I just got back from eight days in the South. It was great, fun, and finally, exhausting.
Days 1-3: Roswell, GA. This is where my sister, the author of Right Sides Together
, lives. She's got a little garden, and grows a few of these, in addition to peppers, okra, and green beans:
Now, I know that my dear friends and family who live in California might disagree here, but there are no tomatoes that rival the ones grown in a Southern back yard. I had at least one tomato sandwich a day while I was there: white bread, either Colonial, Bunny, or Sunbeam, Duke's mayonnaise, peeled, sliced, tomatoes, and salt. The classic accompaniments are potato chips and iced tea. Some of us include the chips inside the sandwich, which some purists, I would imagine, frown upon.
Sunday at my sister's was rollicking fun. After errands with the niece, (13th birthday weekend) we settled in with a pitcher of margaritas by the pool. Brother-in-law and nephew were buzzing around, riding and maintaining bikes, while we girls did some serious relaxing. Eventually, having switched to wine - 2 white Bordeaux and our fave, François Chidaine Touraine Sauvignon Blanc
, from the Loire, we made this red velvet cake for Darling Niece:
and, in its finished state:
My sister does not believe in putting herself out over presentation! And, it was delicious.
Remembering that we were hungry, and had all these hungry people around us, we got down to dinner: I made a creamy, garlicky shrimp and pasta concoction to really accentuate the delight of the wine.
Large shrimp, parsley, lemon, garlic, chopped tomatoes, white wine, and heavy cream with linguine. Gilded the lily with Parmesan cheese. We also had corn on the cob. And, birthday cake. Wow.
I had a wonderful time with my sister and her family. They live so far away (or is it me who lives so far away?) that we don't get to do this very often. We watched Grey Gardens together, and played with the kids and pets, sat on the screen porch drinking wine and talking into the night. We went out to lunch, had pedicures, went to the grocery store, and talked about our aging parents. I was sad to leave on Monday morning, but I had to go and see Mom and Dad.
Days 4-6: Chattanooga (Hixson), Tennessee. Mom and Dad mostly go the the doctor these days. Mom still goes to choir practice and the Knitting Guild, and Dad likes to go to the grocery store and recycling center, but that's pretty much what they do. Dad's first request was for me to make some salsa, so I made him some Pico de Gallo with Mary's tomatoes and jalapeños, and Vidalia onions. He's one of those folks who think that cilantro tastes like soap, so I leave it out. Again, about those tomatoes, the juice that ran off them into the bottom of the bowl was a bright red that never
happens with other tomatoes. It was an entirely different beast. The salsa was delicious. One of the places we ate was this BBQ stand:
Chattanooga has so many places named "Choo Choo," it's not even funny. But the sandwich was great. Pulled pork with a vinegar sauce and coleslaw. We also had onion rings. If I hadn't been with Mom and Dad, I would have drunk a beer with it. It's a bit of a stretch for me to have wine at their table at dinner, much less lunch, so I refrained. Iced tea was the next best thing.
I went with Mom to the Knitting Guild meeting on Wednesday morning. Since I didn't have anything I was currently working on, she gave me a pattern for an afghan square. I keep forgetting how fun it is to knit! I also got to give her a fancy, lacy pattern scarf that I made back in the fall. Understand, I've been resisting knitting all my life. And now, finally, at 45, I'm becoming, not a pro like mom and sis, but a casual knitter. No pics here, unfortunately.
Days 7 & 8: Wandering around Tennessee: Through Facebook, I reconnected with my old college chum, Glenn Merchant
, and I went to visit him and his family in Murfreesboro. On the way there, I stopped at Monteagle Winery:
I was sadly disappointed. Now, I didn't have much hope for the wine, as it's way too hot there, and the wine business is just too young there, but I expected them to at least be friendly!!!!! The woman was chilly to say the least, would only answer my questions with a yes or no, and poured a scant teaspoon of each wine into the glass. She may have done me a favor, however, as the finish from the muskedine wine tasted vile and chemical in my mouth as I drove away. They had a chardonnay variety that tasted more like a bad Muscat. Nothing I liked. But the least they could do is be friendly!
A much better, friendlier, and more fun stop was at the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg:
This is our guide, Ron, sitting in front of the spring, the source of the water. I felt like I'd made it to the Promised Land!
This is an instance where, I think, a word says a thousand words!
As I said, the tour was great fun. They run them 7 days a week, they're free, last about an hour, and you learn enough about making whiskey, that, if you're like me, you would be sorely tempted to Try This At Home. Of course, the delightful irony here is that Lynchburg is in a dry county, and you can't have a sample, or buy it there. At the end of your tour they give you a glass of lemonade (best damn lemonade I've ever had!). Then, you bust it to the nearest wet county, and have a proper drink! Love the South!
I had a wonderful visit with my friend Glenn, and his family, going out to dinner, and driving around Murfreesboro at night with his son, and wife, Angela, in her cute new car, with the top down. We talked until everyone was yawning, and then parted ways. The next morning, I went to see my old drawing and printmaking professor, Christie Nuell, at MTSU. We had a marvelous visit, with Christie showing me the new facilities. Glenn and Christie are both very influential on my early artistic development, and I hadn't seen either of them for 25 years. Only after I left, did I realize how emotional it was for me.
Day 8, the evening, dinner with Annette and Greg. Annette and I have been friends since we were 12. Yes, 33 years, she and I have been friends. Unfortunately, her schedule didn't allow her to visit until Friday night, before I left on Saturday. We went to dinner at the Southern Star, in Chattanooga. I made the wonderful discovery that French Rosé and Southern food are meant for each other:
This is a Tavel
, delicious, with a savory, minerally component. I had it with fried catfish, sweet potato fries, and cheese grits. Their tartar sauce had dill in it, and I can say it's the first I've ever really liked. Again, Southern food, grease, and rosé. Of course, Champagne would have been wonderful with the grits and fish, but the sweet potatoes really worked with Tavel.
And, finally, dessert:
Pecan pie. We devoured it.
And, then, Saturday was spent coming back home. Debby and Jackson picked me up, and it was wonderful to be reunited with both. I'm so happy to be back home! Sitting on the front porch in the dusk with Debby was bliss. And I smiled the whole time at the Farmer's marked this morning, even though the tomatoes aren't quite as magical. It's a small price to pay for living in paradise!