Monday, November 28, 2016


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All this rich Thanksgiving fare gave us a crave for a plain old hamburger off the grill last night, and so that’s what we had, with a nostalgic delve into a hokey Harryhausen movie “The Magic Sword,” fondly remembered by Chris from his teens.  Nothing like childhood memories all at once to set you up for the holiday season.

There's a wonderful article on Slugburgers by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Mississippi's famous writer of articles-on-all-things-both-arcane-and-interesting. I read it several years ago, and it featured sounds, sights, smells, tastes, reactions and aftereffects of her first and only exposure to Corinth's most famous culinary creation. 

It was a lovely bit of writing, bringing to life every greasy, salty, mustard-clad bite. You could almost hear her arteries begin to harden.

My raisin' was in the Delta, and we had never heard of the "hill" folks' delicacy, though our local Milk Bar---guess we were too rural for a complete "Dairy" title--sold something similar. The little one-room building, whitewashed all around, had so many items and prices printed backward in white shoe polish on the INSIDE of the windows that you could barely see the workers within. You walked up to the little screen-flap window, picked your poison from the long list of cholesterol, paid your money, and promptly had the screen slammed down as the cashier turned to yell your order at the frycook standing two feet away.

The refrigerator door was opened to reveal several tall stacks of half-inch pink checkers, each separated by a small square of tornoff waxed paper. Heaven knows WHAT was massaged into that “ground beef” before the final patties were formed---last week’s unused buns, all crumbled into one last effort of use-it-up economy, or the lingering heels of every employee’s loaf of Wonder at home, brought in to stretch the “bought stuff” into more than it was. It coulda been oatmeal or even grits---we didn’t care.

One of these pink coins was grabbed by the paper and slapped upside down on the grill. The hot, dusty parking-lot air began to fill with the tongue-aching scent of sizzling meat as the cook threw two bun halves into the grease deposited by decades of burgers. And the not-quite-mixed bread-and-meat goo began to cook at different rates, different reactions of sizzle, so that each bite of the burger might offer a different taste and texture.

I remember the soft center section, the part that would’ve been rare had the patty not been so thin and the grill-cook not so watchful---that part was unctuously creamy with moist meat and soggy bread. And it was tempting to eat all way round the circle first, to get the mouthfuls of the crisp edges with their crunchy taste of meaty, grease-crisped croutons, or the almost country-fried-steak effect of all that bread mixed in and sizzled on the flat-top. 


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It never mattered to the cook if you got two tops or two bottoms, bun was bun; you didn't care either---you just wanted that sizzling and frying and mustard-smearing to be done, with a nice slice of onion and a coupla rings of salty dills slapped on. The meat, by this time, had been spatula-smashed with all the weight of Miss Ella's muscular right arm, flowering into a bun-sized, thin circle with crisp, lacy edges. Greasy spatula saluted top of bun, the lot went into a crisp crackle of waxy paper with the fancy pinked edges, and you received your prize, seizing it to your bosom like a holy relic.

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You backed away, averting your eyes from the waiting hordes, lest they lose control and wrest your long-awaited treasure from you. A clink of coins into the machine around the corner, the sissssssss of an ice-filled Dr, Pepper, and you retreated to the grimy picnic tables in the shade of the back lot, sinking onto that splintery bench like returning from battle. Rustle of paper, scent of onion-mustard-meat approaching your lips, then Heaven.

As I said, I've never tasted anything called a Slugburger, but I remember those filler-filled burgers of my youth with great pleasure, and with regret for the young of it, the bright-eyed lusty joy with which we wolfed down whatever was put in front of us, the uncaringness of the days before cholesterol and triglycerides were invented. That Milk Bar owner built house after house, renting them to many families, and she built them one burger at a time.

Slugburgers: No. The most memorable sandwiches of our lives: Oh, yes.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Dear Lottie Helen and all,

I hope this letter finds you all well.  We are all well as common, and yesterday was A BIG day around here.   We had 14 in all at the table, and it was quite a good dinner, considerin.    We borried a folding table from the church, and six of their chairs, and set it up in the side room for the kids.   I let your sister Letha Grace be in charge of that one, and she spread the whole thing with a roll of brown paper, like Kroger sacks, and laid out the crayons and markers and even glue sticks and little shapes of turkeys and punkins for them to make their own table.   It turned out real cute and sure cut down on rough-housin’ before we could get dinner on the table.

