Eden on the Apalachicola

Ever since the Expulsion man has searched for the Garden of Eden, and we shouldn’t find it at all surprising to know that among the many who claim to have found it, one was a bespectacled, God-fearing lawyer from Weogufka, Alabama, who declared in 1956 that “the Garden was in the Apalachicola Valley of West Florida.”

Elvy Edison Callaway was a man of deep faith who fell under the influence of a Dr. Brown Landone, who felt he had a special talent for bringing scientific rigor to mystical problems and wrote several books giving advice to ordinary mortals, among them the titillating Prophecies of Melchizedek in the Great Pyramid and the Seven Temples. Callaway describes his meeting with Landone as a “calling”, promptly abandoned his family, and while surveying his Panhandle land with a tax assessor–no doubt with divorce looming–found the inspiration for his mission from Melchizedek: the rare Torreya yew tree, which Callaway, through the teachings of Dr. Landone and his mysterious “Teleois Key”, declared to be the source of “gofer wood” from which Noah built the Ark. After that revelation, everything fell in place. Abandoning his once ardent faith in Christianity, Callaway, through “teleology”, fused what he knew of evolutionary theory and Scripture and decided that “because all informed geologists admit that it is the oldest land mass on earth”, God created Adam about a mile outside Bristol, Florida. He then created the Garden of Eden along the Apalachicola River there and filled it with citruses, magnolias, hydrangeas, mountain laurel and of course the majestic gopher yew (one of the few trees in North America considered “critically endangered”).

E.E. Callaway’s Garden of Eden is protected today as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Accessible via Garden of Eden Road, the preserve has a Garden of Eden Trail leading through the site. The scenery is spectacular; clear, bubbling streams flow through the bottoms of the steep ravines, which support rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world. Callaway’s southern Eden might not be the original–who are we, or who is anyone for that matter to say so–but it’s still a little bit of paradise in this fallen world; God knows we need more of them.

A 30-Day Cake

This convoluted recipe comes from a friend on the Gulf Coast, but from what I’ve read it’s a variation on an Amish recipe, which seems fitting, since most people call it a friendship cake. It’s called that because you share the starter with your friends, and they share it with other riff-raff and so becomes an agent for social bonding, but it can also become a dire obligation. You see, the cake is based on a yeast starter, a living thing, so passing along this starter is somewhat like giving someone a puppy to care for and nurture, since it does take tending. Of course losing a batch of smelly yeast is not nearly as traumatic or troubling as losing a puppy (no matter how smelly), but still if the donor should ask you how it’s doing, you must just fess up and admit that you didn’t care enough about him or her to keep the yeast working and make a cake, or you could just tell your buddy to lighten up, get a life and explain testily that you had more important things to do. Given the right set of circumstances the recipe is fun to pass around to your buddies at work or church, but probably not at the neighborhood bar.

3/4 c. (can) sliced peaches, drained and diced
3/4 c. crushed pineapple, drained
6 maraschino cherries, cut in half
1/2 c. sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast
Combine and place in glass (gallon size) jar with a loose cover at room temperature. Stir several times first day; then once daily using a plastic or wooden spoon. After 2 weeks this starter will have fermented enough to start the Friendship Cake Mix (using the second full cycle of above fruit makes a far superior mix than not doing so). It’s recommended that you get 2 or 3 friends together on this.

First, beg, steal or borrow 1 1/2 cups starter.
FIRST DAY: Mix 1 1/2 cups starter, a large can peaches with juice and 2 1/2 cups sugar in large glass or ceramic jar or bowl. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Stir daily for 10 days, using a wooden spoon.
TENTH DAY: Add 2 1/2 cups sugar and a large can of chunk or crushed pineapple with juice. Stir daily for 10 days.
20TH DAY: Add 2 1/2 cups sugar, large can of fruit cocktail with juice, and a large jar of maraschino cherries with juice. Stir daily for 10 days.
30TH DAY: Drain fruit. Bake cakes or cookies using fruit. Save juice; there will be enough for 4 or 5 friends.

