Flooding Susie’s Inbox

June 18, 2010

A Weekend Read

Filed under: Books, Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 4:38 pm

I’ve been reading T.R. Pearson’s first book, A Short History of a Small Place and LOVING.EVERY.WORD. He is a literary genius. Each sentence is perfectly crafted and I’m torn between wicked jealousy over that fact that my writing could never compare and sheer amazement at his brilliance.  Just take this excerpt for example:

Pinky, however, got on with his life a little more successfully than Bubba did. He married one of the Jeeter girls whose family had inherited a chicken ranch in Draper and so had relocated there from Rock Hill, South Carolina. There were five Jeeters altogether, Momma and Daddy Jeeter, Grandma Jeeter, and the two Jeeter daughters, who had legitimate Christian names that got no sort of wide circulation and who were known instead as the fat Jeeter and the bald Jeeter. Daddy said the fat Jeeter was what Momma might call hefty, which according to Daddy was a lady’s way of saying she had the girth of a tractor tire, and Daddy himself said the fat Jeeter was a girl of tremendous quantity who cut an imposing if not disgusting figure. But Daddy said she was the one Pinky lost his head over at first and he wooed her and courted her and kept her in chocolates for the best part of three months before the wind changed, Daddy said, and blew what flame there was from the fat one over to the bald one and Pinky began to call on her and bring her candied fruit since chocolates made her scalp break out. Daddy said the bald Jeeter had not been born bald but lost her hair in childhood during a bout with scarlet fever and had been slick as an egg ever since. And Daddy said once she got old enough to care that she was hairless her Grandma Jeeter made her a pair of wigs out of a combination of human and horse hair, one of which was satiny black while the other, taken mostly from a chestnut mare, was a lovely natural brown and heightened the otherwise drab features of the bald Miss Jeeter’s face. And Daddy said once Pinky married the bald one and left the fat one to go her own way, most everybody agreed he’d done the wise thing since the bald one was not bald or always brunette or always chestnut-headed, but the fat one was always fat. Daddy said Pinky had simply opted for variety, which nobody much was willing to blame him for.

I could literally type the whole book out for you because every paragraph is a brilliant as that one but I wouldn’t want to rob you of the privilege of checking the book out from your library and I’d like to prevent myself from getting carpal tunnel.

What have you read lately?

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June 25, 2009

Current Obsession

Filed under: Houses, Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 9:18 am

When I was in middle school, the entire 8th grade took a field trip to Cumberland Island as part of our Georgia History curriculum.  It was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been to and I can’t believe that I’ve never been back.

In addition to the wild horses roaming free, one of the most captivating parts of the island is the Dungeness ruins.  0406_GA_3375CumberlandIsland_S

Here’s what Wikipedia (so take it with a grain of salt) has to say about the ruins:

Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene purchased land on the island in 1783 to harvest live oaks for ship building. Wood from the island was used to build the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”. Greene died in 1786. His wife, Catherine, remarried Phineas Miller ten years later, and they built a huge, four-story tabby mansion on top of an Indian shell mound. She named it Dungeness after Oglethorpe’s hunting lodge. The mansion, with 6-foot (1.8 m) thick walls at the base, featured four chimneys and 16 fireplaces, and was surround by 12 acres (49,000 m2) of gardens. Dungeness was the scene of many special social galas where statesmen and military leaders enjoyed the Millers’ hospitality. When the island was briefly occupied during the War of 1812, the British used Dungeness as their headquarters.

Records show that in 1846, there were 36 white people and 400 enslaved people. The plantation economy was dealt a deathblow with the U.S. Civil War, and Dungeness deteriorated and the family moved away. Dungeness burned down in 1866.

In the 1880s Thomas M. Carnegie, brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie,and his wife bought land on Cumberland for a winter retreat, and in 1884, began building a mansion on the site of Dungeness, though he never lived to see its completion. His wife, Lucy, and 9 children, however, continued to live on the island, and named their mansion Dungeness after the Greene’s. Dungeness was a 59 room Scottish castle. They also built pools, a golf course, and 40 smaller buildings to house the 200 servants that worked at the mansion. The last time Dungeness was used before it burned in 1959 was for the 1929 wedding of a Carnegie daughter. It is thought that the 1959 fire was started by a disgruntled poacher who had been shot in the leg by a caretaker weeks before. Today, the ruins of the mansion remain on the southern end of the island. The Carnegies owned 90% of the island.

Have you ever seen Great Expectations (the one with Gweneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke)? The once grand home that sits in disrepair reminds me so much of Dungeness.

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It’s easy to see why the magical and tragic look of the ruins was so fascinating to an imaginative 8th grader and I think my love for Dungeness may have sparked my ongoing interest in all things tragically beautiful.  I’ve since been drawn to Eudora Welty books, deteriorating barns and buildings and most recently, Grey Gardens.

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What about you? Are you fascinated by the tragically beautiful?

June 9, 2009

Be Our Guest (cue singing candlesticks and teapots)

Filed under: Entertaining, Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 9:56 am

While hospitality is often synonymous with the South, you don’t have to hail from Jackson, Savannah, Charleston or Richmond to be a gracious host or hostess. Good hospitality is little more than making those around you comfortable, particularly when they are guests in your home. As Emily Post put it, “… if the enthusiasm of your [the host or hostess] welcome springs from innate friendliness- from joy in furthering the delight of good fellowship beneath your own roof- you need have little doubt that those who have accepted your hospitality once will eagerly look forward to doing it again and again.”

One might argue that there is no place for traditional etiquette in modern society. Although today’s manners are more situational, tailored to particular circumstances and the expectations of those around us, they remain a combination of common sense, generosity of spirit and a few have been, they rest on the same bedrock principles: respect, consideration and honesty.

Graciousness is also a large part of mannerly behavior. We all know the gracious host or hostess who has the uncanny ability to handle situations with grace and flexibility. The mark of a gracious person is his or her ability to put people at ease and spare them any embarrassment or discomfort- the very backbone of Southern hospitality!

How can these concepts be put into practicality? Making friends or guests feel like they matter is key. For example, if you’re having overnight guests, make sure their room is as comfortable and welcoming as possible by providing good quality towels and linens, stationery, toiletries, maps or guidebooks for the area (if they plan to sightsee or tour nearby), bottled water, slippers, a comfy robe, a luggage rack and closet space. By going the extra mile, your guests will feel taken care of and special and you will have done your part to play the gracious hostess. More great guest room ideas.

4-09_Compliments*Photo courtesy of marthastewart[dot]com

Good hospitality doesn’t end with overnight guests. Guests for lunch, dinner, cocktails or just a short visit over coffee should be treated with the same measure of care and thought. Offering guests something to drink after you’ve invited them in, taking their coat or bag and placing it in the coat closet or across a bed, inviting them to take a seat and paying close attention to what your guest is saying are all great ways to make someone feel thought-for and valued. Keep your house ready for surprise guests by keeping it clean and inviting. Pick up fresh flowers once a week, keep clean linens on hand and keep an eye out for bargains on guest towels and soaps.

Don’t be intimidated to entertain! You needn’t shy away from having guests because you are unsure about the rules of etiquette. All it takes to be a good hostess exuding Southern hospitality is a little forethought and effort. However, if you’d like to brush up on your etiquette, get some great advice from the iconic Post family. emilypost[dot]com

Originally published at VeryVera[dot]com.

June 8, 2009

Reminders of home

Filed under: Books, Food, Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 1:43 pm

For as far back as I can remember, Mama and Grandmama (and every other woman in my family) have all subscribed to Southern Living. Each month, Mama would flip through the magazine and tear out all of the delicious sounding recipes for classic Southern dishes and modern twists on the classics as well as helpful hints for around the house. She has a huge notebook stuffed full of recipes for fresh creamed corn, hummingbird cake, barbequed ribs and chicken casserole just to name a few. When Southern Living published their All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, I think Mama was one of the first to order a copy.

Southern Living Cookbook

Contained in the book’s nineteen chapters are 1,250 recipes for pros, beginner cooks and everybody in between. Each recipe has been throughly tested by the Southern Living kitchens and split into categories like Quick, Make Ahead, Freeze It and Family Favorite. You can easily decide what to make that evenly by glancing over the prep and cook times as well as the complete nutritional analysis of each dish.

Try out Southern classics with a twist like Cheesy Grits Bread, Mac and Texas Cheeses with Roasted Chiles, Smoked Turkey Tetrazzini and Fresh Orange Italian Cream Cake. Learn to make special occasion recipes like Holiday Beef Tenderloin, Molasses-Coffee Glazed Ham, Chocolate Truffle Cake, Caramel-Coconut-Pecan Cheesecake Bars and Bistro Grill Chicken Pizza.Picking up ingredients at the grocery store is a snap using the simplified ingredient lists helping you determine what to buy and how to shop.

Each chapter begins with basic tips, guides and tools to help you get started. Familiarize yourself with different cuts of beef, herbs, spices, knives, cooking terminology and more. Take the guesswork out of cooking by consulting the timetables and charts. No more undercooked pork and overcooked fish! Be sure to check out the party and entertaining section. And guys- there’s a huge chapter full of sizzling favorites from the grill.

For the past forty years, Southern Living has prided itself in, “delivering definitive Southern cuisine to its readers, making it one of the most trusted recipe sources in the country that reaches over 16 million readers monthly.” With that kind of history, you know the information contained between the covers of this cookbook is culinary gold.

Originally published at VeryVera[dot]com.

June 5, 2009

Southern Summer Menu

Filed under: Food, Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 8:51 am

Southern food is easy to recognize. It’s packed with flavor, full of fresh ingredients and prepared with love. Enjoy the bounty of the farmer’s markets this  summer and try your hand at some Southern classics. Below you’ll find the recipes for a typical Southern supper. I can almost hear the crickets chirping…

THE MENU
Deviled Eggs
Cornbread
Collard Greens
Hoppin’ John
Pan Fried Pork Chops
Peach Cobbler a la mode

Appetizer:
Deviled Eggs
6 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
¼ c. mayonnaise
1 ½ T. sweet pickle relish
1 t. yellow mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika
Sliced sweet pickles
Pimentos

Halve eggs lengthwise and scoop out yolks. Be careful not to tear whites. Place yolks in a small bowl. Mash yolks with a fork until crumbly and add mayonnaise, pickle relish and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill the whites with the yolk mixture and sprinkle with paprika. Garnish with sliced pickles and pimentos. Serve on a Deviled Egg Plate with pickled asparagus and okra.

Bread:
Cornbread
4 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 c. cornmeal
1 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
2 t. salt
4 eggs
2 c. milk

Fry bacon in a heavy cast iron skillet and place on paper towel. Keep bacon grease in pan and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Whisk in milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until combined. Fold in chopped bacon. Pour batter into the cast iron skillet used to fry bacon. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Sides:
Collard Greens
½ lb smoked meat (ham hocks, turkey neck bones, etc)
1 bunch collard greens
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1 T. red pepper flakes
1 T. bacon grease

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add ham hocks, salt, pepper, garlic powder, seasoning salt and hot sauce. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 1 hour. Wash and stem collard greens. Rough chop into ½ -1 inch wide strips. Place collards in pot and add bacon grease. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and serve with pepper vinegar.

Hoppin John (Black Eyed Peas with Stewed Tomatoes)
1 lb. dried black eyed peas
2-3 large whole, peeled tomatoes
¼ c. sugar
2 T. bacon grease
1 med onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ham hock
2 qts. Water or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Cover the peas in about 2 inches of water let soak overnight. Crush the tomatoes into a saucepan and add the sugar and about ½ c. chicken stock. Cook over medium low heat, being careful not to burn. Cook until liquid has evaporated and tomatoes are thick, about 30 minutes. In a large pot over medium heat, add the bacon grease, onion, garlic and ham hock. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the soaked peas and remaining chicken stock and cook, covered, until the peas are tender, about 20 minutes. Add some water if you need a little more liquid. Remove ham hock and fold in the tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over white rice.

