Tag Archives: humor

125. Graceland, Where the King Died on His Throne

7 Mar

gracelandOf all the Mississippi natives who’ve reached the first-name-only level of fame, I daresay that Elvis tops the charts for Most Interesting Residence. I reckon Oprah’s place is none-too-shabby, but I wouldn’t know, seeing as I’ve yet to snag an invite. (Sorry, Mr. Grisham, I know your admirers are legion, but the media’s not about to start referring to you as “John.” I mean, even Mr. Lennon never made it to single-first-name status and his band was more popular than Jesus. Except in the South. Where there’s two things you don’t mess with: Texas and Jesus.)

You know you want one...

You know you want one…

During my sojourns in Memphis, I’d passed Graceland a time or two before stopping in for a visit. I always thought they’d open up the gates and let me drive right on in. They. Do. Not. Instead, you park across the street and go into the souvenir shop to purchase tickets. After you’ve had sufficient time to examine all the trinkets at least twice, you’re transported to mansion in the manner of a herd of cattle, if they would fit on a shuttle bus.

But once you arrive at the mansion and pass the threshold, WOW, it all looks so…normal. Yes, that white couch probably seats about 17 folks (20 if you scooch in), but it’s not bejeweled in any way. Plus, I was kinda hoping for a disco ball or two.

billiard roomNow the billiard room is impressive in that it’s the only place I’ve ever seen where the fabric on the couch matches the fabric on the walls and the ceiling. They had the pool table roped off with a sign saying Please Do Not Touch. However, if you do, it’s not like you’ll be shocked, tasered, or anything. Probably. I’m just speculating.

Next up: the infamous Jungle Room. I always thought the furniture was custom made for The King. Turns out he bought the whole kit and caboodle from a furniture store’s showroom. Everything from the primitively carved, fur-covered furniture to the green shag carpeting (on floor and ceiling) was already constructed and just waiting for some rich guy with crazy-ass taste to come in and buy it. Voila! Elvis! For an extra special treat, check out this 360° view of the jungle room from the official Elvis site. jungle room closeup

I loved how his bar/lounge featured a wall of TVs like you’d find at Best Buy. The arrangement on the wall, I mean, not the TVs. They’re the sort you might find at Goodwill, seeing as they were made in the 70’s. If Elvis IS alive, I’m sure he has a top-notch media room. With a ginormous couch. Apparently, he had a thing for huge couches. Also, the color yellow.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

Not pictured: Eternal flame.

I think these days they might let you go upstairs, but that whole part was roped off, so I don’t have much more to report. There were other rooms, but none that left an impression. They let you go outside and look at his grave, where there’s an eternal flame burning to keep his spirit alive. Not sure how it fares in the rain, but I reckon it’s the thought that counts.

There’s also a museum where you can see some of his outfits and other ephemera. It costs extra to check out his cars and airplanes, so I didn’t.

Finally, the shuttle bus takes you back to the souvenir shop parking lot so you can retrieve your car and drive off into the sunset. Unless, perhaps, you’ll like to take a final stroll through all the Elvis paraphenalia…No? Ok then.

Have you been to Graceland? What’d you think of it? Please do tell.

And now, I’ll let Paul Simon sing us out:

Photo Credits: Graceland Mansion and Billiard Room by Danube66, Flickr Creative Commons; Jungle Room by NoirDame, Flickr Creative Commons; Elvis’ grave by Su_Anna, Flickr Creative Commons.

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124. Fried Crab Claws, Mighty Fine Finger Food

5 Mar

352913848_a52a025c75_mOf all the Southern delicacies I miss here in the Pacific Northwest, top honors may just go to fried crab claws. I occasionally encounter pretty good hushpuppies, fried chicken, and pulled pork. I’ve tasted some delicious grits and biscuits. I’ve even located a reliable source for beignets. But I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve run across a fried crab claw of any kind here–oh, and have one finger left over.

Yes, one of Seattle’s most celebrated chefs serves up some dee-li-cious crab cakes, but what on earth is he doing with all the claws? I beg of you, Tom Douglas, fry those suckers up!

Yes, but are they fried?

Yes, but are they fried?

