When visiting one of the Southern Capitals of Charm, there is no doubt you will fall in love with something. Whether it’s food, history, beauty and decor, people, or a fantasy, you can’t leave these magical places without something changing your soul. That is how it was for me recently as I visited Charleston. What a refresher to see men dressed as gentlemen should be suited. Bucks and bow ties, seersucker and silk handkerchiefs. Nothing can swoon as woman as quickly as genuine southern charm of a gentleman. Chivalry is alive and well in the Holy City. Lots of phrases of southern pleasantries are heard in the streets, while dining, and anywhere the delights of this city may lead you.Culinary delights to soothe the palate. The shrimp, clams and oysters. Ah, the oysters. Grits and craft cocktails excite the senses. Low country cuisine will win you over with one bite. Charlestonians do everything in style. From every aspect of entertaining and living, tradition, pomp, panache and class when these mavens take charge of an event, no matter how great or small. You won’t leave this charming place hungry or with boring stories. The liveliness will make you long to return again soon.
Croghan’s Jewel Box is the gem of King Street. Croghan’s represents everything that Charleston should be. Old world charm, timeless elegance and long traditions. Four generations of Charlestonians have been served by the Croghan family. As the sales associate told me, “This is the kind of place where you can buy a $100 gift or a $100,000 ring.” Croghan’s is just the kind of place my mother would have loved, a place that is indeed a rarity in a world of disposable, new and meaningless things. The treasures found in here are the kinds of things I was brought up to appreciate by my sweet southern mother. Things like sterling monogrammed pieces, goblets, and mixture of old with the new. Cameos and vintage gold beads and bangles. Pearls, lots of pearls. It is so refreshing to know that Charleston natives still appreciate and adore these small luxuries. While strolling around the store my friend and I were awestruck by a young bachelor who came in the store announcing, “It’s baptism time again!” Obviously, his married contemporaries are now having children which requires gift giving to celebrate the special occasions in the changing chapters of their lives. It was clear that this young man was a regular and relied on the helpful service of the Croghan family and staff to accommodate completing his social schedule. Amy and I stood back and enjoyed seeing this selection process. Did he choose the “Onward Christian Soldier” which was a nutcracker baby rattle or the “Cradle to Cocktails,” a bubble blower for a baby that was saved to be a drink stirrer/olive retriever once the child reached legal drinking age. The young bachelor seemed to have coined the description phrases for both items. I myself favored the Cradle to Cocktails. What a cleaver idea that is very apropo for an up and coming Charlestonian.
A few of the findings at Groghan’s
South Carolina Turkey Feather Bow Tie
Sterling Silver Bubble Blower
a.k.a. “Cradle to Cocktails”
We should all take note to be like our friends in Charleston. Live large and celebrate our history every day. Until I return, I will see your sweet palmetto trees in my dreams, fair city.
As a Southern-raised child, pimento cheese was always a staple in everyone’s ice box that I knew. Occasionally, I could be fortunate enough to have the random homemade version. Variations of such sundries covered a wide range of tastes. Some varieties included mixtures of cheese, pickled relish or sweet pickles, nuts, and pimentos. My guess is somewhere in the 1960’s or 70’s, lots of Southern ladies got a little lax in their cheese spread prep and opted for the store-bought kind. It seems to me that at every family gathering, every church potluck, every party that included finger foods, pimento cheese appeared in the curves of celery stalks laid out on party trays, usually the clear cut glass trays, alongside homemade sweet pickles and store bought pimento stuffed olives from a jar. Special occasions such as Christmas called for a little sprinkling of paprika over the cheese spread. As young children, we were welcome to help ourselves to making our own pimento cheese sandwiches. This was easy for our parents, grandparents, or whomever was looking after us that particular day to make us self-sufficient creatures perfectly capable of not bothering anyone for our typical hunger pangs during summer days or after-school snacks.
