Monday, March 5, 2018

Jackson, MS: Plus BONUS Mid-South Foodapalooza!

We're getting centered!  Besides being in the "center" of our 7-week trip, Jackson is also in the "center" of Mississippi; we stayed at LeFleur's Bluff State Park in the "center" of Jackson; and this stop really "centered" us emotionally, as we took a break from sightseeing and touristing and did some good ole fashioned camping, popping corn over an open fire, nature watching, & sunset gazing.





Speaking of centers ... the centers of OUR BODIES are expanding by the day!  We're not normally big "eater-outers" on our trips.  In fact, during last summer's 6-week trip around the Pacific Northwest, I think we only went to a restaurant three times total!

But here, at every turn, there is a place that is so unique! famous! strange! clever! and stop-worthy! ... that we just can't pass it by.  Presenting .... Foodapalooza, Mid-South Style!

MAYFLOWER CAFE - JACKSON, MS

The oldest operating cafe in Jackson, the Mayflower Cafe has been around since 1935.  The food is great, but its known worldwide for two things:  movies and salad dressing!  That's right, I said movies and salad dressing!


Ghosts of Mississippi was filmed here, and so was The Help, for which the owner was paid $5,000 to use his space.  Here's Emma Stone outside the Mayflower ...

   
And here's Philip Miller outside the Mayflower!  
He's practically a movie star by geographical association.


The Mayflower serves great "meat+three" plates and Greek-style seafood, but its "Comeback Sauce" is so renowned that it got its own New York Times feature article (with recipe at the end)!


The name refers either to the taste that keeps you coming back for more; 
or the more likely explanation that its garlic scent has a way of sticking around.
They put it on just about everything (crackers, meat, veggies, salad) and it was deeeeelicious!
"It's not a sauce, it's a culture."


It doesn't get more Southern than chicken and dumplings, "field peas" which didn't turn out to be peas at all, and deep-fried okra! oooooooooooooo-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

OLD COUNTRY STORE, LORMAN, MS


Diners flock from miles around to this 100+-year-old shack,
loosely termed a "general store" (but really just a country flea market) ....



They come for THIS:  "the best fried chicken in the world!"  
Them's "fightin' words" in this part of the country, where fried chicken is a cult we really want to join.  And yet, it really WAS the best!  It's been featured on Food Network's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and included in Yahoo's 2015 listing of "Best Fried Chicken."


The all-you-can-eat buffet features all your favorite Southern sides. 
The owner, Mr. D., is a wonderful singer and often serenades his guests as they eat
(though sadly, not during our visit).



Though the cobbler is extra, it's worth it too!  Lastly, cute street dogs to escort you to the door.



THE TOMATO PLACE, VICKSBURG, MS

The Tomato Place is an old-timey fruit stand on the outskirts of town.





They are best known for their world-famous BLT'S!


Admittedly, a BLT is not a complicated dish.  But somehow theirs is elevated, with perfectly toasted homemade bread, the richest fresh tomatoes, crispy salty smoked bacon, and lots of mayo!
Plus, freshly-sliced sweet potato chips.


For a tiny rundown roadside stand, their menu is shockingly broad.  The people next to us had detoured just to get a cup of their gumbo, something they do every year on their way to Texas.  They said "if we're anywhere near the Tomato Place and it's within 4 hours of any mealtime, we're stopping!"



They are also known for their fruit smoothies.  The fruit combos are frozen up in advance -- you pick the cleverly-named smoothie of your choice -- take it to the counter -- and they're a-whirlin-it-up, just for you!  They do sell tomatoes (and other produce) ... 


but also have a lot of local food products.  Philip came back with a bottle of 'MISSISSIPPI FEVER'.
Uh oh!  That sounds dangerous! And who wouldn't be drawn to a hand-lettered, unlabeled, unregulated-by-the-government bottle of who-knows-what?


We bought the Mississippi Fever sauce (because why not) and are A.D.D.I.C.T.E.D.
We have put it on every meal since!  It's a tangy, not-too-sweet, not-too-spicy combination of flavors that is delectable.  I immediately started rationing Philip's usage ... I love it THAT much!