Main Dish:
Pan Fried Pork Chops
4-6 bone-in pork chops
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
¾ c. vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
¼ c. or less water
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and pat dry the pork chops. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Flour the pork chops lightly and place in the hot oil. Sear for about 1 minute on each side to brown. Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Put the chops back in the skillet and add chopped onion and garlic. Add water and cover. Steam the chops for about 20 minutes or until done.

Dessert:
Peach Cobbler
1 stick butter
1 c. milk
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 lb. chopped fresh or frozen peaches
Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter. In a large casserole, add all ingredients except the peaches. Mix just until moist. Mixture will be lumpy. Pour peaches on top and distribute evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Works well with any fresh or frozen berry or fruit.

Originally published on VeryVera [dot] com.

June 4, 2009

The Ideal Southern Hostess

Filed under: Entertaining, Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 11:34 am

Hospitality is just as synonymous with the South as sweet tea itself.  What makes Southerners such great hostesses? Can someone be taught the art of making guests feel comfortable and welcome? Why not? Martha Stewart’s created an entire empire on that very idea.  However, you don’t have to hand-carve miniature busts of your guests from chocolate to impress them.  All it takes is a little extra effort and some beautiful entertaining staples.

Being a fantastic cook is not integral to being a good host or hostess (although it doesn’t hurt!)  Your guests will be thrilled with simple dish when it’s presented to them in an irresistible fashion.  For example, before your guests arrive, fill a cut glass or crystal bowl with assorted nuts or candies for an easy special touch.  A cut glass bowl is a super versatile and beautiful accessory to have on hand for floating candles or camellia blooms or for housing small floral arrangements as well.  The facets and bevels sparkle beautifully in candlelight and heighten the sophistication of a room even when empty on the coffee table. While you can’t go wrong with a classic maker like Lenox or Tiffany, gorgeous replicas can be found at discount retailers like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx for a fraction of the cost. Lenox.com

crystal bowl

Once your guests have arrived, offer them a glass of iced tea, lemonade or your own signature drink. But for heaven’s sake, don’t, under any circumstances, pour out of a plastic pitcher! A simple glass pitcher with clean lines will work for any occasion no matter how casual or formal. If your party is a bit more formal, a cut glass or crystal pitcher will fit beautifully but an ornate piece isn’t necessary. A monogrammed pitcher will always be in style and even makes a great wedding gift.  williams-sonoma.com

pitcher

You’d be hard-pressed to find a good Southern hostess worth her weight in sugar who didn’t have a deviled egg plate in her china cabinet. The egg-shaped indentions keep the Southern delicacy from slipping and the center of the plate is perfect for pickled okra, asparagus, sweet pickles or sliced olives. Use the plate at Easter to display colorful eggs.  You can find beautiful cut glass or bone china varieties at antique shops on EBay at great prices.   surlatable.com

egg plate

You absolutely cannot go wrong when serving your guests on a silver platter or tray.  Everything from tea sandwiches to beef tenderloin looks simply stunning when presented on polished silver.  Good quality silver probably isn’t something you’d want to rush out and buy.  A silver collection can take years to acquire whether the pieces are given as wedding gifts, handed down from generation to generation or picked up along the way at antique shops and estate sales.  If you so desire, Reed & Barton offers a gorgeous variety of styles from modern to traditional. reedandbarton.com

silvertray

It would be a pity to present your meal on sparkling silver and crystal but serve it with a large kitchen spoon or plastic utensil.  Choose serving utensils that complement or match your flatware and china.  It isn’t necessary to use only sterling silver spoons and meat forks; decorative or whimsical pieces make a nice accent to the table and can enhance the ambiance.  These fun pieces by Lenox are great for a spring or summer party. macys.com

