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Annie Mae Turnes Justice, the primary inspiration behind DixieDining.com, dies at age 101

26 Aug

“Living a century on Earth is pretty remarkable — even in this modern age of medical miracles. But Annie Mae was a truly remarkable lady in many ways. I may be more than a little biased, but I believe this with all my heart. Many people today measure a successful life in terms of fame and fortune. Sad, but true. I can honestly say that Annie Mae never got caught up in any of that. She lived a simple, graceful life — and always seemed more than content with life’s simpler pleasures. In her long lifetime, she rarely left her home state of Virginia. Here favorite place to be was at home — surrounded by her friends and family. She first worked at Tubize Artificial Silk Company and, later, along with her husband Phillip, ran Justice Grocery in Hopewell, VA. She preferred home cooked meals to ritzy restaurants. She loved farm markets and yard sales. She could cook up a mess of greens with the best of ‘em. Her crispy fried okra was an inspiration. Her red velvet cake and chess pie were other worldly. When I recently asked her to name her favorite food, she surprised me by saying: “Potatoes.” Think about it: “Potatoes!” Not steak. Not lobster. I think that says a lot. The woman lacked pretension of any kind.”

“Annie Mae was indeed a woman of simple needs and tastes. And she possessed the unique God-given gift of turning simple, everyday things into something rather exceptional. I always admired that trait in her. As she aged, the world around her became increasingly busy, materialistic, and complex. But Annie Mae chose to keep it simple. She never seemed to long for material things. Never appeared to worry about what she didn’t have. She was too busy being thankful for what she did have — and placing other people’s needs ahead of her own. Annie Mae was always a giver — not a taker. She was ever positive — rarely complaining. She gave enormous hugs — and had an unforgettable, infectious laugh. And she was always perfectly comfortable in her own skin. What a rare quality that is these days. I can only hope a little bit of that has rubbed off on me.”

“I recall visiting Annie Mae & Phillip during my college years. As soon as I pulled in their Petersburg driveway, Annie Mae was quickly out the door to the grocery store. She wanted to whip up something extra special. I told her that wouldn’t be necessary, but she wouldn’t hear it. So she was off in a flash. She backed her sedan out of the carport — and slammed right into the front of my car.  I was so mad at myself for not reminding her that my vehicle was parked there. Just hadn’t thought about it. Didn’t have time. And, of course, I was concerned that she might have hurt herself. But all she could talk about was how sorry SHE was — and how she still needed to get groceries. That story speaks volumes about Annie Mae’s outlook on life. It was NEVER about her — ALWAYS about someone else. But in living out her life in that fashion, she forged a lasting legacy of love that few can match.”

A picture of me & Granny – taken at her 100th birthday party 

“We were all so blessed to have had Annie Mae Turnes Justice in our lives. Her quiet, selfless, Christian way of moving through this world made a massive impression on me. We were separated my many miles in recent years, yet I always felt a special bond with that wonderful Southern lady I called “Granny Justice.” Or, sometimes, “Granny Mae.” She would often tell me: “You were always my boy.” It never failed to put a smile on my face. During our last family trip to visit Granny, we arrived at Imperial Plaza cradling white cardboard box lunches from Sally Bell’s Kitchen in Richmond, VA. And by Granny’s reaction, you would have thought we were toting jewel boxes. She made such a big fuss about how tasty everything was – and how nice it was to see us all. Her smile lit up the room. Meanwhile, our youngest son Travis was growing more anxious by the minute — stomping back and forth — constantly asking when we would be leaving. Eileen and I were so embarrassed. But Granny, true to form, was simply “tickled” and that uncomfortable feeling of embarrassment soon disappeared. She had worked her special magic once again.” 

“I know the final few months were very hard on her. A loss of independence and energy, no more cooking, bland hospital meals, a bad fall, and a broken hip. She slowly lost her healthy appetite for good food — and for life. She was ready to go. She said that more than once during our last phone conversation. The Lord knew this, sensed her pain, and promptly carried her to Glory. God, as she often reminded us, is SO good! In our time of sorrow, I take comfort in knowing that Granny is no longer suffering, she is in a far better place, she sees clearly, she walks without pain, and she is at last (after 26 long years) reunited with her beloved Phillip Hendry Justice. They have an awful lot of catching up to do. And lots fish to catch too. That was always their thing. Rest in Peace, my sweet Granny. I love you so much and feel blessed to have had you in my life for so many wonderful years. I will see you again on the other side — and I will be fully expecting one of your famous bear hugs.”

Tallahassee’s Seminole Wind Buffet is a Breath of Fresh Air for Lovers of Scratch Cooking

28 May

We typically pass through Florida’s state capital of Tallahassee at least a couple times each year. Our standby meal stop along this route was normally a little further down the road in Live Oak, FL. Sheryl’s Buffet in Live Oak is really good, but it was time for us to step out of our comfort zone and try something new.

Seminole Wind Country Buffet was suggested to me by a friend who works at Florida State University. He stops by Seminole Wind once or twice a month and raved about the fried chicken and the fresh veggie dishes. He stated he would like to visit more frequently, but his diet simply wouldn’t allow him to do so. The guy has obviously got to get his priorities straight!   

The Florida Seminole Indian theme is apparent both inside and out of the restaurant. So are the Christian messages, religious art, and fish symbols. These folks obviously love the Lord and that is more than just OK with us. The people who work and dine at Seminole Wind are quite friendly. They will stop and chat and not think twice about lingering more than a minute or two. Some may find this uncomfortable. I love it. Reminds me of the good old days when people knew how to make idle chatter. An elderly gent in a straw hat told us it made him feel good to see my teenage boys eat so well. A little old lady pinched 14 year old Travis on the cheek (face, not rump) and exclaimed, “You sure are cute!” It took several minutes for his beet red face to return to its normal shade.

