The Place Setting, by Fred W. Sauceman

November 29, 2006

Michael and Jane Stern have made careers by publicizing small town eateries all over the country. Fred W. Sauceman’s The Place Setting, published earlier this year by the Mercer University Press, is a wonderful guide to down home cooking in the Southern Appalachians.

Sauceman not only spotlights restaurants that serve chicken livers, “beans all the way,” and buttermilk biscuits, but also provides recipes for now exotic dishes such as killed lettuce, cushaw custard, and chow-chow. That last one comes from the late Jeanette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter and co-founder of the famous Carter Family Fold in Maces Spring, Virginia. Ms. Carter, it seems, worked as a cook at Hilton Elementary School in the 1960s. Her recipe is below the break.

While focusing on food, the author also spends time with the folks who make it and eat it. This is one of the delights of dining at a place such as Johnson City’s The One-Stop, which sells about 50 pounds of fried chicken livers per day (and recommends a red American zinfandel to go with them). “Foodies” aren’t just the people who shop at Whole Foods or the ones who serve arugala salads.

Perhaps the only thing that would make the book better is a good set of maps. The cover of the book contains a crypic line–“First Course”–and I hope this means that the author has future volumes in the works.

Jeanette Carter and her chow-chow

Jeanette Carter and her chow-chow. Photo by Larry Smith

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Sgt. York casings to be given to museums

November 28, 2006

I got an email from Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Mastriano, whose discovery of the site in France where Sgt. Alvin York and his men captured four German officers and 128 men and marched them back across the lines was reported around the world. The Colonel writes:

“I am pleased to formally announce that 21 of the 21 .45 Colt ACPs that SGT York fired were found in October 2006. The spot matches the 1919 post war photo and is congruent with both American and German testimony/records. The find was where the German archival data led us. There is no doubt that we found the “York spot.” It was an honor to stand on this hollowed ground – where York earned his Medal of Honor. It was quite a moving experience to actually hold the cartridges that were once in his hands. I am humbled that God has blessed us so. It was incredibly hard work – but it was well worth it.

“The discovery does not end the work. The group is working closely with the mayor of Châtel Chéhéry, Roland Destenay, to create a Sergeant York historic trail to ensure everyone has a chance to walk in the steps of Alvin York to ensure that his legacy is honored. As to the artifacts, the group will donate portions to the mayor of Châtel Chéhéry, the York family and various American museums.”

I hope that some of the 21 casings will go to the York museum at the Sergeant Alvin York Gristmill And Park in Pall Mall Tennessee and to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

The Colonel further writes: “In addition to the Colt ACPs, we also found four of the .45 slugs he fired. They were in a row along the exact area where German LT Endriss led the bayonet attack against him. I am pleased to confirm that the archeological evidence is consistent with the York story and puts to an end recent second guessing and revisionist theories to the contrary.

“The mayor of Châtel Chéhéry walked through the area and was shown the artifacts – and he is in agreement with us that the spot was found and that the search is over. He has already agreed to our plan to build a historic trail retracing York’s steps. I have a tentative agreement from three Boy Scout troops to help in this endeavor to start work in the spring.

“It is a great day for the York legacy.” Indeed.

More photos after the break.


Photo credits: Kory O’Keefe

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Tennessee ranks high in "Exurbans”

November 27, 2006

Demographers use the word “exurban” to describe the areas where suburbs meet farmland.  Compared to cities or suburbs, land in the exurbs is cheap, and with good roads a person can enjoy the benefits of a city without having to live close to it.

An Associated Press story cites a Brookings Institution report (link below) placing Knoxville and Nashville among the top ten cities in the nation with a high exurban population:  Knoxville ranks Number Six and Nashville/Murfreesboro comes in at Number Nine.  Tennessee ranks sixth nationally among the states in exurban population.

The report suggests that the biggest reason people move to the exurbs is for affordable housing, although the longer commute can eat up some of those savings.  The AP story begins with a man who lives in the Pinewood community of Hickman County–off Exit 163 of I-40–and who drives to Nashville three times a week for his work.  The drive takes 80 minutes one-way. 

What are the implications of exurbanites in Tennessee?  First, small towns need to begin planning before they face dozens of homes on one-acre lots.  People who have commutes of two-plus hours will be ill-inclined to participate in community activities or government.

One hopes, however, that at least some newcomers will realize the value of small-town life and work to preserve it.  The best example I know of this in Tennessee is Leipers Fork, southwest of Nashville, where people realize that they have a good thing going and are working to control growth and development. 

Finding Exurbia: America’s Fast-Growing Communities at the Metropolitan Fringe

Nashville exurbs, near yet far from the city, grow fast – Nashville, Tennessee – Sunday, 11/26/06 –

Knoxville seeks to revive "The Strip”

November 26, 2006

The best colleges have a beautiful campus AND an accompanying commercial area with the following sorts of enterprises: music stores, bookstores, coffee shops, inexpensive as well as high-end eateries, sidewalk cafes, art supply shops, nightclubs, folk music venues, and so on.

At Harvard, this sort of area is called Harvard Square. At the University of Colorado in Boulder, it is “The Hill.” And at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, it is “The Strip.” When I was a UT student from 1970-75 (I was a four and a half year man), The Strip fit the above definition. Its low rent attracted one-of-a-kind interesting stores–some of them black lit “head shops”–scattered among older buildings, which in those ancient times included actual houses.

In recent decades, however, thanks to the lack of planning that afflicts Knoxville and other Tennessee cities, The Strip went downhill. The old buildings were razed and replaced with fast food franchises and –worst of all–enormous gas station/convenience stores that looked like they had been airlifted in from an interstate highway exit.