CARRAIGE HOUSE AT STANTON HALL, NATCHEZ, MS

Long famous for its Southern cuisine, Carriage House has been situated behind the historical mansion called Stanton Hall since 1946.



When dining in such rarified settings, you must have a Mint Julep!  (or so says my hubby)
Carriage House is known for their Sunday brunch as well as their tiny, silver-dollar sized biscuits.
And ... you guessed it ... fried chicken!  Of course!


FAT MAMA'S TAMALES, NATCHEZ, MS

Also in Natchez, Fat Mama's is an institution, not only for their tamales (duh) ...


but also for their "knock-you-naked" margaritas!  Originally located in a little 600-square-foot log cabin, they now have an beautiful outdoor patio and a solid following of customers seeking nakedness with a side of lime and salt.  


Now, I'm all in favor of people being knocked naked, but if any of you has had Philip Miller's famous margaritas, you know that THOSE are the real margs that inspire nakedness.  Can I get an AMEN?

B.T.C. OLD-FASHIONED GROCERY, WATER VALLEY, MS

B.T.C. stands for "Be The Change", as in "be the change you want to see in the world."
Love it!  This combo grocery store + cafe is in tiny Water Valley, MS farm country.



Your order is placed at the kitchen door from the extensive menu on the wall.


This very humble eatery has been featured in the New York Times, Food and Wine Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, amongst others.  And my homemade meatball hoagie was truly divine!


NO judgment here, but this seems like some very region-specific marketing!
I have definitely not yet seen this brand of potato chips in Scottsdale, Arizona!


These were just a few of our favorite foodie stops.  Don't even get me started on the donuts around here!  Arghhhhhhhhh!  I don't even LIKE donuts, and I can't stop eating them!


~~~~~~~~~

Our one touristy stop while in Jackson was the outstanding Museum of Mississippi History, which (along with the associated Miss. Civil Rights Museum) only opened in December 2017, meaning it hasn't had time to get banged up and dingy just yet.


You can really tell that it's brand new, not by the lack of gum stuck to the floor, but by the outstanding modern electronic and multi-media exhibits that demonstrated 15,000+ years of Mississippi history.  



And lots of movies (who doesn't love movies!) in theaters so loung-ey and disco-ey that we felt underdressed and kept looking for the bar.


We've had some emotional traumas during this trip, including the death of our dog Bella on February 15th, and then the passing of Philip's mother Georgia on March 1st in South Carolina.  Here they are together a few years ago.

"We lost our family matriarch yesterday, as Philip’s darling momma left this earth in her rear-view mirror. "Sweet Georgia Brown" grew up as the 7th youngest of 8 sisters on a Baxley, Georgia tobacco plantation with her beloved pet pig, Nancy Hank, before leaving country life for a career as a secretary for the FBI. She was either 94 or 95 (nobody was ever quite sure) and though she had spent the last four years in dementia’s tight grip, her sweet spirit and deep emotional core lives on forever in her beloved three sons, and their families. Even well into her late 80’s, she loved doing yoga, getting Goobers at the movies, whipping everyone’s butts in Scrabble, her hateful cat Scarlett, a finger of bourbon with water at the end of the day, dancing around the kitchen to big band music, reading book after book after book, having “just one” cigarette, family musical jam sessions, Dr. Phil, and watching all the kids-grandkids-and-great-grandkids gather at her home on Lake Murray in South Carolina to spend time together. She will be terribly missed, but all she really wanted in the last five years was to “go home” to her beloved parents and sisters, with whom she is now reunited. Her loving spirit will forever live on in all of us!"
~~~~~~~~~~

Our dear friend April called these events "speed bumps" and we like the analogy a lot.  They have definitely slowed us down both emotionally and physically, but we are still rolling forward, knowing that all lives have expiration dates and hoping to make the most of our days before our own expirations come due!  Up next, the Lucky Charm heads to another new state as we drive part of the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway up to Memphis, Tennessee.


 Speed bumps and all, we're not slowing down yet!