As a lifelong Virginia Tech Hokies football fan, I have been brought up to cheer against the rival Florida State Seminoles. But I never let that loyalty get in the way of a good home cooked meal. And, in this case, I’m pretty glad I didn’t.

The crunchy fried chicken at Seminole Wind is one of their buffet stalwarts.

The made-from-scratch biscuits should also earn a spot on your plate.

Vegetables at Seminole Wind. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Let’s kick it off with the rutabagas. Flat out the best I have ever tasted. Sorry, Granny … it’s true. Great collards here too. As good as you’ll find anywhere.

I have always loved carrot & raisin salad — when it’s made correctly. It certainly is at Seminole Wind. We even made some room for the fresh cucumber & tomato salad and it was (no surprise here) first rate too.

Here (above) are the rutabagas in all their glory — stellar!

My platter (above) following my first trip to the buffet. Yes, several more trips followed in short order. Butter beans, biscuit, collards, cuke & mater salad, carrot raisin salad, fried green tomatoes. Oh yes, almost forgot to tell you about the fried green tomatoes. So doggone good! Pretty much went all veggie the first pass thru — who needs meat with fresh veg like this???

Dessert choices are pretty amazing as well. I would strongly suggest a big fat slab of the strawberry cake. I went back twice and am not ashamed to admit it. It consists of a moist strawberry cake, topped with real strawberries and a light whipped cream frosting. The juice from the berries works its way throughout the cake. This adds to the moisture and the fruity flavor. So simple, so deadly.

Jesus is Lord at Seminole Wind — as this large wall mural will attest.

Former FSU Football Coach Bobby Bowden is also worshipped in these parts.

The lunch buffet is, well, one of the best we’ve ever encountered. And it’s only $4.99 six days a week. Yup, $4.99! It’s about double that price on Sundays and it’s still an incredible value. We hit Seminole Wind twice (once each way) on our most recent drive to South Florida. What does that tell you?  

Seminole Wind – 2226 North Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL

(850) 385-8718; www.seminolewindrestaurant.com

UGA Press publishes “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook”

5 Oct

The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge
Foreword by Alton Brown

“Local recipes from the worldly South”

“Each page herein delivers a strong sense of community; the contributions are from real people with real names; the collection is democratic, but with nary a sign of culinary chaos; and the food is just plain good. And here’s the best part, as far as I’m concerned: Regardless of whether it looks back into the past or ahead into the future, this book looks ever Southward.”
—Alton Brown, from the foreword

Everybody has one in their collection. You know—one of those old, spiral- or plastic-tooth-bound cookbooks sold to support a high school marching band, a church, or the local chapter of the Junior League. These recipe collections reflect, with unimpeachable authenticity, the dishes that define communities: chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, chess pie. When the Southern Foodways Alliance began curating a cookbook, it was to these spiral-bound, sauce-splattered pages that they turned for their model.

Including more than 170 tested recipes, this cookbook is a true reflection of southern foodways and the people, regardless of residence or birthplace, who claim this food as their own. Traditional and adapted, fancy and unapologetically plain, these recipes are powerful expressions of collective identity. There is something from—and something for—everyone. The recipes and the stories that accompany them came from academics, writers, catfish farmers, ham curers, attorneys, toqued chefs, and people who just like to cook—spiritual Southerners of myriad ethnicities, origins, and culinary skill levels.

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, written, collaboratively, by Sheri Castle, Timothy C. Davis, April McGreger, Angie Mosier, and Fred Sauceman, the book is divided into chapters that represent the region’s iconic foods: Gravy, Garden Goods, Roots, Greens, Rice, Grist, Yardbird, Pig, The Hook, The Hunt, Put Up, and Cane. Therein you’ll find recipes for pimento cheese, country ham with redeye gravy, tomato pie, oyster stew, gumbo z’herbes, and apple stack cake. You’ll learn traditional ways of preserving green beans, and you’ll come to love refried black-eyed peas.

Are you hungry yet? Place your order now!

http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Foodways-Alliance-Community-Cookbook/dp/0820332755

Claire’s Place on the Creek – Mobile, AL

6 Apr

Claire’s is a fairly new country buffet place on Halls Mill Road in Mobile, AL. The Stagecoach Cafe used to be at this rustic pine-shaded location, but they have decided to focus all their attention on their primary location in Stockton, AL. But not to fear! Louisa “Claire” Terrell has re-opened the place and really all that has changed is the name.  

You can always tell a good Southern lunch joint by the vehicles in the parking lot. Lots of trucks and police cars = good chow. Really good chow!

The grilled pork chops were simply delicious with a authentic char-grilled flavor. I snagged a couple chops at the bottom of the chafing dish to make sure they were plenty juicy — and they were. The green beans were smoky and soft to the bite. Claire’s also makes a killer jambalaya loaded with tender pieces of white chicken and bright green bell pepper. The cornbread dressing was excellent and the tomato pie tart & tasty (especially if you can score an end piece). I even tried fried asparagus spears for the first time in my life and found the flavor combo to be, well, a downhome natural.

Believe it or not, I did save a little room for dessert. That’s a good thing because the choices here are plentiful. Claire’s buttermilk pie was moist with lots of chewy flaked coconut in each and every bite. The banana pudding was even better — incredibly smooth and heavenly. I was on Cloud Nine.

Pricing at Claire’s Place on the Creek ( yes, they are on a creek) is $9.50 and includes the all you can eat lunch buffet, drink ( I suggest the Leroy Hill fresh brewed Sweet Tea), and as many dessert treats as you dare tackle. You will not go away hungry or dissatisfied. This is the real deal y’all and I am so glad to have found them. They can already count me as a regular.

NOTE: Claire’s Place is also open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.

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