Friday, July 30, 2010


Nope, not the leaves of Spring.

This is the last day for a while that our BabyGirl will be staying with us, so we took her to breakfast this beautiful morning. When we returned, Chris glanced up when he was getting her out of her car seat, and saw THIS.

(Please click on pictures to enlarge)

Yep---a SPRING in the Leaves. We cannot think of ANY circumstance which would have put a little spring up above our heads---the leaves could never have touched the ground, even in the highest winds, and unless the little fellow took a mighty SPROIIINNNNG from a piece of equipment Chris was working on in his open-air workshop some time ago, and it somehow stuck into a baby leaf, which grew around or through it---we’re stumped. (To round out the tree symbolism).

And nobody did it for a joke---how in a million years would they think we’d SEE it up there, on the bottom side of the leaf---and besides, the leaf is totally undamaged. The spiral winds round the leaf in one place, with no room for having been put there by human hands.

It’s as great a mystery as THIS---far back on the same limb in the same tree:

Caro went out to go to work several days ago, and scuffed her feet through a great pile of fresh-peeled tree bark---it was green and pliable, as if just skinned off the tree. She looked up, and way over her head, the underside of one curved limb was entirely bare of its bark. And aside from lightning, we cannot fathom the mystery of this one, either.

I’ve seen a lightning-struck tree before, and it’s been exploded by the great heat steaming all the sap and juices, and blasting the limb apart---this time, it’s as if someone stood and painstakingly peeled it from one end to the other. Which would have been an impossible, crazy-making task, for it’s a curve UP AND OVER on the underside, about eight feet up.

We used to have a pet house-rabbit who completely denuded a bathroom of its wallpaper, to a height of about three feet---she’d nib-nib-nibble at the baseboard, get those tiny teeth into a tooth-lock on about an inch-wide piece, and S-L-O-W-L-Y back up, paper peeling gently from the wall all the way, until it gave way and tore off like a long strip of ribbon, curling to the floor.

This looks kinda like that---but a troop of squirrels would have to have DAYS to accomplish this, and it occurred in one night. And I understand SQUIRRELY, but WHY WOULD THEY? And why beneath, and not on top, where the purchase was better?
Well, at least only a stranger would find any mystery in THIS:

Thursday, July 29, 2010


If you’ve never tasted a Decker melon, I send my condolences---I pity ME as well, sorta, for we just discovered these seemingly only-in-Indiana marvels about ten years ago---a lifetime before, and then the first ten years of our residence wasted on mere cantaloupes, juicy and sweet though they were.

There’s a SEASON to these hefty peach-hued beauties, and it lasts for a blink, in the moment between “It’s JULY!!” and “Where has this month GONE?” They appear in Farmers’ Markets and several fortunate grocery stores, their roundnesses swelling out of the big cardboard floor displays, and those same round contours making it almost impossible to reach WAY down into that waist-high container and heave one up with your free hand.

See this---that’s a quarter. The thing has the general shape and size of a basketball, with MUCH, MUCH more heft, and none of that filigree frou-frou of a true cantaloupe. The two this week weighed in at a little over fifteen pounds between them.

They are worth the grab, the wrestle, the drive-to-wherever-you-find-them. They are a magnificent fruit---great goldish smooth orbs of satiny skin covering the most-juice-per-ounce of any fruit save a home-grown tomato.

You nestle the big ball into the car, cradling it gently into the backseat---I swear, if the season lasted longer, there'd be folks buying them their own carseats. And you’ll take it into the house two-armed, careful of bumps and bruises, fearful of the loss of a single bright bite of this unusual delicacy.

Onto the counter, and you’ll have to force yourself to stow the milk and ice cream into their cool places before you lay knife to this lovely treat---the smooooth of it, the promise of the fleeting delights to come are like few other anticipations. Better place it on a big tray, for a cutting board will be flooded before you can finish your task. A long knife centered, a surprisingly-gentle yield to the blade, and a soft thunch, somewhere between a crack and a sigh, and it breaks with the force of the great golden weight within, yielding up its treasure.

The scent wafts into the kitchen, the colors gleam in any light, and if you can force yourself to cut a slice, peel it, and then eat it with a mannerly fork---you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. A quick hack for a juicy mouthful, brimming lips curving into a smile matching the moons you’re going to carve. WHERE HAS THIS BEENN ALL YOUR LIFE?!

A gentle spoon-scrape to remove the seeds, and you’re THERE.

Deckers are decidedly hard to peel---not from toughness, as so many squashes and melons are. They have their own problems: the flesh is so very tender and yielding, it’s very difficult to separate peel from fruit without making decided finger-scallops in the delicate meat. This is Bib-Fruit, folks.

But once cut---moonsmiles or chunks (we prefer chunks, cut into a big flat rectangular Tupperware---it’s just SO EASY to flip that handy lid and extract a few with an eager fork, foraging for a moment, chewing great juicy mouthfuls (oh-so-careful not to touch another single hunk than the one you’re spearing, of course). We take a bowl to the fridge, clump out a dozen, and sit down to dessert, a break, a refreshing cool pause in the day.
And in their last days, when the slump overtakes them, and a great weep of juice has leaked into the bowl, though NOTHING is ever needed to improve their flavor, give them a suitable farewell by tossing all that's left into the blender with a tot of rum or vodka---a perfect sendoff to a perfect Summer taste.

I just cannot tell you of all the delights of a Decker Melon, that Brigadoon-Fruit with the lifespan of a bubble---they’re sweet and smooth and the most delicious of all melons that there are. I don’t know if they grow anywhere but here, and the season truly is RIGHT NOW, but I hope you get to taste one.

