I have a friend who works in the healthcare field, and she says that anytime someone answers on one of those forms in the office or emergency room that they have 'x' drinks a week, the staff mentally adds two to it.  So if you mark that you're having three glasses of wine each week, they're thinking it's probably more likely that you're having five but you just think three sounds more acceptable.  


Maybe it's like, although reversed, at the courthouse: whatever you say you weigh on your drivers license is probably at least twenty pounds lighter than what you really are.  Please, nobody call Montgomery and tell them I'm not really 117.

When we are in B'ham, I literally have one drink a week, tops.  Not three, so my doctor doesn't need to be doing the +2 with me.  Seriously, one.  Every Friday night, I have one glass of wine.  I don't even enjoy it, really.

But when we're in New Orleans, that goes up.  I'll never be one of those people who enjoys wine enough to spend serious money on it, or that I could ever swirl a glass and describe those 'grippy tannins' or the menthol or carob undernotes with a straight face, but I do enjoy a cocktail.  It's appropriate, I imagine, as many people figure New Orleans to be the birthplace of the cocktail.  And with that, the earliest cocktail?  The Sazerac, which is the city's official cocktail

Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

Just as a *complete* aside, the NPR story about the sazerac I linked to above mentioned Lindy Boggs who had a magnificent home on the 600 block of Bourbon Street.  Just look at her Mallard half-testerr bed halfway through this slideshow.  Yes, yes.

Also appropriate: New Orleans is the home of Tales of the Cocktail which just wrapped up this year, and Jeff 'Beachbum' Berry won for his book, 'Potions of the Caribbean'.  This fall, he's opening Latitude 29, a tiki bar, in the Quarter at the Bienville House. 

Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans
Anyway, before our last lunch at Domenica (they're both in the Roosevelt Hotel), Av and I stopped in at the Sazerac Bar for a little prelude.  But actually -- mostly -- I really wanted to see the Paul Ninas murals from 1939.

It's not hard to imagine Huey P. Long coming down the elevator from his suite upstairs and sliding in for a -- not sazerac -- Ramos Gin Fizz, which he made a big to-do about in NYC, in 1935.

Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

More about Paul Ninas, who painted in New Orleans for decades, is here, and he's regarded as 'New Orleans' Answer to Gaugin'.
Paul Ninas Murals at Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

Paul Ninas Murals at Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

Paul Ninas Murals at Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

Paul Ninas Murals at Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

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Alan Richman (deservedly, thanks to his post-K GQ article on the state of New Orleans cuisine) here, in an episode of Treme.  'Nobody throws a sazerac!'

Rattlesnake Saloon, Palo Duro, And Looking Like A Giant Frog

Posted by ginger On Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's not every day you can send the grandparents pictures of your children at a saloon.  Sure enough, we took them to Rattlesnake Saloon in northeast Alabama, about 20 minutes from Tuscumbia, a place that despite its name, is purely family at least in the daytime.  As expected, it was a unique experience, mostly because a.) we had to ride in the back of their truck to get to it (you can't drive there yourself) and b.) the restaurant is situated under a giant rock overhang (like a large cave entrance).  Only after five do they serve beer.

I don't know what a saloon atmosphere is, but on a random Saturday afternoon, this was just a cafe with outdoor seating.  There were several other families in attendance.
Rattlesnake Saloon, Tuscumbia AL

Rattlesnake Saloon, Tuscumbia AL

Rattlesnake Saloon, Tuscumbia AL
The dining area of the cave is wired for electric lights and ceiling fans, and there's a band stage for nighttime performances.  From the menu, there's a lot there that's fried.  I got the fried mushrooms and just peeled the fried coating off each piece.  Meh, not great.  Not that I really expected them to be.

I had a daydream/fantasy while looking over the menu, wondering if they were on one of those restaurant reality shows where some celebrity chef swoops in, would they expose an overstuffed freezer with bag after bag of fried, frozen Sysco.  Not sure.  I like fried food, but just wasn't in the mood and for whatever reason there was not much un-fried that appealed.  Here's an overused, nothing phrase that sums it up perfectly though: it is what it is.  Nobody's aspiring for Michelin stars here, but nobody's expecting them to.  It's just a good place to relax under a giant rock.
Rattlesnake Saloon, Tuscumbia AL

Still, these two little boys found it to be very enjoyable and were pretty sure they were the only ones at their schools who had eaten at a place like this over the weekend.  Probably!
Rattlesnake Saloon, Tuscumbia AL

On the way back to our car, we passed a gentleman who offered the boys a ride on his horse (there are thousands of acres to ride on there around the restaurant), and Shugie loved it!
Rattlesnake Saloon, Tuscumbia AL

---
My first horseback riding was when I was seven, at Loretta Lynn's ranch in Tennessee.  I was put on a true trail horse; it did whatever the horse in front of it did.  I had to do nothing.  I went riding a few times other places (once or twice at the beach), and most memorably at Palo Duro Canyon, when living in Texas, in elementary school (I even had a name belt with an oval silver-and-gold horse-themed belt buckle, collected Breyer horses, had a subscription to Horse Illustrated, dreamed of having both a blood bay horse and a Shetland pony, the list goes on...).  

