Old Smoky Mountain Candy Kitchen

Fall is getting in full swing here in my little corner of Tennessee. The leaves are anticipating the change. It’s like that moment before the kiss.

It’s a tradition in many Tennessee families to take a little fall trip to Gatlinburg. My husband and I just got back from ours. We thought the trees would have been in full color there but I think they might be playing hard to get till the government opens the park back up for business.

We visited some our favorite places and found a couple of new ones. One of our favorite places to visit is the Old Smoky Candy Kitchen. I could watchthe taffy-pulling machine for hours. And if you add up all the time I’ve spent over the years, I’m sure it would be a significant amount. It’s hypnotizing, and the effect of the pulled sugar is similar to one of my annoying childhood habits of pulling my gum out of my mouth into a stringy mess. Kind of like that, but not.

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I hope you are enjoying fall wherever you are and indulging in all of your family’s traditions whatever they may be.

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Tennessee

I fell in love with the lyrics to this song a while back. And I thought I would share.

Tennessee, you’ve been good to me
Yes, I’ve come to believe you’re where I wanna be
You may not be what everybody needs
but Tennessee, you’re good enough for me
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I can see stars shining in your night
Your daytime seems like Cash and Patsy Cline
They may not be what everybody needs
But they touch my soul
That’s good enough for me
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It’s been ten years now, and I’m rooted in your soil
I am rooted in your soil
Give me ten more years, I’ll be rooted in your soil
Right here in your soil
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You may not be what I will always need
But I call you home
If I can call you home
Then you’re good enough for me

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Camping

My Papa loved to camp and my Grandma loved my Papa. So, they camped a lot. Long trips, short trips or sometimes just a Sunday drive in the RV. During the summer weekends you could find them just a few minutes down the road camping by the lake. My parents would drive my sister and I over for a day and spend to night and make the drive back with them home. The best was when all the cousins came. There were four of us. We would spend the day swimming in the lake, attempting to fish or riding our bikes around the campground.

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Lunch and dinner was very casual almost a grazing of what seemed to be endless choices of crackers and peanut butter or ham and cheese fold over sandwiches. Side dishes might include carrots and celery dipped in ranch dressing or potato chips. Oh, yes and there was always cantaloupe, my Grandma’s favorite. Cut up in manageable chunks for little hands, sealed tight in a Tupperware container.

As soon as lunch and the 30-minute wait period was over, we rushed back to the lake to play hours of our childhood away. Most people wish they could go back to those days, but I’m glad to have the memories just as they are.

One of my Grandparent's last camping trips together.

One of my Grandparent’s last camping trips together.

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McCool Family Cookbook

Out of my entire cookbook collection, my favorites are the ones created by a community. Some are from high school fundraisers, others created by a local church or community service group. I keep them around for one or two of the gems found in each one. Classroom Peanut Butter Cookies from David Lipscomb High School, The Yankee Pleaser from the Nashville Junior League Cookbook and Walnut Banana Bread from The Nashville Cookbook. But the one that stays in use the most is a collection of recipes from a northern Davidson County family, the McCools. The title of this navy blue plastic comb bound 152-page book is simply, The McCools Cook. And boy, did they ever.ImageHidden in the hills just north of Nashville is a farm that has been in my family for over 100 years. Just off McCool Road, you can still see a springhouse that stored the orchard’s harvest for a family of nine. My grandmother was one of them. The first few pages of this cherished book include a short history, a family tree and a dedication to two women, Francis, my grandmother and Elsie, her sister. It reads, “To their memory and to all the other “Aunt Franceses” and “Aunt Elsies” who can soothe away the troubles of the world with a little love and a chess or chocolate pie, we dedicate this book.”ImageThis book was quite the collaboration. Everyone in the family had a little part. My Aunt Nancy was the editor, my mother, Kay the illustrator and my Uncle Kenny the photographer. Though it was not officially mentioned in the credits, my father is always quality control when it comes to food. I know he tested my own submission, Peanut Butter and Jelly Roll Ups. It was even published it in my own handwriting. I was 7 when the book was published and they were distributed at our seventh annual family reunion.ImageThere are so many favorites in this book. Murrie’s Pancakes, Pop’s Fruitcake and Stevie’s Chess Pie are just a few. It has served as a primer for my southern cooking education. When my Aunt Nancy gave me my very own copy after college, she wrote a sweet note on the front page and lovingly took the time to star her favorites in the index and make notes by the recipes that needed a “revised edit”.