By the time I made it to college, you can image my disgust in seeing that short, round container of orange substance with little red dots. Too much, too sweet, and just tasting wrong! My palate had shifted and I had long since traded the whipped spread margarine for real butter and Miracle Whip for real mayo. It would be years before I would give up Hellmann’s for the divine Duke’s Mayonnaise. This is THE staple item to be found in a Southern food purist’s ice box. Once you taste Duke’s you will forget all about that stuff with the blue lid. Making these small yet essential discoveries led me to arrive at my own version of pimento cheese. I am happy to share my version with you.
2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese (may use the pre-shredded kind if in a pinch)
Stalks of 5 green onions, chopped
1 – 4 ounce jar chopped pimentos, drained
Garlic powder to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Dash or two of Worchestershire
Couple of dashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce
1-2 Tablespoons of Duke’s Mayonnaise
Mix well with fork and refrigerate to let flavors set.
This is a great spread to take to a party or to serve to your guests as a light appetizer. A favorite way to eat it around our house is as a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, especially if it’s made with my homemade tomato basil soup (I’ll save that one for another time).
There is a simple truth I have come to learn in life that is a step in achieving happiness. That is take time to enjoy real food. Food that isn’t bought prepared. Take time to make and enjoy food that makes memories. Take time to make food that makes your friends and family miss you long after you’re gone (or at least make them want to have you back around if for no other reason than to prepare them that special dish). Take time to make food that makes conversation. Take time to make food that makes you happy.
Jamie’s Pimento Cheese
Hints of Spring remind me of my favorite things. The warming days and cool evenings. Budding tulip trees and grass starting to green. The smell of fresh turned soil is a reminder of new beginnings for a whole new growing season and the hope of a prosperous one. Spring is a time to cleanse and purge and start anew. A time of anxiousness awaiting the first fruits of the garden and all the freshness that comes from a new layer of earth. The hopefulness of an easy summer to follow. The harsh winter baptized us of the sins of the year before along with all the extra baggage that weighed us down. Like a hard winter is needed to kill off the insects and parasites that destroy the crops and trees, the harsh winter serves to kill of the negativeness and evil spirits that cloud or way. We begin to clean as Spring arrives and purge our closets, our homes and ourselves off all things that hold us back. Spring seems to remind us that has new year has begun.
The beautiful jonquils are my favorite treasures of the season each year. They are a reminder. Love that my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother shared for them. Love that these are the same bulbs that brought flowers to these women for several generations and now to me. The flowers serve as a reminder of the love that I come from, and even though their stay is brief, I do cherish their visit so. Seeing these bulb flowers bloom around old home places always warms my heart as I imagine someone else may share my sentiments of these same lovely buttercups. We Southerners treasure our gardens, our yards, and the special flowers that we nurture each year in hopes that they will return again and bring us hope for new beginnings while reminding us of the sweetness and love that comes from our past. The roots of these plants are symbolic of our roots and our need to have a reminder once in a while of the important of those roots.
The hay fever, allergens, and terrible side effects that come along with the changing seasons are so worth the trouble. Just to know you can start again fresh and new. When your new year’s resolutions were short lived, your Lenten vows weakened with temptations, there is always new hope in the new beginnings of Spring.
The best I can remember, it all started when I was a toddler in a straw hat and my daddy’s black lizard boots that covered the entire length of my legs leaving just my diaper propped at the top of these brogans. That was the first pair of footwear I fancied. My first memory of my own pair of boots were purchased at Village Cobbler, the local shoe store, around my second grade year. A tan pair of Dingos became my cowboy boots. I usually felt that to wear them I had to be dressed a tad bit more western. I still recall the circles cut into the pull straps. Sometime in junior high came a red short-calf boot with snakeskin vamp and gold tips. It was hard for me to wear these all the time because I felt the bright color attracted too much attention, but I had a fondness for them just the same.
