The magnificence of this morning’s light was irrefutable. I woke up with thoughts of playing a video game (I just got Guild Wars 2 to play with my younger brother) but one step in the breeze that whips through my house though open windows told me I had to relocate and read. I sat myself down on the living room couch with all the different magazines, papers, and books I’d been lugging around intending to get to, and I read for a short time. Then… Something called me into the kitchen. Maybe it was thirst? Maybe my body just knew. I walked through the refreshing breeze and into the flood of brilliant warm sunlight, and my day took new form.
I’ve been wanting, for a time, to transform my eat-in kitchen into a more devoted cooking space with a nice breakfast nook, island and stools. Perhaps I’m asking a bit too much of the space, but I’ll get to that another time. Today, I slid a few chairs into the brightest part of the kitchen, nearest the corner windows for maximum exposure to light, wind and view. Some days I have a craving to be outside, but I know that being so close to it and still being indoors can still be great, perhaps even better. I dream a dream of a home integrated with the outdoors, the line between created and existing blurring out of sight.
A tiny studio house in the woods would be the perfect place to relax, write given the inspiration in the woods and tastes of the land. These things I crave for my future, in a time when my life is more devoted to food and writing, with that ever-present penchant for home design.
The first choice of reading was Garden & Gun, a magazine I unceremoniously borrowed from Champion Coffee (and it will be returned when I finish, mind you. In fact, I am writing this very passage in the neighboring backyard of Milk & Roses. I just spotted a rabbit out of the corner of my eye, and then noticed the little rabbit house in the back. How does one miss such an amazing thing? Too focused on getting to the writing, perhaps. I haven’t felt such a desire to write in quite some time, and thought I feel I’m getting far off topic here, being that I’m writing all of this in a parenthesis, I need this flow to be captured. I’ve wanted to write more and more lately as mention of books, publishing and giving talks and universities comes up. The thought of doing so just seems to suit me. Will it happen? It doesn’t matter, I have enough fun doing it just for the sake of itself, there’s no worry as to what comes of it.). The design and writing in this publication are fantastic. I can’t help but be excited about all of these elements of southern life that I so previously have shunned. Yes, I was raised in Mississippi and I wanted nothing more than to escape it and all its trappings. Now, I’m beginning to see the beautiful side of country living. I like New York’s approach to The South. It breathes a character into it with more style than I ever observed while actually living in it. I feel like now I have sufficient experience to do it right, or at least to craft it into something I could really appreciate.
New York seems to have a fond fascination with The South and the country that has been growing for some time. Farm-to-table and rustic stylings are common themes of my favorite eateries and bars. These aspects evoke a warmth of home that one does not quite get from the chic and minimal (thought I do enjoy those a great deal). These aspects are also not specifically appointed to The South so much as the lands beyond the lanes, no matter where they lie. I’ve have for a long time a fascination with New England, as well, and as time goes I am finding how to integrate my favorite aspects of each into my life and being. For now, though, I’ll return to what I have learned in these pages.
The first thing that struck me was the beauty of Beretta’s 686 Silver Pigeon 1 on an advertisement five pages in. I’ve never cared about shotguns. I’ve never cared about hunting. In fact, I had quite a bit of distaste for the deer hunters I’d always encountered in Mississippi. They and I were very far from similar in any what whatsoever. I cannot imagine I would ever dine with someone who wears full camouflage to a marketing seminar, a college course, said dinner, or…well, anywhere that wasn’t the woods. However… this beautiful instrument is one I would very much like to have above my mantle in a rustic country home. An article further in about master engraver Lisa Tomlin has a quote from her that captures my intrigue:
“Even people who aren’t interested in guns or knives are enthralled by these embellishments, and the fact that they exist on an item like a rifle just adds to the intrigue.”
This line was written for me. In the very same pages that housed the images that got me excited in the first place. How did they do that? How can it be so well put together? Now you begin to graze my fascination with this magazine. I can’t believe how good it is.
Another section I thought I would never care about: Quail hunting. It’s the wealthy countryman’s sport, no? Complete with beautiful, smart dogs (another area in which I was previously disinterested) and the aforementioned highly styled shotguns. I merely grazed the article, trying to prevent myself from becoming any more interested in the sport than I need to be at this point in my life. I do have a love affair with quail that could easily get out of hand. Why quail? It began at Snackbar, in Oxford, MS, after a particularly life altering dish (Thanks Vish.). It opened up the possibilities to poultry alternatives to chickens that have grown far too large and bland in wretched industrial farming. Now, I tend to find myself ordering quail, pidgeon, and all manner of birds when they pop up on the menus of my favorite establishments. The point is, I have to watch it or I may take my food sourcing to the next level at what would likely be incredible monetary expense. Speaking of expensive sports, golf was also mentioned in a short article about Pete Dye and the courses he’s built.
For the food aspects of Garden & Gun that of course win my heart, there was an article on Sorghum Molasses. Molasses is another item I never gave the time of day. It stuck me as bumpkin food. My, I really was growing a healthy distaste for The South. Stay anywhere you’re unhappy for too long and this seems to be the result. I knew of sorghum being made at a tiny farm just off the Natchez Trace Parkway, but I had no interest in trying it at the time. For me, the quest for sweeteners has always been about Pure Vermont Maple Syrup. Now that I have a healthy supply and have experienced the flavor (and it is, without doubt, fabulous), I am open to discovering new and different flavors in other syrups. This is where sorghum comes in. Luckily, a taste test is soon to be under weigh, as I tasked my brother with picking some up for us to try out in baked goods when he arrives here next week. I also read that a Vermonter makes sorghum and sells in at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays, a claim I will certainly investigate this coming weekend. I’m most excited about trying it in baked goods.
“Purer than molasses and more southern than Maple Syrup, it’s a soulful alternative to honey and agave”
I’ve also had a growing penchant for eating increasingly locally. I enjoy that NYC is a port city and one can find products from the world over, but I think a healthier method, and a better way to become very engrossed in where you are, is to eat what belongs there. Part of this may have come from being fed up with paying premiums for lamb, when I know that’s what you get in Greece and Turkey just because that’s what’s there, not because it’s exotic. I can wait to have it while I’m there. Here, I’m going to stick to what is done best in my back yard.
Speaking of what is made in my backyard (on a global scale), there’s an article about Pappy Van Winkle featuring Julian P. Van Winkle III. The basic summary is this: Pappy is so expensive because all they want to do is make it right. And that takes time and focus, resulting in incredibly low production in comparison to the demand. Is it worth the price? No. is it good that someone cares so much about making bourbon the way they feel it is meant to be made? Absolutely. For me, though, I’ll likely never buy another glass/bottle.
Speaking once more of backyards, this yard at Milk & Roses is perfect. PERFECT I TELL YOU. How long have I been here? Three Hours? Four? Luxuriating. Indulging. Accomplishing. More days like this, please.