Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Southern Adventure: Home of The Blues

Clarksdale, MS is reputed to being the birthplace of contemporary “blues” music.  I don’t know if that is true or not but Clarksdale is the place to come and learn to appreciate this music. 

“The Blues” is the music of a soul that is tired beyond tired… sometimes too weary to get up… sometimes cautiously hopeful…. sometimes just telling it like it is.   It is a song of release.  “Funny thing, but you can sing it with a cry in your voice And before you know, start to feeling good…”  Song Sung Blue by Neil Diamond.

There are a lot of blues clubs you can visit, the most famous is the “Ground Zero Blues Club” http://www.groundzerobluesclub.com/  that is owned by Morgan Freeman.  We made a short visit to it.  I wasn’t very impressed.  I had thought it would have at least a bit of class but it reminded me of a regular old bar.  Next time I want to visit the clubs located on the grounds of the Shack Up Inn.  These have that ‘juke joint’ feel.

However, our visit to the Delta Blues Museum http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org/  was a delight! Beautiful photography, interesting displays of artifacts and the reconstructed home of Blues legend Muddy Waters made it a winner. Make sure you take the time to watch ALL of the movie they show inside Muddy Water’s cabin. You will be surprised… The gift shop has some cool T shirts and best of all, CDs with music of the old Blues kings (and queens). However, if an old hippie working the shop brings out a magazine photo and says he is “the white guy playing harmonica” … don’t believe his baloney. “The white guy playing harmonica” is the famous harmonica musician Charlie Musselwhite!! LOL

Besides the museum and the blues clubs, there are great shops and restaurants to visit too. It is well worth the trip.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Diesel's Seasonings

A few weeks ago I received an email from Karen at http://karenevans.blogspot.com/  telling me I had won a drawing for some spices. Soon after there was a package in my mailbox.

Diesel’s Seasonings are spice blends created by Karen’s son Dave. Dave was in the Marines (and that is where the name Diesel comes in). Anyone who has been in the military knows that MREs need a lot of help to be edible…  Dave started blending the seasonings that are included in MRE packets to make a more palatable meal for himself and his buddies.

After leaving the military, Dave followed his new passion of food and has entered culinary school. And he created Diesel’s Seasonings…

In true Marine fashion, these are no wimpy spices!

The Kickin’ Cajun Spice Blend… wow!  Hooo-EEEE!  It’s higher on the Scoville scale that I can handle.  Great flavor…a lot of burn.  It went to my brother-in-law who can eat things that make my eyes water just to watch! 

Jerk Spice Blend.  You can taste the Jamaica sunshine in this one.  Very nice on chicken and pork.  It does have a kick but not an overpowering one.  Just enough to let you know it is there.

Signature Spice Blend. A nice basic spice blend with enough personality to make you remember it. Again a bit of a kick. Good stuff! Was really great on steak. 

I like them well enough that I have bought a second set to share with the chef on Himself’s ship. I think Luis will like them as much as I do! 

You can order the seasoning blends at: http://www.dieselseasonings.com/home.html  

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Southern Adventure: Good Eats - Hick's

While researching for our Southern adventure, I checked out http://www.roadfood.com/  to see what sort of ‘good eats’ I could find along the way.

And that is how I came across the Southern Hot Tamale. Yes, you’ve read that correctly… a SOUTHERN tamale…known as a Delta tamale. No one is sure how the Deep South came to be a home for tamales but home it is.

According to Roadfood, the best place in Clarksdale for tamales was Hicks. That opinion was repeated by Marc over at the Shack Up and the guy on duty at the blues museum.

So we headed down State St until we found the drive-up building. Warned they are small, we bought a half dozen to try. I wish we had bought more!

This is definitely someplace I’ll come back to when we return to the Shack Up Inn.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Southern Adventure: Our Next Lodging Was Old Shack!

The drive ended in Clarksdale, MS. Our lodgings for the next two nights was at “The Shack Up Inn” http://www.shackupinn.com/  . To say it is an unique accommodation is an understatement! If Funky Junk Donna were to have an inn, this is what I imagine it might look like!

The lodgings are either remodeled sharecropper shacks or rooms in the converted cotton gin on the property.

As we pulled in on the rutted gravel road, Himself said “This doesn’t look like a good neighborhood… are you sure you have the right directions?”

(Shack row from the front. Obviously taken the next morning.)

I assured him I did and said to keep driving. We came around the other side of the horseshoe shaped road/driveway to the large cotton bin building and we could see the “lobby” sign.