And not just once---for somehow I always think that the addictive enticements of Goblin Market were nothing but Decker Melons.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


It's getting VERY close to the 500th post, and I'm going to turn the helm over today to my VERY Dear Daughter-in-Law, whose business trip to Washington took her to several nice restaurants.
She knows all about my proclivity for snapping pictures of all the food and table settings right before we sit down, so I was happy (and not surprised) to receive this e-mail:
I hope you all are well. I wanted to write you to tell you about dinner tonight. You are about the only one I know who would appreciate how pretty and good it was. I know you aren't crazy about seafood, but when you are right here on the water, well you have to eat some of it! I love Maryland crab cakes. I guess it was the years of coming to Baltimore for work that got me hooked on them.

We went downstairs to the restaurant here in the hotel/resort. You cross a little bridge to get to the hostess stand. After a few minutes, we were seated. The menu was simple but pricey; good thing it isn't my money! I ordered a crab cake for my appetizer. They brought some warm crusty bread with chive butter...yum!

The crab cake came on a long rectangular plate. It was only one, but nice-sized... probably 2 inches in diameter. It had a smear of something--- not sure what it was exactly. It was orange and about the consistency of cream cheese. I thought it would be spicy because I could see some kind of spice, but it wasn't. Actually it didn't have much of taste or I didn't think so anyway. There were some drops of a beige sauce. It was mayo-based, I think and it was perfect to dip the crab cake in. On the far right was a pile of slivers of carrots and some greens things, but they had been dried out (and they were curly). It was so pretty, I almost got my camera out to take a picture, but I didn't 'cause the restaurant was full.

I ordered "diver scallops" as my main course. It came on a round plate with 5 scallops around the outside, which were warm and nicely browned, with greens in the middle. It was good, even though I think it was dandelion greens (that is what they looked like). There was also a half of a lemon with the screen cloth and a pretty bow. The vinaigrette on the salad was very light and the lemon I squeezed on it was good, too. The scallops were perfectly done and practically melted in your mouth.

Then at the end, the waiter brought a beautiful white and red dish (it was on a pedestal -- it reminded me of a dish you would use to serve nuts or something like that) with blue cotton candy! I was so surprised. There was a table across the way that I had seen with some ( or what I thought was cotton candy), but there were kids at that table so I figured it was on the dessert menu and they had ordered it. I ate a couple of bites just to say I had experienced the whole package!

All in all, it was a very enjoyable dinner. See you tomorrow!

Isn't she sweet? I'm keeping her FOREVER!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last night we had brimming bowlsful of deep red, juicy tomatoes, straight from the vines in the back yard. They were picked within ten minutes of serving, as the country-fried pork steaks sizzled and the pot of field-peas-with-snaps and tiny okra pods steamed to firm-but-soft perfection.

A tiny pan of gold-meal cornbread---a little twinking of a packet-mix with an egg and a little sugar and flour---baked tender and moist, with a tiny pat of butter laid into the wedge on Chris’ plate. Slices of crisp-cold sweet onion, thick-walled and juicy, just lying idly on the plate for tiny nips between bites.

The tomatoes---peeled dripping for him and sliced into thick rounds in a bowl, salted gently and topped with a little spoonclop of Blue Plate---mine just cut as-they-were into odd-shaped chunks onto my plate and salted. He likes the final moment of making that perfect tomato salad at table---the age-old movements as fork-and-knife cross and clink and scrape in that enticing dance as the pieces fall into that indescribable amalgam of pure fresh tomato, salt, and the tiny rivulets of white as the dressing makes itself.

My cooking is so erratic these hot days---we’ll pick up Chinese, or pick up a Sam’s chicken as often as we might have something from that huge cast-iron stove. And we’ve had cold salads and fruit and melons and BLTs and just-one-hot-thing for weeks now, fending off the temperatures, taking in the COOL.

He generally makes a huge pot of his incomparable Creamed Corn (worthy of capitals) on the weekend, and we’ll enjoy a heated-up bowl of it with just a tomato sandwich on a night or two. Or we’ll “walk out” to the restaurant nearby, where we’ll go this evening, with our little one having a “Sleepover”---possibly the last before their trip to the beach.

I always apologize for my lack of gumption to get into the kitchen these hot hot days---there’s not been Such A Summer in our twenty years here---and he soothes with murmurs of solace and enjoyment of whatever we ARE having. I didn't know that "Dewiiichuh" spoken around a mouthful of food COULD be such a compliment.

You know, in all my years before, in that mind-numbing, body-blasting heat of the Summer South, I didn’t know how NOT to cook. It was just what you did---all that steamy canning and preserving and pickling, whilst the peas and cornbread and dumplings and all those other homey concoctions simmered and baked and stewed, adding their own elevation to the meal and to the temperatures AND tempers.

Last night’s was a lovely Summer supper---elevated by the sum of its parts and just perfect in itself---a humble pot of vegetables, cooked long and SLOW in the old Southern manner, crusty, warm cornbread cooked upstairs in the “middle” oven to save heating up the big stove, the crisp-fried tender pork, the tangy punctuation of the onion, and those tomatoes, which could have stood alone, or beside the best dish of any chef of any age.

Home Grown Tomatoes---I pity the folks who passed them up for centuries just because they thought them to be poison. The risk would have been worth it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


photo from greenbaby

I began this blog by just flinging one post out into what seemed to be infinity. It was a cold November day, and now during this never-ending hot spell, that seems eons ago. Indeed, this is post Number Four Hundred Ninety Five, and sometime this week, if the Good Lord's willin' and the creek don't rise---we'll hit #500.

It feels as if I should SAY something. I mean really SAY something---about the South mostly, but something worthwhile---not just little frivols about dessert and bubbles and where-we-went-for-lunch.

