Fog and secret bloodroot haunt me, a dream I’ll create if it doesn’t exist. A South I insist upon, one far from this screen. One where herbs are ground in mortar & pestles to the tune of murder ballads and gospel music. I want it. I want the phosphorescent foxfire, the rattlers, and cast iron. I want the hoodoo blues, and the strings. God, I want the strings. I want to know this place that informs my I, snake handlers and all. It is this part of me—Tennessean—of us, that Home & Hill magazine—a gorgeous quarterly devoted to this fair state—celebrates. They’re as enamored of Tennessee as I am, and I couldn’t be more proud to share some outtakes of my contribution to their second issue as well as some photos of the dinner I hosted with them for all the contributors of Issue #2 right here in Chattanooga.
Southerner. It’s a signifier, one of many in the patchwork of my I along with daughter, sister, friend, photographer, stylist, cook, and writer. Along with the dark—bipolar, addict, drop out. We carry these signifiers around, reinventing ourselves anew each day as those nebulous concepts bend, wobble, and unfurl. The I is, in the end, largely arbitrary, and yet those words and their contents become us. The where of us is more than our location. It’s the frame we’re woven on, and a lens through which we inevitably come to see ourselves more clearly.
The older I get, the more I see the indelible foot print of the south, of Tennessee, on me. I might have an accent now; I never did. I’d like to, sometimes. As the tune of Barbry Ellen bleeds into Amazing Grace, weeping rises in me, but I don’t weep. For just a moment, at the desk with the cat hanging vainglorious as sloths do hang off the back of my chair, civilizations rise and fall in my chest—a tidal hiccup, a touch of the bipolar. I do not weep or tear the curtains down, but rather drag long and hard on my fake, electronic cigarette until I settle back into another, calmer concept of me. And so I sit, a patchwork quilt & wild of mind, in the foothills of Tennessee, me in it and it in me.
I created a winter feast for Home & Hill, a celebration of roots and warm biscuits, leathery greens with spice, pork fat, and a touch of honey. As winter clings, there’s still time enough to try the recipes for yourself: a cheese & rosemary biscuit crusted chicken, fennel, and celery root cobbler; a pot likker inspired kale & brussels sprout salad with a spicy bacon vinaigrette; and a personal triumph, a sorghum meringue pie inspired by an old newspaper clipping of “plantation sorghum buttermilk pie”. All of the recipes, along with a rambling interview with me can be found in Issue #2, which can be purchased along with issue #1 at Sweet Gum Co. But there’s more than that—knitting from Rebekka Seale, photos from Hannah Messinger, a feature on Nashville woodworker Holler Design, and so much more. I treasure both issues and make their home in my guest room for friends to peruse when they come stay for a spell.
The dinner itself was a joy to host & style. The centerpiece & pinecone place card holders were all foraged and found: branches & pine I tore from trees on the side of the interstate like a mad woman (yielding tattered hands that rather looked like I’d gotten in a scuffle with a pine tree, which I did) and brass candlesticks found at the Goodwill. Home & Hill printed up dear menus & name cards and brought along Anna (the editor’s) collection of vintage napkins. When it was all said and done, everyone gathered around for pine infused champagne cocktails alongside my (if I do say so myself) mildly famous fancy pimento cheese before sitting down to the shared meal. Afterwards we all gathered in the living room to listen to Matt of Holler Design talk about the story of his business and just discuss what it is to be a crafts person in this climate, the ins and outs, ups and down. Thank you all! It couldn’t have been a more pleasant evening.
Again, you can find the recipes in Issue #2, available for purchase here at Sweet Gum Co or at Home and Hill! Sorry but they’re only available in the magazine, but I promise it’s worth every penny and then some.
A little reminder that there are still a few days left of voting for the Better Home and Garden’s Blogger Awards. You can votte here every dadgum hour if you’re so inclined!
Nominations for Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards are now open! Nominate your favorites here.
I did a little interview for Donny over at Great Food Photos. You can read it here.
Lastly, a shoppe, Home of the Brave, curated by Wolves Within and featuring tons of my favorite artists & crafts people like Small Spells, Wood & Faulk, and Juniper Ridge, are opening up a pop up shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn this Thursday! If you’re in the area, do not miss! Sad clown I’m not there. For more info, you can follow them on twitter.