The Sixth Deadly Sin

In The Taste of America, John and Karen Hess refer to an article by Harriet Van Horne, “Edunt et Vomant” (“They have eaten and let them vomit.”), commenting on a 1975 fluff piece in the New York Times describing a dinner Craig Claiborne and his partner Pierre Franey had in Paris, a $4000 meal for two that featured 31 dishes and 9 wines. As Claiborne and Franey were licking their decadent fingers, the fringes of their world hungered and starved.

Van Horne wrote, “No journalistic caprice has, in my memory, set off such a shudder of distaste. This calculated evening of high-class piggery offends an average American’s sense of decency. It seems wrong, morally, esthetically and in every other way.” The Hesses included Van Horne’s quote to further elaborate on the gourmet absurdities of the time which elevated overpriced, tasteless food, (canned foie gras, canned truffles, cottony chicken breasts in a floury velouté sauce) that were championed by those like Claiborne who lauded expense as a barometer of taste. The Vatican newspaper echoed, deploring the display while millions were starving. Paul VI “as a humble servant for a suffering humanity” demanded significant changes of the rich in America and Europe in favor of the poor, a plea the affluent either ignored or atoned with in pittances.

In the most general terms gluttony involves an over-indulgence and/or over-consumption of food, drink or intoxicants to the point of waste, particularly in terms of a misplaced desire of food or its withholding from the needy, an excess that’s damned by every spiritual path in the world in every quarter of the globe. European theologists from the Middle Ages took a more expansive view of gluttony, arguing that it also consists of an anticipation of meals, the eating of delicacies and costly foods, seeking after sauces and seasonings, and eating too eagerly. Gregory the Great described five ways by which one can commit the sin of gluttony, and corresponding biblical examples:

  1. Eating before the time of meals in order to satisfy the palate. Example: Jonathan eating a little honey when his father Saul commanded no food to be taken before the evening. [1Sa 14:29]
  2. Seeking delicacies and better quality of food to gratify the “vile sense of taste.” Example: When Israelites escaping from Egypt complained, “Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,” God rained fowls for them to eat but punished them 500 years later. [Num 11:4]
  3. Seeking after sauces and seasonings for the enjoyment of the palate. Example: Two sons of Eli the high priest made the sacrificial meat to be cooked in one manner rather than another. They were met with death. [1Sa 4:11]
  4. Exceeding the necessary amount of food. Example: One of the sins of Sodom was “fullness of bread.” [Eze 16:49]
  5. Taking food with too much eagerness, even when eating the proper amount and even if the food is not luxurious. Example: Esau selling his birthright for ordinary food of bread and pottage of lentils. His punishment was that the “profane person . . . who, for a morsel of meat sold his birthright,” we learn that “he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully, with tears.” [Gen 25:30]

In his Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, Question 148, Article 4), Thomas Aquinas revised the list of five ways to commit gluttony:

* Laute – eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
* Nimis – eating food that is excessive in quantity
* Studiose – eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
* Praepropere – eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
* Ardenter – eating too eagerly.

Aquinas notes that the first three ways are related to the nature of the food itself, while the last two have to do with the time or manner in which it is consumed.

Even to the exclusion of these examples, which are admittedly rather fastidious themselves, we are all guilty of gluttony in our complacency as citizens of one of the most affluent nations in the history of human civilization.  We quaff fine wines, stuff ourselves with costly foods, watch celebrity chefs preparing dishes in a gladiatorial setting and sinners of an advanced degree sneer at those who eat off-cut chops, misshapen homegrown vegetables or don’t use Zanzibar cinnamon. Hunger itself has come to be seen as a sin, almost as an illness that needs treatment, but perhaps hunger might be more of a cure, a discipline for we who have grown too indulgent with ourselves, yet you’ll never hear a preacher damn Twinkies.

The Cheese Straw Alternative

Admit it; making cheese straws is a pain in the butt. Though they’re a must on your browsing buffets (if not, someone sniffy is bound to say, “Oh, I should have brought you MY WONDERFUL cheese straws!”), they still aren’t something you might feel like throwing together for a more casual gathering like a bowl game, backyard picnic or that special moment when you both decided to get married last night and your mother(s) held you at gunpoint to have a reception.

