Southern Stories

Testing, Testing: Natural Mosquito Repellents August 27 2016

Mosquitoes make porch time miserable, and that is unforgivable. So, we've conducted a scientific, careful and methodical study of natural mosquito repellents.

Rules for a Southern Nickname August 26 2016


We’ve come across a really great site called Stuff Southern People Like.

And it nails it on the head, y’all. It’s got articles about funeral food, pecan pie, caramel cake and un-happy camping, but our favorite article would have to be this one on Southern Nicknames. And most especially this section on the rules for using pet names like “honey,” “dear,” “love,” and “sweetheart” — conveniently acronym-ed HDLS.

1. Never call anyone who’s clearly your elder “HDLS.”
2. Never call the person who’s serving you (waitress, hair dresser, etc) “HDLS.”
3. Men under 60: Never call anyone you aren’t romantically involved with and/or related to “HLDS.”
4. Do not get uppity when an elderly person calls you “HDLS.”

Which brings us to my biggest nickname pet peeve: “Mama” and “Daddy.”
I have no problem with children using these names however they see fit. Also, I think it’s perfectly acceptable when talking to one’s children to refer to one’s spouse as “Mama” or “Daddy.” Example: “Go ask Daddy to wash the dog; she’s been rolling in dead stuff again.” But for the love of all that is holy, please DO NOT call your spouse or anyone you’re romantically linked to “Mama” or “Daddy.” It’s just plain creepy.

 Yes, yes and yes. We agree. All of it. And what’s the funniest southern-style nickname you’ve ever heard bestowed on a family member?


The Summer Forecast: Gin Cocktails August 26 2016

While it’s not out of the question to appreciate the occasional glass of bourbon or Cabernet, summer in the South is also a great time and place to enjoy the lighter things in life, including the wonderful world of gin.

Walk into any average liquor store and one will no doubt be overwhelmed with choices of flavored vodka — from wedding cake to the more esoteric smoked salmon or honeysuckle. Many of these are interesting on their own, however, it is important to remember that before they existed, there was gin. Gin makers would travel the world in search of perfect, exotic botanicals to infuse into ethanol to make it complex and interesting. Still to this day, great pride is taken by both leaders in the industry, and smaller artisan distillers to offer unique blends of spices, some with heavy juniper notes, and others more rounded with other ingredients such as bitter orange peel, angelica root, or even saffron.

Some more primitive styles of gin even taste more like malty moonshine than the bottle of Tanqueray or Beefeater one can expect to see on every corner bar shelf.

The “Corpse Reviver”

Early Summer Sipping:
As the mornings and evenings cling to their early summer brisk, I like to enjoy sippable classic gin cocktails, such as the Aviation, the Last Word, or The Corpse Reviver No. 2. These cocktails are perfectly styled to offer just the right amount of citrus with a hint of sweet to complement the early summer brunch, or the elegant evening on a patio with friends or family. They are mildly warming, but will not cause the drinker to feel overheated, as long as they are sipped gently. Be warned, however, that these drinks are best consumed sparingly. In the case of the Corpse Reviver No. 2, the Savoy Cocktail Book notes that “[f]our of these in taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”

The Corpse Reviver No. 2
.75 oz London Dry Gin
.75 oz Lillet Blanc (or Cocchi Americano*)
.75 oz Cointreau
1/2 Lemon Squeezed (Original Calls for .75 oz Lemon Juice)
3-4 drops Absinthe

Shake all ingredients until cold, Strain into your favorite stemmed cocktail coupe. No garnish.

*Take note: Lillet Blanc no longer contains quinine, which is why many bartenders opt to substitute Cocchi Americano.

Mid Summer Muddle:
Don’t be afraid to break out the muddler in the middle of the summer. As the Fourth of July heat builds upon us and we have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables coming out of the earth, consider squishing up some cucumber in a shaker with some Hendricks Gin. Strain it out into a martini glass, or toss it into a hi-ball glass and top with a little soda. Another suggestion would be to combine some of that mint ravaging your flowerbed with some freshly picked watermelon, and perhaps a little Lillet Blanc and some classic Tanqueray. Top it with lemonade for a delicious summer refresher.

Dog Days Gone Delicate
Only one drink comes to mind as the most brutal heat of the summer wallows upon us — the classic Gin and Tonic. Just a few years ago, this was a cocktail lumped into a category with Jack and Cokes and Crown and Sprites and the more simple standards. Recently with the advent of higher quality mixers, this cocktail has been elevated to the revered status it deserves. I’ll be enjoying mine with Tanqueray Malacca or Hayman’s Old Tom Gin this summer, and my tonic of choice will be Fever Tree’s Light Indian Tonic water. My garnish will be a slice of orange as opposed to the traditional lime, however. Other great tonic options to try include Fever Tree Tonic Water, Fentimen’s Tonic Water, or Tomr’s Handcrafted Tonic Syrup, which can be added to soda water to adjust sweetness based on one’s preference.

Hallelujah: Summer’s Over.
The nights are cooling off. The brutality of summer heat has begun to relax its grip. It may even be about time to start shopping for a new light jacket, and the kids are a couple of weeks back into school. It’s time for a drink. Try a classic Gin Martini made with Anchor Distilling Company’s Junipero Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, and a twist of lemon.
As the heat of the daytime turns slightly more brisk, it may even be time to get more adventurous. Try a neat shot of Genever, a traditionally malty, grainy Dutch style of gin that precludes the design of the London dry style we’ve come to think about when we hear the word “gin.” My two favorite brands currently are Bols Genever, and Anchor Distilling’s “Genevieve.” These both taste best when accompanied with a cold beer.


David Burnette, currently working as a mixologist at South on Main in Little Rock, Ark., oddly enough grew up in a very dry county in north Arkansas. He discovered his passion for cocktail creation in 2003, and has since had recipes published in several notable publications.

Adventures in Infused Vodka August 26 2016

The first time I experienced infused vodka was about 4 years ago, right after I moved to Nashville, when a friend convinced me (no real convincing actually needed) to try a local bar’s house-made pineapple vodka. It was extremely tasty and the pineapple pieces were intoxicating. That was the beginning of my love affair with infused vodka, and lucky for me the trend is on the rise.

Being that it’s spring and some of my favorite fruits and veggies are making their appearance at the farmer’s market, I decided it might be time I made a batch or two of my own infused vodka. For research purposes, I decided to try out a place in town that specializes in the craft. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me out of the house on a beautiful spring day – especially if vodka is involved.

Past Perfect, a little gem off the Broadway strip, offers an alternative to the flashy neon signs and loud honky-tonks. Before I could even take a seat, the first things I noticed were the numerous jugs lining the counter behind the bar. While some ingredients were immediately recognizable, such as the lemon, orange and cucumber, there were plenty that left me a bit puzzled. What on earth is the stuff that looks like white wood shavings? Is that other jug holding some sort of non-buoyant marshmallow?

Daniel Cooper was the bartender that afternoon, and I would come to find out, the resident infuser extraordinaire. He was more than happy to tell me the contents of the jugs (horseradish and bubblegum were the answers), take my drink order, and offer up a shot of the habanera vodka. Not only did I survive the latter, but am also proud to say it was handled better than most men, according to the staff onlookers.

As my mouth cooled off with a light combo of cucumber vodka and house made lemonade, I learned about the process of liquor infusion. It couldn’t be simpler, and my results were pretty spectacular.

  1. As with most anything that comes out of a southern kitchen, everything is better made from scratch. Start with plain liquor – nothing already flavored.
  2. Pick a flavor – vanilla bean, citrus peels, fruit slices, hard candies, herbs, etc. My three concoctions were basil, cucumber and green apple. Generally, the infusion works best if you use one to three pieces of fruit/veggies; one to two fistfuls of herbs; two to four fistfuls of berries; and as many peppers as you can handle.
  3. Fill your container with the flavor of choice and vodka. You can use canning jars like I did, or recycle those old liquor bottles if you want a larger batch. If you are using peppers, you might want to add a little water to keep the burn to a minimum.
  4. Let the concoction sit at room temperature for four or five days. Give it a good shake at least once a day. If using peppers, the longer you infuse the more heat the final product will bring. Taste-test it after 24 hours to ensure you do not end up with something sinfully spicy.
  5. Ta-da! You now have naturally flavored vodka, which you can use in a variety of cocktail recipes.

Here are a few of my favorite homemade infused-vodka recipes…

Basil Vodka Gimlet

  • Fill shaker with 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, zest of half a lime and 2.5 ounces of basil infused vodka
  • Top off the shaker with ice
  • Shake for 30 seconds and strain
  • Serve in glassware of choice
  • Garnish with sprig of fresh basil

Cucumber Mint Cocktail

  • Fill shaker with ice, fist full of mint, 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of lime juice
  • Shake vigorously for 30 seconds
  • Add 2 ounces of vodka and 1/2 ounce of Cointreau
  • Shake again for another 30 seconds and strain
  • Serve in glassware of choice
  • Garnish with a cucumber slice or spear

Apple Martini

  • Fill shaker with 3 ounces of apple infused vodka (apple variety can be of your choice, but I used granny smith), 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, and squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Shake for 30 seconds and strain into martini glass
  • Add a splash of Mountain Valley Sparkling Water
  • Garnish with apple spiral

*All recipes yield 2 servings

Lauren Weintraub is a Little Rock, Arkansas native but now calls Nashville, Tenn., home. When she is not infusing (and drinking) vodka, she moonlights as the owner of The Solution Girl – providing professional organizing, party planning and problem solving services to clients throughout the south.

Hellfire and Legbones – A Perspective on Nashville’s Hot Chicken August 26 2016

My first day of work, I walked into the endcap of a north Nashville business park to find my new boss, Dave, hunched over a telephone in a corner office, head in hands and speaking a strange jargon full of temperature gradients and poultry fractions. Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly certain what I’d signed up for, but I hadn’t expected this. “Fifteen quarter breasts, hot. Fifteen leg quarters, hot. Eight of both, medium.  Eight halves, hot. Bunch of slaw.” Dave carried on like a day trader for some underground futures market. His eyes darted up suddenly and saw me looking on in wonder.

“Sorry, man…hang on just a second. We’re shipping something to the CEO.”

Turns out, Dave wasn’t making a shady commodities deal. He was merely placing tomorrow’s lunch order for one of the richest people on the planet. A thousand miles away in a big glass building, a billionaire was craving a Nashville delicacy—hot chicken.

Although Nashville’s signature cuisine is the home cooking of its meat-and-threes, no single dish lives in the marrow of the Music City quite as much as hot chicken. It’s a simple food. Take fried chicken and introduce a paste made of lard and cayenne pepper (this may happen at various stages in the cooking process), slap it on a piece of white bread (Bunny or Bimbo if you’ve got it), add a few pickles on top, and there you have the basic elements of the form. The seemingly undisputed progenitor of this fiery grub is Thornton Prince, whose great niece, Andre Prince Jeffries, now operates Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack out of a modest strip mall that neighbors a boarded up Kroger and a beauty supply store.  Hot chicken seems to have had an accidental genesis after one of Prince’s scorned lovers prepared some especially spicy chicken for him as recompense for bad behavior. But instead of feeling burned, Prince made a restaurant out of the concept. Others—including Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish (a family relation of Prince’s), 400 Degrees, and Pepperfire Spiced Chicken—have followed suit, trying to keep pace with Nashville’s insatiable appetite for spicy bird.

But why do we love hot chicken so much, and how has it come to represent the ethos of Nashville? For one thing, there is nothing pretentious about hot chicken. And in a town where reinforcing some genuine connection to a working-class reality is almost an Olympic sport, an affinity for hot chicken makes an expedient accessory. (Take as another indicator this fact I gleaned by eavesdropping on a conversation between two liquor distributors: nowhere on earth is the per capita consumption of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer higher than in Nashville.)  In addition to hot chicken’s autochthonous devotees, politicians, uber-Christians, industry players, hipsters, and musicians of all stripes pledge allegiance to it.  Former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell—who helped found the Hot Chicken Festival, held each July 4th in East Nashville—jokingly lists the marked increase in hot chicken production and consumption as one of the crowning economic achievements of his administration. (Purcell was twice elected in Nashville.)

To fully understand its populist allure, one needs only seek out hot chicken during the witching hour. Inevitably you will find yourself perched like some drought-thirsty animal at a crowded watering hole in the Ngorongoro Crater. Everyone is there in peaceful co-existence, leveraging instinct against necessity, waiting patiently for that life-giving stuff in a grease-soaked paper bag.

Hot chicken’s presentation is largely without frills, and it shares this trait with its host city.  Indeed, while the rich, rolling hills to its south and west have been developed into havens for middle Tennessee’s well-to-do, Nashville proper is a vivisection of interstates, asphalt, and accident. The built environment along its arterial routes is a who’s who of Southern culture on the skids: check cashers, wig shops, muffler specialists, pawn, porn and convenience stores that walk both sides of the line between commerce and desecration.

The storefronts of hot chicken’s major purveyors are likely to be found in this mix. Pepperfire, a newcomer that opened in 2010, sits just across Gallatin Pike from the bright orange façade of the Yes We Can! Discount Tobacco and Beer store, which was temporarily shut down for selling synthetic marijuana. When Aqui Simpson had to move her 400 Degrees store out of its original spot in one of Nashville’s roughest areas, it wasn’t by design. “It was hard to move out the neighborhood,” said Simpson, who grew up in the area. “But I try to keep up with all the people over there.” Striking and effervescent, Simpson herself is a story of humbling trials, having opened her restaurant after a stint on the wrong side of the law. “I’m trying to show people that somebody like me can make it,” she said. “We’re working real hard to bring Nashville the best hot chicken we can.  And I think we do that.”

Hot chicken also emulates its home turf in that it’s such a damn mess—and deliciously so. Whether you’re negotiating a breast quarter, or just trying to go across town, there is often no good way to get there. You have to develop your own method and simply try not to have any accidents. As far as the chicken is concerned, you will get its spices under your fingernails and inevitably into your eyes and other places. It will shut down parts of your face. Loved ones will instruct you not to touch them or really even talk to them except from a safe distance. You will ruin a good pair of pants. In your rush to get home and eat it, you will forget you dropped your girlfriend at Walgreen’s and were supposed to pick her up on the way back. Then there is the next day, when your intestinal sturdiness may be very much in doubt (make no mistake, it will repeat on you).

Why risk these calamities for hot chicken? It’s simple. In this epoch of dietary prudence, eating hot chicken is a distinct act of rebellion, the type of which Southerners are wont to indulge in, even to their ultimate undoing (just look how we’ve rallied around bacon, for Christ’s sake).

Some tout the various health benefits of capsaicin, found in cayenne pepper (loads of vitamin C, as well as mildly stimulant or even anti-depressant effects), but hot chicken is, after all, just a pan-fried treat covered in a sort of edible magma. Eating it effectively says, “I don’t care about today, and tomorrow can kiss my ass, too.”  Every now and then, that can be a pretty healthy perspective on things (provided you wash your hands). And what could fit better within the pray hard/sin harder framework of the Southern moral universe? To be sure, there are those who frequent Nashville’s hot chicken shacks like delinquents attending church.

It’s worth proselytizing, and there are those, like Pepperfire’s Vincent Brown, eager to spread the hot chicken gospel far and wide. “We’re hoping that eventually…this will be all over the country,” Brown said. But the great diffusion of spiced yardbird may occur not through the acts of men, but by ordination from on high.

In hot chicken we have the sin, the retribution, and the redemption all wrapped up in wax paper and Styrofoam. You need only wait for your number to be called. Indeed, hot chicken may be God’s own perfect food.


Will Churchill is over nine feet tall. At least once weekly, he eats half of a chicken, leaving only the legbones. He lives in Nashville with two feisty women and a cat.

Meet Andre Prince Jeffries, and learn all about the addictive hot chicken craze in North Nashville. It’s hot, and it’s fried.

Top 10 Signs You Might be from Alabama August 26 2016


Sweet home Alabama.

If you’ve ever once, no matter where you come from, thrown an arm around your compadre and belted out Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous lyrics at the top of your lungs with such passion, such fervor, such zeal that it took you just a little bit by surprise, you have felt but a teensy fraction of the loyalty natives like me hold for our home state.

Truly the Heart of Dixie, from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains until it drops off into the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama is 52,000 square miles of fascinating. Alabamians tell stories, take their time, and talk slow. But we are always quick with a joke, a hug around the neck if you need it, and a “y’all come back.”

Here are 10 ways to tell if you might just be from Alabama, too.

1. You say you are going to “run to the Pig” and everyone knows you are going to the grocery store, Piggly Wiggly.

2. You are in any other state, see an Alabama license plate, and know what county the driver is from. (And if it’s your home county, you speed up to pass them so you can see if you know them.)

3. You can properly pronounce the names of the following towns: Arab, Smuteye, Flomaton, Nauvoo, Opelika, and Bayou La Batre.

4. You remember where you were when you heard Paul W. “Bear” Bryant died. Bonus points if you have made a pilgrimage to his grave in Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery or if you still own the commemorative Coke bottle.

5. You’ve ever given directions that included the words “turn where the [blank] used to be.”

6. You are willing to throw your body over a police barricade and into the gutter in front of a large oncoming vehicle to retrieve a plastic cup, a cracked moon pie, and/or a string of shiny beads during Mardi Gras, which we all know originated in Mobile.

7. The words “weagle weagle” hold any meaning for you. (Hint: You’re probably wearing orange and blue as well!)

8. You have a family member named Harper, Scout, Atticus, and/or Boo.

9. You don’t find it the slightest bit odd that the State’s largest city is mooned by the world’s largest cast iron statue depicting the Roman god Vulcan.

10. Instead of congratulations, thank you, hello or goodbye, you say “Roll Tide.”

Roll Tide! Y’all come back!


In love with Alabama? See all of our hand-picked products from the state.


Top photo courtesy of www.alabama.govala

Born in the Oil Capital of Alabama, Citronelle, Audrey McDonald Atkins, lives and works in Birmingham. A raconteur at heart, she examines Southern traditions old and new at her blog Folkways Nowadays. When she’s not telling stories, Audrey enjoys watching SEC football with her husband and son, as well as painting, traveling, and cooking.

10 Signs You Might Be From Texas August 26 2016

10 signs you might be from texas

Texas. It’s a world all its own. And the people there — don’t mess with them. They do everything bigger. From hair to handguns.

You can spot them a mile away, and we’re not saying that’s a bad thing. So, from barbecued brisket expert to Galveston vacations, from panhandle to shining sea, here’s 10 tell-tale signs you might be from Texas.


1. Your priorities, in order of importance: Texas, Air, Water, Food, Clothing, Shelter, etc… **

2. The new six-lane superhighway they spent twelve years building just opened up and you couldn’t be happier with the two minutes it’s shaved off your drive time.

3. You know that Bluebell Ice Cream is the best ice cream ever created because the average summer high in Burlington, Vermont is 81 degrees and the average summer high in the Bronx is 85. Brenham, Texas, on the other hand, averages 96 degrees in August. What in the holy hell could Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs possibly know about hot-weather-food?

4. You take pride in knowing that Galveston Beach is the perfect vacation spot, no matter how muddy, choppy, shallow, seaweed choked, or criminally polluted it gets. Those refineries twinkle like stars at night. It’s beautiful. Hell, the gamma rays help us see the jellyfish.

5. You know exactly where to find the best, best BBQ. No, it’s not there. Not there either. Salt Lick? Try again. Two Bros.? ‘Fraid not. Goode Co.? Aw, you’re cute.

6. On the subject of Tex Mex: See # 5.

7. You see a person watering their lawn at 1:30AM and think to yourself, “Well that person is obviously an environmentally conscious Texan doing their part to conserve water during the drought.” And not, “Well that person is a bloody serial killer doing their best to alert the neighborhood of their burgeoning sociopathy.”

8. You find nothing ironic about drinking Lone Star.

9. You consider a microbrew asking more than five bucks a pint to be an affront to God.

10. You have petitioned to several presidential administrations that February 3rd be declared a national day of mourning.


**The list, beyond this point, becomes very subjective. The average reader might find “education,” “equality,” and “women’s rights” somewhere in the top ten. Perry enthusiasts, however, might find them somewhere after “Ten Commandment Statues,” “kolaches,” and “soap.”


In love with Texas? See all of our hand-picked products from the Lone Star State. 

Native Texan and rot-gut aficionado J. Angelo Cassaro lives in Austin with his girlfriend, Anna, and their cat, Langston. When he’s not busy writing, he’s learning how to bake. He kindly requests that you kids stay off his lawn.

My Girl and This Belle Meade Bourbon August 26 2016

I  hesitate to say my girl is part of the of the khaki skort crowd who gets things done around this town, but the truth is that every other month or so she gets together with various women friends in her Shakti group to sip white wine and talk about their do-gooding and whose doctor husband ran off with whose au pair (and how is she ever going to replace her?).

On these occasions, I am left to my own meager devices, which means I regress into post-collegiate bachelor mode, which means that, if left unchaperoned, I am prone to doing shameful things like watching ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and /or ordering up stuffed Sweep-the-Kitchen pizzas. Were I to try to cope on my own, I might, by the time my beloved returns (lovely and lightly lit from the Conundrum), be draped over the sunroom sofa distended, immobilized and as fraught with eruptive potential as our dear departed black lab Anthracite was the night he ate the dead vole he found rotting under our deck. (Happy ending: Andy was fine after a $450 midnight trip to the emergency vet, and he lived many more years, during which he ate many other dead things without suffering any perceptible discomfort.)

So anyway, these days on those infrequent evenings when I am left bereft of my bestest friend, I call up my lawyer buddy and we go get supper at one or another of our local bistros. Then we repair to my house to drink bourbon and talk about his do-gooding and whose Shakti-going wife ran off with whose golf pro (and how is that poor bugger ever going to find anyone else to put up with that stack-and-tilt nonsense?).

My lawyer buddy and I are both big fans of fermented liquids and we often compare notes on the same. While he is a bit more catholic in his tastes — he will drink gin — we are largely sympatico in matters libational. So I trust his opinions, up to a point. (For instance, he told me that my taking on of this column allows me to take tax deductions on all the liquor I buy. I am relying on that opinion, your honor.) Like teenage girls at the Stein-Mart, we share our discoveries: I introduced him to Knob Creek; he introduced me to Fighting Cock.

Anyway, on the occasion of my latest abandonment, we went down to the local Mex-Mex and ate their famous “brown with cheese,” then drove back up the hill where I cracked the seal on a bottle of a new-to-me bourbon called Belle Meade.

Now before we go much further let me stipulate a few facts. First of all, I bought that bottle of bourbon — which cost just over $40 (though I have since read it can be had for slightly less in many parts of our viewing area) — specifically for the purposes of writing about it in this space. Which means I was looking for something to consider as well as consume, which put me in a peculiar position described by Susan Sontag in her seminal essay “Against Interpretation” — I was holding myself at arm’s length from the experience in an attempt to explicate the meaning of the bourbon and thereby somewhat inoculating myself against its sensory power.

Fortunately bourbon has a way of dissolving even the most clinical critic’s hermeneutical approach. I took a shot of Belle Meade neat, and my lawyer buddy took his with just a little water, and we concurred that it was damn good. To make sure, we poured ourselves a little more. And then a little more.

This is significant. Because I’d only meant to taste the stuff, to get a bead on whether it was something worth the tariff or just another decent bourbon in a handsome label driving to pass as somebody’s great granddaddy’s was-lost-but now-am-found secret recipe. Because Belle Meade, though it just showed up in liquor stores a little over a year ago, purports to continue the legacy of one Charles Nelson, a pre-Prohibition legend who established the Green Brier Distillery in Nashville in 1860 — six years before the Jack Daniels distillery was established.

Now, I don’t want to get too deep into the nomenclature debate, but contrary to rural legend, bourbon is not exclusively a product of a certain Kentucky county. Jack Daniel’s could be bourbon if they wanted to call it that — they just prefer to call “Tennessee whiskey.”  And that’s what Charles Nelson called the most popular of the whiskeys he made in Nashville and shipped all over the country and even to Europe in the 19th century. Green Brier was a thriving brand until Tennessee became an early adopter of Prohibition in 1909. (I wonder if the moonshine lobby had anything to do with the vote.)
Mister Charlie also produced a product called Belle Meade Bourbon, named after the famous plantation and horse breeding farm. And it’s this bourbon that, nearly a hundred years later, his great-great-great grandsons, brothers Charlie and Andy Nelson, decided to try to resurrect. (They planning on bringing back the Tennessee Whiskey too — possibly by the end of the year.) What they came up with was an aromatic, light-bodied  90.4 proof sour mash with a relatively high rye content, an almost gin-like floral nose and some pronounced vanilla and caramel flavors, which finishes in a slightly spicy cinnamon and corn winey drawl.

Some people might care that Belle Meade Bourbon is actually distilled in Indiana, but the truth is I think we sometimes make too much of accidents of nativity. Besides, if all goes well, the Nelson boys will build their own distillery near Nashville.

All I know is that while Belle Meade has quite a marketing story — it’s produced in such limited quantities that I’m going to make sure to procure another bottle before this column hits the Internets and one of those richly detailed old school labels where everything is supposed to mean something (it features two horses, named Brown Dick and  Bonnie Scotland, two of Belle Meade’s star progenitors) — I didn’t know anything about that when I was sipping and my bottle was a quite a bit lighter when we put the cork back in than when we took it out.

Enough so that when the love of my life returned from her covert feminist world domination meeting she cocked an eye at my lawyer buddy (who was sunk in tweed chair texting a girl he used to know in college on the off chance she’d been recently widowed) and then at the semi-depleted bottle on the bar.

“You boys like the whiskey?” she asked me.

“Yes, ma’am.  I guess we do.” I replied.

Then she shook her pretty head in that deliberate, sexy and only slightly condescending way she has. But she likes me.

When they take over the world, I got mine.

Sam's Job August 26 2016


He was big, big enough for my little 3-year-old self to climb on his back as he patiently waited so that I could take a ride. His fur was shiny and black, the pads on his paws squishy and calloused, his tongue long and pink. If you would’ve asked Dad, he would have told you Sam’s job was to retrieve ducks on frigid mornings, but I knew the truth. Sam’s job was to sit patiently at my tea parties, run alongside me to school, listen patiently as I cried about mean friends and then boys. And he did his job brilliantly for thirteen years.

It was autumn when we had to say goodbye, before the north wind started driving the ducks down south. We all knew the year before would be his last hunt; even though his tail would wag at 5am, he could barely walk, much less run. His muzzle had turned grey, and his eyes had a milky haze to them. Dad had taken him one last time, but Sam had stayed in the duckblind the whole morning.

We buried Sam down beside the lake. Even after all these years I still think of him, tell my own children stories about him, miss him. I’m not sure you can ever really let go of a best friend. And even though he’s gone, I know that he will always be with me.


By Paula Martin
Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

What Comes Around: The Origin of the Lazy Susan August 26 2016

I’ve always been fascinated with names, both for people and pets, and also for things. Who came up with that name, and why? Does it have a history, or was it just something arbitrarily assigned? Is there a deeper meaning than what is on the surface? And so, when my grandmother used a Lazy Susan at Sunday dinner from the time I could remember, the thing that fascinated me more than the fact that it would spin was how, and why, Susan was lazy.

Turns out it’s more a mystery than anything. Lazy Susans appear to be descendants of Dumb Waiters (another name for another day), which originated as rotating discs on tables before they became food elevators in old, creepy houses. Because the Dumb Waiter moved off the table, a new name was needed for the turntable left to, well, turn on the table. Was it because she was too lazy to get up and move? Perhaps, but why Susan? Why not Betty, or George, or Fido? I guess we’ll never know.

One thing’s for sure: Lazy Susans have survived all these years because we just can’t resist rotating our food around to serve ourselves more. And lazy or not, we love seconds.


By Paula Martin
Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

Golfing on the Gulf August 25 2016

When you start thinking about summer and where to go and what to do, the Gulf Coast is always at the top of the list.  Orange Beach, Dauphin Island, and of course, Gulf Shores all have a lot to offer, especially in the ways of golf.  Whether you’re a novice, got big bucks to spend, or a zealous hacker, living and dying with each shot, the Gulf Coast has courses for you.

Diamond in the RoughGlenlakes Golf Course, just twelve miles north of Gulf Shores, offers 27 holes of pristine golf.  The views are beautiful, the fairways are lush, and the layout isn’t too strenuous for the weekend warrior on vacation.  Cost is about normal for the area, $65.00 for 18-holes, but right now they are aerating the greens, which have the cost of a normal round down to just $25.00.  And if you have the stamina, you can go for 27 holes in one day of play.  Bonus:  The Tangier Outlet Shopping Center is just a 0.5 mile away, which could be a great option for the shoppers in the family whilst you are hacking your way out of a sand trap.