It’s been a while since our last McCool reunion. Every time I open that precious blue book, to find JoAnn McCool’s Chocolate Layered Dessert or Charlotte Lanham’s Chicken Enchiladas, it feels like we are all together again. Each one of us making our way back for seconds to see if we missed anything the first time around that long table littered with tin foil and half eaten covered dishes. We know who brought what, because we all use the same book.

ImageI spy fried chicken, a deviled egg and some chubby fingers.

 

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Fish Fry

Last night was the annual fish fry at our church. I was definitely in the minority as I made my way to the front of the line and entered the all purpose room. I saw the sea of grey hairs with a few shiny spots all sitting down with their heads bowed and chowing down on the crispy cornmeal coated fish.

The menu was sinful. Fried fish, french fries, hushpuppies, coleslaw (almost as good as my dad’s) white beans with pepper relish, fried pickles and for dessert- peach cobbler and coca cola cake. I love how fellowship tastes.

You never really know who you will sit with at these things. Our family tries to sit together at one of the long plastic covered tables. And then I ended up chatting the night away with someone I have smiled and waved to a million times in the church hall any given Sunday morning but never really gotten to know. I had found my kindred spirit of hot sauce. We must have talked about hot sauce for at least thirty minutes. I can’t wait to try it on popcorn as she suggested and we both agreed that hot sauce on fried fish was the only way to eat it. It’s funny how hot sauce will bring people together.

After all the babies and second helpings had been passed around, we headed home with our bellies and hearts full of goodness that comes from sharing fish and breaking bread together.

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Morning Walks

To offset the calorie intake that comes along with bbq, biscuits, and turnip greens cooked with a ham hock, I’ve started taking morning walks in my little town. Discovering it all over again.

#kingstonsprings #morningwalk #smalltownusa

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#morningwalk #kingstonsprings #smalltownusa

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#kingstonsprings #morningwalk #smalltownusa #nofilter

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Morning walk

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#morningwalk #kingstonsprings #smalltownusa #nofilter

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Somewhere in middle merica #smalltownusa

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Farm to Table

Most likely if you actually grew up in the South, “farm to table” is not a new culinary concept. It’s not a trend. It’s a way of life.

My parent’s organic produce section was my grandmother’s backyard. Their butcher was my Uncle Jimmy and fresh eggs weren’t far from the door of my Aunt Nancy’s kitchen. The hospitality wasn’t found in one meal on a checkered tablecloth, but in the basket of fresh produce sent home for the week.

In our family, fresh Tennessee tomatoes and strawberries still warm from the sun were the only kid friendly options. Before there were kale chips and wheat grass there were lima beans that actually tasted good. We may have pronounced all the letters in jalapeno, but we canned the best salsa and we didn’t even know that it was organic.

I remember a summer night spent shucking a truckload of sweet corn outside with my uncle and daddy. My sister and I would walk the corn inside to my aunt and mama to be cut off the cob. If we lingered too long in the air, it wouldn’t be long before our dirty little feet were shooed back out the door for more. In the winters, that creamed corn sure did hit the spot.

Another summer, daddy brought home a TON of strawberries from Portland. As mom got everything ready to freeze those little jewels, dad and I raced to see who could cap the most. I won. Nothing beats strawberry birthday cake made with Portland’s finest in February.

It excites me to see “farm to table” becoming popular. It’s just so good. It’s like seeing God on a plate. Can you imagine Him creating a strawberry? He truly does love us. 

ImageThose are Calvin Klein jeans, baby.

 

 

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SKYKING

They say, home is where the heart is. I believe the heart is where the table is.

Tonight, my husband and I were planning on sharing a table at a new restaurant in our small quaint town right outside of Nashville. Small southern towns have their big charms, but not often do they have amazing brick oven pizza.

The newest restaurant in town, we had been planning this for a while. I had been hoping for a decent pizza restaurant since I moved here three years ago. We were tired of driving into the city for a pie. When my husband came down with a summer cold, I decided that we were going to have pizza whether it was at our table or theirs. I went in, found a seat at the bar and ordered two 13 inch pies to take home. Margherita for me and pepperoni for the man. The service was fast and friendly. I felt like the place had been there forever.

I love a good Friday night in and it might happen more now that I can share my table with a pie and my love. ImageImage

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