted, antiquated, collected! Today’s destination promised to feed these passions, well.

FullSizeRender (4)

Without scratch dent or even a bump, we arrived intact at Scott Antique Markets.  Mind the (s) in markets, as there are two!  The antique show is held the second weekend of each month.  Admission is $5 and tickets are good for the entire weekend.  I admit I cheated and checked out the website prior to our trip.  It boasts that it is the “World’s Largest Monthly Indoor Antique Show”, with over 3,500 booths filled with antiques and collectibles.  I couldn’t wait to wander around and get thoroughly lost!

1

The North Building is located at 3650 Jonesboro Rd; 3850 Jonesboro Rd, Atlanta, Georgia is the address of the South Building.

*****

*A few things that caught my eye~

german spoonsand forks

more silver

Silver spoons, German.  My mother would have a fit for these…

******

French posters and other poster art are a strange love.  I just can’t get enough of them!

french poster art

music box

A gorgeous disc music box marked, The Detmer Music House.  The sound was incredibly clear.

windows

An entire section of nothing but stained-glass windows that made me want to purchase an old home to renovate.

WWII memorabilia –

Buy War Bonds, plant a Victory Garden, A Gallant Leader.  So many posters, pins, photos…

wwII memWWIImem1

More of the same in Civil War memorabilia.  I would never get my Papa out of this booth.

CW memcw and other mem

*****

And…flags galore!

13 stars, 13 barsflags 1

A rare 13 Star Centennial Era Flag, Circa 1875-1890 “Symbolic of the star arrangement used on our 1st flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes.  Ordered by George Washington; made and designed by Francis Hopkinson a signer of The Declaration of Independence.”

bunting1bunting“Bunting used in decorations during the last Confederate Reunion in

Birmingham, Alabama. – Mary J. Lanier”

fishing lures and flags

And antique fishing lures! Literally there is something for everyone.  You could come with twenty people, head in different directions upon entering and never cross paths.

lamp fullThese gorgeous demijohns made into lamps were incredible, so large and rich in color. Italians know it is a sin to store wine in anything other than glass.  In Italy, demijohns are passed down from family to family; and they still fill them annually with their favorite local wines.

Traditionbordeau tag

lamp and paintingI can’t believe I didn’t get a  photo of the chandelier I fell hard for.The only negative thing about being a window shopper is not purchasing.  I always recognize what I should’ve bought by the time I return home.

painting

The etched water glasses and a seascape painting with a rough, hewn wooden frame were sure purchases.

Could’a, Should’a, Didn’t…

…Until we arrived at 1811 Piedmont Ave!

And then, one addiction was followed by yet another!  I’d known in advance that we were going rummaging through piles of antiques in conditioned air.  A late lunch at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, however, was a sweet surprise!

photo (4)

fat matts ext

We arrived to find the line had not yet snaked its way around the building -or if it had, we’d luckily missed it!

Opening the door, we were immediately met by cold air and the lingering, seductive smells of Southern food; above the hum and drone of those feasting, Sam Cooke crooned.

“I was born by the river in a little tent/ Oh just like the river I’ve been running ev’r since/ It’s been a long time, long time coming…”       

I felt I had truly died and gone to heaven.  fat matt's blues

The ribs were indescribably good.  We ordered ½ a slab –it and the sides combined were more than I could handle.  The meat fell from the bone and I don’t even think I touched the extra sauce they sent out!

And, the potato salad…I’d drive the two hours from Oxford, Alabama for it alone. We also ordered the Rum Baked Beans –they were divine as well.

...take a little of the potato salad on your fork, a little of the beans as well…

Talk about being bewitched~

ribs1
ps

I looked long and hard at the mac n cheese -the South’s favorite vegetable.  I also cast a wanting eye toward the collard greens; Lord knows I longed for them both.

But does this not make a second visit in the very near future necessary?!

Perhaps next time I’ll brave an evening visit for the live Blues!

*Due to severe cravings and BBQ withdrawals, this is a very delayed post. Please forgive! All I know is that I craved those ribs for two days after the fact and found it impossible to write about them; every time I made the attempt, I had to stop and find something lackluster to eat from the kitchen.

********

photo of me for blog

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

The Lure of a Road Trip~

I think for me, the love of a road trip began at a very early age.