Best ValueSilver King in Irvington, Alabama, just outside of Bayou La Batre, is off the beaten path.  But, if you want to see where Forrest Gump went shrimpin and take in a little golf, this is the place, and it’s good for any pocket book.  At $35.00 for 18-holes, you can ignore some of the lack of attention to the fairways.  Greens are in good shape, and the layout is killer, especially number 14, a vicious par five with a sweeping dogleg left, not to mention the water in front of the green.  A course on its way up in the world, and it could use the patronage.

Eat Your Wheaties – If you got the stamina, don’t miss Kiva Dunes in Gulf Shores.  On this Jerry Pate designed course, you better bring your “A” game with you as well.  With water all over, intermixed with sand and wind from the coast, you’ll have your work cut out for you.  But in the end, if you survive, you will have stories to tell in the bar afterwards.  Not too hard on the wallet either, at only $79.00, and that includes cart, greens fees, and range balls.

Don’t Miss – If you’ve ever traveled down I-65, you’ve seen the signs for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.  Jones, a masterful golf architect, laid out some of the finest golf courses in the country, right down the middle of the state.  One of the furthest south you can visit is Magnolia Grove in Mobile.  Whether you choose “The Falls” or “The Crossings”, you’ll be delighted in some sweeping landscapes and layouts that will test every shot in your bag.  The best part about Magnolia Grove are the tee boxes, they are calculated by handicap, not length of shot, so talent is desired if you want to hit from the back tees.  The Grove is extremely affordable at $46.00 for this don’t miss golf experience.

Avoid Like The Plague – No one likes a bad review, but if you’re staying on Dauphin Island or think you might like to take the ferry over for some golf, don’t.  Visit the Estuarium or stop by the Chevron gas station for a great cheeseburger, but do not waste your time, money, or spirit on the Isle Dauphine Golf Club.  At $30 to play, you’ll be wanting not only your money back, but demanding they pay you for those hours of your life that you’ll never get back.  The wind, sand, and layout could all be forgivable and considered great challenges, if it weren’t in such poor condition.  This course is just not playable.  Drive 20 more minutes west and check out Silver King.

Honorable Mention – If you still have time, and your spouse will let you hit the links again and again, three more course spring to mind.  If you want cheap, head east of Gulf Shores to the Gulf State Park Golf Course.  Owned and operated by the Alabama State Parks, it’ll only run you $36.00 for 18 and a cart, and you may even see a gator or two.  Or if you want to feel like a pro, check out Craft Farms and their two courses, Cotton Creek and Cyprus Bend.  These Arnold Palmer designs are majestic and still fairly affordable at only $79 in the morning or less if you want to take on the heat of the afternoon.

Ben Linder is Director of Youth and Children’s Formation at Epiphany Parish and southern expat. He currently lives in Seattle , Washington. Avid golfer and writer.

The Next Big Thing in Whiskey: Rye August 25 2016

In a classic old-is-new-again twist of fate, rye whiskey is making a comeback. It's what George Washington used to make, and who can argue with that old figurehead?

8 Signs You’re on a Southern Porch August 25 2016

Like most other things intrinsically Southern, you know a porch when you see one. Or have one. Or are on one. For those who aren’t quite sure, or who think they do but don’t really, here are some signs to let you know if you are, in fact, on the real thing.

Bourbon & Boots Exclusive Q & A with Bonnie Montgomery August 25 2016


B&B: Who are your top three influencers?
BM: Johnny Cash, my grandmother, Frances Quattlebaum and Ludwig van Beethoven.

B&B: What about Pres. Bill Clinton’s childhood inspired you to write the opera “Billy Blythe,” based on his life?
BM: Clinton’s childhood was full of grand characters and classic southern drama, which is perfect for opera.

B&B: Has Clinton ever seen a performance or given you feedback?
BM: I don’t believe he has seen the opera, but I’m told he has a poster from it in his barn office in New York. I met him a couple times and told him about the project and said he supported my endeavor.

B&B: How many pairs of cowboy boots do you own and which is your favorite?
BM: Well, I probably have about 10 pairs of cowboy boots right now. I tend to wear them one at a time until they’re worn out. I guess my absolute favorites are my plain brown ropers that I’ve worn all over the place—the desert, the city and while working on the farm.

B&B: What is your go-to drink?
BM: I love Oregon Pinot Noirs, but whiskey with lots of ice and water is my favorite drink for a show night.

B&B: Of all the southern states you’ve seen on tour, which one speaks the most to you and why?
BM: I have to say Arkansas because it’s my home state and I’m really inspired by the people, the landscape and our musical heritage.

B&B: What has been your favorite venue to play in (doesn’t have to be southern) and why?
BM: That’s a tough one, but I have to say The White Water Tavern in Little Rock because where else could you premiere a modern opera and also have wild honky tonk jamboree?

B&B: How old where you when you started playing and writing music?
BM: I started singing in church around age 3, but I didn’t really start writing songs until I was in my early 20’s.

Check out Bonnie’s November 2012 EP Cruel, along with Roll & Tumble Press’ “The South She’s Pretty” letterpress print.

Photo credit: Flickr 

The Father, The Son and the Touchdown Jesus August 25 2016

When my son was a toddler, we were driving down the road one day when he spotted something. He pointed to a football stadium, “Look Mommy, church!” I said, “No, that’s a football stadium.” Then I paused, “…which is kind of the same thing.”

The reason it’s cliché is because it’s true: In the South, football is a religion. We rear our children with stories of the 12 Disciples who followed Jesus around the Holy Land right along with tales of die-hard fans who follow their teams to games around the SEC in RVs.

From time to time, folks get a little confused. There’s a group in Alabama who think one day the trumpets will sound, the clouds will part and Bear Bryant will take the faithful home to Glory. A small group of Florida fans are certain Tim Tebow is the Word made flesh to dwell among us.

It’s no wonder, really that football, and specifically college football, is so easily confused with church. The smells and bells are nearly the same.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

College football is played on Saturday. It has the good manners to keep its schedule away from the Lord’s Day. This gives those who still practice a faith other than pigskin a chance to keep both in their lives without feeling they’ve betrayed their true religion. No one ever speaks of which one is more important.

A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry… Ecclesiastes 10:19

Many rural churches hold “dinner on the grounds.” Except for a funeral, this is the best food you will ever eat. Southern Christian women will put out a spread, potluck style, for all to enjoy. There is usually fried chicken, devilled eggs and homemade ice cream. It almost always requires a nap. In football terms, we call this tailgating.

This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. Leviticus 16:3-4

When a priest makes his way to the Holy of Holies, he best be wearing the proper outfit and animals to burn. When a sorority girl or fraternity boy enters The Grove, if they’ve had any home training at all, she’s in fall’s latest fashions, and he’s got some sort of carcass to grill. Failure to be dressed properly or feed your guests may not result in sudden death physically, but socially, it could put a person’s future options for dating on life support.

And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Revelation 4:1

God gave John the Revelator a vision of the end times in a dream. He was shown epic battles of good vs. evil. This is heady stuff. Lots of writers would like to believe they have also been shown signs by God. Occasionally, after a particularly tough season, a historic loss or an implosion of Biblical proportions, some sports writer will believe he’s “had a dream.” Unfortunately, it will not be the stuff of scripture.

He’ll make wild predictions, speculate on the futures of coaches and players, and stir pots that are best left alone. He’ll all but sell the program to China to pay off the trade debt, but he will almost certainly be full of malarkey.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed… Matthew 24:6

In Biblical times, travelers from distant lands brought news from afar. Their news was unreliable at best, but never seemed to stop the Chicken Littles of the time from fretting. In 2012, we call these Internet message boards.

When someone has a “reliable source” that depends your best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend hearing from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl seeing Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors, they are not in the know. New coaches are not sending signals through the television by what color tie they wear. Recruits’ Twitter feeds are not coded messages. Eating a chicken sandwich for lunch does not indicate he’s committing to South Carolina. But that doesn’t stop folks from hoping, dreaming and praying they have finally figured “it” out, whatever it may be.

They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Romans 9:4

When all outsiders know about Southern football is bonfires, Hog calls, cowbells or Rocky Top, it can be difficult to understand the loyalty to the sport. If that’s all they see, they’ve missed the point. It’s about community.

It’s about my mother who dressed me in all red and explained in the same voice she used to explain math problems (which was totally no nonsense and direct), “That’s Texas. We don’t like Texas.” It’s about the elderly ladies who won’t start their prayer meetings until the game is over, or rush to finish, depending on kick off time. It’s about teaching my son referee signals while wearing a team jersey when he was only two years old.

It’s a community that has history and future. Its fans are a family, whose only demand is that you pay attention and care about your team. There’s a commitment to excellence, but a loyalty beyond wins and losses.

Community isn’t easy to come by. It’s harder to maintain. It requires a life-long commitment to sustain. It needs historians, storytellers jokers and trainers. It needs people with something to invest, who are often undervalued in other parts of their lives. In other words, it needs Southerners. And we report for duty every Fall.


Kerri Jackson Case was a Razorback Belle for Danny Ford. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, son and two untrainable dogs. She calls the Hogs, but has been known to entertain football fans of all varieties at watch parties. You can follow her unremarkable, but wildly entertaining life at

Etiquette of The Duck Hunt: 10 Things Your Daddy Shoulda’ Told Ya August 25 2016

If you live in the south, especially Arkansas, then duck hunting is something you will more than likely be invited, enticed or otherwise harangued into taking part in at some point. Like golf, a day afield in the duck woods can be as social as a long walk on a manicured golf course; an opportunity to...

New Orleans: Ten Things You Have To Do in The Big Easy August 25 2016

A trip to New Orleans can be overwhelming. To make things easier, here's 10 things you HAVE to do when visiting the Big Easy.

Five Southern Craft Brews We’re Drinking Right Now August 25 2016


Labor Day is nigh, which more than likely means three days of freedom for you and yours. If you’re anything like us, you’ve already got an inner tube stuffed into your backseat and the ice chest open and ready to be filled. Before you toss in a six pack of what’s cheapest, consider these Southern-made craft brews we’ve fallen in love with. They’re good for summer sipping, and some will disappear from shelves when autumn arrives.













Abita Satsuma Harvest Wit (Abita Springs, Louisiana)

When the weather gets warm, fruit beers start cropping up on liquor store shelves. By the time August arrives, you’ve probably had enough strawberry-flavored beer to give you sweet gut until next spring. Abita’s answer to the sickly sweet fruit beers of summer is Satsuma Harvest Wit. Abita’s found a way to add a subtle citrus touch, courtesy of the Deep South satsuma fruit, to this lighter-tasting wheat beer. Spices (we think we taste a bite of crisp coriander) add to the unique, refreshing flavor. Recommended for lake trips and hot, sunny days.



Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout (Kiln, Mississippi)
Set aside your notion that stout beers should be reserved for cold months. This inventive darker brew isn’t rich and heavy like many stouts, and it tastes just fine iced down. While notes of chocolate are still present, this beer has an almost savory taste despite its defining ingredient, sweet potatoes. Jefferson Stout is smooth and creamy with a nutty flavor and a good finish. And it won’t weigh you down. Recommended for nighttime porch sitting and stargazing.



Jackalope Barrel-Aged Bearwalker (Nashville, Tennessee)
Jackalope Brewing Company combines Tennessee’s claim to fame, whiskey, with its Bearwalker Maple Brown Ale by aging the brew in freshly used whiskey barrels. The beer is brewed with maple syrup, which blends beautifully with the softened flavor of whiskey. Don’t expect the kick and burn of a whiskey shot. Do expect robust flavor with hints of chocolate and caramel. Unfortunately, this beer is only available at the brewery and at select locations in Nashville. Hopefully you’ve got some Music City friends willing you bring you a batch on their next visit (hint, hint). Recommended for impressing friends at potluck parties.



O’Fallon Hemp Hop Rye (O’Fallon, Missouri)
That toasty, nutty flavor in Hemp Hop Rye is brought to you by hemp seeds (Hemp is a superfood, though we can’t guarantee health benefits from this beer. But who drinks beer to be healthy, anyway?). Two kinds of rye combine with hops and hemp for a unique flavor that’s warm, crisp and slightly citrusy. Recommended for campfire gatherings, hiking and most outdoor activities that aren’t life threatening when paired with alcohol.



Diamond Bear Two Term Double IPA (Little Rock, Arkansas)
This beer is to the point. And by “to the point,” I mean it’s 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. In other words, it gets the job done. It’s also a great-tasting IPA that’s hoppy without being bitter and overly hoppy. Its slightly malty sweetness is smooth with hints of citrus. Recommended for loosening up after a stressful workday or celebrating your three days of freedom the second the clock strikes 5 p.m. on Friday.


Willa Dean considers her arrangement at Bourbon & Boots a symbiotic relationship with readers. With each new beer she reviews, she gets closer to her goal of trying all the beers in the world, and readers have an easier time finding new favorite brews. Email her at

The Last Letter From Mother August 25 2016

Not too long ago I was cleaning out a desk drawer when I ran across a birthday note from Mother. Mom was always big on writing notes back when she was at the height of her powers. Most of the time her notes were an attempt to get in the last word after arguments in which I either walked away or hung up the phone.

Some of them concerned the morbid obsessions about mostly imagined trouble facing me and my brothers. There was the letter to me in which she offered me 500 bucks if wouldn’t run the marathon. She should have saved the postage. I got hurt after training and playing competitive tennis at the same time. No marathon. She should have written to complain about what an idiot I had turned out to be.

She wrote many letters to me about a certain girlfriend of my brother John’s that she thought was leading him to Perdition. She was and he enjoyed it. She wrote me about how she worried about Dave’s finances. She thought he was poor. Dave’s not poor. He’s a tightwad. Which is cool. He’s got more money than he can spend.

I guess she wrote me thinking that I would go talk with my brothers about these difficulties she had mostly manufactured in her head. And of course I never did. But these items were typical of my poor Mother’s obsessive correspondence after I returned back to Little Rock. And most of them I tossed. Some without imparting to them the dignity of having read them first.

But the letter I found in the desk drawer the other day was different. I remember it well. It is undated but it had to have been written in the last years of her stay in the assisted-living facility in Conway. By the time she wrote this letter she had started the descent into the Parkinson’s induced dementia that eventually claimed her life. Some of it is illegible and it is written at an upward slant across the page.

Oct 24 (my birthday)

A few years (ago) the first snowflakes were falling and I could see them through (the) hospital window.

Inside, a beloved 9 ½ lb. son was being born.

Your dad walked up and down (the) street spreading the word.

What a beautiful son you are.



For much of the last 10 or 11 years of her life I was as much of a parental figure as I was a son. It was a difficult balancing act. I read a book on the subject. The book pointed out that the person in my care was an adult with a lifetime worth of habits and baggage. The book didn’t call my job “parenting.” The book referred to caring for an elderly parent as “childing.” And so I was childing the final years of her life. And sometimes I wasn’t much good at it.

The last couple of Mother’s Days were pretty awful. The dementia had rendered Mother virtually incoherent so she didn’t talk much. I would join her for Mother’s Day lunch at the nursing home. I would cut her food for her and I would help her eat. After lunch we would sit in her room and hold hands. I would talk talk talk to fill the dead air. She would just gaze at me. She knew I was her son. She just had an imperfect understanding of the fullness of what all that meant by then.

God took her in His time as the Catholics say. December 9, 2009. Mother had the constitution of a diesel. She suffered greatly the last year of her life. It would have been OK with me if God had hit the accelerator. “It took too long didn’t it?” a friend asked at the time. Yeah. It took way too long. Then again, nobody knows the hour of their end except the suicidal and the condemned. Even people that smoke cigarettes who ought to see it coming. Like Buck Bowen who dropped dead at 52.

But 56 years ago my mother watched the snow fall outside that hospital window in Indiana while my father passed out cigars and slapped backs.

Back when they both were young. Back when I was just a little baby. Way before the trouble started.

And she wrote me one last letter to tell me about it.

This one I kept. This one fills my heart on Mother’s Day.

Arthur Paul Bowen is a lawyer and writer who lives in what he calls the “People’s Republic of Hillcrest” in Little Rock. He may also be found on his blog, The Moving Finger Writes.


A tribute to our seniors by John Prine.

Essentials To The Southern Home August 24 2016


Southern homes are known for grand architecture, inviting porches, quirky antiques and a decorating style all the owners’ own. Pack away the hunting trophies and camouflage, retire the kitschy rooster art, and haul the sofa off the porch…Here are a few tips from Pamela Berger with Sweet Peach Blog on ways to turn your home into a chic, sleek Southern sanctuary.

Communal Table

You’d be hard pressed to find a Southern home that doesn’t have a space for family and friends to gather. The communal table is an integral piece of furniture with character and charm, wide enough for a pitcher of iced tea and some nibbles. Biscuits are good, but so are freshly made cookies or a pecan pie.

Southerners are well aware of the correlation between good food and good conversation. The point is to stay awhile, unwind and remember the importance of quality time.

Mismatched Chairs

To some, the South represents a formal home with formal attire and although that is true in some cases, I find it’s more true for homes down South to have a bit more colorful personality and laid back attitude. I can’t tell you the number of homes and porches I’ve been to that share the love of mismatched chairs. I see it often—they’ve been collected over time and when placed all together, make the prettiest picture.

Shop Unique Southern Kitchen Items

Old Mixed with New


The modern Southern home is a mix of old and new. As so many of the older homes here are filled with character, it makes sense to celebrate and complement their history with home décor items from the past, then update the pieces with newer items to match your preferred style.

Antiquing is big in the South. You’ll find antique shops in every small town you drive through, which is why it makes so much sense to accent your décor with found pieces from markets and second hand shops. If you’re lucky and you look hard enough, you could find an old metal and wood cabinet just like this one.


Shop Unique Southern Kitchen Items

A Welcoming Kitchen



It can be big or small, modern or traditional, but the Southern kitchen always has some aspect of hominess to it. It could be fresh flowers or freshly pickled vegetables on the kitchen counter; colorful vintage prints and grandma’s tea towels; or just cozy, inviting chairs to fall into and talk about your day.

The Family Past

Whether it’s granddad’s old ladder, a great Aunt’s quilt or vintage mirror, there’s always a piece or two from the family past in a Southern home. It could be an old cookbook, radio, rocking chair or embroidered pillow, but a treasured item of generations past brings a safe and comforting feeling. Plus, it has a story to tell. And Southerners love their stories…

Furniture that sways

Long, hot summer days naturally lure us onto our porches. We sip on iced tea or cold beer. We take a moment to relax and then, we sway. It’s the law of the land here and I couldn’t be a bigger advocate. Whether it’s rocking chairs, swings or full beds on ropes, to rock back and forth quiets our minds and soothes our weary souls.

Front  Porch

This may be the most obvious but it’s also the most essential element to a Southern home. The American porch grew first and most quickly here in the South. The Shotgun homes were the premiere structures to universally include a front porch and since that time, all variations of porches have been added to our homes. The important rule to remember is to always make sure your porch is wide enough for at least two rocking chairs.

The porch is that transitional space between our private and public worlds. When we sit on the porch, we watch people go on by. We say hello, we invite neighbors and friends to come sit and chat with us. It’s informal and inviting. As the digital age continues to consume us, it’s ever more vital to keep our porches. To sit and sway, to tell our stories…to laugh and sing or say nothing at all. 

Asheville: A Guided Tour Through Appalachia’s Most Interesting Town August 24 2016

Where does a trekker turn for that ideal balance of seasonal glory, cultural genius and mad hilarity that defines the perfect three-day trip? Asheville, North Carolina arguably contains all the elements of just such a sublime ‘busman’s holiday.’ Follow along below for a packed-and-ready long weekend in one spectacular corner of the metropolitan ‘Land-of-the-Sky’s’ far-flung and verdant expanses, along a stretch of the French Broad Gorge than flows from Marshall to Hot Springs.

Technically, Friday’s not the weekend. So after checking in at the historic Iron Horse Station; dining from their four-star continental-menu; and a minimal nighttime tour, we settle easily on our pillows to ready ourselves for an unforgettable three-day adventure.

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Early to bed is optional. Early to rise will appeal to those who want to pack in the pleasure and awe that is in store for anyone ready to dive in and swim. The Laurel River trail—whether we take the six hour round trip all the way to the French Broad and back, or amble along for half a mile or so of the five mile trail—conveys a sense of the glorious release that can attend the forest primeval. Waterfalls, gushing springs and magnificent vistas of water and mountains are everywhere. Of course, we might have elected to rent kayaks or tubes or buy a raft-bound guided tour of either the Laurel or the French Broad that drains it, but we’ll make that the plan for our return visit.

If we’ve completed the Laurel loop or if we just dipped our toe in the first couple of waterfalls, we’re about ready to freshen up and, remembering that ‘hunger is the best sauce,’ sit down to one of western North Carolina’s finest and sweetest feeding frenzies at Mountain Magnolia Inn. Executive chef Chris Brown not only fills our bellies with delicious fare, but also does so with exclusively organic, and largely local ingredients.

Hot Springs is not just a name here. When we combine the cool night air and chilly waters of Spring Creek as an aperitif, with the 102-degree magma-heated Jacuzzi of the healing waters that give the town its name, ecstasy is the likely result.

As the evening winds down, music beckons from nearby Marshall, at Good Stuff’s regular Saturday night folk fest.


Yesterday’s exertions, almost heroic, exact a cost and we have no choice but to sleep in amid the airy vistas and craggy aeries of Mountain Magnolia land. When we rise, a sumptuous brunch could start us out, but we probably elect to stuff the day even fuller of sights and adventures instead.

The rest of Hot Springs’ block-long business district invites a whirlwind crafts-and-local-products tour before we embark on the outdoors portion of the day. Bluff Mountain Outfitters, our final marketing stop, packs in lifetimes of local lore and outdoors wisdom, but the establishment also gives us reasonably priced edibles for both a breakfast on-the-go and a lunch by the river.

Checking into the Sunnybank Inn is always dangerous for those with a planned itinerary. Elmer Hall’s collection of oriental art, antique musical instruments, and the story behind family from whom Elmer bought the historic-register domicile in 1982, is enticing enough.

Assuming that we can extricate ourselves from the Zen treasures that Elmer’s place purveys, we’re now ready to experience the thrill of total immersion in the wild waters all around us. Just south of Hot Springs on Highway 209, climbing over 1,500 feet along Spring Creek’s cliffs and cascades lies the little town of Bluff.

When we turn left at the sign for the village, we find a bridge that invites us to park, which we do, and then follow the adjacent trail along the bubbling, gurgling maelstrom of Spring Creek to arrive at a complex series of pools, with four separate waterfalls and a 15-foot jump into 65-degree water. Spirits soar and childhood bliss is ours once more.

Amazingly enough—though not in the least amazing for those who trip the light fantastic regularly in these country corners—another minute and a half drive leads us to another incredible collection of art and community and culture. Azule offers guided tours of its crazy quilt facility, which serves as a teaching center, art production workshop, and community educational classroom. Camille Shafer’s French is still better than her English, even though she’s lived here for 41 years; nothing is superior to her heartfelt understanding of Appalachia and its unique crafts and culture, which she so willingly shares with those who visit.

After dinner, we could always hit the hot springs once again, or swim in the slumbers of the honestly tuckered out.


Why can’t we just stay? While such thinking is no more than childhood’s wishful thinking for the most part, we can at least leave with a flourish, before returning to the daily grind, refreshed and with our Zen batteries fully charged.

The Sunnybank breakfast will make sure that we have all the carbs and fiber necessary for the continued rigors of wild mountain wonders. Each meal at Sunnybank is a rite of community building and interpersonal bonding.

A dozen additional outdoor venues tantalize us with their alluring wares: from Dudley Falls on Paint Creek to additional sections of Spring Creek to multiple overlooks along the Appalachian Trail, which runs right through town, nature tells us that its spectacles are limitless. However, maybe we’re a little creaky. Who knew that walking really was aerobic exercise? Or maybe we just want to further fondle the hem of the local arts scene, with the uniquely authentic combination of roots culture and urbanity that inhabit these environs.

In that case, we’ll wend our way to Marshall, where Zuma coffee shop’s personally roasted blends make Starbucks seem pedestrian. We caffeinate to insure we obtain the warp speed necessary for the rest of our day.

The Island-of-Art in ‘River-City’ proves what locals and recent transplants alike say—“Art saved this town.” Passers-by will find working artists with whom to converse, each offers beauty and crafty ingenuity for sale as well. And downtown Marshall, with the brilliant designs of William Sharp Smith exemplified in the century-old neoclassical courthouse, contains several additional arts collectives along Main Street.

Time flies but we have just enough in the schedule for the quickest zip of a walking tour through downtown Asheville. We take in City Hall, the Mardi Gras-like energy of Walnut Street and end up with another cup of coffee at North Carolina’s largest independent bookstore, Malaprops.

A dinner to travel home on gives us another opportunity to revel in the local culture. We dine at the Laughing Seed Café, after the 57 beers and ales available at the Jack of the Wood Tavern whet our whistle.

The regular Sunday improvisational bluegrass session is in progress, and before we make sure that we’re sober and right in our hearts to leave, we’ll promise ourselves to come back again. ‘’The sooner the quicker,” the fiddlers, guitarists and cellists all say—these marvelous musicians welcome all and sundry to sit in and play too. Of course, we have ‘miles to go before we sleep,’ whether we exit with such a medley or not.

Even focusing our attentions as we’ve done in this rapid summation, we have barely defined the surface of the sweet and merry times that beckon to those who visit this particular portion of Asheville’s fairy-magic ‘never-never land.’ However, that itch to learn more and do it all again is what return visits are for.


James L. Hickey  is a freelance journalist living in Marshall NC. 

Types of Wine Glasses August 24 2016

types of wine glasses Bourbon & Boots

It’s that time again, time to kick off your shoes, relax, and enjoy a nice glass of wine. But did you know that the type of glass you pour it in affects the way it tastes? Not to worry, however, that you have another complicated decision to make. Here’s a simple guide to which glass to choose to make the most of your vino.

White Wine
Light bodied whites are best served in smaller bowled wine glasses that not only keep the wine cooler, but because it’s close to your nose, you can smell the delicious aromas. If it’s a full-bodied or aged white you are reaching for, a white wine glass with a larger bowl (also called a Montrachet glass) will do the trick and bring out the creamy texture.

Red Wine
Red wines are at their best when served in larger bowled wine glasses, which allows the wine to “open up” in the glass and taste smoother. Whether it’s a spicy, full-bodied red or a lighter-bodied red, the wider opening allows the wine to be at its best. Sparkling and

Dessert Wine
If it’s fancy you are in the mood for, sparkling wine flutes keep your bubbly bubbling and the taste crisp and light. For those delicious dessert wines, a port glass enhance the sweet and subtle flavors you are craving. Whichever wine and glass you choose, remember to swirl, sip, and enjoy. Cheers!


By Paula Martin
Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

How to Tell If You’re at a Southern Wedding August 24 2016 1 Comment


The wedding industry in America generates billions of dollars annually, and the South certainly has its share of extravagance. Whether your wedding was a formal affair with a sit-down dinner and dancing, or one a few close friends and family helped you organize, there are a few things Southern weddings have in common. Consider these:

Unity candle
This tradition is just a few decades old, but when Southerners start a tradition, we stick to it. Usually toward the beginning of the event, the mothers of the bride and groom light two taper candles and place in holders. Later in the ceremony, the bride and groom take the tapers and light one pillar candle, which symbolizes the joining of two families.

Sherbet punch
What do you get when you mix ginger ale with frozen concentrated juice and a half-gallon of sherbet? The most delicious punch young and old alike devour. The flavors are only limited by your imagination: orange, lime, raspberry, strawberry. Served in a cut-glass punch bowl or a dollar store plastic serving dish, it’s all good.

Half-up/half-down hair
Big hair will always be in style in the South. For the wedding day, brides, bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and even some flower girls will have artfully-arranged top knots with gently-curling tendrils falling around their shoulders. It’s a rule.

And lots and lots of it. Think bridal veil, décor, favors. If your wedding is a dream, tulle is the illusion that wraps it all up.

Butter mints and mixed nuts
You may have new fusion cuisine at your formal dinner reception and a five-tier cake, but you also will have a dish set aside just for pillowy butter mints and a scattering of pecans, peanuts, Brazil nuts and almonds. And, they will be gone by the time your guests are throwing rice.

Crying babies
Yes, someone will bring her baby. Yes, someone will tell you how good that baby is and how she just sleeps all the time. Yes, that baby will cry, most likely during the vows.

Collegiate mascot groom’s cake
We’re religious in the South, and that religion is collegiate sports. Whether you worship at the altar of Auburn or Arkansas, odds are the groom’s cake will be in the shape of or decorated like an elephant, razorback, longhorn or bulldog. If it’s not a collegiate mascot, rest assured it’ll be a chocolate-flavored hunting cake.

Speaking of religion, if you schedule your big day on game day, be prepared for your wedding party (and attendees) to be tuning in. While your wedding day is your priority, college sports always comes first in the hearts of die-hard Southerners.


Because of her love of pie, KD Reep now follows a high protein/low carb diet. When not reading up on the carb counts of groceries, Reep works at Flywrite Communications, Inc., the premier marketing communications agency of Mabelvale, Arkansas. Follow her at Flywrite Inc or on Twitter: @kdreep.

