May 13, 2019 10:07:16 AM
"Eating good food is my favorite thing in the world. Nothing is more blissful."
-- Justine Larbalestier, Australian young adult fiction writer
Our guest once lived in Starkville, having gone to college there. Later he continued his stay while working for the Extension Service. He moved away from the South for another job, came back again, then moved away again. And so it was, he came back for an extended visit but a short stay.
I was curious to see what our guest would want to see and do during his time here. What exactly did he miss about living in the South? It turned out a lot of what he craved was the foods we eat.
On or about the first day, he made a trip toward Macon where he had seen a sign on the highway advertising ripe tomatoes. He purchased two bags full. Across the road was one of those dollar stores that dot the countryside. He stopped for a loaf of Wonder bread -- white bread -- and a jar of real mayonnaise. These supplies filled the bill for most of his lunches. When it didn't, he stopped in for local pulled-pork BBQ sandwiches and fried green tomatoes, maybe a side of corn salad.
Several nights dining at the Prairie house, we shared rotisserie chicken, turnip greens and corn on the cob, with cornbread and real butter. He returned a couple of times to a nearby fish house to enjoy what he described as his favorite dish of all time -- whole fried catfish with the tails on.
Somewhere along the line, he took a liking to fried fish tails. He says they taste like potato chips, but better. Once he even caught bream out of the Prairie lake, cleaned them with a spoon (something I haven't seen in years), and we fried them up in the Fry Daddy. Possibly he, a widower, learned to like fried fish tails from his bride of 51 years, who grew up in Glen Alan, Mississippi, on Lake Jackson, where fried bream tails were a delicacy. He also ferreted out some restaurants serving fried frog legs. You can't get those just anywhere. A couple or so breakfasts included hot buttered sausage biscuits and a stop by the Mennonite Bakery in Brooksville.
Other attractions included three days of turkey hunting, resulting in the harvest of three turkeys. Those he had smoked and made into turkey salad. There were several more days of sitting in the woods practicing calling up turkeys with a box call. There he would take videos of turkeys strutting to the call.
Naturally there was MSU baseball with hot dogs and popcorn. The new stadium was impressive, the weather perfect, and the team a winner.
Our guest attended church services at our little chapel in the Prairie and found the reception so hospitable and warm he decided to join. The fellowship dinners weren't bad either. He promised to be supportive by social media and extended visits. Perhaps it's true what they say of a boy -- you can take the boy out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the boy.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
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