Most Sundays after church, the family would load up in the car with snacks and a cold soda for a long ride in the country.  Not that my brother, Oba, or I ever complained but when we’d ask why we were going Papa always replied, “Gas is cheap”.  And, we didn’t always know where we were going.  The parents didn’t even know.  Mother would explain that we were just getting out for a while, getting away and although they were not sure where we were going, they were sure we would all enjoy it.

carAnd, we did!

There are also the memories of Florida getaways.  I’m not just talking about the vacation itself, but the drive.  Papa never took the interstate.  He chose the back roads because they were more appealing.  Sure, the interstate offered a speedy trip, but it killed any chance of feeding the senses.  Looking back, I’m not sure we ever went the same way twice.  But, it was glorious.  Oba and I didn’t sit in the back seat and ask, “How much longer?”  We were keen observers of our surroundings and stayed on the look-out for something fun to do. My parents made the trip down as much fun as the time we spent  on the beach.  No one watched the clock.  There was no rush.  We stopped at Civil War Memorials, old historic hotels, well-known restaurants and hole-in-the-wall eateries –and almost every farmer’s market we could find!  Papa always took a cooler. Oba and I constantly begged for a ripe watermelon.  These were usually sold out of the back of a farmer’s pickup truck. Mother had a thing for fresh roasted peanuts.  I wanted mine Cajun boiled.

I never know when the desire to roam will overwhelm me.  But, I’m always ready –drop of the hat, right here right now, ready!  When it hits, it hits hard.  And, it’s not always at an opportune time.   Here it is Christmas, and that desire to go exploring has taken hold, a strong hold, and it’s not letting go.

There is just something invigorating and exciting about the spur-of-the-moment, a flip of the coin decision to GO!  It doesn’t even have to be a new place for me.  There are cities and towns for which my appreciation will never wane.

Perhaps, revisiting a beloved city is even better than experiencing the new. There are the familiar things you love that draw and entice.

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I want to feel the excitement of anticipation; pull clothes from the closet, roll them and fill my old military duffle; pick a place, purchase a ticket and climb on board the train then sit and watch through the window as the landscape slides by, or read a good book, think about the things I am going to do.

                                                I want to stand on the subway platform in Manhattan and listen to the street musicians; ice skate at Rockefeller Plaza with the kids; take a midnight Christmas at Rockefeller Center, 2008taxi ride around downtown.

 

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I want to rise early in New Orleans and peek into private courtyards…

run my hands along old iron-work…photo (1)

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wait in line at Café du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait with the grandbaby.

 

 

 

 

I want to hike Mt. Rainer in the snow again, and wander Seattle…aaaaaaaaaaa

 

 

 

 

 

have fresh oysters and purchase succulent dates that are the size of my thumb at Pike Place Market…aaa

                                                        see San Francisco with my husband for the first time.

 

I want to walk in NYC pon a beautiful winter night with snowflakes falling, holiday lights flashing…

 

 

sip hot chocolate in Central Park under the moonlight &…

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As often happens when the desire to roam strikes at an inopportune time, I return to my journals hoping to fill the need if only a little.

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

JOURNAL of a time in Central Park that did not make it into the memoir, We Share the Same Sky.

At last, I have found a place that bears a resemblance to home-Central Park.  I cannot live without trees, trees and leaves -oh, beautiful leaves.  I reach up and pluck one from a nearby low-hanging limb.  My intentions are to press it, and put it away in a book so that one day when it is pulled down from its shelf, the page will fall open to this reminder, a token of a worthwhile week in the city.  The words to my favorite Walt Whitman poem dance across my mind. 

“…All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the branches; without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous leaves of dark green…”

The light here in the park is different than in the city.  The beauty of nature reflects it differently.  Or perhaps it is that the light is absorbed more, rather than reflected.  And the sounds are familiar.  I can hear the laughter of children at play on the lawn, birds in the distance calling to one another from beneath the overhang of tree limbs.  Like the children, they too are dancing, chirping.  And suddenly, as though from nowhere in particular, I am hungry for home.

 Cheaha Lake, December 2014Mt. Cheaha Lake, December 2014. Photo by Lakeside Living editor, Buddy Roberts.

 

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

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

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

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

Fried green tomatoes @ both Whistle Stop Cafés

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

Well, somewhat!

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

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

Friedgreenbookfilm box red

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

 

the best fried catfish around

 

 

 

 

 

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

Their chocolate pie is still my favorite dessert.

 

***

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

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

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

 forsythA farmhouse in Forsyth filled me with envy!

JULIETTE & THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE at last~

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

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

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

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

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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.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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The old buildings are the prettiest.

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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.

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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