Now, according to a News Sentinel article, the city of Knoxville is taking a look at The Strip and trying to decide what can be done. There is one answer to that question: plenty.

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Black Friday, Black label Jack in Lynchburg

November 25, 2006

Today’s News Sentinel carries the story of holiday shoppers who shun malls and make a trip to the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg for some Christmas cheer. While the distillery delivers a great tour and makes a good outing, it’s actually not a very good place to buy Tennessee’s most famous product.

In one of the wonderful ironies of Tennessee, Moore County is dry, and it took an act of the state legislature to allow the distillery to sell any whiskey at all. The bottles sold on site are the more expensive commemorative ones.

I recommend taking the tour, but buying your whiskey at a conventional liquor store. There you’ll find better prices and all sizes of Jack Daniels, from stocking stuffers to frat-house party sizes.

KnoxNews: State


Nathan Bedford Forrest controversy rides again

November 24, 2006

Today’s Tennessean has a piece on the neverending fracus kicked up by the infamous “Wizard of the Saddle.” This latest episode was kicked off by the Middle Tennessee State University Student Government Association, which passed a resolution calling on the University to remove the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Army ROTC building.

Forrest represents a conundrum for Tennesseans. He was indisputably a great tactician and commander–no less than Shelby Foote said that the Civil War produced two geniuses, Forrest and Abe Lincoln–but the former Memphis alderman’s involvement with the Fort Pillow massacre and subsequent leadership of the Ku Klux Klan tarnishes his image.

One thing that Forrest fanciers and opponents can agree on, however, is that the fiberglass depiction of him erected alongside I-65 in Nashville is, hands down, the singlemost hideous Civil War statue ever created.


Cofounder of first black radio station dies

November 23, 2006

John R. Pepper II died this week at the age of 91. When he was 32 years old, he and Bert Ferguson took failing Memphis radio station whose programs were aimed–as were all radio programs in 1947–at white listeners, and created the first station aimed at black folks.

Rufus Thomas and B.B. King became disc jockeys here, with the latter recording his first song during off-hours in one of the station’s studios. According to the WDIA history (see link below), “the first gospel disc jockey was Reverend Dwight “Gatemouth” Moore, a
former blues singer. ‘My program was called ‘Prayer Time,’’ Moore
recollected, ‘and my phone would ring and I’ve had white people to say,
‘What is happening on that radio station? My maid is tearing up the

While WDIA began during times of rigorous segregation, day to day operations were a model of integration. Again, quoting from the history, “WDIA’s impact was enormous, not just in Memphis but in the whole USA.
Radio stations from other cities sent representatives to study how WDIA
worked, returning to establish African-American
stations in their own cities. WDIA began to call itself “the Mother
Station of Negroes.” In Memphis, the second black station, WLOK, opened
in 1954. WDIA was sold by its original owners in 1957, but for decades
after that, its spirit has thrived. WDIA celebrated a people who’d
known only insult, earning a prominent place in the history of American
race relations—and entertainment.”

Memphis Commercial Appeal – Memphis’ Source for News and Information: Local

Tennesseans on Most Influential List

November 23, 2006

The Atlantic Monthly has issued a list of the 100 most influential Americans, and three Tennesseans make the cut.

Andrew Jackson comes in at Number 18: “ The first great populist: he found America a republic and left it a democracy.”

James K. Polk is Number 50: ” This one-term president’s Mexican War landgrab gave us California, Texas, and the Southwest.”

And–you knew he’d be there somewhere–Elvis comes in at Number 66: “The king of rock and roll. Enough said.

Exeunt Robert Altman

November 22, 2006

nashville.jpgMovie director Robert Altman was not a Tennessean, but he had a profound effect on Nashville with his 1975 film bearing the name of Tennessee’s capital city. Nashville was endlessly discussed by film and social critics , while residents of the city–constantly testing the air to see if they were being mocked–tentatively enjoyed the attention.

Much effort was spent figuring out who was portaying whom. Henry Gibson played Haven Hamilton, an elder statesman of country music patterned on Roy Acuff. Ronee Blakley looked and sang like Loretta Lynn. The black singer portrayed by Timothy Brown more than resembled Charlie Pride.

The movie captured Nashville, country music, and, indeed, America, in a way never seen before on the big screen. Altman went on to other triumphs, but it remained his Big One. Curiously enough, Nashville marked Lily Tomlin’s first appearance in a movie, and Prairie Home Companion, Altman’s last film, also featured Tomlin, this time as part of a sister act singing country music.

Bald Eagles off the Endangered List?

November 20, 2006

Today’s Tennessean has an article on the possible removal of American Bald Eagles from the list of threatened species. This is good news; our national bird has recovered so well from the 1960s, when the use of DDT and other pesticides caused the number of nesting pairs in the entire lower 48 states to drop to 417.

The eagle was listed as endangered, the bad pesticides were banned, and money was spent improving habitats. The number of eagles multiplied, and in Tennessee they brought new visitors to Reelfoot Lake State Park and other areas where the magnificent birds wintered. The numbers rose, and eagles moved from “endangered” to “threatened.” Now, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service may take the eagles off the “threatened” list. According to the article, the lower 48 states now have over 7,000 nesting pairs, with 300-500 individuals wintering in Tennessee.

Now is a great time to see eagles at Reelfoot Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, J. Percy Priest Lake, and along the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers.

Are eagles ready to leave the nest? – Nashville, Tennessee – Monday, 11/20/06 –