Fortunately there is an alternative to dragging out the cookie press, stuffing it full of dough, mushing out the sticks and (worst part) cleaning the press.: Brit cheddar biscuits. Now, what the Brits call biscuits are a far cry from our big, fluffy Southern variety; over the Pond, our biscuits would be called scones, while what Brits and their ilk call biscuits are more like what we would call wafers or cookies. So while you might be most familiar with cheese biscuits along the lines of those at Red Lobster, the Brits do a cheese biscuit that’s thin, crisp, and a hell of a lot easier to make than straws.

Simply make a dough with one cup plain flour, one cup grated sharp cheddar and one stick of softened butter, add a little salt, a little white pepper, roll out, shape with a cookie cutter (which is quite easy to clean) and bake at 350 until nice and crisp. Dust with strong paprika and a little cayenne thrown in to piss off the preacher.

The Giant Houseparty Cookbook

This gem was another find among the amazing avalanche of books at Fred Smith’s Choctaw Books when it was on North Street in Jackson. Published in 1981 by the Philadelphia-Neshoba County Chamber of Commerce, the book itself is hefty, a good inch-and-a-half thick, and contains almost 1000 recipes. Most of these recipes are typical of the time: dozens of casseroles, oodles of pies and cakes, and of the sixty-odd salad recipes only two involve no gelatin whatsoever.

The introduction was written by Stanley Dearman, who for 34 years (beginning in 1966) was the editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat in Philadelphia. Dearman’s editorials expressing outrage at the 1964 murders of three young civil rights workers helped set the stage for the belated conviction of a former Klansman for organizing the killings, The case that became a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, and was the basis for the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning.”

Along with the introduction, I’ve included Turner Catledge’s cheese grits, Fannie Smith’s blackberry trifle, and another blackberry recipe, “Blackberry Acid,” a truly antique refreshment.

In this particular region of the South–the east central hill country of Mississippi—the tradition of food and fellowship go back many generations. More specifically, eating and talking are two things that natives in this region value highly and take seriously.

Nowhere do these two activities blend more happily than at the Neshoba County Fair-which in fact started in 1889 with a picnic under the trees and around the wagons by community residents who wanted to get together and talk-while they ate, of course, and to display their agricultural achievements. For many years the Fair has been known as “Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty-hence the name of this cookbook.

During one week of the year, usually the first in August, the Fairground is transformed into a bustling city with a festive air. More than 500 cabins circling the racetrack, as well as hundreds of campers and mobile homes from across the South, are temporary homes for thousands who migrate back because of family connections or friendships. There are no strangers here; hospitality abounds and food and drink are shared by all.

The fame of the Fair has spread over the years. Last year it was featured in National Geographic and Southern Living magazines. And during the presidential campaign, Ronald and Nancy Reagan paid a visit and drew a record crowd. State politics and its florid oratory have been a part of the Fair since before the turn of the century.

Fair Week is preceded by several weeks of brisk activity and planning by the womenfolk-casseroles are made and frozen; hams and turkeys are baked or smoked; menus are planned and the shelves are stocked. In this region of abundant agricultural crops, corn, tomatoes, peas, butterbeans, squash and okra are harvested and processed, fitting complements to the succulent fried chicken and magnificent repertoire of dazzling desserts. A section of special Fair recipes is included in this book.

The production of the Giant Houseparty cookbook was the result of a project begun by the Philadelphia Rotary Club. For many years the Rotary Club distributed mimeographed recipe booklets at its annual pancake suppers. These booklets became collector’s items over the years.

The Rotary Club first considered producing a cookbook, but later granted permission to the Chamber of Commerce to assume the project. The committee selected and edited recipes from the existing collection prior to collecting others. A special effort was made to gather recipes which not only had become part of the local culinary lore, but to achieve a balance of “useful” recipes.

Another special effort was made to gather recipes from former residents in various parts of the country. For example, Turner Catledge, retired editor of the New York Times, was kind enough to send us his recipe for cheese grits. Mr. Catledge grew up in Neshoba County and now lives in New Orleans. He and Mrs. Catledge gave a dinner party in their home for Van Cliburn, whose father, the late Harvey Lavan Cliburn, was born and reared in Neshoba County, Catledge and Cliburn had much to talk about at that dinner party, which included that grits casserole.

Also, closer to home, we are delighted to include a recipe for Blackberry Trifle from Mrs. Fannie Johnson Smith, who at the age of 102 vividly recalls the day in 1889 when, at the age of 10, she accompanied her parents across a hill or two to the first Neshoba County Fair.
—Stanley Dearman

Catledge Cheese Grits

1 cup grits
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups grated cheese
Dash of red pepper’1/2 stick butter

Combine grits, salt, and water and bring to a boil, stirring well. Place over bottom of a double boiler and cook for 40 minutes. While this is cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add cheese, eggs, butter and pepper. Place in a Pyrex dish and heat in oven about 30 minutes.

Blackberry Trifle

1 cup blackberry trifle
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup butter
2 tablespoons flour
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 9-in. unbaked pie shell
4 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix well jam, sugar, buttermilk, butter, flour, egg yolks, and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Bake about 40 minutes. Beat egg whites until stiff, gradually adding 4 tablespoons of sugar. Spread meringue on top of pie and return to oven to brown lightly.

Blackberry Acid

3 gallons blackberries
½ gallon boiling water
4 ounces tartaric acid
1 ½ cups sugar to 1 cup juices

Crush berries, add boiling water, and let stand 24 hours. Strain, add tartaric acid and sugar. Let stand at least 24 hours before bottling.

The Existential Tomato

If you’ve ever gone out to the garden, picked a beautiful, ripe tomato (of whatever variety) and bit into it right there on the spot atop God’s good earth with the cloying tang of that tomato plant in your nose and the warm waves of sunshine on your face, then you can truly say, “I know what a tomato is,” for you have achieved an existential union with tomato-in-the-world as opposed to that picture in a seed catalogue. (Or maybe that’s an essential union; I think I flunked existentialism at Ole Miss, though I’m not really sure I took the class in the first place, meaning I might have passed after all. Being as a concept proved as vexing as its actuality.)

Vegetables prepared for the table straight from the garden are a hallmark of great Southern meals; a luscious home-grown tomato, simply sliced and served on a plate with fragrant cantaloupe and dewy cucumber is a signature centerpiece for many summer meals. While you’re on the road this summer, look for produce stands with signs written on brown cardboard with a magic marker. Do yourself a favor by stopping by and getting to know the people. You’ll hear much you’ll want to remember.

Dock Bishop

Dennis Murphree

Mississippi politician Dennis Murphree became governor of Mississippi twice on the death of the state’s chief executive while he held the lieutenant governancy, and was governor during the Great Flood of 1927. Murphree was also a newspaperman, editor of The Monitor-Herald, the weekly in his native county of Calhoun, and took a deep interest in its people and their histories.

I reproduce here Murphree’s account of the story of Dock Bishop, a north Mississippi outlaw whose reputation has passed into the romance of legend. In the summer of 2002, deputy marshals from Fort Worth made a 12-hour journey from Texas and replaced the brick inscribed “WISE” in the Sarepta cemetery with a proper tombstone for their fellow officer. The ceremony was well-attended by the good people of Calhoun County.

The Hanging of Dock Bishop
by Dennis Murphree

The Monitor-Herald, Calhoun City, Calhoun Co., MS, Thursday, April 9, 1942 

A few days ago the newspapers of the nation carried the thrilling story of how the FBI or “G” men had surrounded the Number One Bad Man of the United States, Charles Chapman, over in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and called on him to surrender. When he refused the demand and opened fire these representatives of the law promptly sent him to his death with eighteen bullet holes in his body. For years, it is said, Chapman had slipped in and out of this, his home community, being shielded from the law by friends and kinsfolks, while members of the FBI kept relentlessly on his trail until they finally cornered him and sent him to his death.

Pondering this grim story and talking with friends who had first-hand and personal information about its stark details, there came from time to time back to my mind the story of Calhoun County’s All-time Bad Man, and his gruesome end. This is a story which was fresh in the minds of all Calhoun County folks in my earliest boyhood days, and the details were so thoroughly implanted in my fresh young mind in those days that I have never forgotten. One day this week, I was gratified indeed to have a personal visit from my lifetime friend, Uncle Bill Yancy, 87 year old citizen of Sarpeta, and talking over these things with him and having him refresh my mind on various points, I decided I would endeavor to write this story for Calhoun County folks, all of whom have heard of it, and many of whom perhaps will find it of interest.

Nearly sixty years ago, up in the high hills of Northeast Calhoun County and along the line of Lafayette, there lived the characters of this story among a people who were honest, sincere, hardworking, mostly god fearing, and all in all the kind and type of folks who are even yet the very backbone and sinew of good citizenship of our land today. The blight of the four years of Civil War still lay heavy on the land. Times were hard, money was scarce, opportunity was lacking and yet these people made the best of what they had, and enjoyed life as best they might. There was a dance one night in the home of a good citizen who lived Northeast of Sarepta, with a fiddle and a banjo, and a man to “beat the straws,” in a big old log house, with a huge fire place, in which blazed a big fire of hickory logs and fat pine knots. It was the old-fashioned square dance. “All hands up and circle left,” “right hands across and left hands back,” ladies do see and gents you know,” “swing your partner and promenade.”

Ab Kelly was quite a character. Big and strong, a fine fellow when sober, but given to being quarrelsome and overbearing when under the influence of the brand of “wildcat” liquor, which was at that time a rather plentiful product on Cowpen and Potlockany. Ab was at the dance, more or less looking for trouble. Dock Bishop was there too. He was a man of striking appearance. More than six feet tall, coal black hair and eyes, handsome face, fine personality, Dock with his impressive personality, made many friends easily. Always he was a favorite with members of the fair sex.

Dock Bishop

On this night, Dock was having a fine time, dancing with one of the most beautiful girls present. Round and round he went, keeping perfect time, his polished boots seeming to tap most lightly as he lifted his beautiful partner to the strains of “Soldier’s Joy” and the “Eighth of January.” Somehow the sight of Dock Bishop having such a good time jarred on Ab Kelly’s vision. Somehow, Ab resented it. So, when Dock swung by with his partner on his arm, Kelly deliberately spat a brown stream of tobacco juice on Dock Bishop’s polished boot. Dock looked Kelly in the eye, half stopped, but decided to let the insult pass. Round he came again, and this time Kelly spat a big shot of tobacco juice on Bishop’s new jean trousers.

This was entirely too much. An invitation to go outside, a wild melee in which others joined, and in a few moments, Kelly was flat on the ground with a pistol bullet through his shoulder, and there was the beginning of a feud which smoldered as messages passed back and forth between the principals and with friends on both sides being slowly drawn into the affair. Months passed and finally in the little town of Dallas, two miles north of the Calhoun-Lafayette County line, the long smoldering feud burst into full blaze when principals and friends on both sides met and engaged in a general battle and shooting scrape, in which it is said that Dock Bishop, always a crack shot with a pistol, shot and killed two men whose name was Harmon and shot through the mouth another man who was present. This was too much, and immediately the officers of the law began a manhunt for Dock Bishop, and for two or three other men who were his kinsmen and friends charged as accessories to the crimes.

But Dock Bishop, like Charles Chapman, had many friends, many kinspeople scattered throughout the area from Yoccona to Scoona Rivers. It was not easy to catch him. Over a period of several months, he roamed the territory accompanied by his friends, staying a night with one kinsman, a week with another, moving as the word was brought to him of efforts being made to apprehend him. I do not remember whether or not a reward was offered for their capture. Evidently there must have been.

Anyway, down in the Robbs neighborhood in Pontotoc County and the Paris neighborhood in Calhoun County, each bordering the Calhoun-Pontotoc line, there appeared a man named Wise, from Texas, who claimed to be a cow buyer or cattle man and who made it his business to try to locate Dock Bishop and his associates. In reality, Wise was a famous detective, and he felt that he was outwitting these bad men thoroughly. But he was badly wrong, and he paid for his error with his life. Wise made friends with a member of the Bishop crowd, and agreed to reward this man if the man would direct him to Bishop’s hideout. All plans were made, and it was agreed that on a certain night, the accomplice would go on ahead of Wise and from time to time drop pieces of torn newspaper in the road so that Wise might follow and take the outlaws in their nest.

Jim Bishop was the man who promised to lead Wise to the outlaw den. It was the theory of the state in the prosecution of Dock Bishop that Jim Bishop was a tool and accomplice of Dock Bishop and that instead of leading Wise to the place where he might arrest Dock Bishop and the others, he betrayed Wise and led him to his death.  Whatever is the truth about this, there can be no doubt but that Wise on a starlight night followed what he thought was a certain trail to catch the outlaws.

As a boy I saw the place where Wise was murdered. A narrow country road winding along the ridges and slopes of the red hills some five miles southeast of Sarepta in Calhoun county, and only a little way from the Pontotoc County line, came at one point between two huge white oaks trees, neither tree being more than ten feet from the road bed. It was down this road came Detective Wise on that starlight night way back in 1884, looking from time to time for the piece of newspaper scattered along the road. Neighbors who lived in hearing distance swore on the witness stand that suddenly there rang out on the still night air several gunshots and then there was silence again. The story is that when Wise walked down the road and just as he reached the two huge trees a signal was sounded and from shotguns and pistols a stream of bullets and buckshot poured into his body killing him instantly. Wise was missing several days before the countryside was aroused. But aroused it became when the story of the shots and his disappearance became known.

Posses were formed and a widespread search of the countryside was made. Combing the woods and the entire country, one member of this searching party, riding horseback through the woods, noticed as his horse stepped across a fallen log, a piece of bright red clay lying there. A clod of red clay lying by itself there in the deep woods aroused his suspicions. He got down off his horse and tied him to a nearby bush. Then he went and got down on his knees and began to remove the leaves, pine straw and other debris which covered the spot. It was a matter of a moment to determine that the earth had been disturbed there and recently. He notified other members of the posse and soon with shovels they began to remove the earth. Buried almost under the huge fallen log in a shallow grave not more than two feet deep, they found the bullet torn and mangled body of Detective Wise, and as you can very well imagine, excitement flared to a crescendo. Word went by telegraph back to Texas and within a short period there appeared on the scene grim and determined relatives of the dead man bent on seeing to it that the murderers of Detective Wise should be speedily brought to justice.

The shocking crime was too much for even the friends of Bishop and his associates. No more could they find shelter and safety in the home of people in that country. No more could they roam scot free. Public indignation mounted to such extent that realizing they could no longer escape, Bishop and one or two others went to Oxford and surrendered themselves all the while bitterly denying the murder of Wise. Money was not lacking to defend Dock Bishop and so there was employed as his legal counsel, the Hon. Hamp Sullivan of Oxford, one of the greatest criminal lawyers of his day and age.

Representing the State of Mississippi as District Attorney was the Hon. Ira D. Ogglesby, reputedly one of the ugliest men in personal appearance ever known in that country, but at the same time, one of the brightest and shrewdest prosecuting attorneys that section has known. From the very outstart, it was a battle of giants. Sullivan, with all his vast legal knowledge and great ability, took advantage of every legal technicality, every loophole, every possible avenue to save and acquit his clients. Ogglesby on the other hand backed by the majority of the law as well as public opinion, met his adversary on every point and maneuver.

Bishop was tried first. He was the chief object of the state’s attack. He was the acknowledged leader of the gang. Back and forth the battled raged, with each prospective juror being scrutinized and put under the legal microscope. Many were challenged and set aside. Those finally chosen were seated only after a barrage of questions seeking in every way and manner to determine their leanings or opinions. For days on end Ogglesby put on the stand an array of witnesses linking one to the other certain facts which all together would irrevocably damn and convict the accused Dock Bishop. Then for days, Sullivan threw forward an array of men and women whose testimony he hoped would raise a doubt as to Dock Bishop’s guilt. In the end, after many hours of deliberation, the jury filed back into a tense and crowded courtroom with a unanimous verdict of “guilty as charged.”

Standing cool, calm, and unruffled in the court’s presence, Dock Bishop declined to make any statement as to why the sentence should not be pronounced and heard the Judge sentence him to be “hanged by the neck until your are dead, dead, dead, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.” Then followed many months of waiting while Mr. Sullivan appealed to the Supreme Court and finally that high court said: “The case against Dock Bishop is affirmed,” and set the date on which he should die. Friday, the fourth day of July, 1886, was the awful day on which Dock Bishop was slated to pay with his life for his crime.

Bright, hot sunshine fell upon the untold thousands of men, women, and children, who on horseback, on foot, in mule and ox wagons and all other kinds of transportation then in existence, wended their way toward Pittsboro, the county seat of Calhoun “to see Dock Bishop hung.” The Board of Supervisors had made arrangements to have the hanging in public. They had selected a valley two miles west of Pittsboro on the old Pittsboro and Big Creek road as the site. It was a natural amphitheater, at the head of a little hollow where on three sides the earth sloped down to the little valley and under the fine trees that covered these hillsides, thousands upon thousands of people from all over Calhoun, Pontotoc, Lafayette, and Yalobusha Counties gathered in restrained silence, waiting, watching for the dread event. A gallows of huge square timbers had been built there, and from the cross beam several feet above the hinged trap door there hung a brand new grass rope, already coiled ready for the fatal knot.

As the appointed hour drew nigh, there was a buzz from the crowd, and coming slowly down the winding country road, there was a wagon with spring seats on which sat the sheriff and his deputies, one on each side of the prisoner. In the back of the wagon, partly covered by a quilt, was the black draped coffin inside of which the body of the prisoner was soon to rest. Scott Hardin, a good man and true, was sheriff of Calhoun County. He led the way up the steps of the scaffold and the prisoner followed. Dock Bishop stood on the gallows and looked over the great crowd assembled. There was the stillness of death over all. Pale from his long days in jail, Bishop was yet a fine looking man in the very prime of his life. A minister prayed for the forgiveness of all sins, and especially for the soul of the condemned man. Then Dock Bishop was offered the opportunity to speak for the last time on earth, and stepped forward. There was not a tremor in his voice. There was no hint of a breakdown. Calmly and with deliberation, Dock Bishop expressed his thanks to those who had befriended him; he told of how he held no malice against him nor against those officers of the law at whose hands he must suffer his life. With almost his last breath, he finished his statement by declaring that he was innocent of the death of Wise, at the same time admitting that he had killed a man in Alabama.

Not a muscle in his fine body quivered as Dock Bishop stepped on the fatal trap. The black cap was swiftly slipped over his face, and then the peculiarly tied hangman’s knot was adjusted so that it would break his neck when he fell. There was a long drawn sigh from the assembled thousands, and then Sheriff Hardin swiftly raised his hatchet and struck the rope which was so tightly stretched across the block, but not striking with the full blade, severing all strands in two save one, and the Sheriff found it necessary to make the second stroke. The trap door fell with a bang and Dock Bishop’s body shot through the hole, jerked tight on the end of the rope several feet below. There was the sound of a sharp crack as the bones of neck snapped, and swinging slowly in the ghastly circle, Dock Bishop’s body “hung by the neck until he was dead, dead, DEAD.”

When his body was finally cut down, and placed in the coffin, there stepped up to the sheriff a comely woman, who made request that she be given the rope which had taken Bishop’s life. “I was the wife of Detective W.A. Wise,” she said, and these men are my brothers.” She was given the rope, and took it back to her home in Texas.

I was born on January 6, 1886. Dock Bishop was hung on July 4, of that same year. I was, therefore, only six months old, and the things I tell you are, of course, only those that were told to me when I was a little boy. But I have never forgotten them, and there are many, many people yet living in Calhoun County today who will remember as I have this terrible tragedy and its shocking sequel. Jim Bishop was finally found not guilty. Bob Lamar, another one of those implicated, was kept in jail for months and years and finally the case against him was nolle prossed. W.A. Wise’s body lies today in the old cemetery at Sarepta far from those who loved him, while Bishop was buried I know not were.

And so ends the story of the man who in his day was Calhoun County’s “Charles Chapman” while “time marches on.”

Dock Bishop (b. 27 Oct. 1857, Marion County, Alabama) was buried in the Collums Cemetery, which is some 8 mi. northeast of Bruce, Mississippi.

 

Tom  Freeland, an Oxford attorney and historian, added this postscript to the original post in August, 1914:

The article is correct about outlawry in that area. Not quite 20 years later, two federal marshals went to a house east of Yocona and north of Dallas (but nearby– outskirts of what is now Tula) to arrest a counterfeiter/parole violater. He talked them in to staying for the dinner just put on the table, and the arrestee and another shot the marshals through a window (at the trial, the coroner testified that marshalls had cornbread in their throats at death. In Greek mythology, those who killed dinner guests had gruesome eternities). They were later brought back to town, and James Stone (Phil Stone’s father) and his law partner as special prosecutors held an inquest by torchlight, largely to try to make clear to the crowd justice would be done. Later, both murderers were sentenced to hang, after a trial in which W.V. Sullivan (who had been a senator in the interim, and who was NOT a favorite of the Stones) defended the ringleader. When he was sentenced, he asked to be hung seperately than his cofelon, who was black. The judge pronounced sentence, stating that it “is not a social occasion,” that they were to be hung together. They were.

The ringleader wrote a confession which was published and sold at the hanging (I have a copy), there are pictures of them being taken from the jail in a wagon on the Square. Dept of odd coincidences; There’s an account of the day of the hanging in Blotner’s bio of Faulkner, because that was also the day 6-year old Billy Falkner moved to Oxford with his family. A few years later, James Stone bought Sullivan’s law office, where I am seated at this moment. A few years ago, an elderly client, since deceased (who gave me an original of the confession from which I got my copy) told me that she was related to the murderer, and that a cousin out in the county still has a trunk with mementos of the incident, including the window curtains with bullet holes in them. She would not tell me who it was because the family is still VERY private about this lore.

Further aside: There are not too many instances of double murders of US Marshalls in the history of the marshall service. This one is still remembered in their histories.

This is the entry on Wise from the “Officer Down Memorial Page,” (www.odmp.org) The a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring America’s fallen law enforcement officers..

Marshal Wise was shot and killed in Oxford, Mississippi, while working undercover in an attempt to apprehend two men who were wanted for murder in Texas. Marshal Wise had first gone to Oxford to return a prisoner to the local sheriff. While in town the Sheriff requested Marshal Wise’s assistance to capture the two men. Marshal Wise returned to Fort Worth where he was given permission by the City Marshal to return to Oxford to help with the investigation.

Upon his return to Mississippi, Marshal Wise disguised himself as a cattle buyer and made contact with a man close to the suspects. The man agreed to help Marshal Wise in exchange for part of the reward money. Marshal Wise devised a plan to drug the suspects with tainted whiskey and then take them into custody. The informant, however, betrayed Marshal Wise and informed the suspects of the plan. As Marshal Wise approached the home the suspects ambushed him on the roadway, shooting him with a shotgun and pistol.

The suspects buried his body on the side of the road where it was located the next day by a search team. Three suspects were eventually apprehended and sentenced to death. Two of the sentences were overturned but the third man was hung in Pittsboro, Mississippi, on July 3, 1886.

Marshal Wise had been with the agency for 18 months and was survived by his wife. He is buried in Sarepta Cemetery in Sarepta, Mississippi.

And, finally, we have “The Ballad of Dock Bishop,” written by Dottie Moore of Pontotoc County, which is justly more about Texas lawman William Wise than Doc Bishop. 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, 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 an unknown tune—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

Pudding Bananas

Listen to your Brother Jesse.

Do not make banana pudding with green bananas. Even if the fruit has a tinge of green on the ribs, the banana will be hard and bitter. You must use bananas that are ripe.

Now, you’re not going to find ripe bananas in the grocery store–sometimes I think the public has been conditioned by years of buying green bananas that any banana with a dark spot is spurned–so you’re going to have to buy them a bit green. Fortunately bananas are a climacteric; they ripen for a while after picking. Daddy, who was stationed in the Pacific during WWII, and knew quite well how a ripe banana tasted– put bunches on top of the refrigerator–where we couldn’t reach them–to ripen.

Place grocery bananas in a paper sack–plastic doesn’t let the fruit breathe–and in two or three days, when the fruit is soft and aromatic you’re ready to make banana pudding. Or banana pound cake.

Hell, just to even eat, for that matter.

Paleolithic Pleasures

Ever since the Fall, no food has sparked more controversy than meat: some eschew it and even more restrict it, but meat, for most people, is what’s for dinner. By meat we mean red meat. The USDA considers all meat from livestock red because they contain more myoglobin (aka “red stuff”) than poultry or fish. For most people, this means beef or pork (yes, “the other white meat” is red), though sheep and goat as well game such as venison—and for that matter, whale—fall into the same category. Beef and pork in their various incarnations constitute a significant portion of our diets. An average American consumes 67 lbs. of beef and 51 lbs. of pork annually, most of it at home, meaning that the majority of people buy meat raw and cook it themselves.

Most people do this without a great deal of fuss or bother. A cursory glance at the label is often all that the average shopper needs for a selection. But given the expense and importance of meats, care and discrimination is warranted when it comes to their purchase and preparation. A description of meats demands a language of its own, one based on cuts and quality. While the vocabulary of cuts requires a basic knowledge of quadruped anatomy (leg, back, etc.) in addition to an arcane phraseology stitched largely from antique versions of French and English (brisket and loin, for instance), quality descriptions of meats derive from strict, precise government standards imposed by the United States Department of Agriculture.

steak-classificationUnderstanding this language requires instruction. Paul Koury, owner and operator of Paul Anthony’s Markets, says, “This business has been a huge teaching process from day one. When I first opened up, almost every customer was looking for a solid red piece of meat with no marbling, and that’s probably going to be your lowest grade,” Paul says. When it comes to the quality of meats, marbling is the key factor. Marbling describes those small streaks of white fat within the red lean muscle that are essential towards making any cut of meat tender and juicy. The degree of marbling is the primary determination of quality grade. A prime cut will have abundant marbling and a choice cut moderate, while a select cut (the lowest marketed grade) will have only slight marbling, making the meat tough and dry.