The first pair of boots I purchased all my own were black leather Justins with white stitching and a pointed J-Toe that could kill a cockroach dead in any corner. I ordered them from a country store that I visited many times as a child, and sadly is now a distant memory. The sales associate handed me the catalog and I made my selection for special order. After their arrival, I took these beloved boots everywhere with me for the next several years. When I lived in Washington, D.C., so did my boots. When I traveled to New York , out West, or any place, so did my boots. The black boots even made treks to Europe and to Mexico City. In places of high fashion, or relaxed atmosphere, the classic look of my boots always were noticed. I loved them so much that after about ten years of wear, I had to have them resoled. I wore Levi’s 501 jeans before low-rise jeans were in fashion, which were the perfect compliment to these boots. It was the time I spent with these boots that I learned what comfort in a boot was. Not just the actually feeling on your foot, but the comfortable feeling in your skin when you became one with these boots. Once the weather is cool enough, I am in a pair of boots and will be until the heat becomes too much to bear.
Through the years I have acquired quite a collection of boots. I must admit that this kind of footwear is my weakness. Whether it’s a custom pair, a vintage pair, classic, or funky – I’m all in! Justin, Rocketbuster, JB Hill, Old Gringo, Lucchese,Tony Lama, Donald Pliner. You will all win every time. Some women love to make a splurge in Vegas on a trip to Louis Vuitton, I’ll take the Pinto Ranch or Lucchese showroom. When in Austin, I can’t wait for a visit to Allen’s. Dallas, I’ll take the Old Gringo Showroom any day. I’ve heard many men say they find a woman in boots sexy. Nothing gives me such comfort as a good pair of boots on my feet. If I were Sampson, they’d be my hair. They give me a feeling of confidence and conquering. Perhaps in all the bull we seem to have to muddle through these days, perhaps this “manly footwear” is a necessity. If you haven’t found your grove in a pair yet, I highly suggest you do. There’s not another feeling quite like it.
One of my earliest memories of Mrs. Mary Jane Mullins was as a young school girl. Her stately stature and striking appearance commanded a presence when she walked into a room. Always dressed to the nines and wearing high heels as she taught her sixth grade students. She always looked her best. She was dressed in the best, neatly pressed, hair perfected coiffured, lipstick and make up impeccably in place. Her mere appearance made you stand up straighter and make sure you were in place. She was glamorous in her own right. “Miss” Mary Jane didn’t project this image to be condescending in any way, but rather she wanted you to put your best foot forward. She gave you her best and expecting nothing but your best in return, not just for her, but, more importantly, for yourself.
Mrs. Mary Jane and her husband, John W. Mullins, returned to his hometown where he became superintendent of schools. His reign was and still is legendary. Mr. Mullins ran a tight ship. He demanded excellence from faculty, students, and community, and he got it. Schools under his guidance soared in performance academically, athletically, and socially. The school was one of the biggest sources of pride in the community during this time. Perhaps it was his time spend as a Prisoner Of War during WWII, but John Mullins took no prisoners or excuses for substituting excellence when it came to education and it showed. He was widely admired and respected by students, faculty and those in our community and by his administrative peers throughout the state.
When I think of Mary Jane and John Mullins, I remember a stately couple who had a remarkable respect for each other and a sweet adoring nature that made people respect marriage, professional careers, education, community, faith and family all by their example. I think of a time where married couples dined out together with their friends, the gentlemen wore jackets and women behaved like ladies and men like gentlemen. My grandmother once corrected me as a young girl when I mistakenly called a random woman a lady. She was quick to point out that not every woman was a lady and that the honor of being called a lady was reserved for women who were well-behaved and conducted themselves with class and decorum. Mary Jane Mullins was a lady in every sense of the word. John Mullins was a true gentleman to the core. They belonged to the Greatest Generation and rightfully so. These two were indeed a true power couple before the phrase was ever coined. Even as a young girl, the impression the Mullinses left of me is a lasting one. The world would certainly be a better place with more people like them in it. I am sure that I am not alone in sharing this sentiment.
Miss Mary Jane carried on her life very gracefully after losing her beloved husband. She traveled and carried on her social and community obligations, often opening her home graciously to host events benefiting many in our community. She even began a second career helping daughter Patti in her dental practice. She lived life completely to the fullest. Mary Jane Mullins was a true grande dame and she will be sorely missed in our little world. Tonight, I am so thankful that God gave me good people like Mary Jane and John Mullins to have as role models and set a high standard of achievement for myself, for others and for our community. Thank you, Dear Lady and Dear Sir. Godspeed.
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