Palo Duro -- it's the second-largest canyon in the US -- was my favorite place to ride horses (always trail horses for me, I was never great or completely confident although I tried to fake it as everyone knows horses can sense that kind of thing.  Pretty sure I never fooled any horse.).  Fox just did a list of the Nine Best Places to Camp in the US, and Palo Duro was number three.  Definitely want to take the boys there.

My last horseback riding was in college one weekend when a group of us had a free weekend.  We went horseback riding nearby, and since it was South Alabama, the ground was very sandy.  Going down one steep embankment, me and my horse were going too fast (again, not the greatest rider) and he slipped.  My friends said it was *hilarious* because first of all, the horse thankfully was fine and unfazed, but I went flying over his head and through the air looking like a giant frog because my legs were behind me and still slightly bent from the saddle.  It really was funny!

---
Just to see, I'd love for us all to visit Assateague Island on coast between Virginia and Maryland, where there are wild horses on the beach.  Yessssss.

Wait.

Posted by ginger On Monday, July 14, 2014

What They Left

Posted by ginger On Thursday, July 10, 2014

National Shrine of Saint Roch

'I Left My Leg in St. Roch Cemetery': what people leave at the National Shrine of Saint Roch in New Orleans.
These are ex votos, tokens of thanks to St. Roch (pronounced “Rock” here in New Orleans) that the faithful have left for generations. They speak to specific human pain and needs beyond ethereal prayer. A heart may be left for lost-love regained, a hand in hopes of eased arthritis. A voodoo-like feeling, worship outside the bounds of sanctioned church activity, hangs over the room.

National Shrine of Saint Roch

In 1867, Rev. Thevis asked Saint Roch for intercession to protect from yellow fever, and not a single parishioner died. In 1876, the chapel in his honor opened.

My last time here was 2010.  These pics from December, 2013:

National Shrine of Saint Roch

National Shrine of Saint Roch

National Shrine of Saint Roch

National Shrine of Saint Roch

National Shrine of Saint Roch

National Shrine of Saint Roch

National Shrine of Saint Roch

There's a Mennonite bakery in what I think of as rural Cullman on Highway 157, but is actually considered Falkville, Alabama (tiny Falkville, known for being a speed trap, must be some imperial entity taking on swaths of acreage as it is a 12 minute drive from this shop to...to that one red light they have on 31).  Of course, I grew up in a rural area myself, so...

Our Saint Bernard, Gidget ,1990
Sweet Gidget

The best thing about my particular neighborhood was that it was so quiet.  When I got my car, I parked with my doors unlocked, keys in the ignition so that I'd never have to go looking for them.  And I never had a key to our house, because it was left unlocked also (and this is the '90s, not the '50s).  Apparently, our neighborhood was positioned in some kind of sweet-spot for people who had pets to unload -- some kind of Shangri-La for lonesome or unwanted pets.  There's no telling how many dogs I had over the years (guessing: maybe a couple dozen? that's probably way off).  Oh, my favorite was a St. Bernard that loved to go riding in my car. They were always terrific pets, mostly mixes, and I wondered why anyone would just let them go.  There was even a full-blooded Great Pyrenees that adopted our neighborhood.  The biggest surprise I ever got was once going outside to feed the cats, and one of the hungry ones that came right up to my hand turned out to be a possum.  Country.

Most Beautiful Girl Pageant, Atlanta GA
When I won, I actually turned around and tried to pick it up.

Oh!  One more story.  My first car was a Buick Somerset.  I got it the summer I graduated high school; PawPaw took me to banks in Gadsden that had my beauty pageant savings bonds so I could cash them in, I went to the Thursday night car auction in Vinemont, and actually bought it there.  It was $2850.  I thought: oh wow, it is so cute like those Pontiac Grand Ams but it's Buick, which is more grown-up.  And it has a completely digital dash, so...so...well, classy and cool.  One day I had just pulled onto the highway from our neighborhood and heard this long alien meow.  It was faintly cat-like (it was a meow, after all) but it was so long and loud and weird that I immediately pulled over thinking one of my cats had gotten under the hood and was close to death-by-fan-belt.  Once I got out, I saw my cat Midnight *on the roof of the car* crazed out of his mind, and when I picked him up, it was as though he had gone...sorry in advance!!...catatonic!  He was completely stiff, as though rigor mortis had set in, but he was completely alive, just scared out of his kitty mind.  How or why he stayed on top of my car as it pulled out of the driveway, and I not even realizing he was there in the first place, remains a mystery.  After getting home, he was just fine.

Our Cat, Midnight, 1992
Midnight: not a fan of car rides

One more cat story: my soul-cat, Abraham, was a 20 pound Russian Blue.  Truly, he was my perfect-perfect cat.  Can't even say how special he was to me.  He got sick one time, was starting to lose weight, and the vet explained to me after an examination that he had cirrhosis of the liver.  I (I was 18 at the time) burst out crying: but he doesn't even drink alcohol!!  Completely cracked up the veterinarian, he was laughing and crying as he was trying to assure a devastated me that it didn't mean Abraham had been hitting the bottle.  The bill was $600 for his medication and everything, and he agreed I could pay it off in installments.  He got $20/week from me, a grateful girl who didn't tell friends Abraham had cirrhosis of the liver, fearing they would be as uneducated as I was on feline health, and think my kitty had been boozing.  Abraham lived many good years after that.