DAY 1: Receive fruit/starter and place in large bowl. Cover with waxed paper. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.
DAY 2: Stir.
DAY 3: Stir.
DAY 4: Stir.
DAY 5: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. Stir.
DAY 6: Stir.
Day 7: Stir.
DAY 8: Stir.
DAY 9: Stir.
DAY 10: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. Stir. Take out 3 separate cups of batter and give to 3 friends with directions. For your own cake, add to the remaining batter.
2/3 c. oil
3 eggs
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
Stir by hand:
1 c. apples, chopped
Raisins (optional)
1 c. nuts, chopped or all 3 or only 1
Bake in greased and floured tube pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and heave a great sigh of relief.

Photo courtesy of Southmouth

Country Music Cooking

Trisha Yearwood is a newcomer to the country music cooking scene, which has proliferated ever since Kitty Wells put out Kitty Wells’ Country Kitchen Cookbook in 1964, followed by volumes II and III in the next thirty years.

Kenny Rogers, who was a pitchman for Dole Foods, put out a cookbook that has pineapples in everything. June Carter Cash’s Mother Maybelle’s Cookbook includes a scripture cake. Tammy Wynette put out her Southern Cookbook in 1994, the cook at Graceland, Alvena Ray included a peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwich in her Fir for a King: the Elvis Presley Cookbook (1992), and Loretta Lynn has a recipe for Kentucky frog legs in You’re Cookin’ It Country (2004). Others include Hank Williams, Jr. (who has his own line of barbecue sauces), Dolly Parton (Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s; “I cook like an old mountain woman.”), Naomi Judd (“healthy” recipes) and Zac Brown, whose Perfect Pocketknife Coleslaw gets a nod for a catchy name, but I can’t see making coleslaw with a pocketknife, no sir.

Then you have The Country Stars’ Cookbook (1977), compiled by Helen Naismith, a direct descendent of Dr. James Naismith, who we all remember as the man who invented basketball. Helen, “a petite food expert … and dynamic speaker”, managed to garner recipes from 85 country singers, groups, Opry stars and (I suspect) two or three of her own. Now, we all know that while Tammy Wynette could no doubt cook eggplant, Jerry Clower never baked a blueberry pie in his life and if Merle Haggard ever cooked catfish he was likely on the lam. You could probably buy mint copies of this piece of tomfoolery at every Stuckey’s in the nation for three dollars, but it’s fun to see how the talent and the recipes match up. Personally, I think assigning Ronnie Milsap a moonshine recipe just ain’t right.

The Ballad of Doc Bishop

This verse, written by Dottie Moore of Pontotoc County, is justly more about Texas lawman William Wise than Doc Bishop, an outlaw who murdered Wise in October, 1884. What a Ft. Worth detective was doing in Calhoun County then is complicated—and ambiguous—even when detailed in Selcer and Foster’s Written in Blood: The History of Fort Worth’s Fallen Lawmen, Volume 1, 1861-1909, which I’ll reproduce in a later entry, but his murder initiated a reinstatement of justice in an area scoured by war. Bishop was hanged on July 3, 1886, “the first white man legally hanged in the state of Mississippi since the Civil War”. Selcer says that this ballad is a “variation on the more famous ‘Ballad of Sam Bass’ and ‘Ballad of Jesse James’”. He also notes that the ballad was frequently sung—to what tune we don’t know—at folk gatherings for over fifty years.

When I lie down at night to rest
And slumber deep steals o’er me,
As I close my heavy eyes in sleep,
Dark visions pass before me.

I see a calm still moonlight night,
No breath of air is stirring;
No sound the silence breaks, except
The wings of insects whirring.

I see a forest deep and dark,
A man walks through it quickly,
Now in the shade, now in the light
Where the dark leaves mingle thickly.

A man with soft, brown, shining eyes,
And gold brown hair o’er lying,
And daring courage on his face,
On his own strength relying.

He treads the darksome forest through,
Where outlaws lie in hiding,
No fearful thought in his strong heart,
The thought of fear, deriding.

He is a bold, true officer
Attending to his duty,
No thought he gives to nature bright,
Nor the night’s calm, holy beauty.