serving pieces

In that same vein, to serve guests on paper or plastic plates wouldn’t be deplorable but nothing beats a gorgeous place setting.  You don’t necessarily need bone china to impress your guests; a versatile good-quality set of dishes will serve you nicely.  A solid color or simple design can be dressed up or down with chargers, complementary linens, accent plates and by mixing and matching different patterns.  Martha Stewart makes great everyday china that’s timeless and versatile. macys.com

martha china

However, if you love the look and feel of fine china, you can never go wrong with a basic pattern that’s bound to stand the test of time. macys.com

lenox china

For dessert, serve your pound cake, layer cake, cookies or brownies on a decorative cake plate. Whether porcelain, silver or glass, a cake stand adds height, drama and sophistication to a buffet or centerpiece.  Stack a few of varying sizes on top of on another for a tiered effect or serve a cheese ball at the coffee table before dinner. A pretty cake plate is easy to find at discount retailers like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx but the detail found in this Williams-Sonoma cake stand will have your guests talking. williams-sonoma.com

cake plate

Post originally published at VeryVera[dot]com.

May 6, 2009

Mighty Mississippi

Filed under: Books, Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 11:50 am

As I’ve mentioned before, I love Garden & Gun.  I also love the look of old barns, quaint schoolhouses, old storefronts- anything that’s indicative of that sort of beautifully, sad Old South.  Apparently, author Gloria Norris appreciates that same forlorn beauty because Garden & Gun has just done a feature on her Highway 51 pictorial series documenting her travels through Mississippi.

Here’s the article on the website:

One for the Road

In a world of eight-lane superhighways lined by strip malls and Ruby Tuesdays, Highway 51 remains a road that’s worth slowing down for. Bob Dylan recorded a ballad named after it. William Faulkner and Eudora Welty grew up alongside it. But never before has the storied stretch of two-lane highway that bisects the Mississippi hill country—wending its way south from Memphis to Jackson—been the subject of a photography book.

With ninety original images, and an introduction by Rick Bass, Highway 51 (available May 1) is a sumptuous tribute to the legendary route and the distinct culture that has grown up around it. Taken by hill country native and author Gloria Norris, the photos capture swamps and pasture, a lone crawfish shack, the mist in the air after a good rain, and music, always music (the area is known for the likes of blues masters R. L. Burnside and Mississippi John Hurt).

If you can’t hit the road, we suggest having a seat on the couch, throwing open the windows, cranking up some road tunes, and cracking open the book. It’s the next best thing to cruising down the blacktop.

The images speak for themselves so I won’t ruin them (even though I’m really tempted!) with corny captions .

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a-hwy-51-good-rain

a-hwy-51-img-1*One quick interjection: Who knew that monks loved Elvis?!

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a-hwy-51-img-6*Another quick interjection: The above image captures so many aspects of the South that can’t accurately be put into words.

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*The below is my favorite image and it’s my computer background right now:a-hwy-51-img-8

*All photos by Gloria Norris

I’m seriously going to pick up a copy of this book because if the other images are half as good as these, I won’t be able to put it down!

April 28, 2009

Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough

Filed under: Southern Stuff — sashyjane @ 1:53 pm

I absolutely cannot get enough of Garden & Gun Magazine! The photographs are gorgeous and each subject is Southern to the core.  In an era where most magazines have turned to cheaper paper and ink printing processes, Garden & Gun still produces the slick, heavy pages indicative of high-end publications.

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Don’t you just love that pig-nosed doggie?!

I’m even in love with their mission statement:

Garden & Gun is a Southern lifestyle magazine that’s all about the magic of the New South – the sporting culture, the food, the music, the arts, the literature, the people, and the ideas.

It espouses a strong conservation ethic that grows out of its connection to the land, and it reveals the beauty of the South as no magazine ever has.

Since it’s a relatively new magazine (founded in 2007), it may not have the wide readership yet of some other publications but I have no doubts that Garden & Gun will be as prolific as Veranda in no time. Read this review for more information.

So… if you’re in the market for a gorgeous magazine chock full of all things Southern, I highly recommend subscribing!

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