Top 10 Southern Cities For Food August 24 2016



10. Miami
Surely some will argue Miami belongs in a category all its own, but the same holds true for New Orleans. While I’d never wear my boots in Miami and I’d probably opt for beer or tequila over bourbon, Miami is riddled with options for the insatiable appetite. Home to some of the country’s most acclaimed chefs, such as Norman Van Aken and Michelle Bernstein, and with ventures by other national stars such as Daniel Boulud and soon Jose Andres. The city abounds with Cuban coffee shops, Jewish delis, and beachfront after beachfront seafood emporium. The endless supply of tourists brings out a dizzying array of choices for the adventurous food seeker. This international town has something for everyone.


9. Birmingham
Long recognized as an important Southern foodie waypoint and home to another of Southern Food’s pioneers into notoriety, Frank Stitt and his Highlands Bar and Grill. Now another generation has made James Beard’s attention, Chris Dupont of Cafe Dupont was just acknowledged on the list of preliminary nominations this year for Best Chef of the South and Chris Hastings, who has just edged out four New Orleans chefs to be named 2012 winner of James Beard Chef of the South, has been operating his Hot and Hot Fish Club for 17 years. I tried to make a stop in on my last pass through Birmingham, and, no surprise, the place was packed! I had to suffice with his cookbook and make a note to call ahead next time.


8. Memphis
Memphis has certainly joined the ranks among food towns in the South. With Gus’ world famous fried chicken and deep fried burgers at Dyer’s on Beale Street, Memphis has long done everyday grub right. When I am traveling through I ALWAYS plan my trip to allow for a stop at Las Tortugas for some home grown, hand crafted Mexican or the Germantown Commissary for smothered tamales which are the only savory thing I’ve ever had that was a sinful as a molten chocolate cake!

The recently formed Memphis Food Truck Alliance shows more than a dozen food trucks from cakes and frozen custard to tacos, barbecue and fried bologna sandwiches and a unified approach to working with the city to make it more and more food truck friendly. Memphis is much more than a barbecue town and its tight knit community of chefs has been overlooked for too long. From Felicia Willett’s Felicia Suzanne to Kelly English’s Restaurant Iris, Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer’s Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Ryan Trim’s Sweetgrass, and Acre by Wally Jo, the Memphis restaurant scene is alive and well! Come Labor Day, Memphis will become the annual home of the inaugural Cochon 555 event Heritage Barbecue.


7. Nashville
Where there’s good music, there’s usually good food. My first stop in Nashville is always the Hermitage Hotel. Not just because its five star accommodations are a swank place to make camp, but also for Tyler Brown’s fantastic representation of farmstead Southern fare, with all of its requisite humility and the attention to detail you would expect from one of the South’s finest kitchens. Then there’s Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Go, if not for the chicken, for the story! Nashville is also home to the south’s only bean to bar artisan chocolate maker, Olive & Sinclair Chocolate, a delicious and creative product made from fair trade cocoa beans imported directly to Nashville and hand crafted into bars with fun and interesting additions such as salt and black pepper. I’ve been craving more since
my first taste!

My favorite: City House, where Tandy Wilson serves up all the things I want, just the way I want them. And he’s always got some Pappy Van Winkle behind the bar.


6. Louisville
Louisville: The heart of bourbon country; home to Muth’s Candies, makers of the famous Modjeska, Shuckman’s smoked trout and paddlefish caviar, Bourbon Barrel Food’s barrel aged Kentucky soy sauce and the Hot Brown Sandwich. Louisville’s steady welcome and development of Farm to Table lifestyle has evolved into what the Zagat survey has called one of the best foodie getaways around the globe and Southern Living has listed as one of the South’s Tastiest Cities.

The chosen location for this year’s Slow Food National Congress, Louisville enjoys well developed farmers’ markets and the renowned Culinary School at Sullivan University, which come together to offer an abundance of fresh food and a great supply of talent and experience that meet in the kitchens of its many great restaurants from Kathy Cary’s Lilly’s Bistro to Edward Lee’s 610 Magnolia, Anthony Lamas’ Seviche, and Proof on Main headed by Michael Paley.


5. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill
It’s hard not to put these three towns together. I’ve lived and worked in two of them, so I feel I have license to do so. Between them they may have the highest concentration of household education in the South and these people live in these beautiful places because they enjoy life; they know their food and love their wine.

North Carolina’s Research Triangle is home to two of Southern food’s most important influences: The late Bill Neal, Founder of Crook’s Corner and La Residence, and Ben and Karen Barker, the pioneer chefs behind Durham’s venerated Magnolia Grill. This is where much of Southern Food’s momentum in celebration began–one of its first foray’s onto the white table cloth. From their guidance, and through the demand of the reasonably affluent and educated population, a robust creative energy has taken form that is now being led by Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Raleigh), Andrea Reusing (Lantern, Chapel Hill) and Bill Smith (Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill). Feeling a little more casual? Mama Dip’s Kitchen is a landmark “meat and three,” Allen and Son Barbecue defines Carolina style, and Foster’s Market and A Southern Season offer great food markets for shopping and a place to eat.


4. Atlanta
Decades ago, Atlanta was known for its infamous traffic and an after hours downtown combat zone; more likely to be on a list for urban growth and community evolution. Now in 2012, with a robust urban living scene and thriving mid town, Atlanta saw not only one chef named Best Chef Southeast, but two. One of them, Hugh Acheson (of Empire State South) justifiably implies Atlanta’s designation as the cultural and commercial capital of the South. Linton Hopkins’ limited edition burger at his gastropub, Holeman & Finch Public House, may be the most sought after bite in America, It’s certainly mine: two griddled patties with American cheese and shaved red onion on a homemade bun with homemade ball park mustard, ketchup and hand cut fries. Only 24 are served each night at 10 PM, to be sure every one is just right.

Atlanta has become a hotbed of chef-owned restaurants and a downright difficult dinner choice, even over the longest of weekends. And to kick things up a notch, the hand crafted cocktail scene is just as robust. My last visit to Atlanta left me thinking that house-made charcuterie, pickles and preserves with an impressive list of culinary cocktails and selected concoctions were requisite to join the scene. I’m hoping to get back to Anne Quatrano’s Bacchanalia and Abattoir, Linton Hopkins’ Restaurant Eugene and Kevin Rathbun’s Rathbun’s.


3. Houston
So good is the Houston food scene that one journalist suggested it may have become the tourist attraction that the city otherwise lacked. With a cultural foundation in regional East Texas and Gulf Coast influences while drawing upon the rich ethnic mix that might be expected of America’s 4th largest city, Houston’s food scene offers an abundance of food trucks, small cultural eateries and a cutting edge approach to establishments of all levels. With five restaurants earning the Zagat survey’s highest rating of 29 (Japanese, Vietnamese, New American, Northern Italian and a steakhouse!) and a joint specializing in sliders and wine, Houston has fully come on to the scene.

Great food is not entirely new to Houston. James Beard award winner, Robert Del Grande, predates the Food Network in shaping contemporary southwest cuisine, and the new garde includes Bryan Caswell (Reef, Stella Sola, Little Bigs), Marco Wiles (Dolce Vita) and Hugo Ortega (Hugo’s).


2. Charleston
She-crab soup and shrimp and grits! Stewarded since the late 70‘s by Chef Louis Osteen, and later, Bob Waggoner, Charleston’s South Carolina Low Country Cuisine has long been an obvious destination for seafood. But more and more, Charleston is becoming known for heirloom produce and resurrecting long forgotten ingredients. The low country classics have settled into a foundation for the new generation, to not only celebrate that heritage, but to look deeper into regionalism beyond the seafood. Charleston, whose cuisine is often likened to a hybrid of interior southern fare and the soulful Creole repertoire of New Orleans, is one of America’s great food towns with a long roster of noteworthy Chefs and restaurants to show it.

Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady’s, Mike Lata of Fig, and Craig Deihl at Cypress are all James Beard acknowledged craftsman. And the list goes on…


1. New Orleans
Perfectly at home in a list of the world’s great cities, the Crescent City is simply the South’s greatest food destination. Home to one of our country’s original celebrity chefs, Paul Prudhomme and our country’s most celebrated chef, Emeril Lagasse and America’s first family of restaurants, the Brennan’s, at whose Commander’s Palace both Paul and Emeril made their names. New Orleans may not have the best of global cuisines, but it has a thing all its own. From Cafe Du Monde’s beignets and Sno-Bliz snowballs to its finest restaurants, New Orleans’ food scene is laced together with soul. The Louisiana bounty from which Cajun and Creole Cuisines find their way into the heart of New Orleans is fresh and abundant. What it lacks in coffee-table-book photogenic, it more than makes up for in deliberate, soulful manipulation. Don’t worry about fuss in this town that’s long forgotten financial riches; it more than makes up for it on the spiritual side.


 After taking the conventional path of attaining a Psychology degree from the University of Colorado, Richardson went to New Orleans to follow his heart into the exotic world of restaurants. Declining the opportunity to attend the Culinary Institute of America; Richardson elected to embark on a traditional apprenticeship as a prep cook in world-renown chef, Emeril Lagasse’s French Quarter restaurant, NOLA.
With so many culinarians waiting in line at Emeril’s restaurants, Richardson accepted an invitation to join legendary Hotel Chef Kevin Graham (the Savoy, The Royal Orleans, the Sagamore and the Windsor Court Hotel), in an avant garde restaurant bearing his name, Graham’s. Ironically, it was during his tenure with Graham that Richardson had his first brush with another budding chef who would be his most important professional influence, John Besh.
Richardson had the opportunity to round out his veritable “Who’s Who” of New Orleans chefs with a stint at Anne Kearney’s award-winning Peristyle and another partnership with Graham before a multi-year sojourn to North Carolina. Ten years later he would finally reunite with John Besh ultimately becoming Chef d’Cuisine at Besh’s celebrated Restaurant August. It was to be Richardson’s last stop before Hurricane Katrina occasioned his apotheosis at The Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. He recently left that position is now pursuing new opportunities.

Lee is also a contributor and all around southern culinary guru to Bourbon & Boots.

Top Ten Movies Set In The South August 24 2016

Hardly one of them will make you wanna pack your bags and move here, but that’s not the point. Each of these movies accurately displays some important aspect of true southern life.

There Are Those Of Us That Love It: An Ode to War Memorial Stadium August 24 2016

Red Sox fans, historically the dark narcissists of baseball, have Fenway Park to bitch and boo in. North Shore types in Chicagoland will continue to hoist Old Styles in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field even when the Cubs are 10 games back in September. Which happens with some frequency. Packer fans like my late friend Hugh will take the pilgrimage to Green Bay during the off-season just to see Lambeau Field with their own eyes. Because there sure ain’t no way in hell to get tickets to a Packers game. And some wag once memorably described Saturday night at Clemson (pronounced, of course, “Clempson”) as “the world’s largest open air Klan rally.” Sacred venues of jockdom all.

Me? I have Little Rock’s own War Memorial Stadium to sustain me. To paraphrase Daniel Webster upon Dartmouth College, it is a small place but there are those of us that love it. Let me count the ways.

War Memorial is a tiny bandbox of a stadium situated next to hallowed and historic War Memorial Golf Course, a municipal track upon which many have said goats would look on with approval. I actually kind of like playing out there. But still. What can you say about a golf course they let you park RVs on before the game?

A couple of days prior to a Razorback game the golfers are banned only to be replaced by folks cooking barbeque next to the Winnebago, young men taking beer bong hits and drunken college girls in stiletto heels, adorned in less fabric than you could wad a shotgun with who have stumbled down Van Buren Street in their stiletto heels. The old golf course is a lot of fun during a Razorback football weekend—but Augusta National it is not.

War Memorial Stadium was big stuff back in the day when the Arkansas Razorbacks played in the old Southwest Conference. This was before Frank Broyles, who at that time still reigned supreme over all things Pig Sooey, renovated Razorback Stadium up in Fayetteville, thereby washing his hands of War Memorial Stadium and, well, Little Rock. Now the Hogs deign to appear only twice a year on Markham Street and generally never when they play anybody good. Yes, I know they are playing Ole Miss down there this year, and I stand by my earlier remarks.

The first college football game I ever saw was at War Memorial with my dad and my brother Dave. Arkansas was playing the Aggies of Texas A&M. I’m guessing 1965. I had purchased a set of binoculars from the TG&Y store on Base Line Road for the occasion. When I gazed upon the chiseled visage of Gene Stallings it was like peering at the face of Jehovah God who had to be all of 32 at the time. Little did I know that years later I would also see Satan Incarnate made manifest on the same field in the bodies of Mick Jagger and Lou Holtz.

On that night, we sat in the North bleachers with our backs to the Hillcrest neighborhood where I would eventually reside. I could have hardly suspected, given my tender age, that in 20 years I would be roughly in that same spot in the North bleachers nursing a coke that had been heavily fortified by amber liquid while the Hogs annihilated Vanderbilt.

Memories? Boy do I have memories. I remember the lights on the West side CATCHING ON FIRE during the Kentucky game, which didn’t exactly serve to diminish the opinion held by some that War Memorial Stadium was a dump. I remember a pre-game flyover by a stealth bomber that set off home security systems and car alarms across a two-mile perimeter of the joint.

I took a friend’s 8 year-old to his first Razorback game at War Memorial. If I live to be a hundred I will never forget little Spencer’s amazement when the Hogs came out to run through the Big “A” formed by the band.

“There they are!” Spencer yelled. “Just like you said!” Just like I said.

I generally have no problem getting tickets for Little Rock Razorback games. I usually just stand in Van Buren Street as the game day traffic heads down to the stadium with 2 fingers aloft. Somebody always has tickets to get rid of. On one particular game day a car stopped. The window went down. A lady gave me 2 dollars and drove off. I decided after that experience that I needed to check my look if I was being confused for a panhandler.

I remember freezing out there with my friend Richard back when it got cold in October. I remember watching Razorback games with my friends when I was at Tulane. The telecasts invariably started with a shot of the tower at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church as the announcer said “Welcome to War Memorial Stadium in beautiful Little Rock, Arkansas.” The aesthetes that I hung with in those days were in general agreement that Little Rock, indeed, looked like a nice place—at least from the Goodyear blimp.

Speaking of Louisiana, I have witnessed with my own grateful eyes the LSU Tigers losing 4 times in War Memorial Stadium. The most improbable of these victories was in 2002 when rag armed Hog quarterback Matt Jones inexplicably drove them 80 something yards through the air with 34 seconds to play culminating with a 31 yard TD strike to Decori Birmingham with 9 seconds left. There is no truth to the rumor that Nick Saban had his defensive backs shot in the locker room afterwards.