If there's anything I HAVEN'T covered, and anybody has a question (things like grits and cousins-twice-removed and barbecue sauce have been covered, I think, but I'll take a stab at any Southern Subject within reason). EVEN THE HEAT, which is even worse-than-here, and I so feel for the folks sweltering under that Southern Sun.

Summer Heat---it's a a Fact of Life in our Hemisphere, and its toll on pore and patience has been a bell-mark of Life As I Know It. Right now, it weights down the days with its 85-before-breakfast here, whereas the overbearing heat and humidity of the South of my raising has already wilted every being---collar, coif and mood, before they can get the door slammed to keep in the cool.

It’s good for the crops, if there’s rain; it’s good for swimming and other cooling activities, it’s good for drying laundry. The sight of fresh-washed clothes strung on a line, the colors and the whites bright in the sun---that’s a seldom-sight these days, and I wish I HAD a clothesline. I happen to live near two ladies-who-do, so my eye-feast of the loops and swells of the breeze-stirred clean fabric is often waiting, just over the fence. And one of them has made me free to come and hang my own spreads and blankets and sheets upon her line, whenever I like.

The feel of the house is altered and uplifted when a great armful of fluffy, wind-dried laundry is brought down the stairs---concentrated sunshine and breeze-waft just settle into those fibers and lend a restful air to the whole place. Nestling your face on a smooth, wind-blown pillowslip brings sweet dreams of meadow-walks, and waking in the night to the well-remembered scent of childhood is a momentary journey to another time and place.

The flap of the white-white expanse as you fling the sheets upward like boat-sails, smoothing them on the bed, settling them into the corners, gives an age-old bit of grace to the week, and opening the linen closet to that burst of captured memory-scent brings memories of visits to Mammaw's house, where everything was always the same---comfortable and welcoming.

When my children were babies, we didn’t have a dryer for several years. I hung diapers and tiny shirts and socks every day of the week, hoping for sunshine, and on rainy days, it was time to string the stout cord to the loops in the top corners of the “spare room” for a day-long attempt at drying. In Winter, the room was used more often than the outdoor line, with a little gas heater providing the warmth for getting all those double-hung diapers and thick, fleecy footie-jammies ready for a comfy night’s sleep.

It was work, bending and looping and shaking the wrinkles out of those wet-heavy clumps of cloth in the basket, getting the pins on straight, evening up the rows, lifting that hand-smoothed pole to elevate the lax lines when all had been pinned and secured.

Just writing this, I can smell the unforgettable freshness of those bright-white baby-clothes, washed in Ivory Snow, dried in the breeze. Picking up and nestling a little one smelling of clean clothes and that unmistakable baby scent all their own, that aura of Johnson’s shampoo and warm cotton and the fresh-milk smell of baby-necks---the memory has me smiling right now.

Does ANYONE still have a clothesline any more? Do you miss them?

And Welcome, Chris L.---Number Forty-Nine on the Followers list. So glad you could join us!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Some time ago, I happened upon a lovely, graciously-written blog, by a young woman in Rhode Island---she’s a teacher and a writer and a wonderful cook, whose tellings of the methods and the histories of good cooking involve wonderful descriptions of really good food and how to make it.

Just the name caught my eye: Little Compton Mornings. It appealed to me in the way that the idea of Summer Camp in Maine seemed the apex of a child’s life when I was young. The title had the draw and promise of East Egg/West Egg, without all that pesky Gatsby Glitz. I could just see the white fences, and hear the flags snap in the wind.

The round, smooth shape of the title seems as if it would be a book sitting on my Alcott shelf, just there beside Jo’s Boys; or perhaps it’s an eagerly-anticipated weekly column in a newspaper or magazine, looked-forward to by all, for the talents of the writer, who knows home-keeping and cooking and canning and the raising of all the fruits of the land, with its author much in demand amongst the readership for judging at the Fair and for advice on recipes and homekeeping, consulted with the gravity and acceptance of a personable oracle, and revered as a celebrity.

And just a couple of weeks ago, a whole page on FRYING caused this Delta Girl to award Jane her G.R.I.T.S. membership. Do go and have a look---you’ll be getting out your pans and making up batters before you can blink.

And today, Jane accepted her G.R.I.T.S. title most graciously and charmingly, speculating upon the activities and the qualifications, in some cases quite accurately, and in others, in hilarious error (I’ve GOT to introduce that girl to Martha White). Plus, I must point out that grits is not just a name Southerners call cornmeal mush.

Her today’s post is on Cornmeal, staple in both North and South, and I hope you’ll look in.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Setting: Very small town diner, very small town.

DD, with our three GRANDS in tow, was heading home from several towns over, and it was getting past suppertime. They went IN rather than hunting a drive-thru, because it was HOT, they needed to find a restroom, and they needed to wash their hands.

She had a look at the menu, then consulted with the children. Waitress stood waiting, after informing her that the “short cook” had already left for the day.

She ordered, hoping that SOME cook was on the premises. In succession, she asked for five child-friendly, everybody-has-em items, from right there on the menu.

These are her requests, followed by the Waitress’ replies:

CORN DOG: Mmmm---NAAAAW. Ain’t got none a that ‘til Monday.

PIZZA: We outa THAT, too.

HAMBURGERS: That might take a while.

GRILLED CHEESE: I might be able to do that.

GRILLED CHEESE WITH BACON: I never thought a that before---sounds GOOOD.

They did, indeed, have their supper---Grilled cheeses with bacon, milk and Cokes, and then they shared a milkshake from the big green whir-mixer over behind the counter, because it was THERE and because they saw the counter-lady filling one of those big frosty metal containers with REAL dips of ice cream before attaching it and letting it spin.
It was all delicious. And memorable.