He follows scraps of paper thrown
Into the path before him,
By one in whom his trust he placed
Who threw a glamour o’er him.

He’s walking swiftly to his doom,
But alas! He does not know it;
He sees naught of the danger there,
Oh, God! If thou would show it!

A little distance on ahead
Are two oak trees, o’er bending,
Behind which two cold hearted men
Evil faced are standing.

Crouched, with weapons cocked in hand,
Awaiting for his coming,
They make no sound to warn their prey
Of the awful risk he’s running.

He’s nearer, he’s almost in their hands,
Will nothing now delay him
From those who plotted, worked and planned
To murder and betray him?

Ah! No, for now he steps along
In the path marked out before him;
He sees the fiendish daces not,
No sense of fear steals o’er him.

Another step, Great God! A shot!
Of oaths and groan a medley;
Another shot! And the ground around
With his lifeblood, gleams redly.

“Tis done, a noble soul is sent
to the land of Heavenly Glory;
a brave detective low is laid
by hands all red and gory.

O, Heavenly Father, pity her,
Whose heart will now be broken,
Grant her in mercy, from thy throne,
Some sweet, peace-giving token.

Help her to bear the awful blow,
Her heart with thy grace cover;
She, in the far off “Lone Star” state,
Awaits her husband lover.

Be thou a friend to this fair child,
As much as to the mother,
Oh, Father of the fatherless,
Than Thee, they have no other.

The murderers, here, may still go free,
By lawyers shrewd, defended,
Free in this world, but yet the next,
Shall see their triumph – ended.
–Dottie Moore


Indianola Egg Nog

Claiborne’s recipe has been printed in almost everything he did, but this version comes from Christmas Memories with Recipes (1988) along with his endearing “Distant Christmases”. In this essay, he recalls, “On Christmas afternoon there was also, to my mind, a surprising annual ritual, surprising because both my parents were teetotalers, and alcohol, other than the pharmaceutical sort, was absolutely forbidden in my home. Each Christmas, however, my mother would ask a neighbor to buy her a pint of bootleg bourbon (it was during Prohibition and my home state was dry). She would then assemble her rich-as-Croesus eggnog, made with an abundance of eggs and heavy cream, and temper it with a bit of bourbon. She would also pour a generous quantity out of the bourbon bottle over the homemade fruitcakes, which would be sliced and served with the eggnog.” You must use fresh organic eggs for a this recipe.

8 eggs separated
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. bourbon
1/2 c. heavy cream
Put the egg yolks and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and lemon-colored. Gradually add the bourbon, beating on low speed. In a separate bowl whip the cream until stiff. Fold it into the egg-yolk mixture. In a clean bowl whip the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the eggnog. Serve with a generous grating of nutmeg.


Reviving Salmagundi

Salmagundi—like pettifoggery, kittywampus or hullabaloo—is one of those words you want to just pick off the page, cuddle and tease with a string, and the dish is just as playful since salmagundi isn’t so much a dish as it is a presentation along the lines of an antipasto or a smorgasbord. Salmagundi is also quite English, having blipped onto the OED radar sometime around 1400, making it an appropriate addition to your holiday table if you’re the sort that puts out wassail and burns a yule log. Claiborne—and All Who Sailed in Him—declared (Craig had a way of being pontifical) “There is something about the word ‘salmagundi’ that has an unmistakable appeal for savants with a leaning toward gourmandism.”

Well, I’m not some maverick etymologist who strays into the kitchen to make corn sticks; no matter the origin of the word, salmagundi is simply a way to serve a selection of cold vegetables, pickles, meats and citrus mounded on a tray and served with tongs and forks as you would any large salad. By precedent, you want your meat (classic poached chicken or upscale to smoked salmon, mayhap) in the middle atop greens with rings of pickles, cooked eggs, raw or blanched vegetables, citrus, nuts, sausages, cold fish—anchovies are a classic addition—pretty much anything goes with the exception of cheese, which isn’t included in any reliable (meaning historic) recipe; the emphasis should be on piquancy set off by elements that are crisp and bland. An herby oil and vinegar/lemon juice is the appropriate dressing.