Another of those LSU beatdowns at War Memorial coincided with the Tulane Green Wave somehow going undefeated that particular season, which probably changed the gravitational constant of the universe. Naturally, I was wearing my Tulane stuff out there on that fine autumn day in an apparent attempt on my part at suicide by Tiger fan. A drunken gentleman that had modestly dyed his hair purple and gold offered me his hand as we were leaving.

“I give credit where credit is due, Greenie,” he said. “Undefeated is undefeated. Congratulations, mah bah.

This, I believe, is the only expression of sportsmanship ever displayed by an LSU fan in the long and bumptious history of Tiger football. And it happened at War Memorial.

No, things aren’t the same down at the old ballyard. War Memorial is more the home of the Catholic High School for Boys than it is the home of the Razorbacks. They have spruced up the old gal now. They have improved the press box and locker rooms. Women no longer fear staph infections in the ladies’ rooms. Hell, the lights haven’t ignited in years.

But some things haven’t changed. Kids still learn to drive cars and ride bikes on the East parking lot as they have done since 1946. The Razorbacks still condescend to visit their old stomping grounds occasionally despite the fact that most of the evidence of their existence has been scrubbed away except the generic “ARKANSAS” in both end zones. Golfers continue to finish up their rounds in the shadow of the old stadium.

And on certain Friday nights the Catholic High Rockets take on their larger and more secularized foes down there. My friend’s kid now rocks the Purple and Gold. Spencer will burst through the cheerleaders’ “run through” from the same entrance where he, as a delighted little boy, once saw the Arkansas Razorbacks hit the field years ago. Only now I will be there to take pictures of him and his teammates.

Down on the field at War Memorial Stadium. Not too far from my little house in Hillcrest. On a Friday night in good old Little Rock.

And it will feel like home to me.


Arthur Paul Bowen is a lawyer and writer who lives in what he calls the “People’s Republic of Hillcrest” in Little Rock. He may also be found on his blog, The Moving Finger Writes.

History of the Old Fashioned: Cognac vs. Bourbon August 23 2016

The first time I made an old fashioned was in the fall of 2002. I had just moved to Nashville, Tenn., and had my first bartending job downtown on the strip. I was instructed by an older, more well-seasoned bartender to: drop a couple of brightly colored cherries, an orange slice, a pack of sugar, and some Angostura bitters into a glass; squish it with a muddler; top it with ice and bourbon; and call it a day.

Little did I know that I would come to make thousands of Old Fashioned Cocktails in my lifetime, nor did I realize that first version I was taught was not only not very “old fashioned,” but historically was nowhere near close to “old fashioned.”

“Water, Spirit, Bitters, Sugar…” has become the mantra of many bartenders during this recent cocktail renaissance. It is also the original, simple recipe for the Old Fashioned.

In the early and mid 19th century, where the drinker lived geographically would likely dictate what spirit was used in his or her cocktail. For example, New Yorkers had a great deal of rye whiskey being produced in the northeast, and gin available through relatively steady European trade. The French influence in the delta port of New Orleans ensured Cognac flowed throughout the Deep South and all the way up the Mississippi River. To this day, Wisconsinites are notoriously dedicated to their brandy Old Fashioned consumption.

In the late 19th century, a parasite called Phylloxera wiped out the French grapes used to make Cognac, leaving the South in dire need of a replacement. This sudden demand for spirits led to an influx of rye whiskey in traditionally brandy-based cocktails, and would also lead to the development and popular rise of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. The bourbon cocktail was then born, leading to perhaps the most modern Southern interpretation of this popular, versatile beverage. Here are two simple, classic recipes for a proper Old Fashioned using Cognac or bourbon.

Cognac Old Fashioned

2.5 ounces VS (Very Special) or VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) Cognac
1 to 2 sugar cubes
1 bar spoon of water (about a teaspoon)
3 to 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 wide orange peel for garnish
Standard bar ice
1 chunk ice

In a mixing glass, add the sugar cubes first, then the water, then the bitters. Use a bar spoon to stir these ingredients into a nice syrup. Add Cognac. Stir vigorously without ice until last of sugar begins to dissolve. Add bar ice and stir for 30 seconds. Put your nice large chunk of ice into an Old Fashioned glass, and strain the cocktail over it. Garnish with wide orange peel by twisting over the glass, and running around the rim. Place the peel on top of the ice and enjoy.

Modified Bourbon Old Fashioned

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Standard bar ice
1 chunk of ice
1 wide lemon peel

Combine the bourbon, Apricot Liqueur and bitters in a mixing glass with standard bar ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain over a large chunk of ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with 1 wide lemon peel. Enjoy.

 David Burnette, currently working as a mixologist at the Capital Hotel and Natchez Restaurant in Little Rock, Ark., oddly enough grew up in a very dry county in north Arkansas. He discovered his passion for cocktail creation in 2003, and has since had recipes published in several notable publications.

Nature’s Candy: Sweet Peach Recipes August 23 2016

Given that August is National Peach Month, it seems only natural to have the song “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America running through my head … “Millions of peaches, peaches for me.” Everywhere you turn, there seem to be gorgeous peaches for sale—at farmers markets, roadside stands, and your corner Piggly...

    Top Ten Southern Pies and Cobblers August 23 2016


    No matter where southerners gather – holidays, family reunions, tailgating – food is the acknowledged center of the event and no greater pride of place exists than that given to The Dessert Table. Diners pass by the tempting choices, elbowing each other and exchanging knowing smiles while whispering the names of the bakers. Pies, especially, prompt both feelings of comfort while holding a certain mystery, as fewer people make homemade pies. Here, I consider the pies and cobblers that best represent southern home bakers and the events at which they display their specialties.


    10. Mississippi Mud

    Its name most surely derives from the muddy color of its velvety pudding layer. It always has a crumb shell, usually made from chocolate wafers. This shell is then filled with layers of chocolate pudding and whipped cream. It’s a popular go-to-choice for potlucks.


    9. Key Lime

    This Floridian original dessert has an international following. It usually consists of a graham cracker crust, filled with a tart filling made with eggs, sugar, key lime juice, zest, and sweetened condensed milk. Dollops of sweetened whipped cream around the rim serve as garnish and balance for the tartness. If you’ve only ever experienced the frozen or wholesale variety, please, grab some key limes and start squeezing!


    8. Lemon Meringue

    It’s difficult to imagine an Easter dinner without a lemon meringue pie. Although it can be eaten throughout the year, it just looks like springtime, with its bright yellow, not-too-tart filling. Then, there’s the majesty of the meringue: a baker’s pride.



    7. Coconut Cream

    Here, I’m referring to that southern classic with a smooth vanilla custard filling, laced with finely grated coconut and topped with a feathery meringue, accented with bits of toasted coconut. It’s really a little slice of heaven on a plate.



    6. Buttermilk

    The key ingredient alone merits this pie a place on any list of southern specialties. We soak our chicken in it, we use it to make biscuits, and it earns its place on the dessert table in this pie. Surprisingly sweet, this pie is rich and dense, with a beautiful golden, almost- crisp top that forms during baking. It holds a special place in the heart of Texans, where recipes for buttermilk pie are handed down through generations.


    5. Peach Cobbler/Pie

    Peaches and summer cannot be separated in the memories of my Louisiana childhood. Sweet juice dripping down my arm as I stood in the East Feliciana orchard of our annual pilgrimage and sampled a fresh peach. Memories and ingredients are both stirred as I cook down peach slices, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and butter. Sweet peaches, a middle layer of crust, heavy–like the humid air of the south– and saturated with peach flavor, another layer of fruit, and a crisp buttery, flaky top crust. Have mercy, and goodness, make sure you’re sitting down, or at least, holding onto something, as you eat it.


    4. Blackberry Cobbler/Pie

    Each year, picking peaches only occupied one day of my childhood summers, but picking blackberries and dewberries seems to my memory an almost daily occurrence. Blackberries are the perfectly southern-paced fruit of the south. It was a time-consuming task just to pick and wash the berries. Mama rolled homemade pastry into her pale green 1956 Pyrex dish. Sweet juicy berries, topped with another layer of pastry and then the agonizing wait as it baked. Satisfaction—and summer– in a bowl.

    3. Chess

    Sometimes confused with buttermilk pie, this southern staple is distinguished from other custard pies by the inclusion of cornmeal. This pie can sometimes be found in chocolate or lemon varieties. Simple ingredients, simple method, simple goodness.

    2. Sweet Potato

    The sweet potato is another one of those ingredients we southerners really own. Its nobility is never more recognizable than when it makes up the filling of sweet potato pie. While pumpkin holds a special place in the heart for many across the nation during the holidays, it is sweet potato pie that is usually expected at the southern holiday table.

    1. Pecan

    There seemed no other choice for the top slot on this list. The pecan belongs to the south and can be found in many of our dishes. Too rich for everyday fare, this is the stuff of holidays and family gatherings and everyone expects it. Corn syrup, sugar, vanilla, and eggs form a rich, sweet filling, topped with pecans that toast as the pie bakes. While different regions of the south may disagree over the pronunciation (pe-CAN or PUH-con), we all agree that this pie earns favored status on our dessert table.

    All rich and satisfying, these pies all hold a special place in our southern memories and on the tables where we gather.

    Author Terri Duhon is The Pie Belle.

    To Quench The Devil’s Thirst August 23 2016

    See Our Unique Whiskey Stills

    When I was young and had potential, way back years ago before I had gotten all beaten down by life, I was a Legal Services lawyer over in Forrest City, Arkansas, a town in the Arkansas Delta that is named for you-know-who. The guy who pretty much founded the Klan.

    Anyway, before I passed the Arkansas bar exam, I mainly did administrative hearings that paralegals often handled. In that august capacity, I represented a lot of folks in disability hearings before the Social Security Administration’s Office of Hearings and Appeal.

    It was during those days that I represented an African American gentleman who had filed for disability based upon rapid onset blindness. If I recall his testimony correctly, he claimed that he basically woke up one day not being able to see. SSA’s doctors who reviewed his file naturally didn’t believe his story and denied his claim.

    The Administrative Law Judge that heard his case sent it back for more medical evidence. The ALJ told me after the hearing that if my guy was faking it, he was doing a damn good job of it, but he needed to make a better record of his condition. And as it turned out, they sent him to a black ophthalmologist there in Forrest City. A few weeks later the eye doctor gave me a call.

    “Your man is definitely not faking it, “the doctor said. “I suspected that when I saw his address on the chart. “

    “How so?” I asked.

    “Wellllllllllll, I grew up around here so I know that your client livesover in the bottoms by the L’Anguille River. Those old boys have been making whiskey down there since I was little. I confronted the patient about this and he fessed up to it.”

    “My grandfather was a moonshiner,” I said. “I never heard of moonshine making you blind. Can it do that to you?”

    “It can if you make it in an old truck radiator like he was doing. It’s the benzene in the anti-freeze. It can make you blind as a bat.”

    Like I told the good doctor, my grandfather Paul Bivens made moonshine. His still was back in the woods behind the barn on their little farm in Cleburne County. As I understand it, he was a pretty important guy up there during the administration of Orville Faubus. And the local politicians offered Grandpa Bivens’s product to folks in order to get them to vote right.

    My grandmother, Johnny Esther Bivens, didn’t hold with drinking. The kindest woman on the face of the planet, she evidently tolerated things she could not change. But she was a tea totaling Baptist. And she was shrewd. Despite being married to the meanest son of a bitch in the county, she meant to put a stop to Grandpa’s side business.

    So, after she set her mind against it, she started sneaking into the woods behind the barn. Whenever the coast was clear she would pour water she had drawn up from the well into the batch that was percolating in Grandpa’s still. She did this whenever she suspected that he was up to his surreptitious alchemy.

    After repeated batches of inventory wouldn’t “make,” he gave up his part time business. Paul Bivens thought he had lost his touch. He also accepted Jesus around this time thereby doubling down on his new path of moral rectitude. But to his dying day he had no idea that

    Grandmother Bivens had been spiking his whiskey with water from the well. Or at least that’s the story I have been told.

    And while making whiskey was certainly illegal and arguably immoral, at least the booze manufactured by Paul Bivens back in the woods in Cleburne County never struck anybody blind.

    He had that going for him.

    Arthur Paul Bowen is a lawyer and writer who lives in what he calls the “People’s Republic of Hillcrest” in Little Rock. He may also be found on his blog, The Moving Finger Writes.

    BREAKING NEWS: College Football Fans Like To Eat August 23 2016

    Of course, that is not really news to anyone living below the Mason-Dixon line. We all know fans who happily bleed orange and blue or red and black. Some even bleed purple and gold. But the one thing we all have in common is our love of good food, and maybe even a beverage or...

    On the Grill: Smoking With Wood Chips August 23 2016

    I love to explore the south through food — we all can share so many wonderful foods and heritage techniques that bring us together as a region. However, when you begin to more closely examine the region, you will find it’s the slight variations that truly make the south special. I find that the best...

    Strong Southern Women We Love Right Now August 23 2016

    Amanda Shires
    Singer/Songwriter and Fiddler Amanda Shires is Texas born and raised and a force to be reckoned with. Not one to let listeners escape their daily lives, instead through her songs she challenges us to look closely, dig deeply, and love fiercely.
    Vivian Howard
    From rural North Carolina, Chef Vivian Howard grew up on a hog and tobacco farm. After college and living in New York, she returned to her roots to open her award-winning restaurant (Chef and the Farmer). The mother of twins, she shows us that being true to who we are is the greatest strength of all.

    Alexis Weeks
    2016 Pole Vaulting Olympiad Alexis “Lexi” Weeks is from Cabot, Arkansas. Just nineteen years old, Lexi finished her freshman year at the University of Arkansas with three clearances over 15 feet and undefeated. Lexi shows the world with grace and strength what it looks like to glide high over obstacles.

    Jesmyn Ward
    From Mississippi, author Jesmyn Ward has been called “fearless and toughly lyrical” by The Library Journal. Her award-winning novels are drawn from her own experiences and life, urging us to, with a strong will and a soft heart, learn from our own lives and those of the ones we love.
    Who are some other Strong Southern Women you love right now? Let us know in the comments.

    By Paula Martin
    Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

    Johnny Cash: From Country Boy To Country Legend August 23 2016

    There was a time when country music singers were known for rhinestone encrusted jump suits, tall boots and big cowboy hats. Maybe these fashion faux pas were a way to help people escape their everyday lives, a marketing ploy to glamorize the genre so closely associated with heartache and hard work. Whatever the reason, Johnny Cash wasn’t buying into it.