I’ve always wanted to make Blancmange. Correction: For a lot of my younger years, I wanted to make BLANK-MANGE. That’s what it looked like in literature (which was the only place I ever knew it to be, and since no one I knew ever said it, I took it at face value). And I never once heard it pronounced, until the Seventies, I think, when Mr. Humphries mentioned to Mrs. Slocombe that his Dear Mother was out delivering Blah-monggzzzzzhe to several of her elderly friends.
But it had already sounded just that wonderfully elegant when Mrs. March and the girls, or perhaps Miss Ellen O’Hara, carried it to the ill and infirm, along with some uplifting tracts and a jar of calf’s-foot jelly.

There just HAD to be a great delight in that perfectly white orb of deliciously-healing stuff, in all its coddly-wobble glory. But though I knew then not a speck of French, and stuck to my original pronunciation (also knowing what real MANGE could do to a puppy’s complexion), it STILL sounded superior to delivering soup and cornbread in a basket, no matter what the ailment.

I’ve assayed an octuplet of small white FireKing bowls of Panna Cotta, those rich, smooth half-balls of pure sweet cream, that spooned-up quivery silk melting sweet on your tongue before you can swallow a mouthful. They came out perfect, sliding from the cups with a satisfying tokkk onto the milk-glass plates. A moat of strawberry puree poured round, and several minutes of nothing but mmmmms and ahhhhhs and an occasional smacking sound, then the gentle scrape of spoons claimed the last rosy drops.

That was an absolutely perfect Summer dessert---stunning on the plate, delicious as the most exquisite gelato. But it just seemed too much, somehow, for someone who was not well---too rich and too fancy and too too. Plus, I can’t see anyone of Marmee's or Scarlett’s day making a quart of heavy cream into food for the poor.

It remained a gleaming perhaps---a someday thing, like writing memoirs or traveling to Greece. I WOULD make some, I knew that I would, but it just got pushed in back of today and grocery lists and other necessaries---a gentle maybe in the long Barrel List of my life.

And THEN I looked for recipes. Well, it shocked heck out of me, I can tell you, to find that instead of a luscious, soft-swallow spoonful, those dishes of the Poor Baskets and the Elderly Ladies’ Dole carried about by all those fluttery ladies in hats---those were made of CHICKEN. And Rice. And Flour.

It just HAD to be something else---a creamy, quivery white nothing-of-a-dish, easy to digest, gentle on the stomach, tasting of brighter days and better times. But it was Chicken and Rice! And probably not any of the good parts, at that. The whole thing just blew all my lofty thoughts into the stewpot.

Sure, I’ll still make some---the sweet-cream kind---someday. But it won’t be authentic, with that wimple-and-gloves feel of the convalescent’s basket. It will be a frivolous thing, a dainty little dish for fickle appetites, not a serious dish to fortify and strengthen.

That original chicken version lived up to its WhiteFood name, but oh, my!!! My feathers fell, my ambition fled, and I’m saving my efforts for something other than ordinary Soup---Good For The Soul or not.
Anyone have a dish they've always longed to make? I will if you will.

But I just KNOW that Emma took Mrs. and Miss Bates the REAL THING.
"Treat, Mother!"

Thursday, July 22, 2010



Think of it: never man-made sound, and then, MOZART!!

I think that those of us whose Great Movies Of All Time list includes Out of Africa will recognize this line---Denys says it to Karen when they’ve placed a gramophone out in the bushes to see what effect music will have on the baboon troop.

The animals had listened, fascinated, to the sounds emanating from that even-more-fascinating machine, before they succumbed to the interesting whirl of the turntable and reached out, their curiosity overtaking their fascination, their grabbing fingers scritching the record and the music into a shriek of dismay.

I thought of this scene this morning, as I sat for a moment in my chair with my coffee, idly clicking morning channels, and finding a sweet little romantic movie with two young folks of the 1850’s courting beneath Daddy’s disapproving eye and Aunt’s simpering glee. The four of them gathered in the parlor after dinner, and the young duet at the piano began a song; immediately two white-capped heads appeared in the door, as the two maids clearing the table followed the sound of the notes to their source. The two young women stood, entranced, as the two sweethearts played and sang---he in perfect tune and his lady in a quavery, uncertain voice, and though all the action and sound and focus were on the musical pair in the foreground, I thought about how much those hard-working women-of-the-downstairs must have loved listening to that song.

They probably came into service in their early teens, with never a note of music save perhaps a fair-time fiddle or some harvest hoedown of the time; they would not have been exposed to anything save the wheezy organ of a village church, the sound of the organ as variously vigorous or listless as the small boy assigned pumping-duty on Sundays.

And the hunger for that foreign sound, those notes of piano or fiddle or harp---those have been a part of our humanity since first stick-hit-rock, I’d imagine. First rhythm, then hum, then strum---grass serving for tongue-hum, and reed for tootle and whistle and different pitch of hum.

I asked a fabulous lady bass-player once how she ever chose to play that particular instrument, and she said that it just came to her fingers, and she’d never have ever thought to pick up anything and just blow into it. Thinking of how people might choose, it’s also a miracle that certain ones DID have access, and an incomprehensible loss that so many could-have-been virtuosi did not come to be, for sheer lack of exposure to the particular instrument of their genius.

And the lost music, I think, is the saddest melody of all, but the Found---AHHHH, the swell of the found, and the melody of the IS---those are enough beautiful to last us our days.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Isn't it lovely when something once loved and lost is FOUND again?

I think the very first blog I ever read regularly when I discovered the Internet was one written by a fabulous writer and an ALL AROUND GOOD PERSON.

She was so wonderful that she shared her site with other writers, founding a Colony for women writers and commenters, and after that had run its course, we were ALL bereft, for we'd so enjoyed her tales and her adventures and the way she could make a milk-run to 7-11 into a charming, feel-good story. This woman can WRITE!! Oh, my.

She's not all roses and smiles, for she tells things like they are; she loves fiercely, is loyal to her last breath, and follows The Girls' Code. Her Secret Hanker for Johnny Depp is not a secret, she wrestles with everyday blues and pesky relatives and ordinary obligations of life, and her great horde of admirers would follow her anywhere.

And now she's back, in her original home, her original incarnation---Derfwad Manor. I can't think of anything more welcome than the sight of that familiar face, that familiar banner proclaiming her return.

I know a lot of you come by and peek in on my own favorites over there on the right-hand side, and I know I've not ever steered you wrong---these folks are some of the best on the 'Net.

Please give a look-in to the NEW, the ONLY---MRS. G!!! You'll just LOVE her---I Promise.

It's a wonder I can type with all this Happy-Dancin' going on!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Chris always looks forward to breakfast at Shoney’s on the way home up I-65. This time we got there just as they’d closed that wonderful “breakfast bar” with all the grits and bacon and biscuits with that lovely cold strawberry topping, but the fresh-cooked Sunday Dinner bar was really good---fried chicken and all the Southern trimmin’s including collards and cornbread.

THEN, when we got on up to the Smokehouse, I regretted that lunch, any of which I could cook at home, because the scent of smoke was so enticing and I’d wanted just ONE good barbecue sandwich on our trip South. Maybe next time.

So, we decided we’d have our dinner WAY up the road, at a place we’d seen on our route of travel---there used to be one like it in our hometown, and we hadn’t tasted their fondly-remembered cuisine in quite some time. We opted to dine al fresco, and the fountain added to the ambience of the evening.

The tiny birds-in-residence added their song to the event, and they joined us in our dinner on the patio.

The whole atmosphere was wonderful, the food just as remembered, the same-though-far-away-in-time-and-place service-with-a-smile. We both associate the place with memories of old times of our youth, and the evening air, the paving still damp from the cooling shower, and the music enticed us to dance, for we were the only diners on the patio. It WAS difficult, I must say, NOT to step around the floor to “Twist and Shout,” and “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” but we restrained ourselves, dedicating our time to such wonderful food while it was still hot.

I had a wonderful grilled chicken cutlet, with a lettuce, tomato and bacon salad, pain ordinaire, and pommes frites.

Chris opted for a saucisson supreme, with its accompaniments of fromage Americaine and a lovely poivron et tomates sauce:

Yep---that's a big old foot-long Chili-Cheese DAWG.
His side dish of choice was a familiar crisp dish of tiny pommes croquettes, with their savory topping of fromage and more of the that luscious sauce.

The famous DANIEL Bite:

The waitstaff was attentive and cheerful---downright perky, in fact, but who can be anything else working where THIS is the norm:

What can I say---we’re small-town all the way, and couldn’t pass up a trip to SONIC while we had the chance, for Old Times’ Sake.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Way back up I-65 on the way home, there’s a wonderful place called THE SMOKEHOUSE---we stop there every trip to the coast, and I told more about it here:

Pink pig has reigned over his kingdom since we’ve been going there, and the dusty vintage STUFF would make Cracker Barrel swoon:

With one homage to the “Aw, Shucks,” expectations of such an establishment:

We nipped in to get some real, shure-enough, Purentee HOOP CHEESE, and somehow got into the entire experience whilst we were there.

We walked up to the counter, saw that the same familiar tatty box was in residence beneath that huge black guillotine, and breathed a sigh---you CAN go home to some things again; they are still as they were, despite the changes in places and lives and circumstance. Some things endure, and we were delighted to see this old favorite still flourishing.

Miss Jeannette lifted the lid:

We looked at the slumping, softening wedges, their curled-away rinds drooping over the edges of the counter, their surface oiling with warmth and time. She looked, too, and said, “Lemme get you another one---we’ll use that for the mac&cheese.”

She immediately turned to the cooler, returning with a fresh hoop, shining roundly red as a child’s balloon, and with the same heart-lifting cheer.

She set it on the low counter as we edged into the aisle to watch, and another young woman came over to help managing the heft and thickness of the big circle. The two ladies conferred, pondering the moment like two diamond-cutters appraising a life-or-death first cut.

Miss Jeannette placed the knife carefully in the very center of the red. She slowly eased the blade downward, piercing through rind, then a gentle slide through the thick cheese, then through the bottom rind. They held tight to their work, making a clean, precise incision all the way to one edge.

She made another cut beginning at the center, angled away to approximate our “about three pounds,” and sliced neatly through the meaty round. A slide of the knife beneath, small strain of the lifting-free, and the gold emerged, rising out of that ring like an opera sequence---it was dramatic and beautiful---ordinary magic in its purest form.

Onto paper and scale, and the verdict---You may not be able to see the numbers, but she cut that thing to a perfect 3.1 on the scale, prompting my breath-held deflation of “You’re GOOOD.”

Crinkly paper, doubled, taped tight for the journey, double-bagged in thin white plastic for the ride. We wandered a bit with our prize in hand, taking in the tables, with their glass-topped collections of graffiti, business cards, phone numbers, social interactions, and scraps of mysterious writings---the hieroglyphs of the transient civilization just passin’ through Interstate 65.

I’ve noticed that every day, the little counter on the right side tells of a visitor or two who has Googled HOOP CHEESE and happened in on that old post from WAY back when I started this blog.
This here’s the REAL DEAL, the Pure D HOOP CHEESE, and I hope someday you all get to taste it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Now see---there's nothing like a big ole tub of tangy homemade Paminna Cheese in your cooler to take your mind off a dull lunch.

We traveled off and down, forgetting that forgettable food immediately through the magic of those glorious mountains, with blue sky and floaty clouds, some of which would surprise us occasionally with a sudden little sprinkle upon the windshield, but never any real rain. Beginning somewhere in Tennessee, I looked my eyes full of crape myrtles---that's how my Mammaw spelt it, and that's how it IS---my favorite Southern flower, and impossible to grow here.

When you get on down into Alabama, they’re in the median of every highway, from palest lavender to deep rose to almost yellow.

To my favorite---WATERMELON.

Our plans were considerably changed, between planning and departure from home and arrival there, for our GA contingent did not get to join us---Gracie had been out West with her other grandparents, and her traveling companion/chaperone had other plans for the weekend, so instead of coming back on Sunday, she arrived on Friday.

Her Mom and the two little ones had planned to be with us Thursday night til Saturday night, and just didn’t feel that she could make the drive AFTER going to the airport Friday, then having to return home Sunday in time for Gracie’s departure for Summer Camp, etc. So we mightily missed our group, having all sorts of plans and fun in the works, and no one to enjoy the games and books and tree-climbing with.

We’d loaded up all the unopened snacks and pretzels and other things which we didn’t use while they were up here, and so we just brought them back home with us. We’ll probably take them back again in Sept., when we’re scheduled to meet the group in TN.

And we had WAY too much food. I’d made DD’s favorites---Chicken salad and Asian Star Noodles and Tuna Salad with apples, and her request: Devilled eggs, but all chopped up into Egg Salad. I’d also made a quart of Paminna Cheese (MIL’s favorite, in a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast, with peach preserves), and several of Kit’s Mac&Cheese, in order to heat up a quick lunch one day or the other.

The grapes and cheese are old stand-bys from Sam's, as were the big box of croissants, the brownie bites, the lemonade pound cake, the tray of small round Cheese Danish and the flat of Otis' Banana nut and Blueberry muffins. We never know how many for any given meal, and the last time we were there, we averaged 20 per meal. And this time, I didn't cook. At least, not THERE.
Our Baby Boy and his parents were also a little off plan---they stayed for supper, but did not spend the night, for her parents came down for the week to the beach house---it was the first time that all three sets of us Grands and his GGMom met him. Quite an occasion.

DS had told us that Little One just carried on the longest conversations---cooing and talking and grinning all the time he is awake. Since he’s only ten weeks, we sort of took it as Parents’ Pride, but the moment they stepped into the house, his Daddy set down the little car-seat onto the kitchen counter, Chris stepped up and spoke to him, and that little guy started babbling and talking up a storm.

He’s a chuckler, as well, just like his Ganner---a deep little huhhuh that just takes your heart.

And his little habit of giving a little baby-snort between yelps when the bottle’s empty---we’ve all been laughing at that for days. A round, compact little boy against your shoulder, hefty and warm, tolling out his dismay with Waaaa!-snort-Waah!---that was just so endearingly, hysterically funny that we were all in tears.

And such a pleasant little fellow---he got passed into about a dozen laps, back and forth, during the course of the day, with one dear aunt who hasn’t been well for a while getting right down on his floor pallet to play with him---it was just like a magical thing, that warm circle around our family’s newest---he brightened us and he strengthened us and we were exponentially all MORE for the knowing of him. We were all enchanted.

How HE might have felt about US---well, that might remain a mystery until he can use his words.


We left on our coast-trip on Thursday morning, sailing along to Leonard Cohen’s sepulchrally joyous tones (first song when we hit I-65 is always CLOSING TIME, which we bellow out word for word, all ninety-nine verses, as we head for our first stop---McDonald’s down in Greenwood, where we get a BEC biscuit and one of those aching-cold tiny tubs of yogurt and strawberries with a little crinkly cellophane of yummy-crunch granola to sprinkle on). What can I say—most of our tastes are quite plebeian, plus a lot of our “dining out” is with folks under four.

We rattled along quite nicely, just cruising down and down, through Kentucky’s beginning-to-elevate, through the horse country, crossing into Tennessee, where the hills began to get serious. I love the looking-ahead, the peeping-over, the bluing of the distances as those great shoulders rise like distant ocean swells, every shade of green and blue that there is.

We’d decided on barbecue in Tennessee for lunch, and took an exit whose previous tall billboards had exalted smoke and pork to heavenly proportions. We took a right, then passed everything BUT barbecue spots, finally turning at what Chris calls a “whupper”---a place you can “whup” around and go back the way you came. As we reached perhaps the 220th degree on our circle, a name appeared, prominently featuring the word, Barbecue.

We took it as a sign---as if it had been set down there that very moment, fresh and new, just for our lunchtime. About nine pickups in the parking lot---a good sign for home-food, we’ve found, and though I sniffed no smoke in the air, a step inside the door rendered the familiar hickory-meat-sauce aroma of long-ago memory. It was as if the varnish on the knotty pine walls had been imbued with the deep-smoke scent, trapping it beneath the shine.

I ordered the usual: PP sandwich, slaw on, with potato salad and beans as sides---you have to taste all the regular items---it’s the LAW. On a table whose polyurethaned surface shone as slick as a Last Supper Clock, the accoutrements were: salt, pepper, a chrome finger-pinch napkin dispenser, and two squeezies, promising “Sauce” and “Hot.”

Chris retrieved our tray from the little order-window in the wall. After the blessing, first ritual is ALWAYS a pin-dot of each sauce onto rim of plate, then a fork-tine dip to tip of tongue. Squeezing the “sauce” bottle required the hand-strength of a bodybuilder---it was so thick it ribboned out in a little pile of loops which just sat there like cake frosting. A taste delivered naught but vinegar cooked thick with cornstarch, perhaps, and the “hot,” though a bit more liquid, was more of the same, but with a throaty afterburn.

Lifting of sandwich top revealed nice even clumps of soft pork---oven pork, if I’m not mistaken---with not the vaguest hint of crispins or edges or any association with a real pit, for the flavor was merely PORK, and boiled pork at that---no smoke at all, beneath the straight-from-the-plastic-bag bun.

Beans were adequate---big soft pinto-types in a sugar/tomato sauce, and potato salad was definitely the deli-case variety; each cube was squared off like machine-cut, and every third bite had the hard, undercooked consistency of a hunk of apple. I hoped no one was watching as I grabbed up napkin after napkin, spitting out and stashing the hard little cubes which were just not edible. After three tries, I was done.

We ate perhaps half of the sandwiches and most of the serving of beans, and passed on the peach cobbler. I do hope that there’s a good local following---travelers would have to happen upon the place, and I doubt that any would mark it for a return visit. I just keep wondering how it smelled like that. Perhaps there’s a company turning out aerosol cans somewhere, manufactured of dreams and memories, which dispense that lovely, unmistakable hickory-whiff tang of a REAL crusty-runged barbecue pit, laden with shoulders and ribs and sometimes a whole pig, watched and tended through the night, becoming succulent and flavored with the REAL taste of barbecue.
I think I'd buy a can of that.

And moiré non,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I know I must have little boy babies on my mind lately, after that wonderful visit with our little 10-week-old GRAND, but I just ran across something so clever and so well done that I just had to share it.

I'm eternally amazed at the wonderful things a Mom and GrandMom can do to make a little child's dreams come true, and this birthday party was just the cleverest, most well-put-together-with-love event I've seen in a long time.

Step over to Sheila's MUSTARD SEEDS for a look and a smile:


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I love travel blogs. I love to see the places people choose to visit, to see, to immerse themselves in, far from home. It’s wonderful to see what they choose to do and see and buy when they’re on their journeys, and I especially love the ones which visit cooking stores and food shops and the open markets with their arrays of vegetables and fruit and flowers and herbs arranged in those fleeting still-life bouquets.

I’ve looked with tongue-curling envy on all the lovely boxes from Laduree’ and Fauchon, their jewel-box presentations of chocolates and pastries and small, perfect creations of sugar and cream and cake. I especially enjoy the photos of all the luscious pastel macarons, set like precious stones in the velvet of the distinctive boxes, carried gently home for another sweet taste of the trip.

We purchased these in a quaint little shop on our travels; the colors were intriguing, and the creamy ganache smooth as baby-skin. They’re called Tartes de Lune---round and luscious--- one softly tinged with essence of orange, one with the crisp tang of lemon, and the third, scented with delicate vanilla.

I’d never seen a pastry quite like them before, save for their more robust chocolate brethren, but they have a second layer of the fluffy mousse, sandwiched with another of the tender pastry rounds. We’re looking forward to trying them for dessert this evening.

Their scent is enticing, their demeanor, lovely still perfection. Their blush of color, smooth and shining, with the creamy interior cushiony and lush, all belie their humble origins and their purveyor’s plebeian atmosphere. Far, far from Paris, I admit, but so aptly OURS, so perfectly ME, that I find them charmingly alluring and simply delightful in their humble way.


From the famous patisserie and purveyor of all things delicious and enticing: THE SMOKEHOUSE, in Pine Apple, Alabama.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Home again, very late, full-to-brimming with visiting and family and little moments shared, diced out into segments of time and togetherness, with one, and two, and all as a great mosaic of the time we were away, flying by like the pages of those first movie-machines, in symbol of time passing and fleeting moments.

My eyes are full of laughing round baby and crape myrtle and the long lush mountain vistas and the familiar, dear smile of Chris' Mom, twinkling her gentle way into all the hearts within her gaze.

And my heart's full of the heft of that little boy, round and rosy, with his enchanting green eyes and charming conversation and way of winding his small self into your thoughts as if he'd never NOT been there. He has the most endearing little way of giving a little snort of breath between yelps when the bottle's empty or the nipple's withdrawn, and we've all been copying it and giggling like idiots all weekend. I'm sure it will become a silly gesture in the family album of many silly moments and memories, uniquely his and unforgettable.

And the travel---stops at a couple of our favorite places, a few bring-homes which no trip is complete without, like fresh peanuts for boiling and a big wedge of Hoop Cheese, orangely rich, full of as much distinctly Old Southern flavor and as famous in its way as the boasted fromage arrays of la belle France.

We're unpacking today, getting to rights all the carry-bags---an unbelievable number for two people for two days, but the cooking was for anywhere from ten to twenty, and the snacks/toys/ games/books for three who could not join us this time, and so were returned home, with the incentive of a meeting-trip in TN in September for an important birthday.

And so, from the depths of that huge car trunk to this disarrayed den to the proper putting-aways and launderings and foldings and setting-to-rights, I'll have a busy day ahead, for I've frittered away the pre-noon with coffee and catching up. We arrived home after midnight, and so are slow to get into pace this morning.

Much, much more to relate---simple family things and little observations from the soft dandelion fluff of that dear head I kissed as we left his Mom's sweet company, to the huge golden swans-as-finials on a simple country gate observed in passing,

moire non,


Thursday, July 8, 2010


We're hitting the road in a minute---WAY down to the coast, to meet that new GRANDSON and see lots of family. I cooked all day yesterday so I won't have to do too much once we get there, and Sam's supplies of paper products are badly depleted, as well.

Caro and Company will carry on in our absence, keeping the ship afloat and on course, and we'll see you back here on Sunday!!

Thank you all for everything. Everybody have a SAFE and happy weekend!


Monday, July 5, 2010


Shades of Summer, tastes of Childhood, Memories of Times Ago---tangy with citrus, sweet with clouds of sugar swirled into a tornado of flavors, seasoned with the times and places and people who share the simple, wonderful, cooling drink.

And today, my friend Maggie wrote of her youngest daughter's wish for a Lemonade Stand---staple of childhood entrepreneurs, small wage earners, eager young businesspeople in their first flush of independent commerce. Little ones try out their hands at preparing, at serving, at making change, at the polite exchanges which accompany small and great transactions, and then learn a bit more of their places in things. They pour a cup, set it out to the customer, take their coin in exchange, smile a Thank You.

And some things, too old for five or six, or even fifteen or sixteen---those things engender a wish to help and to do good and to make things better. Great things are sought and expected by a little child, fending off loss, dancing in the light with a spoon, a jug, some cups. Great things beyond her ken are accomplished, echoing past her imagination.
Today's post on Maggie's blog is a perfect example of her capture of emotions, of life, of things everyday and extraordinary. She writes with a scalpel-hand, cleaving away all the extraneous stone from the sculpture of her words, and what is left is shining, clean, perfect---standing smooth and tall as Michelangelo's marble.

Maggie is of the age to be my daughter, but she's who I'd like to be when I grow up.

Lemonade will never taste the same again.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


We wish a Happy and Safe Fourth to You ALL!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


First of quite a few days when our Little One will be away, and it’s oddly silent in the house, save for the hum of the A/C and the cheery little chuckle as the ice machine does his frosty work. The patio is shielded on all sides by overgrown shrubbery and grapevines, the house and the two garages, so I and my First Cup make my way out in my long sleepshirt, as the birds continue their own day-greetings. A long, loving-the-cool-of-the-morning stretch beneath the BIGGGG tree, and a look around the dawn-damp lawn. Chris’ tomato forest is flourishing.
(Do click for better viewing)

There are relics from our lives, from our travels, from the other places we’ve lived: A churn which has held its quota of Grace Church Pickles in their 21-day-steep, a moss-covered grindstone, rocks we’ve picked up on roadsides and creekbeds, and a dear old friend---Miss Effie, who began her life as a gaudy decoration on the lawn of a rental house, and who was tossed into the rent-a-dumpster by the cleaning crew readying the house for sale. They’d left her legs stuck into the Oxalis bed, so she's in eternal nurture mode, sitting on her nest. We've brought her with us through three houses, and she's been sitting gracefully beneath the big tree these many years. Occasionally we’re surprised and delighted by the gift of a few pale pastel eggs which appear beneath her plump little proud swell, and are glad she’s a part of the family.

The sun’s still way over the buildings and trees, and as I sit down in one of the big green chairs, setting my coffee on the arm and leaning back, the sight of our tallest tree never ceases to awe and amaze me. She’s a sixty-footer or so, and the GrandChildren call her the “kissing tree,” for the three big trunks, surely once three small shoots making their lifetime-way from the ground, are closely grown, two of them fused over the decades for about ten feet, and the center one puckered into a big smooch onto the third, which seems to stand stolidly enduring the embrace like a standoffish aunt guarding her coiffure.

It’s a chapel of sorts, this sheltering tree, with its own spirituality and meaning, and it was one of the main reasons we bought this house; the sounds through the limbs and leaves, the dapply shade as the wind moves through, the five squirrel-nests, barely visible in Summer, which welcome the small creatures for their rest in the cold times. And the shade has a special cool to it; just stepping beneath the great height casts a cooling shadow like the welcome chill of riding through shade in late afternoon with the windows down.

Across the way toward the bigger garage is a little vignette that I treasure---a clutch of daisies, set into the ground from their gift-pot when they’d run their course, and now yards wide, with their accompanying white petunias in their own pots---all white and green.

About ten years ago, a teensy grapevine made its tentative way from behind the one hosta plant which came with the house, twining thready little tendrils up against the siding. I gave it a little trellis, then as it grew larger the next year, we brought home a big metal wine-rack, left rusting outside a grocery store. It’s in the shape of a bunch of grapes, with each grape a hollowed shell for resting the bottles.

Grapevine climbed, she did, covering the shape, grabbing the gutters, seeking the wires, and made a neat outline around the side door, unused for years. You can see the grape trellis and the original hosta beneath, so glad of the sheltering shade.

Now she covers two humps of the big garage, and has made her way across wires perhaps twenty feet in both directions---one toward the house, and the other branch heading for the back garden.

Rounding that corner, you have a view of the Morning Vista, past the red, white and blue petunias and the small gazing ball which glows at night, across the wide swath of ivy creeping its feet and yards into the lawn, and out to the big old yard bell in the distant shade, and the free-standing gate into the arbor.

The herb beds on the left are so lushly growing, and making welcome such a covering of grass---the month-long rain since we planted all the flower seeds seems to have drowned all but the hardiest of the plants---only the glads are standing proud and tall, and the garlic chives seem to be thriving---perhaps it's their blade-shape so akin to the grass which helps them slice their way into being when the tender little dicots and micro-seeds gave up the battle.

There’s the always-welcoming little sitting area, for a gardeny cup of tea, and I’ll imagine that you're joining me---I’ll brush a leaf from the chair, float a billowy cloth upon the table, set out the pink-flowered cups beneath the Tree Cup Tree, and we’ll have a chat out there in the GREEN.