I made a big old pan of dressin and about a gallon and a hafe of gravy out of a big old roastin hen, two dozen devilled eggs, a great big pot of low-cooked snap beans, four pies, and a double-up of Miss Paula’s Pineapple Casserole, and they ate up every last scrape of that---Aint Lissie Tidwell said, “Marthy, you could fry Ritz crumbs in butter and put it on floor sweepins, and it would taste good!”   We all got a laugh out of that.   She brought that big ole blue roaster full of duck and dressin that everybody loves so much.

That was a real good thing, because your Daddy got it into his head to deep-fry a turkey this year.   He got out the shrimp-boil pot and the burner and set it up out on some concrete blocks out in the side yard about ten this morning, and all the menfolks gathered out there with their coffee.   What is it about menfolks anyhow, that you can’t get em in the kitchen unless their’s pie, and if they’re cookin outside, they have to all gether around in lawn chairs and watch it like TV? 

Well, you know how good a nice big sugar-rubbed ham is, comin out of the oven, and how good a turkey is when it’s smoked in honey-butter?  Well, he decided that that would be the way to go to make the turkey real good and moist.  He just figured one is good and a combination would be even better.   So he melted up that butter and honey, and he vaccinated that turkey all over like it was travelin’ to Timbuktu.   He musta been thinking that if you hit every spot once, and still have stuff left in the jar, better use it up

I watten out there, but I heard the commotion from clear in here when that hot oil roiled up out of the  pot like Pompei.  The men were yellin and a-whoopin and a-laughin, and your cousin Bertie Luke run and grabbed the big ole syrup dipper like we skim sorgum with, and started dippin up and dashin out big old ladlefuls onto the yard to cut down on the damage, but it just kept comin, they said.   

By that time, we were all out in the yard, and I wouten take nothin for seein that.  It hatten been in more than ten minutes, and the whole yard smelt like burnt cookies.   They lifted that thing out in about ten more minutes, and it looked like you’d dropped it down in live coals all over.   It had big old black spots ALL OVER itself, and looked worse than one of those blackened chickens that everybody was cookin a few years ago.    The holes went deep in that pore ole bird, and the wingtips was completely gone.

As it started to cool just a tee-ninecy bit, the pure-black drumsticks made little tick-tick sounds and crumbled plumb off onto the platter and shattered.   We were all laughin fit to bust, and on the video that Bertie Luke's grandson made, you could hear Aint Phemy sayin,”This GRYCE won’t never be the same, willit?”

We had a plenty a dinner, and thank goodness for those four mallards your Aint Lessie put in that dressin, cause that turkey was just a plumb purentee washout.   I just wish you’d a been here to see it.   Lookin to see y’all for Christmas,

Remember we love all a y’all,

Your loving Mama Marthy Tidwell

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borrowed from the internet because it was the pitifullest one I could find.  I hope they had a ham.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Preparing for the Holidays and sending LOVE.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


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There are some men who should have mountains to bear their names to time...
(note on message board)

R. I. P. LEONARD COHEN,  1934--2016

On this eight-years-today anniversary of the day I sent out that first tentative blog post, there's a sad and glorious tenor to the day, for I've just learned of the passing of one of my very favorite people---Leonard Cohen.

Such a Voice for the Age, those sepulchral, deep tones echoing spare truth and hard ideas in such evocative words and phrases.    We lost one of the Great Ones on Monday, as he whispered away into that smoke-hazed, music-filled stage which must have been his Dream of Heaven.

But the words he left---oh, the WORDS.   The love-saturated SUZANNE, the capriciously-serious CLOSING TIME, and all the genius of the other starkly real songs he created around so many subjects---and the sheer poetry of the lyrics.  You can hear the voice of personal experience, as well as his Johnny Walker Wisdom and empathetic soul.   There was such a vitality, such an absolute MAN-ness to him, in his voice and his expression, and the vivid harsh-and-gentle of his writing is too severely beautiful to describe.   The music is echoing off my walls this moment, as I think of his life in the dark colours of his clothing and his themes and his deep-shadowed face as he sang through the years.   What a legacy, and what a gift, in all the permutations of the word.

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His writing and composing WERE the Crack in Everything, and also the Light getting in, in such an exultant, beat-driven, gritty way that the shine hurt your eyes AND heart.   I just thought he’d always be there, and can’t imagine a more sublime way to live on, than through such glorious music.  

And if he’d never opened his mouth but once, if he’d never put pen to paper and hands to piano or guitar but the single time, in all that long life lived in such solemn exuberance, then HALLELUJAH would have been enough.

Lord a'Mercy, THAT’S PLENTY, and overflowing the cup.

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