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Seeing no Visa sticker on the door and having all of two dollars in my wallet, I had to ask the tall moon-faced man in faded Carhartts, who’d just shaken my hand: “Y’all take plastic?”
“No, but we take green,” smiled Jeffery Vassel. “Green’s always welcome. And the gas station down there has a cash machine.”
I possess a handful of wonderful memories of my grandmother Sarah. I have always chosen to keep my memories simple and unadorned; I remember us taking walks around the jonquils and crocuses in the spring and watching her fry okra and potatoes in an old cast iron skillet on Sundays in the summer. In all cultures, the simple things in life are truly all that matter.
Through hook, crook, and sleight of hand I came to possess one of my grandmother’s workhorse cast iron skillets.
A confession. This retired academic mathematician and author has been hanging out with the unwashed hippies, anarchists, and “economic terrorists” of Occupy Harrisonburg (Virginia). I =n truth, the sandals-on-the-ground experience is a lot different than you’d gather from the mainstream’s jaundiced portrayal of Occupy. In our semi-rural neck of Virginia, Occupy Harrisonburg (#ohb) has met weekly — uninterrupted and without incident — for nearly two years.
I had heard such places existed but had never seen one. Now I was just two miles from seeing one. Just off I-26 near Ridgeville, South Carolina, I began to see signs. I followed them, took a side road, and the place came into view. Time for a deep breath. Old photographs of Nazi concentration camps came to mind. It was an illusion, of course, created by the way the old cabins sit shoulder to shoulder. Dark clapboards, rusty tin roofs, and stark chimneys strengthened the impression.
Before I try to convince you that calf’s liver really does deserve to be in the Top 100 Best Meals, I need to give you some insight into how my list is going. I had a setback, of sorts. Yesterday, I was fooling around with my Top Twenty, pulling some out, adding some in, but Number One and Number Two, as far as I was concerned, were chosen. They were sacrosanct. My Number Two was potato salad—my mom’s potato salad, to be exact, and there was no way in hell I was moving it, unless it went up. Then it struck me—many people—those other than my sister and me, for example…
A meatloaf in my Top 100 Meals? Yes — meatloaf. And, yes, greens-stuffed. First, let’s look at what we have so far. Number 100 in the Top 100 Meals was leftover Shrimp & Eggplant Casserole, and number 99 was the Southern-Style (Chicago) Hot Dog. Yum. Can a measly meatloaf rise to such heights as to be named Number 98? Well, if it’s Greens-stuffed Meatloaf, indeed it can.
First of all, according to the original recipe, a Chicago-style hot dog should be beef. Beef hot dogs are okay, but I’ve eaten so many sausage dogs at the Alabama State Fair and the Montgomery Biscuits’ baseball games I’ve been ruint. If I fix a dog, and it isn’t a big ol’ Southern sausage-dog, made mostly of pork, then I don’t want it in my hot dog bun.
pit cooked over hickory
One day when you’re starving for traditional pit-cooked BBQ make the drive to Jackie Hite’s Barbecue just off Highway 23 in Leesville, South Carolina. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you park by the tracks and smell the delicious aroma emanating from hogs sizzling over hickory coals. Look for plumes of smoke back of Hite’s wide white restaurant. Inside look for the patriarch of pork, Jackie Hite
We visited the rocky coast of Maine the other day and stopped in at the Kittery Trading Post.. Lo and behold, I discovered a cast iron griddle made by a company in Tennessee to replace the one that disappeared from my cook top. Although it would probably work better on a stove with perpendicular burners, the first batch of pancakes turned out pretty tasty.
All the rain that has poured down on us in the Atlanta area this year may produce something besides greenery. We may see one of the worst mosquito seasons in years.
Now before you jump in your car to get more high-powered spray, or buy a bug zapper, hold on. There might be another way to combat the vast horde of mosquitoes we anticipate coming this summer. No, nothing sophisticated, nor something you slather on your body, nor a high tech gizmo.
a bumper crop
Southerners, it is that time of year again: be on the lookout for friends and neighbors giving away bountiful supplies of beautiful, green zucchini. Watch for zucchini peeking out of slightly ripped plastic bags left swinging on door knobs or sitting innocently in church pews. But tread carefully: accepting zucchini from friends and strangers alike may mean more than one thinks.
the food we share
Dear Paula: I want you to understand that I am probably more angry about the cloud of smoke this fiasco has created for other issues surrounding race and Southern food. To be real, you using that word a few times in the past does nothing to destroy my world. It may make me sigh for a few minutes in resentment and resignation, but I’m not shocked or wounded. No victim here. Systemic racism in the world of Southern food and public discourse not your past epithets are what really piss me off.
that southern classic
Like the red poinsettia, the red, ripe tomato comes to us by way of Mexico by way of Peru … except that it starts out green. And it’s not a vegetable. It’s a berry, a beloved berry. Botanical correctness mandates that you refer to the tomato as a fruit and being pulpy with edible seeds classifies it as a berry.