    Cash was three in 1935, when his father, Ray, moved the family to the Dyess, Arkansas, agricultural colony set up by the Roosevelt administration’s farm program. Forget any romantic notions about the Great Depression. Little Johnny wasn’t pickin’ and grinnin’ on the front porch. Farming the “black gumbo” of Northeastern Arkansas was hard work, pure and simple. 20-acres of cotton and other seasonal crops were farmed by hand by the Cash family, including all seven children.

    It was the Depression and Cash was, by all accounts, greatly affected by the sights and sounds of his home in Dyess: The weathered faces of hard men, the strength of the women in the community, the sounds of railroads nearby, and the constant buzz of work on the farm. Cash’s own website says that, “He absorbed these sounds like sponge absorbs water.” It cites the songs “Pickin’ Time”, “Five Feet High and Rising”, and “Look at Them Beans” as drawing inspiration from Cash’s early Arkansas years.

    Sure, Cash went far in his career, but his roots were firmly entrenched in that fertile Northeast Arkansas soil. Arkansas State University Heritage Sites Director Dr. Ruth A. Hawkins has a long history in preserving culturally significant sites in the state including the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott, the Lakeport Plantation in Lake Village, and the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza. Plans are underway to preserve the childhood home of Johnny Cash and the town center of Dyess to create a tourist destination where people can learn about the region, its agricultural history and the music of Cash. In fact, several music festivals have been held with the support of Cash’s family to raise funds for the Dyess project, including the most recent one on Sunday, February 26, honoring Johnny Cash on what would have been his 80th birthday.

    “The Cash family has bought into this project because it’s the real deal,” Hawkins said. “This will be an authentic restoration, with Johnny Cash’s family representing every one of the Dyess Colony families who pulled themselves up by their boot straps.”

    Throughout his career, Cash was seen as both an outlaw and a philosopher. It is reported that Cash chose to wear somber clothing to remember the downtrodden, the incarcerated and the forgotten.

    In 1971, he penned “The Man in Black” to explain his image:

    I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
    Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
    I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
    But is there because he’s a victim of the times.
    I wear the black for those who never read,
    Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
    About the road to happiness through love and charity,
    Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

    Reviewing the 2008, book “Johnny Cash and Philosophy: The Burning Ring of Truth” by John Huss and David Werther, punk musician John Langford, wrote:

    Johnny Cash was the Man in Black, the philosopher-prince of American country music, and it’s about time we had a book that takes a serious look at his life and work and the many layers of its meaning. Around him, gutted terms like decency, honesty, and truth retain some of their intended meaning, and in a country that fears self-criticism above all else, he holds a mirror up to the white bland wide rotten hide.

    Long live the memory of the “philosopher prince of American country music” and here’s to the visionaries at ASU working to preserve a slice of the Johnny Cash story. See ya in Dyess soon, Cash fans.

    The official Johnny Cash Website
    The Johnny Cash PhilosophyBook
    Arkansas State University
    Wikipedia: Johnny Cash  – Is a great springboard into other articles, information, and a fantastic live overview.

    The South’s Strangest Drinking Laws August 23 2016

    Did you know it’s illegal to chug a beer while standing up in Texas. Stick to sipping or sit down there, chugger. And over in Oklahoma, they’re nice enough to keep certain beers at room temperature. Presumably to keep you from overdoing it on all of those pre-chilled cans. (Dear beer drinker, I can’t trust you. Sincerely, Oklahoma.) Over in Alabama, they won’t tolerate “immodest or sensuous” images on their wine bottles. How does one apply for the Prude Patrol wine-bottle inspector position, Alabama? I’d be perfect for that job.

    Outside of the South, Ohio has made it illegal to serve alcohol to fish … because that’s a problem. And Colorado has legislated drinking on horseback. This is to protect the horses, more than anything, y’all. They’re out there crashing into each other because of these irresponsible … riders. But texting while on horseback is fine. Oh, and Massachusetts has no happy hours. (Not even at Sonic!?!)

    Has anyone ever been arrested for this stuff? We’re thinking no. But it’s still fun to read through these laws and wonder why they exist. 

    Top Ten Underrated Southern Cities August 23 2016 1 Comment

    underrate southern cities marfa little rock


    Marfa, TX

    You have to really want to get to Marfa. It’s pretty unlikely you’ll stumble on it wandering around southwestern Texas. Movies like Giant and No Country For Old Men have used the rustric, iconic scenery as backdrops. Artists, chefs, and other creative-types make pilgrimages to this hot, dusty, little city. Don’t forget about the Marfa Mystery Lights–as if we didn’t already know that Texans are aliens.


    Staunton, VA

    Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, Staunton (drop the “u” when pronouncing it), has 2 claims to fame. As the birthplace of our 28th President, Woodrow Wilson, it hosts a museum including the 1918 Pierce-Arrow limo he used after negotiating the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. You’ll also find the American Shakespeare Center and its re-creation of London’s Blackfriars Playhouse complete with authentic staging techniques.


    Clarksdale, MS

    The Mississippi Delta is home to a lot of things great tamales, third world poverty, and amazing music. Clarksdale is home of the infamous crossroads, where blues legend Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play the guitar. More recently, it has had actor Morgan Freeman open a blues club called Ground Zero blues club. Worth an overnight trip, multiple places to stay including the Shack Up Inn that is defintely worth a stop.


    Oxford, MS

    North of Clarksdale, you will find another underrated town, Oxford, MS. Oxford is home to the University of Mississippi. Several notables call Oxford home (or at least own a condo there), such as Eli Manning, Archie Manning, and novelist John Grisham. Downtown Oxford is home to several great restaurants and a very famous bookstore, Square Books. Oxford deserves mention among great college towns in the South and the US.

    Richmond, VA

    Obviously the largest city on our list, this Southern city was once the capital of the South and doesn’t seem to get its due consideration. You will find all the trappings of a great Southern city in Richmond, historical societies, civil war markers, great architecture, and most importantly great food.


    Boone, NC

    Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, Boone is the home of Appalachian State University. Boone is a beautiful mountain town with all the outdoor activities you would expect like rafting, hiking, and even snow skiing in nearby Banner Elk. Boone also has a great bluegrass music scene.


    Dauphin Island, AL

    Located on the world famous Redneck Riviera, Daulphin Island is a beautiful island south of Mobile. Great food, great fishing, and great beaches. Worth a trip if you are driving over to Gulf Shores or Destin.


    Bardstown, KY

    Kentucky’s second oldest city and Bourbon Capitol of the World. Bardstown is to bourbon as Napa Valley is to wine. Makers Mark, Jim Beam, and many other distilleries are open for tours and tastings.


    Murrells Inlet, SC

    South of Mrytle Beach lies fishing village Murrells Inlet. It is allegedly where hushpuppies were invented. It’s also where the famous pirate Blackbeard would stash his treasure. Steeped in history and beauty, Murrells Inlet is flying under the radar and we hope it will stay that way.


    Fact or Myth? Oysters In Months with the Letter "R" August 22 2016

    oysters in months with r

    Have you ever heard the advice that you should only eat oysters in months that contain the letter “R?” That means these warm summer months – May, June, July and August – are traditionally off limits. Today, we’re breaking down the myth, and giving you the facts about when is the best time to eat oysters.


    The Myth
    The myth of avoiding saw oysters during the summer months stems from a few dated practices in the oyster harvesting industry, long before oysters were farmed year round as they are now. For starters, oysters traditionally reproduce in the warmer summer months, so the harvesting season was official closed back in the day so that the oysters had time to spawn. Also, during that spawning time, oysters tend to be more soft and rank as they are preparing for reproduction. Lastly, pre-refrigeration in that is available in modern times, it wasn’t safe to eat raw seafood that had been sitting out on docks during warmer summer months.


    The Facts
    Do we still need to be weary of oysters in months that don’t include an “R?” The short answer is no, feel free to enjoy oysters year round.

    Here’s why:

    • Oyster farms in cooler water, such as in the Northeastern US, can farm oysters year round.
    • Modern science has produced new breeds of oysters farmed in warmer regions that don’t spawn in the summer, and therefore maintain their taste and texture.
    • There are not processes in place to protect consumers, and monitor water quality for oysters are farmed.
    • We have better food safety practices that requires oysters to be refrigerated immediately upon coming out of the water.


    What months actually are the best to eat oysters?
    Although we know it is fine and safe to enjoy oysters year round, they do traditionally tend to taste better in the fall and winter, than summer. Many experts say September and October are their favorite time to enjoy raw oysters, when they are more plump and sweet.  That means prime oyster season is right around the corner. Time to get shucking!


    By Lindsey Castrodale
    Lindsey Castrodale is an Southern-loving girl living in a digital world. Arkansas born and raised, she can often be found in front of a bowl of cheese dip, chip-in-hand, while documenting on Instagram. Little Rock, AR is the Cheese Dip Capital of the World, after all. 



    Boiled Alive - What Would Be Your Death Row Meal ? August 22 2016


    CLICK HERE: Unique Low Country Boil & Shucker Utensils

    They don’t serve beer on Death Row.

    I know this not from personal experience but because, having spent a good bit of my life in and around New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I think about food. A lot. So I’ve given a lot of thought to the question “If you were on Death Row, what would be your last meal?”

    My last meal would, without a doubt, be hot, spicy boiled crawfish and cold beer. But the State apparently wants its inmates sober before they kill them, hence the prohibition on alcohol in the Big House. And hence my quandary: Anywhere else, my last meal would be accompanied by beer. But Angola or Parchman? Barq’s Root Beer.

    Crawfish – or ecrevisse, as you’ll see on many fancy menus – are kin to lobsters. They are, therefore, delicious. The meat is firm, but delicate. The texture is softer than shrimp, and the flavor more subtle. They can be sautéed, fried… pretty much any way you’d cook a shrimp. But boiling is the best and by far most popular.

    A crawfish boil is my most favorite social gathering. Geno Delafose (or Dave Matthews) is playing. The weather is cooperating. The sun is dipping. Friends are standing around a piece of sawhorse-propped plywood with the Times-Picayune as a table cloth, laughing, eating, drinking, bonhomie and gustatory bliss pervading.

    The preparation for a crawfish boil is as enjoyable to me as the actual eating. Icing the drinks, quartering the onions and lemons, separating the garlic, tending the fire, spicing the boil (the water), prepping the accouterments, all with a trusted friend or two. A huge (around 80 quarts) boiling pot with a mesh basket is hoisted atop a propane cooker that, when lit, sounds like a jet fighter. It takes some time for all that water to come to a boil. Generally, around 1.25 beers. Your pace may vary, depending on your burner. And your beer.

    You can buy pre-mixed solid/granulated spice mixes, liquid boil, or make your own. Deanie’s Seafood in Bucktown, New Orleans, mixes and sells their own dry spice mix and it is perfection. Now that I live a day’s drive from New Orleans, I settle with—and augment—Zatarain’s. Their 63-ounce jar (think of the biggest Skippy Peanut Butter jar. Now think bigger) will last a couple of boils. There are plenty of recipes out there, but my advice and practice is to add to them… salt and spice. The first batch is the test batch. You want it enjoyably spicy and salty, but the crustaceans will absorb some of the spices. So you need to add to subsequent batches. Whatever amount of spice I use on the first batch, I tend to add about 1/5-1/4 that amount to the second, slightly less to the third, etc. up to about the fourth batch.

    “According to taste” is never more true than in a crawfish boil. They are hot—pepper hot. They are salty. If they’re not, you’ve done something wrong. People react differently to spicy crawfish (and other foods). I have friends who sweat on their foreheads or down their backs or get slightly out of breath. Me? I know they’re hot enough when my nose runs. But this is not a bad thing. If you don’t like spicy foods, you should not have started reading this.

    To the crawfish and spice, you must add… things. Things that not only add taste, but are also eaten with the crawfish. I feel that the must-haves are onions, potatoes, corn, sausage and garlic. I have seen an amazing assortment of other… things… added, including broccoli, mushrooms, olives, boiled eggs, hot dogs, carrots, cauliflower. One of life’s sublime pleasures is to take a “foot” or pod of garlic that has been boiled with crawfish and smoosh it out onto a saltine cracker. It is almost better than sex.

    To accompany the spice, it is necessary to have cold drinks. Soft drinks and water, but also beer. I’m a beer snob. I prefer a nicely crafted and tasty IPA or pale ale. But for a crawfish boil, you want your basic Bud or Miller Lite. They will be consumed in quantities. Not sipped, but slugged to counter the spice. I will admit that when I throw a crawfish boil, I stash a few tasty beers for my most special attendees, and for myself for dessert.

    And dessert… I’m not a big dessert eater, but a little sumpin’ sweet will counter the pepper on the palate; your guests will appreciate it. When I lived in New Orleans, a White Russian from a nearby drive-through daiquiri shop was definitely the icing for afters.

    By the time the first batch is ready, I have “sampled” sufficiently that I’m not starving. So while I might naturally envy my guests when 40 lbs of hot, steaming crustaceans are spread before them, I don’t mind stepping back to admire my work on the table, and then putting the pot back on to boil for the next batch. And watching my guests tuck in and get their hands dirty and their bellies full… that’s just lagniappe. The “early shift” will tire soon enough and back away from the mounds of emptied shells on the table. I’ll sidle in and shell and eat a few pounds (maybe even peeling a few for pretty girl who’s never tried them), by which time the second batch is ready to go in the boiling water. And the cycle begins again: “Pick the biggest crawfish in the pile. Shell. Eat. Repeat.”

    Practical Notes: Figure between 2-4 lbs of live crawfish for each guest, depending on their appetites and what other food is served. To counter the aroma after peeling and eating crawfish, rinse your hands with fresh cut lemons. Or toothpaste. Peeling crawfish… it’s not as hard as you think. Snap the head from the body, squeeze the head into your mouth and suck the juices (yes, do this), grasp the tail between your thumb and forefinger, pinch at the base with your thumb, and wiggle the tail meat out of the shell. Some find this difficult. It’s not. It just takes practice. And if you invite me to your boil, I’ll gladly show you how it’s done.

    How To Take A Southern Belle On A Date August 19 2016 1 Comment

    So you’ve finally gotten the nerve to ask out the beautiful woman in human resources with the Southern drawl. Now what? Whether you are a Southerner or not, here are a few tips for taking a Southern Belle on a date:

    Pick her up on time. Punctuality is akin to good manners, very important to her. She will most likely make you wait as she dabs on lipstick, and that’s okay.

    Open doors for her. Front doors, car doors, any and all doors.

    Hold your hand out for her when she gets out the car, and if it’s raining, hold your umbrella over her. Better you get wet than her.