The Buick was not a great car.  It didn't last too long.  At one point in my used-car-during-college-saga, I got a '87 Chrysler LeBaron with a classy and cool completely digital dash and it *fried* one day after work at the Kentucky Fried Chicken (me, two million times: 'original, or extra tasty crispy'? whereas as hostess at Cracker Barrel, my mantra was 'smoking, or non-?'.  Also, confession: at KFC they gave all the employees a free 2-piece meal at the end of a shift and I would always sneak off and eat just the crust off one piece.  Peter Singer was a rock-star to me and vegetarianism was the subject of my senior term paper, but my one temptation I couldn't crush was...original recipe.  Soft, I know.).  Two things about the Chrysler: at one point it had a bad head gasket, which made an enormous amount of steam come out of the exhaust pipe, so that if I were the first car at a red light, the car behind me would have to *wait for the steam to dissipate to see if the light was green* and I would already be long gone; and two, that classy and cool digital dash did overheat one day, the interior of the car filled with smoke, and I jumped out thinking it was going to go full-on car-b-que.

Volvo S40 & Me
First thing off that list!

While growing up, I made a list of things I wanted as an adult.  I would pore through W Magazine (its pages decorated my room -- Nanny got me a subscription in 6th grade and I still get it each month) and made a list of the things I thought would transform me from little country girl to someone worldly and civilized, which I wanted to be so, so badly.  The list was populated with things like a Cartier watch, a Chanel bag with black caviar leather, a Louis Vuitton for everyday, a BMW, and a Volvo with Michelin tires.  There were three other things on the list: graduate college (I did; two degrees) and get married (I did; my best friend) and have children (we did; two beautiful boys).

The first big thing Av bought me off the list (he came from a completely different world but absolutely understood what it meant to me): A brand-new Volvo with Michelin tires.  And now I have a BMW -- because when we had Shugie, our double stroller wouldn't fit in the trunk of the Volvo -- and the other things on that list.  Those material items (honestly, they do make me feel wonderful) don't make me the least-bit more sophisticated!  I'm still the girl who cashed in savings bonds to get a car at an auction, was afraid of someone thinking I drank mimosas with a cat, and fled from digital dashes.

BMW
It even got a bow!  And it doesn't have a digital dash.

And...scene.

Anyway!  All that to say -- this all started with the Dutch Oven Bakery in Falkville -- if you're thinking it's going to be somewhere around the train tracks in Falkville, it's actually a drive out into the country, by Battleground Mountain.  The Cullman Times did a story about the bakery, which is really a deli now, too.

If you make it out there, it's actually something to see! They even have little buggies for little people:
Dutch Oven Bakery, Battleground AL
Shug wears the Virginia shirt since that's where daddy graduated college, and Shugie is sporting his Hubig's shirt.  The Times-Pic just did an article about how the rebuilding is going.  Pour yourself (but not your cat) a drink before you read it.

Completely different brands from the usual grocery:
Dutch Oven Bakery, Battleground AL

Feature Bible verses on their items:
Dutch Oven Bakery, Battleground AL

Fellow fruitcake lovers, take note:
Dutch Oven Bakery, Battleground AL

What I didn't expect to see:
Dutch Oven Bakery, Battleground AL

which reminds me of these, from the Montgomery Curb Market:
Signs at the Montgomery Curb Market

Signs at the Montgomery Curb Market

Big display of tracts:
Dutch Oven Bakery, Battleground AL

Ohhhh yes:
Dutch Oven Bakery, Battleground AL

What the Hubig's people need to do if they can't get things together with their partnership is to sell the logo/recipe/etc and let someone else have a go.  The world needs fried pies.

He Wasn't The Best, But He Was The Best I Ever Had

Posted by ginger On Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

We were back in northeast Alabama and visited the Key Underwood Coon Dog Cemetery for the first time in a few years.  There were some older monuments I didn't remember from last time, and some new ones -- there were something around 185 there in 2005; more than 300 coonhounds here now.  You can't just bury any hound there, it has to be a real coonhound that's been vouched for (meaning not that someone recognized it on your front porch, but rather than it would tree), and someone from the cemetery association even has to view the dog.  Also: if someone were to think they could go out in the middle of the night and bury their dog there without going through the process, well, it would be...um, undone.  They've actually had to do that.

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

It looks so much better with the new (since 2009, I think) custodian's oversight:
Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

This one says:
If he treed in a mail box, you'd better open it up and look because he's got 'em
Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Hunting partner and best friend...:
Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Easy Going Sam...Last One on the Wood:
Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Key's dog, Troop:
Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

And this one, my favorite.
Track
He wasn't the best, but he was the best I ever had
Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL