A Bigfoot in Belhaven

According to my buddy Ernest from Yazoo City who keeps up with such things, crypto-hominoid sightings are on the rise in Mississippi. Such creatures have been seen as far north as Winona and as far south as Mount Olive, where an adult male was viewed trying to make off with a dish antenna and a tackle box.

Most sightings are very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, but Ernest claims he has a video of one raiding a Frito-Lay van in Greenwood in broad daylight. I haven’t seen it, but he says it looks like a bald orangutan in a Saints jersey tossing heavy confetti.

These beings deserve our respect and compassion; let’s not endanger them by alerting game wardens or any other law enforcement agents. We should encourage and support their presence in this world we share. I keep a six-pack of Bud Light on the back porch, but I won’t have them in the house.

Apple Brickle

This is a nice autumn nosh, great for a Halloween party. Soften an 8-oz. block of cream cheese, blend with 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, and a teaspoon vanilla extract. Chill, and top with a cup of toffee bits or a finely-chopped Heath bar. Serve with sliced apples or snicker-doodles.

 

Cheesecake at the Hoka

Ron Shapiro opened the Hoka in Oxford in 1974. He showed much of what passed as “art cinema”, but included an eclectic blend of old “B” movies, and selections from cutting-edge favorites such as Russ Meyers and John Waters. Sometime around 1978, Ron went into partnership with Betty Blair, a beautiful lady from the Delta, and together they opened up the Moonlight Café in the theater. A dining area was constructed, the plumbing was re-done, kitchen equipment and a storage room were installed. The Moonlight served sandwiches, salads and desserts, and in a short time the Hoka became a popular nightspot in Oxford, a place to see and be seen.

One of the signature desserts was a New York-style cheesecake that came to the Moonlight via two sisters, Marla and Lee Ann Frear, who hailed from Delaware. Both Marla and Lee Ann were big, buxom blondes. I vividly remember seeing them at a Halloween party costumed as Siamese twins, resembling nothing less than a battleship in full steam as their huge boobs plowed a wake through the crowd. They got the recipe from their mother, who was a caterer in Dover, and sold the cakes to the Moonlight to abet their college allowances. After they graduated, they gave the recipe to Gene Duncan, who gave it to me some forty years ago. It’s a simple concoction, but you must take care to pack the crust evenly or it will singe on the outside and be soggy in the middle

Hoka Cheesecake

Filling: ¾ cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 24 oz. cream cheese, room temperature, 1 stick melted butter. Beat eggs, add sugar and mix well at medium speed, then add cream cheese and melted butter.
Crust: 1 box Nabisco graham cracker crumbs, 1 ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ stick melted butter.
Topping: 1 pint sour cream, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 4 tablespoons sugar.
Mix crust ingredients, pack in lightly oiled 9”x3” spring form pan. Mix filling ingredients well at medium speed for three minutes. Pour over crust, spread evenly and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, spoon on topping, return to oven at 475 for 5 min. Chill before slicing and serving.

Roasting Garlic

Slice tops off heads of garlic and soak in olive oil for a few minutes. Place on a heavy skillet in a hot oven until soft and browned, about twenty minutes. What a wonderful aroma!

 

Jezebel Sauce

Most recipes named for a person tend to have documented pedigrees; we can trace bananas Foster, Melba toast and chicken tetrazzini to a particular person and chef in a particular restaurant. But Jezebel sauce is an orphan.

Jezebel herself was a 9th century BCE Phoenician princess known best as the wife of Ahab, King of Israel, who she converted to the worship of the Lord of the Flies. Her foe Elijah, speaking through the prophet Elisha, brought about her downfall, and it’s because of her idolatry and animosity towards Hebrew prophets (she had a number of them killed) that she is remembered as a voluptuous temptress who led the righteous Ahab astray.

Jezebel sauce is most often served with ham or other smoked meats or poured over cream cheese for a cocktail dip with crackers. This Jackson, Mississippi recipe is from the splendid Southern Hospitality Cookbook by Winifred Greene Cheney, who claims, “Some of this sauce would have made Ahab’s wife a better woman.” I doubt it.

Fidelia’s Jezebel Sauce

1 (16-ounce) jar of pineapple preserves, 1 (12-ounce) jar apple jelly, 6 ounces prepared mustard (I use a Creole brown), 1 (5-ounce) jar horseradish, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. You can add Coleman’s Mustard for added kick. Blend all ingredients well with a fork or whip. This sauce keeps well for weeks refrigerated in a sealed container.

Seafood Stuffing

You’ll find seafood stuffing recipes similar to this one throughout the coastal South. It’s used with fish, shrimp, and in south Florida, lobster. Seafood stuffing is marketed in frozen 1-quart bags, and crab shells filled with stuffing were once a staple in fish shacks throughout the region. Seafood stuffing can serve as a stand-alone buffet dish with the addition of more crabmeat and/or shrimp. This recipe makes about six cups. It freezes beautifully.

Mix two cups cornbread crumbs with 2 cups coarse bread crumbs, add a half cup grated Parmesan, and set aside. Dice a white onion, a bell pepper, and enough celery for make 2 cups. Sauté in a stick of butter with couple of cloves of minced garlic until soft. Add to bread crumbs with a cup of white wine. Mix thoroughly with a pound of clean lump crabmeat; a cup of finely-diced cooked shrimp adds color. You may have to add some stock and melted butter to firm it up. Stir in two or three tablespoons of Creole or horseradish mustard, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add chopped parsley and lemon juice before use.

Winter Salad

This simple and elegant combination is a good, light side for roast meats and stews. Dress peeled, sliced citrus–here blood oranges, but also Valencias or grapefruit–with reduced, chilled grenadine, and top with grated coconut and chopped walnuts.

 

Commitment Cake

This convoluted confection 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 becomes an agent for social bonding. It can also become a commitment, if not to say 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, 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.

For the starter, combine a package of dry yeast in a 1 gallon glass container along with a 12-can each of of sliced peaches and crushed pineapple, drained, a half cup jar of maraschino cherries, chopped, and a half cup sugar. Combine and place in mason 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 cake mix.

Mix yeast starter, with a cup of sugar and 2 cups of sliced peaches in a glass gallon jar. Cover loosely, and let stand; do not refrigerate. Set aside, stirring daily, for ten days. On the tenth day, add 2 12-oz. cans of chunk pineapple with liquid.Let stand 10 more days, stirring daily; on the 20th day, add 1 12-oz. can fruit cocktail with liquid. Let stand 10 more days, stirring daily. On the 30th day, drain juice off. This is your cake liquid; give 1 cup to 6 friends along with the recipe. You’ll have enough drained fruit for 2 Bundt or 9×13 pan cakes.

For your cake, add to 1 cup of the fruit liquid to 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 2 cups flour, a teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons each baking powder and soda, a cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and a tablespoon vanilla. A cup of chopped apples, raisins, or nuts–either one or all three–can be added. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan at 350 for about an hour. Remove from the oven, cool, and heave a great sigh of relief.

Grillades

Rick Louvin is a “chawmer from New-awlens” who puts on more airs than a mountain range. He loves going to little urban supermarkets “to see what the Great Unwashed are consuming” and insists on dragging me to my little neighborhood store for systematic abuse.

Finding the produce aisle nothing more than a compost heap, his withering assessment of the floral department brought a tall bald queen around the corner clicking his nails like a scorpion, so Rick bought a rose and gave it to him in a thankfully effective gesture of reconciliation.

After declaring every can in the store a ptomaine grenade, we hit the meat section. I was jittery because the butcher on duty was my buddy Charlie, who has the build of a Sumo wrestler and the disposition of a lamb. After a sweeping pathological analysis of the meat section as a whole, we came to the discount section where he grabbed a flat pack of cubed steak for two bucks and grinned. Big ole Charlie was right next to him, humming to himself and marking down hamburger. Rick slapped Charlie on the shoulder. “Hey! Is this round steak?” I tried to die three times.

“It surely is,” Charlie said with the most bountiful smile in the known universe. “We’ll tenderize anything you want, just pick it out.”

“Great!” Rick said. “Give me three pounds round. We’re gonna get some stuff in the deli, we’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” Charlie winked at me when we got the meat, and I think he was thanking me for the customer, but I’m not sure. He goes out of his way to cut me t-bones to order, and that’s a certain sign of affection, if you ask me.

Once out of the store, Rick said, “We’re going to make grillades. This is what my gammy uses. She breads it, fries it, makes a roux in that, throws in some garlic and onion, bell pepper and celery, diced tomato, cooks it down in a casserole in the oven, food of the gods and you’re cooking.”

“You never let up on me, Rick. I’m gonna die in your harness.”

“You’re one lucky hoss, Jess.”

 

Duttoville

Two decades after Appomattox the prostrate South still was—and comparatively still is—largely undeveloped in regards to the rest of the nation, which was undergoing a “Gilded Age”.

For Jackson, Mississippi the war was catastrophic, but the city had begun to rebuild and piece itself together slowly along its two main two axes, Capitol and State Streets. The Pearl River provided then as it does now a natural barrier to expansion to the east, so that the city grew west along Capitol behind the bluff and north along State following the bluff. The southwesterly course of the floodplain largely prevented significant development on South State Street beyond its parallel to the divergence of the Illinois Central and Gulf & Ship Island Railroads, yet inevitably attempts were made, paramount among them the hamlet that became known as Duttoville.

Located south of Porter and on either side of Gallatin adjacent to the Illinois Central Railroad, Duttoville was named for Father Louis Anthony (Luigi Antonio) Dutto, one of the most fascinating figures in the ecclesiastical history of Mississippi. Dutto was born in the commune of Boves in Italy’s Piedmont region and educated at Brignole-Sale, a pontifical college in Genoa. A very learned man, Dutto was the author of The Life of Bartolome de las Cassas (published posthumously; 1902). He was ordained for the Diocese of Natchez before he was 24 years old and arrived in Jackson on August 25, 1875 to assist Fr. Picherit in attending the surrounding missions. Dutto succeeded Picherit as pastor in 1885.

Fr. Louis Dutto

According to an anecdotal biography written in 1932 by Rev. P.H. Keenen, a personal friend, “Father Dutto was a great financier, having special aptitude in this line. He was sought as adviser in matters financial by young businessmen, and his advice, when followed, usually brought success, and often wealth. . . .  He himself acquired much property. On the missions he seldom asked his people for funds—he gave instead of asking. His business acumen enabled him to do this.”

In 1886, Fr. Dutto bought land in what was then the southwestern portion of the city, which, according to the account given by McCain in The Story of Jackson, “he divided into lots on which homes were erected and gardens cultivated by certain Catholics who had to come to the city to engage in commercial and agricultural pursuits. This section is still known as Duttoville.”

By another account (Jackson Daily News, May 30, 1979 p. 15A) Dutto acquired the property in 1891 from F.A. and Mary F. Wolfe, J.W. Langley all along Gallatin Street and the I.C.R.R. and the G.&S.I. Railroad and the “Muh (pronounced as the pronoun “me”) Estate, “vast acres” of land just outside the city limits, Dutto sold lots to working class people who could not pay taxes on simple homes, including many Italian immigrants (likely the “certain Catholics” referenced above). The area soon became a thriving community with a planing mill, brickyard and other enterprises that provided work for residents, and many worked in Jackson proper. Anticipating being acquired by Jackson at an early date, the settlers, to avoid city taxes, incorporated in 1903.

Jackson topographic map, 1905

The original Duttoville was bounded on the north by Town Creek, the east by the Pearl River with the Illinois Central and Gulf & Ship Island railroads to the west. Later the village expanded west of he railroad tracks to Terry Road. The first (and only) mayor was J.R. Root; aldermen were W.L. Porter, Joe Karese and Will Muh; J.E. Robinson was town marshal, and J.W Langley was city clerk. We’re told a small jail was built but “never occupied”.

 When Jackson first attempted to incorporate Duttoville, the tiny village put up a fight. The Duttovillers went to court and fought the incorporation and won. The city of Jackson appealed, and after two years, while the case was still pending in court, the citizens of Duttoville and Mayor Hemmingway of Jackson made a compromise.

The city agreed to extend water, lights, telephone, a fire station, police protection, a grammar school (George School) and other amenities. But the area continued to be called by its original name, which in time became corrupted into “Doodleville” or “Dooleyville” both used well into the mid-20th century as a popular though derisive term for the part of town bordered by Battlefield Park on the south, Terry Road on the West, Hooker Street on the north and South Gallatin on the East, well west of the original settlement.

Belhaven resident Wilfred Cunningham, who grew up on Farish Street, remembers going to Doodleville as a very young man. “This was in the late Forties, and I was in my early teens. Anything south of Capitol Street on Farish Street we considered Doodleville,”

“The area was much more depressed than North Farish. I seem to remember the roads weren’t paved, the streets were graveled, I thought we lived poorly on Farish, but Dooley was a lot more run down.” Cunningham said. “The houses were row houses, shotgun houses like we had on Farish. People from Doodleville would come to Farish where we had the ice cream parlors, the stores, the clubs the Alamo. There wasn’t any industry of any kind there for jobs, so most of the people worked in north Jackson. For some reason I was always told not to let the sun go down on me there. I never ran into such a problem, but I always got the impression that there was a gang of some kind that kept Doodleville for people who lived here and weren’t friendly to outsiders.”

Jackson bluesmen Cary Lee Simmons and Bubba Brown composed the “Doodleville Blues” in the 1930s, and it was a local hit, getting lots of laughs when Simmons performed it for his friends in Jackson. He made a recording in 1967, which you can listen to here.

I got a girl in the Bamas, I got on that lived out on Bailey Hill.
I got a girl in the Bamas, and I got one that lived out on Bailey Hill.
But don’t none of them suit me like that one
I got down in Doodleville

 The womens on Farish Street shakes until they can’t be still.
I said, the womens on Farish Street shakes until they can’t be still.
But they cannot sake like those gals
Live down here in Doodleville

 Turn your lamp down low. Somebody done shot poor Bud, Buddy Will.
Turn your lamp down low. Somebody done shot Buddy Will.
I told him to stay off Mill Street and get him a gal in Doodleville.

 I won’t have a gal on Farish Street,
Wouldn’t speak to one that lived on Mill.
I won’t have a gal on Farish Street,
Wouldn’t speak to one that lived on Mill.
‘Cause the next woman I got, she got to live in Doodleville.

 They got the meat from the slaughterhouse
And the wood from Grimm Stage Mill.
They got the meat from the slaughterhouse
And the wood from Grimm Stage Mill.
And if you want to live easy, get you a girl in Doodleville.

Spoken: I got a secret for you though.
It’s a mad dog out, and boys, it ain’t been killed.
It’s a mad dog out, and boys, it ain’t been killed.
And you better be careful, careful, careful
how you doodle in Doodleville.

Even studded with jewels such as the old fire station and the magnificent Art Deco George School, Duttoville languishes in slow decay, but it’s the most fascinating neighborhood in the city of Jackson, the sad shadow of a good man’s dream.