Whenever I’m back in Mississippi, I make it a point to try and get myself some fried crab claws. In September, my sister and I drove nearly an hour to this joint in Vicksburg that has the best ones around. Unfortunately, nobody told us that half the town–including Rusty’s–shuts down on Monday. Still, after much searching, we managed to locate a tasty plate of them at a place called Monsour’s at the Biscuit Company. However, we were disappointed to learn that the “biscuit company” in the name had long since vacated the space. Apparently, the building once housed the National Biscuit Company or as they’re now called, Nabisco. Sure, I get the historic significance, but I think they ought to at least have a biscuit on the menu. Don’t get a girl’s hopes up like that!

As an appetizer that goes for around $14.95 a plate, fried crab claws are a little spendy. You might be tempted to split one order for the whole table. Don’t. Each claw offers up only one delectable morsel of meat, so you’ll want to share with one person max. Unless that person is greedy, in which case order your own.

If eating meat that still resembles the animal it came from creeps you out, then fried crab claws aren’t for you. They are what they are: claws, dipped in batter and fried. There’s only one way to eat them: position your teeth with the cartilage between them, bite down and scrape the meat off. No utensils will do. You’ve got to go caveman on them. Provided your cave is near the ocean, I mean.

Hmm...y'all might want to reword that.

Hmm…y’all might want to reword that.

Even in the South, menus featuring fried crab claws can be few and far between, so I suggest ordering them whenever you can. My sister just told me that we have to go to Walker’s Drive-In next time I’m in MS, seeing as they serve up a Super Size portion of them. She guesstimated 60 claws in one order, then backpeddled to “at least 50.” I am dubious. But also, hungry.

Know of any good places to get good fried crab claws? Any of them within driving distance of Seattle?

Photo credits: Plate ‘o claws by chez pim, Flickr Creative Commons; neon crab sign by Naser Risk, Flickr Creative Commons; we have crabs sign by tsmyther, Flickr Creative Commons.

Friday Favorites: Stuff I, Myself, Like

1 Mar

3744467338_cfe206a34b_mWeek 2: so far, so good!

Here’s my roundup:

Hope over at the Fairhope Supply Co. shares 23 Southern sayings she overheard during the course of one week, including “Does this camo come in pink?” and “She didn’t even bother to put the KFC on her own plate.” Enjoy!

I used a couple of Nick Russell’s amazing photos to illustrate my post on Faulkner a way long time ago. If you’ve never had the opportunity to explore Rowan Oak for yourself, these pics will take you there. Almost as good as sneaking past the barriers to get a closer look for yourself. Almost…

The writing's on the wall at Faulkner's house.

The writing’s on the wall at Faulkner’s house.

Click for recipe. Note: Site takes a moment to load, so be patient.

Click for recipe. Note: Site takes a moment to load, so be patient.

Planning a culinary excursion around the South anytime soon? Don’t leave home without Garden & Gun’s handy guide to the best eats. Sure, it’s incomplete at only 50, but even a list of 500 would be, so…

If you’re in more of a DIY Southern food mood, check out Something Swanky’s recipe for Pecan Pie Bread Pudding. It’ll definitely be the next version I try. Also, this is my new favorite spot for ogling food. Added bonus for putting “swanky” in the blog name!

And finally, for anyone who’s ever had a cat that loves boxes:

Hope you have a splendid (and swanky) weekend!

Photo credits: Howdy sign by KeddyO, Flickr Creative Commons; Faulkner’s writing on the wall by Nick Russell; Pecan Pie Bread Pudding (drool…) by Something Swanky.

123. Making Things Personal in a Decorative Fashion

28 Feb

k pillowIn the South, if you leave a tote bag, towel, or drinking glass unattended for too long, someone’s liable to come along and embellish it with initials. (The Pacific Northwest equivalent is to “put a bird on it.”)

If there’s anything Southerners like better than the sound of our own voices, it’s the sight of our own initials. How else do you explain the obsessive compulsion to monogram everything from pillow cases to table cloths, not to mention all the jewelry and clothing in between. If anyone can figure out a convenient way to etch initials into casserole dishes, I will buy plenty of shares when your company goes public.