(Cotton bins with the lobby on the far left.)

“We’re staying in a junk yard???!!!” 

To keep from laughing, I quickly pointed to a cat in front of us and became totally concerned that he did not run over it as we pulled in. When he parked I told him I had to run in and I would be right back.

Zipping in the doorway, I burst out laughing. Shack Up manager Marc looked up with a smile waiting for me to share the joke with her. Soon she was laughing too! 

When I came back out with the key and directed Himself to go back the way we came, he was quite relieved. But it was a very short lived relief as I instructed him to pull in behind one of the middle shacks and said…

“Hi Honey, we’re home!”

Once inside, he saw the coolness of our lodging.

Our shack was the Robert Clay shack.  Part of its description is “he had a tractor and seven sons”.  We also found out he had a little something else…
Here’s the living room. 

And from the front door looking to the kitchen and on back.

The kitchen.

The bedroom.

And our tiny bathroom…

…with the “something else” Mr. Clay had.  A moonshine still up in the attic! 

The next morning we walked around the “neighborhood” enjoying the eclectic decorating of all the shacks.

Aren’t they fun??

Then we crossed the lawn to go in the back of the cotton bin building.

The lobby is also a gift shop full of work by local artists.  There are many fantastic pieces like this one.  There are also ‘souvenir’ items like glasses, postcards, etc.

The very end of the building is a club called The Juke Joint Chapel”. 

The décor is full Funky Junk!

Marc invited Himself to play the piano up on the stage, something he very much enjoyed. 

During the time we spent at the Shack Up Inn, there were several jam sessions on the lawn as fellow lodgers got together to share talents. What fun to listen to! 

We have a fantastic time and full intend on going back to chill out and enjoy the atmosphere. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Salud! at Whole Foods - Seasonal Market Basket (Spring)

I enjoyed another cooking class at Whole Foods.  This one was called “A Seasonal Market Basket” and focused on what was fresh in the produce section.

Merijoy took us down to the store where she went over different veggies.

One tip she shared was to look for broccoli with the tiniest buds… like the one on the right side.

She also mentioned that for reasons unknown to her, red bell peppers and strawberries have the most pesticide chemical trace. She suggested if someone has children they might want to consider buying organic on these two.

She introduced us to different varieties of veggies… like these purple carrots.  (Sorry for the blurry photo!)

Isn’t that a great color?!  It still tasted like a normal carrot. 

Once we finished in the produce section, we headed back upstairs to the kitchen with the goodies Merijoy had selected.

First course was ‘Spring Salad with Red Basil Dressing’.  It’s a ‘deconstructed’ salad and, oh my, was it good.  Those funny looking tomatoes in the 10 o’clock position on the plate are heirloom tomatoes.  Wonderful flavor and not as acid as regular tomatoes.

Next course was ‘Kale and Feta Salad’.  I wasn’t sure how I would like raw kale.  I was surprised at its mildness.  Definitely something I will do at home.

The entrée was 'Lemon Chicken'.  Pretty straight forward, something I fix already.  However I did have an a-ha moment when Merijoy said we would use a teaspoon of lemon extract to intensify the flavor.  Brilliant!
The side portions were ‘Sweet Potato Salad’ and ‘Vegetable Stuffed Tomatoes’.

And the dessert I could have made a whole meal from!  It’s called ‘Forgotten Pudding’.  It is a meringue shell that you pop in a 450 oven that is then turned off overnight.  The next morning your shell is done.  It’s topped with REAL whipped cream and then that is topped with a fresh fruit mix.  We had strawberries… but I’m thinking peaches in an Amaretto sauce would be yummy!

Spring Salad with Red Basil Dressings

1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh basil, chopped fine
1 tsp worchestshire sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 cup olive oil (EVOO)

Mince garlic.  Add remaining ingredients, except oil.  Using whisk, slowly add oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning as you wish.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Southern Adventure: Good Eats - Hagy's Catfish Hotel

By the time we arrived at Shiloh, we both had growling stomachs!  Our small breakfast had been hours earlier.  A park ranger recommended a local landmark just a few minutes away.  Hagy’s Catfish Motel (http://www.catfishhotel.com/ )   has been serving up catfish and more since 1938… they know how to do it right!

They’ve been in this building since 1976; a year after a fire destroyed the old building. 

On the big porch that wraps itself around the building are these CUTE Adirondack chairs.  Aren’t they perfect for a fish restaurant!?