I hate Paula Deen. I despise her. I loathe her. My thesaurus runneth dry with enough verbs to describe my acrimony, antipathy, and animosity toward the woman. I have hated Paula Deen since long before her recent imbroglio. For almost five years, in fact.
A friend sent me a video compilation of the 100 best movie insults. I enjoyed watching all of them but they all fell flat when compared to a few I have had the pleasure to hear personally. There are several types of insults, both intended and unintended. An insult can be delivered in anger, disguised in humor, masked as love and caring, or just thrown out like a fast ball. The preferred delivery is as personal as your fingerprints…
It Was Good Enough For Folks Like Annie
I left the Empire State of the South the day after Mother’s Day and headed to the Palmetto State. The border, mere minutes away, brought to mind the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky.”
“Goin’ to Carolina … won’t be long til I’ll be there.”
Jeff Being Jeff
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” —William Faulkner
Early this spring I spent two days in ricefield country over near Georgetown. Working on a new book, Reflections Of South Carolina, Volume II, (USC Press) I went to Mansfield Plantation to time travel. Turning off Highway 701 onto Mansfield Road I hurdled three hundred years into the past.
When Folks Made Do
A crisis or two from disaster … That’s how most folks live. Modern conveniences have spoiled the self-reliance right out of us. Thanks to stores like Kroger and Publix you can get most anything you need. Ease, however, extracts a price.
We’re nowhere as self-sufficient as our grandparents were. They lived in an era when folks made do. Not us, we drive to the big box grocery stores and plop down a credit card or sign a check. That’s how we keep life moving forward. It’s a tenuous way to live.
O, come all ye faithful. The latest must-see Florida attraction to compete for your tourist dollars is The Holy Land Experience. It is comfortably situated in the Greater Orlando-Kissimmee theme park district chock-a-block with hotels and “family dining” style restaurants. Owned by mega-giant Christian broadcasting network TBN (the T is for Trinity), this biblical theme park features a recreation…
And that meant a trip to Bud Hawes … I can’t quite place exactly where Bud Hawes’s pit-cooked barbecue operated when I was a kid but I still see the place. I know it was close by the telephone office off South Peachtree. My sister, Deb, tells me a parking lot covers the spot. What a shame.
When I was a boy Saturdays were special and not because school was out. No, they were special because…
A dessert class at a time when people are obsessed with losing weight and staying fit and trim? You mean such a class will be waddling in soon like Daisy Duck and her little ones just prior to swim suit season and at a time when I’m already under pressure to lose a few pounds and give some slack back to a tight waistband?
Despite all the warnings, though, I am duty bound to follow the directions of the family kitchen goddess. With powdered sugar sprinkled about, I will belly up to our family baker’s well-floured table and once again be Jody’s factotum and in-house taster! As an old sailor friend used to tell me, “It’s a hard life, the sea.”
You didn’t have to plug it in but it worked like a charm… all you needed was sunshine. Who can forget the clothesline? Starchy, fresh, and sanitized by sunlight, the blue jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and sheets of today hang out with the clothesline no more.
Today’s jeans, Ts, and sheets tumble round and round. Throw in some synthetic fabrics and static electricity glues the whole mess together. Clothes hiss, pop, and cling as you separate them. Sometimes it’ll make your hair stand up on end.
A few years ago, a small mob of us had converged on Greenwood’s on Green Street in Roswell for a Thursday evening dinner. It’s a down-home place, noted for being the home of (among other things) an infamously rich chocolate pie. Normally, dinner at Greenwood’s involved a considerable wait, but with the economy being what it was at the time we had no trouble getting a table for our party of twelve.
It was after dinner, as we waddled with leaden bellies back to our car, that I noticed a powerful flowery scent, a scent that enveloped us like a cloud. Honeysuckle!
Flower to the People
We, the people of the United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services, have been issued a patent for Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. According to the abstract:
Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases…
Irrational v. Rational
Discussions with an instructor over a class I recently took on Darwin have led me to again wonder about “religious” matters and the role they continue to play out in our lives. Amongst other places, my wanderings took me back to the writings of Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and his equally good book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.
What forced the issue was a final sentence in the descriptive summary of the class: “The course will touch on ‘evolutionary Christianity,’ one approach to making peace between science and faith.”
It’s like 2011 all over again.
It was two years ago that, after Republicans claimed big gains in state legislatures across the South and country in the 2010 mid-terms, lawmakers made a national push for changes to voting laws, with one of the most controversial being restrictive bills requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.
Now, with the 2012 elections behind them, state GOP leaders have again pledged to make voter photo ID a priority this year. But has the debate — and public sentiment about voter restrictions — changed this time?
Worthy of Comment
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