In an effort to provide y’all a little background on the tradition, I took a quick stroll around the Internet and got so overwhelmed I had to sit down and rest a spell. Monogramming is a topic far too broad to tackle in a single blog post, so I’ll just tell y’all what I know about it and encourage you to explore the subject on your own. Google will direct you where to go.

il_570xN.418700762_10crFrom as far back as anyone alive can remember, Southerners have embellished household treasures like silverware, linens, and crystal with the family’s initials. Using a single initial to represent one’s surname would be easiest, but then there wouldn’t be much to argue about. Consequently, most monograms expand to include three initials. The question becomes: “whose?”

Frankly my dears, I haven’t a clue. So many variations exist, it makes one long for the days when swooning was fashionable. Often, monograms consist of two smaller initials flanking the left and right side of a larger letter. For single folks, the formula is pretty simple: small letter on left represents an individual’s first name, large letter in center represents the surname, and small letter on right represents the middle name. (Now that I think of it, you hardly ever see “Jr.” as part of a monogram, so I don’t know how men from consecutive generations know whose personalized camo hat is whose.)

Get your own beer, Bubba!

Get your own beer, Bubba!

Marriage complicates things, including monograms. Folks start asking, “Is what’s mine A. Mine, B. Yours, or C. Ours?” When it comes to whose initials go on what and in which order, opinions vary. Shocker, I know…

These days when Southern brides register for linens, cutlery, and the like, they often opt for a joint monogram featuring the couple’s soon-to-be surname in the center, flanked by his and her first initials. Some say the husband’s initial gets top billing; others say that honor goes to the wife. I imagine at least a handful of engagements flame out before the registry is finalized. In the interest of fairness, I recommend tossing a coin or playing “rock, paper, scissors.” Or why not mix it up–he gets towels, she gets pillowcases.

I don't just make this stuff up...

I don’t just make this stuff up…

For personal items like hair bows (seriously, y’all) or golf club covers, stick with individual monograms. Like peeing standing up, selecting a monogram is much easier for a man, seeing as his initials rarely change. For married women, the question becomes: should the initial right of center represent one’s maiden name or middle name? Decisions, decisions.

You may be wondering: “What about folks with hyphenated surnames?” Well, y’all, correct me if I’m wrong, but I imagine folks who hyphenate surnames aren’t exactly the monogramming type.

At the risk of losing some of my Southern cred, I must admit that I, myself, have never developed a taste for monogramming. I did once buy a purse with a “K” on it, but that’s about it. I’m far more inclined toward objects featuring words, such as a vase that says “bloom” or a pet bowl that says “drink.” And, yes, I realize that flowers and cats aren’t exactly known for their reading comprehension skills…

Apart from the occasional piece of jewelry, my mom wasn’t much of a monogrammer either, with one notable exception: sunglasses. Ever since I can remember (and probably before), my mom liked her sunglasses large and monogrammed. While she liked to be stylish as the next person (or more, if we’re being honest), she never could bear to compromise when smaller frames became de rigueur. She had me always on the lookout for generously sized lenses suitable for the task at hand. For a while this search was about as fruitless as my current quest to purchase jeans of any type other than “skinny.” (Attention merchants: Not all of us are!)

Rockin' Mom's sunglasses

Rockin’ Mom’s sunglasses

Of course, the summer after she died, every store on the planet stocked ginormous sunglasses, each pair larger than the next. Thanks, fashion industry, for that extra dash of salt.

My dad, ever on the hunt for a bargain, once happened across an incredible deal on a wool sweater from a fancy menswear store. Sure, it had someone else’s monogram on it, but my dad is nothing if not resourceful. This was back in the 80’s when Izod was all the rage, so he simply repurposed a lizard from a pair of socks and stitched it over the erroneous initials. Problem solved.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen monogrammed? Do you like adding your initials to stuff? If so, what?

Photo Credits: K pillow available at the HAWthorne Etsy shop; vintage-inspired napkins available at the KristinesEmbroidery Etsy shop; monogram hair bow available at the LittleGoodieTutus Etsy shop; me in sunglasses courtesy of Holloway family archives.

How Southern are You?

27 Feb

il_570xN.337423180Ok, y’all, I just now figured out how to create an interactive quiz. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to make the embed code work, so if you want to find out how Southern you are, you’ll have to click this link.

Be sure to come back and let me know how you scored and whether you think I ought to make more quizzes.

Photo Credit: Question mark die cuts available at the GlitterDustDesigns Etsy store.

122. Bread Pudding, the Kind You Eat With a Spoon

26 Feb

Two Sister's Prize-winning Bread Pudding

Two Sister’s Kitchen Prize-winning Bread Pudding

On my last trip to MS, I enjoyed something I hadn’t had since forever (or a few days shy of it anyhow): bread pudding. Ok, I should qualify this by saying that have tasted quite a few menu items called bread pudding, but here in the Pacific Northwest, emphasis is on the bread, while pudding is an afterthought. Sure, the name leads off with “bread” and said ingredient comprises most of the dish, but in my mind pudding trumps bread every time. Although to be fair, bread should be considered a high card in my Richard Simmons Deal-a-Meal deck. Anyone remember those?

Attention restauranteurs: If a dish requires a fork–or worse yet, a knife–for successful consumption, it ought not be called a pudding. Unless one is British and in the habit of calling any and all sweet endings to a meal “pudding.” Yep, Gordon Ramsay, I’m giving you a pass, even though I’m still holding a grudge about how you made gnocchi look so simple to make on one of your TV shows. It. Is. Not! But I digress…

Based on my traumatic experiences with red velvet cake around these parts, I realize I’d be better off avoiding any semblance of bread pudding here, but that’s nigh impossible. Like Sam in Quantum Leap, I keep ordering the stuff hoping each time that the next bread pudding will be the metaphorical “leap home.”

I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve succumbed to the siren song of a delectable-sounding dessert listing only to be served a slice of chewy so-called bread pudding. Yes, folks, a slice! I’ll happily devour slices of cake, pie, tarts and, of course, bread. But if there’s any way to slice it, pudding isn’t pudding.

Delicious? Probably. Pudding? Not so much.

Delicious? Probably. Pudding? Not so much.

As soon as I caught a glimpse of the bread pudding at Two Sister’s Kitchen in Jackson, MS, I knew I’d have to pace myself. While I would’ve loved to dig in to more crispy, crunchy fried okra and scrumptious salty biscuits, I managed to save room for the bread pudding. It was speaking to me, y’all. With a megaphone.

When the waitress asked my sister and I if we wanted the B.P. with or without hard sauce, the answer was quick: Duh! When offered the choice between something sweet and something sweet with something sweeter on top of it, these two sisters always go for the latter.

Extra! Click pic and read all about it.

Extra! Click pic and read all about it.

Lo and behold, this was everything B.P. should be–warm, mushy, spoonable, and sweeter than Tupelo honey. I didn’t detect any of the so-called hardness in the sauce (hard as in liquor), but occasionally folks skimp on it either for economic reasons or perhaps to appease Baptist patrons.

Also, this particular B.P. featured nary a raisin, which I considered part of its charm.

I wish I could serve up a scoop of this delicacy to anyone who’s only ever experienced it by the slice. Since that’s a wee bit impractical, I’ll leave y’all with a recipe.

Why didn't somebody tell me about this!!

Why didn’t somebody tell me about this!!

A couple of caveats, I think there ought to be a higher ratio of liquid to bread, seeing as mine always leans a little too far toward the slice-y side for my taste, but I haven’t quite figured out the proper proportions. Next time, I’ll add an extra cup of milk and see how it goes…

I usually manage to botch the first batch of hard sauce, but when I made this for my book club potluck brunch on Saturday using the following recipe, it turned out beautifully (and tastefully). Folks were pouring it on top of everything: baked Bananas Foster oatmeal, apple cinnamon muffins, rhubarb cake, even–wait for it–fresh blueberries. (We may be nerdy book lovers, but boy can we cook!)

Also, while planning ahead is not part of my DNA, I find that prepping this the night before allows time for A. Bread to reach maximum saturation and more importantly, B. sleeping in.

Where’s your favorite place to order bread pudding? Have you ever tried the oh-so-decadent Krispy Kreme variety? Please do tell!

Sort of Authentic Southern-Style Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit with a little help from Paula Deen.

For the pudding:
7 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
3 cups whole milk (or 2%, if that’s how you roll), warmed up a bit
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-lb. loaf of bread (I like to use brioche or challah, but most any non-savory bread ought to work, except maybe Wonder)

(Note: Additional ingredients are needed for topping and sauce, so read on to make sure you have everything or–if you’re like me–workable substitutes.)

If your bread isn’t already stale, tear it to bits and toast in the oven till slightly brown. By the time you gather the other ingredients, it should be ready.

Butter a 9 x13 baking dish and find somewhere to stash it till needed.

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add milk, sugar, cream, melted butter, and vanilla then whisk to blend well. Toss in the bread and mush it around till everything’s saturated. Pour it in the baking dish and refrigerate overnight or at least a couple of hours.

For the topping:
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F and while you’re waiting mix together:

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
Cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste

Sprinkle mixture as evenly as possible atop the bread pudding, then bake till puffed and golden–about an hour. (Oh, and you’ll want to put the casserole dish on a baking sheet. I did not and had a heck of a mess at the bottom of the oven.)

For the rum sauce:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. rum
Cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste

Bon Appetit says:
Stir brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add cream, rum, and spices and bring to simmer. Simmer until sauce thickens and is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This took me WAY longer to accomplish. Probably because I usually opt for the less is more approach when it comes to heat. Also, because I don’t really know what a “simmer” looks like so every time a few bubbles started popping up, I panicked and turned down the heat. I stirred and stirred, but the stuff just wasn’t thickening. I considered tossing in some cornstarch, but didn’t. Finally, I turned up the heat, bubbles be damned, and it started to thicken up just a bit. Then I ran out of time and just poured the stuff in a faux Tupperware container and headed out. By the time I got to the book club brunch, it was just right.

Photo Credits: Bourbon Bread Pudding by awiskandaspoon, Flickr Creative Commons; Two Sister’s pics and BP Throwdown from eatjackson.com.

Friday Favorites: Stuff I, Myself, Like

22 Feb

il_570xN.385008154_4wu1Ok, y’all, today I’m introducing a new feature here at SSPL. If you find yourself wondering what all the other features are, well, this would be the first. There may be more to come. Feel free to cross your fingers, but refrain from depriving yourself of oxygen. Let’s see how this one goes.

On Fridays, I’ll be delivering a roundup of interesting tidbits collected from around the interwebs. They will most likely be Dixie-centric, but I reserve the right to wander off into French macarons should the mood strike.

So, without further adieu…

Southern Women by Allison Glock in Garden & Gun magazine reflects on the defining qualities of Dixie chicks with lines like: For my mother, being Southern means handwritten thank-you notes, using a rhino horn’s worth of salt in every recipe, and spending a minimum of twenty minutes a day in front of her makeup mirror so she can examine her beauty in “office,” “outdoor,” and “evening” illumination.

Sh%t Southern Women Say: I’d offer a description, but that pretty much sums it up.

In the interest of providing equal time for the estrogen-challenged folks, I invite y’all to check out Real Southern Men. The Best of RSM post is a great place to start.

Since no list of stuff I like is complete without at least one mention of food, feast your eyes on these treats from Chocolate, Chocolate and More. Yum!!

From Chocolate, Chocolate and More--Click for recipe.

Click pic for recipe.

Have y’all heard about The Southern C, the social network of the South? You can read all about it on the Southern Living blog or you could just take my word for it and join. Tons of great content about all things Dixie. I admit to being a little biased, seeing as I’m a featured contributor, but you’ll find all sorts of gems from fellow Southern bloggers, including Hope at Fairhope Supply Co. and Nealey at Dixie Caviar.

image001

In May, I’ll be at the Southern C Summit, and hope to see some of y’all there. Details below:

We are bringing together the best of the southern blogging community, businesses and brands for learning and networking opportunities. Our intimate niche gathering of southern creatives will offer rich content, conversation and collaboration all overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Jam-packed with educational sessions, panel discussions and keynote presentations from well-known southern names and social media leaders, attendees will learn useful take-away information and strategic ideas to implement immediately.

Be inspired by our speakers. Be inspired by one another. Share ideas. Sharpen your skills. Discover what works. Make connections. Form friendships.

To help promote the first annual summit we are having a photo contest on facebook and the prize is a free pass to the summit! Check it out- only 10 days left!

We are still offering early bird pricing so if you are interested in coming to the Golden Isles to learn how to elevate your blog or brand- register today!

What’s your favorite find of the week? Please do tell!

Photo credits: Awesome “Hey Y’all” sign available at SlippinSouthern’s Etsy Store; Chocolate dipped pecans by Chocolate, Chocolate, and More.

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