Once you are seated inside you have this fantastic view of the Tennessee River. 

Another meal of Southern cuisine, I ordered the fried frog legs and oysters.  It came with a basket of hush puppies (or hush husbands as I like to call them!). 

Himself had the lemon pepper catfish and tried one of my frog legs.

We finished our meal with “Lemon Rub Pie”. The menu described it as “Baked here since 1938, our grandmother’s recipe includes fresh squeezed lemon juice, butter eggs and sugar in a flaky pie crust. A different twist on chess pie.”

I’ll just describe it as “delicious”!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Encyclopedia of Moi: I

Incredible!  I hadn’t Imagined that doing my letters would be so Immensely fun!

Ice: I am an unrepentant ice cruncher… tho I am also an ice snob. I like crunching on ice that has a lot of air in it, making it ‘soft’ yet firm. Sonic has the perfect ice. Snow cones are a favorite treat… shaved ice is even better! And I’m not alone in my crunching. Mom, Sis and Little Bird are all ice crunchers too! 

Indian Fry Bread: I discovered this treat on our trip thru the SW in ’04. We stayed in a B&B in Monument Valley that was an authentic Navajo hogan (super cool!). Supper was an option offered and we happily accepted. Our hostess made fry bread to go with our meal. Mmmmmmm! Made in a wood burning oven, it was smoky, tender yet crispy. Absolutely delicious!

Iron: I love iron as a decorative accent. Without actually getting up to look… I think I have some sort of crafted iron in every room of our home. 

Iridescent: From childhood I have been drawn to items that are iridescent, like the inside of certain shells or particular types of glass. It’s like holding a rainbow in your hand.

Iguana: For years I had a pet iguana I had named Zorro (so called for the wild way he would whip his tail when he was tweaked at you). He grew very large and his last cage was a 6 ft jewelry display case I bought from a store that closed. He had a weakness for watermelon and hibiscus flowers. 

Incense: OK, you can call me a hippie but I like a nice incense softly done. I used to use them a lot but they made one of our cats sneeze. I think I’ll start using them again. 

Icon: In 1994 I traveled to Russia as a delegate of an international humanitarian aid organization I was on the board of. One of my hosts took an icon off the wall of his home and gave it to me as a gift. Thanks Alex… I still treasure it! 

Iris: Another one of my favorite flowers. I have a row of them planted at the edge of what will someday be our bird garden. Whenever I see one I like at a nursery or garden show I add it to the row. My great grandma had iris growing up along her driveway. Mom has some of them and said she will give me a few fans to put in my iris bed. 

Independent: That is one of my strengths… and one of my weaknesses. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to do things on my own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Southern Adventure: Corinth Civil War Center and Shiloh Battlefield

We spent so much time rambling down the Natchez Trace; I had to rearrange my schedule to visit Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center and Shiloh National Battlefield on our second day adventuring.

The Corinth Center was only a couple blocks from our B&B. It is very nicely put together, with some fantastic touches.

As we came up the walkway from the parking lot, we noticed items were embedded in the concrete and scattered in the grass nearby. 

Items that looked like personal belongs that could have been left as soldiers scattered during a battle.

Perhaps a cannon had sat here, its gunner no longer near.

Or maybe there had been a camp which had been overrun… no time to retrieve that priceless letter…

…or a coat left sitting next to a tent.

As we came to the entrance, this incredible bronze piece with its life-size soldiers who seemed to be also ‘moving’ towards the door.

Once inside displays explained the reason Corinth was an important asset to both armies. 

And mock-ups showed exactly how everyday activities and life was during the time.

There was a large section highlighting the history of the slaves who became free. 

This exhibit is beautiful.  A freeman soldier giving a child her first school book. 

After spending a good amount of time at the Corinth Center, we made the 30 mile drive north to Shiloh battlefield.  The park interpretive center wasn’t as flashy as the one in Corinth (the movie was made in 1958!)…

… but whoever put it together had a great sense of humor.

And a sense of the amazing…

Driving thru the park we saw some of the mass grave sites where hundreds of Confederate soldiers were buried after the battle.

Sculptures that spoke without words of the pain of body and soul felt by both sides.

Cannon placements that made us shudder as we thought of the people who lived in that home.

Monuments to units and generals and soldiers; some who made it home and many who did not. 

“Who all that day stood in the battle's shock, Fame holds them dear, and with immortal pen, Inscribes their names on the enduring rock.”