    If at a restaurant, walk behind her to the table, not in front of her, and pull out the chair for her to sit.

    When you order her a nonalcoholic beverage, it’s a Coke, not a pop, soda, or god forbid, a Pepsi.

    Listen. Laugh. Lighten up.


    By Paula Martin
    Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

    How to Survive a House Divided August 19 2016

    Football season is finally here, but your roommate, spouse, or significant other has the unfortunate flaw of being a diehard fan of your biggest rival. Major tensions can be avoided until the inevitable crisis: the long-awaited game day when they, and you, face off. Here are some tips on how to survive. 

    • Don’t cover the inside and outside of your house with your team’s banners, flags, party platters, yard signs, or blow-up mascots the night before when they are sleeping. You should play nice and allow them equal space to decorate, no matter how bad that color hurts your eyes.
    • Don’t secretly teach your kids (or the neighborhood kids) your fight song, taunting chants, or inappropriate slurs that they keep secret until the kickoff. Although it may be funny at first, in retrospect you will wish you hadn’t. Trust us on this.
    • Don’t bet money on the game, no matter what amount. If you just can’t resist betting, make it for taking out the trash, or mowing the lawn. Sore losers get much more sore when there’s money involved.
    • Don’t do a two-hour victory dance when your team wins. A celebratory jig is fine, but ten minutes is sufficient. There’s a reason why those guys get fined in the end zone.

    No matter who wins, remember that you will be living with this person day in and day out. And there’s always next year.

    By Paula Martin
    Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

    Types of Cocktail Glasses August 18 2016

    Cheers! It’s that time again, Happy Hour, time to relax and unwind, enjoy a cocktail with your significant other or friends (or if you’re lucky, both). What you drink is a decision you have to make, hopefully an easy one, but what it goes in is also part of the equation. Whether you are at a bar or at your own house, what kind of vessel holds your cocktail?

    Cocktail / Martini Glass
    In the mood for a Martini, Cosmo, or Brandy Alexander? Then this is the glass for you. The wide, inverted cone bowl is made for drinks shaken or stirred in a shaker first, then poured without ice, or “up,” into the glass. The wide rim lets you smell the delicious aromas as you sip. Yum!

    Highball Glass
    How about a Bloody Mary, Mojito, or Cuba Libre? Then pull out a highball, add ice to the top, and pour in the alcohol and mixer. Don’t forget to garnish with your fruit or vegetable serving!

    Rocks Glass
    Is it an Old Fashioned or White Russian kind of night? If so, the rocks glass is calling your name. Also known as a lowball glass, it’s shorter than a highball and perfect for muddling fruit before mixing. It can be also used for a shot of your favorite liquor served “neat” (no ice).

    Margarita Glass
    This one is obvious, but we couldn’t leave it out of the Happy Hour lineup. The traditional margarita glass looks like a pinup version of a martini glass—all curves. Salted rim or not, the margarita gets, and deserves, her own unique glassware.

    By Paula Martin
    Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

    Tailgate Survival Kit August 18 2016

    It’s that time of year again: Football season! Time to dust off the old tent, make sure your cooler is ready to go, and get game day ready! We’re listing our best suggestions to help you survive your tailgating season!

    A proper grill:

    Yes, we’re diehard fans too, but let’s face it, part of the fun of tailgating is the the socializing. The food and the drinks matter. Make sure that you have a grill that works and can last all season long.

    A flask:

    What’s a football game without a little sip of something? A properly hidden flask makes sure that you can enjoy your bourbon the whole game thru!

    Great glassware: The key to throwing the best tailgate on the block? Making sure that everything you has screams “Go Team!” Decorative cups let everyone know that you’re the biggest fan around.

    The right outfit: Sure you can just wear the team colors, but you’re trying to throw a great tailgate, not just an average one. So get creative! Wear a great necklace or scarf, there are no limits!

    A great cooler:

    There is nothing worse than a cooler that can’t keep your beer cold. This tailgate season make sure that your cooler is as prepared as you are!

    A place to sit:

    If it’s a great game, you may be standing for all four quarters. Make sure that your tailgate spot has plenty of places to sit, be it with chairs or with benches.

    By Drew Ford 
    Drew was born in Arkansas, but has been lucky to call several southern states home. She’s currently working on Masters in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. She loves vinyl records, long road trips, and acquiring useless trivia.

    Earth Day August 18 2016

    earth day

    To me, Earth Day is all about crawdads.

    You’d think I’d be consumed with things more pointy-headed and technical on Earth Day. I’ve worked for Sierra Club for nigh on ten years now, and my job is mostly about promoting the clean and fighting the dirty. I’m supposed to be consumed with talking up solar and wind energy while doing battle with the bad guys of the coal industry. And I am. For about 364 days a year. But not on Earth Day.

    On Earth Day, my thoughts run more toward a towheaded Gravel Ridge boy that spent a whole lotta time scampering around the hills, hollers, and mudholes of Arkansas. My family was big on camping, pretty solidly spending every free moment from May to August in and around a lake. If I let my mind drift back to childhood, my memories feel like a damp, gritty bathing suit, taste like a flipflop, and smell like a mix of woodsmoke and canned Vienna sausages.

    On one such camping trip, when I was nine, I was out crawdaddin’ with my friend Mark Brookings somewhere in the middle of BFE. I caught a beaut: long body, black eyes, and those red-tipped claws that we all knew meant trouble. I put him in a Dixie cup full of creek water, and carried him off to show my folks.

    Somewhere along the way, Mark got ahead of me or I got distracted, but one way or another I was suddenly lost in the woods. And I don’t mean sorta lost. I mean full-on, hollerin’, listening-to-your-own-echo lost. For the first time, I understood the truly scary side of being, without a doubt, alone.

    Not totally alone, though. I had my Dixie cup full of crawdad. And his name was Herman.

    Herman and I wandered zig-zaggedly, randomly, aimlessly, and hoped someone would hear my shouts. My initial panic gradually changed to aggravation, then to the sure resignation that, yep, this is where it was all going to end for me. Someday I’d be found, I told Herman, just a little skeleton in swim trunks, still gripping a Dixie cup full of crawdad. With great solemnity, I promised to turn Herman loose in the creek if we made it out alive.

    We sat down on the forest floor and, for the first real time in my life, I became aware of the quiet. The woods were silent. More so than church, more so than when the teachers would trick us into playing The Quiet Game at school. All I could hear was my own breathing, and I soon enough hushed that down. It was just me, unconsciously meditating, and drinking in the nature around me. We were lost, and we were probably going to die, but if I had to pick a place to die I could sure do a lot worse.

    My reverie was soon enough broken by the booming voice of my strangely wild-eyed Dad who found me and wrapped me up in the longest hug of my life. I kept my promise to free Herman, and off we went to the campsite. I was safe, but changed by the experience.

    On Earth Day, I think about crawdads. I think of generations of Hooks boys—my dad, me, and now my two sons—running through the Arkansas woods and knowing wonder without fear. And I think of my home state’s special places, and the memories I haven’t made yet.


    Glen Hooks is a lifelong Arkansan and native of Gravel Ridge. He describes himself primarily as a recovering attorney, professional do-gooder, and a proud Southern liberal. By day, Glen works for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas and is the father of two outstanding teenaged sons.

    Modern Southern Writers August 17 2016 1 Comment

    A couple of weeks ago, we shared our favorite Classic Southern Writers. Today, we're jumping into present times to explore some of the best writers to come from the South in our generation.

    Ron Rash

    Ron Rash’s novels, short stories, and poetry are mostly set in the rural Appalachian South, where his family has been since the 1700’s. A master of lyrical writing and tightly-woven storytelling, Rash explores religion, nature, and the human condition, among other things. The Cove is a good place to start.

    Dorothy Allison

    Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison’s first semi-autobiographical novel that was banned from libraries and classrooms yet revered by fans and critics, announced her place in the Southern Literary Tradition. Fourteen years after publication, it’s still creating waves.

    Kevin Brockmeier
    Arkansas’ own Kevin Brockmeier has been called one of “American’s best practitioner of fabulist fiction.” From Little Rock he writes literary as well as fantasy short stories and novels, and his first memoir was recently published. We recommend his fantasy novel The Brief History of the Dead as a jumping-in point.

    Who are some of your favorite contemporary Southern writers?

    By Paula Martin
    Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

    Reasons You Should Journal August 16 2016 1 Comment

    Journaling. Writers and non-writers alike do it, but why? Is it just a rehashing of what you did that day, or is there something more to it, something that makes it worthwhile?

    While there are just as many reasons to journal as there are people who journal, here are a few of our favorite reasons that (hopefully) may just inspire you to pick up your pen, find a comfortable chair in a quiet corner, and give it a try.

    To Remember
    Journaling is a way of remembering, a way of seeing on the page how your life is unfolding. Reading your journal is a way to go back and see where, and who, you were at a particular point in your life. But what’s interesting is discovering the exact details that stood out to you, why you recorded that particular snippet of conversation. Patterns begin emerging that tell you far more about yourself than the actual experience itself.

    To Explore
    W.H. Auden wrote, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Journaling allows a space for exploring what you think about something or someone, unencumbered by outside judgment or criticism. And many people find that the more they journal, the more their opinions change and evolve.

    To Create
    Journaling is basically a creative endeavor, even if we are just whining on the page or writing about the humdrum day we had. But every once in a while the stars will align and our journaling enters the world of creation, where new ideas, characters, art is born. As writer Susan Sontag wrote, “In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.”

    We'd love to hear from you. Do you journal? Why or why not?

    By Paula Martin
    Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 

    Best Game Day Traditions August 15 2016


    Hog Call, University of Arkansas: It may very well be the most recognizable college football cheer around. Certainly the most unique. Arkansas fans raise their hands above their heads, wiggle their fingers, and loudly cheer “Woooo Pig Sooie!” Rumor has it that this tradition was started by local farmers in the area, but nowadays the Hog Call is heard all over the state.

    Chief Osceola, Florida State University: The relationship between Florida State University and the Seminole tribe is a unique one. Before every home game, Osceola, representative of a leader of the Seminole tribe, rides in on Renegade, his Appaloosa horse. The duo stop mid field and Chief Osceola throws a flaming spear into the ground.

    The Pink Visitor’s Locker Room, University of Iowa: If you ever have to play the University of Iowa at home, don’t be surprised if the visitor locker room is pale pink. That’s because in the 1970’s the head football coach, believing that the color pink weakness aggressive tendencies had the locker room painted.

    12th man, Texas A&M: At Texas A&M the crowd is just as important in the game as the team. Enter the 12th man. It’s the notion that, although there may be 11 men on the field, the crowd is number 12, and they have a role to play too. While we’re on the subject of A&M, another favorite tradition? If the team scores on the field, you score in the stand, meaning you have to give your date a kiss!

    Dotting the I, The Ohio State: The Ohio State is somewhat notorious for their marching band, particularly when they spell out the word Ohio. For a special someone, the task is given to dot the I.


    By Drew Ford 
    Drew was born in Arkansas, but has been lucky to call several southern states home. She’s currently working on Masters in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. She loves vinyl records, long road trips, and acquiring useless trivia.

    Things You'll Find In Any Southern Home August 15 2016 1 Comment

    While there are just as many different kinds of homes in the South as there are Southerners, there are some things that are common to all of us. Here are a few of things that you are certain to find in almost all Southern homes.


    Porch with wicker chairs, porch swing, and overhead fan to keep the mosquitos from landing. Citronella candles. And flowering bushes and trees: crepe myrtles are a favorite.


    The more Mason jars, the better (for homemade jams, sweet tea, herb gardens and catching lightning bugs). The “good silver” used on holidays that has to be polished once a week. And at least one set of cocktail glasses for when company comes over, which is often.

    Bedroom and Bathroom:

    Handmade quilt usually passed down in the family. Monogrammed anything—towel, sweatshirt, hairbrush, necklace. And, of course, college football memorabilia.

    Family Room:
    cowhide rug

    Picture frames and accessories made from reclaimed barnwood. Framed maps and flags. A cowhide rug. And a dog bed just as nice as any other bed in the house.

    What else would you add to our list?


    By Paula Martin
    Paula Martin was born and raised in Arkansas and received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. She is a writer, teacher, mom, barefoot trail runner, martial artist, and free-thinker always packed and ready for the next adventure. 


    Small Southern Towns We Love August 12 2016

    Summer is almost gone, kids are almost back in school, but we still have a little vacation time left to cling to. So pack your bags, throw a cooler in the backseat, and take off to one of these small southern towns that we love!

  • Oxford, MS: Oxford is one of those iconic small southern towns that lives up to its hype. With the famous town square bustling with great restaurants, even better cocktails, artists and retailers alike, it’s a perfect getaway. Our suggestion: Grab a cocktail at one of the bars overlooking the Square. Stop by Square Books and pick up a good read. Maybe meander down to Rowan Oak to get your Faulkner fix. And if you’re really feeling adventurous, drive a few miles to Water Valley, MS. There’s a great brewery in town (Yalobusha Brewing Co.) and even better seafood (The Crawdad Hole).

  • Hilton Head Island, SC: So Hilton Head may not technically be a small town, but it can take a little planning to get onto the island, so for us it made the list. 20 miles north of Savannah and only 95 southwest from Charleston, this island town is the perfect retreat. Make sure to check out the lighthouse, walk through the nature preserves, and bike around the dozens of bike paths.

  • Wilson, AR: This town we almost don’t want to put on the list, because it’s still a well kept secret and we almost like it that way. A visit to Wilson is like stepping back in time and something that everyone should experience. Once a sharecropping town, Wilson has been bought and revitalized. With a fabulous restaurant, new school, and great community center, Wilson is nothing but charm.

  • Natchez, MS: Natchez is one of those towns that you’ve always heard about but just never quite made it. Go. Take the scenic Natchez Parkway and get out and explore. Once in Natchez stop by the cemetery to see unique graves such as “Louise the Unfortunate” or the angel who always seems to have her eye on you. In the fall the town hosts a hot air balloon festival and in the spring a tour of the city’s antebellum homes.

  • Natchitoches, LA: Not to get confused with Natchez, Natchitoches is the oldest city in the Louisiana Purchase. It also happens to be home to a little film you may know as Steel Magnolias. If you can find a place to stay, make your way to Natchitoches for the Christmas Festival; with lights on the Cane River, firework displays, and a beauty pageant titled Miss Merry Christmas, this town is sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

  • By Drew Ford 
    Drew was born in Arkansas, but has been lucky to call several southern states home. She’s currently working on Masters in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. She loves vinyl records, long road trips, and acquiring useless trivia.