“I have a few pieces of choice rib eye that I’ve prepared in a display tray with a prime rib eye to educate people in the difference between the marbling. Less than 3% of all beef in the United States rates a prime grading.” Paul says that supermarket chains are not an ideal place to shop for the best cuts of meat. “Most supermarkets aren’t even cutting their own products locally. Kroger, for instance, has most of their meats cut in Cincinnati and then shipped out.” Paul explains that their reasoning behind this is the liability factor in using saws and other cutting instruments in their stores.

The practice of aging beef is another factor contributing to flavor and tenderness. “All of my prime beef is wet aged, vacuum-sealed in a package in its natural juices. Wet packaged beef will have a stamp that tells me how many days it has been aging since the slaughter. Dry aging is a whole different process,” Paul says. ”Humidity and temperature are keys. Every product is out of the bag with no liquid around it, and the enzymes are breaking down the meat, making for a really rich flavor.” Paul explains that quality pork is the product of a nationwide program in which farmers are raising heirloom breeds of swine without using hormones or strong antibiotics. Sometimes referred to as heirloom or heritage breeds, examples in the marketplace today include Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta, meaning “black pig”), Duroc, and Tamworth “There’s an amazing difference in the taste and tenderness between this pork and what you’d find in most supermarkets,” Paul says. .

Adelaide_champion_Berkshire_boar_2005Pork has become a “foodie” fad. Dan Blumenthal, chef at Bravo! Restaurant, says, “It’s interesting. I really don’t understand why pork is trendy now. But there’s a lot of pork meat that doesn’t have a lot of fat on it and can be used like veal or chicken; the tenderloin, for example.” Dan points out that some bone-in cuts of meat are also coming back. “They’re introducing cuts with the bone in it, for various reasons. Meat really does taste better if it’s cooked with the bone, and if you cut it right, there’s not that much work to do. I also serve a chicken breast, called the airline breast, with the wing bone still in it,” Dan says. “It’s essentially the drumette once you take the breast off.” When it comes to cooking methods, “You’re going to get the best flavor out of grilling,” Dan says, “but unless your grill is really hot, I’d prefer pan-searing, dry-rubbing the meat and almost “Pittsburgh-ing” it (meat cooked “Pittsburgh style” is charred on the outside and juicy on the inside). I don’t use a dry skillet; you need oil in the skillet to conduct the heat.”

bonesAs to a meat sauce, Dan says, “Here is where it gets a little bit tougher. One of the easiest things to do if you’re cooking meat is to take the pan juices and reduce them with a little red wine if it’s a dark meat or white wine if it’s a light meat, then finish with butter. Short of that, if you’re grilling, for instance, you’re going to need some sort of stock,” Dan says, “and unless you can get veal bones and you know how to make a beef stock, most people can use a lighter or darker chicken stock and get away with it, and chicken bones are pretty easy to come by. Brown the bones in the oven with seasonings and aromatic vegetables, then add liquids to complete the stock. You’re not going to get something that’s as rich and dark (as a veal stock), but it might suffice, especially if you cook it down and add red wine or a little tomato paste.”

Then there are marinades and dry rubs. “Marinades flavor and tenderize meat,” Dan says. “A marinade normally incorporates an acid, which is a natural tenderizer, whether the acid is wine or vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice. For a tougher piece of meat you’d want the marinade to penetrate more. But if you’re cooking a rare piece of meat, and the marinade penetrates too far, the acid will cook the meat, and it will soak up the marinade like a sponge, giving the meat a different texture. Dry rubs are another excellent way to flavor meat,” Dan says. “You always want salt and pepper; something with a little heat, like different types of peppers, then some dried herbs like rosemary, oregano or fennel as well as powdered onion, garlic and paprika.”  Dan recommends that any cut of meat, once cooked, should rest for a few minutes before carving or cutting.

Pork Saltimbocca

12 oz. pork tenderloin, sliced into 6 medallions and pounded thinly
6 thin slices prosciutto
6 large fresh sage leaves

Dredge pork in all-purpose flour seasoned with salt and black pepper. Arrange 1 prosciutto slice over pork. Top with 1 sage leaf and spear with a wooden pick. Heat about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan, add pork and brown lightly. Remove pork; add about a tablespoon of finely chopped shallots and a teaspoon of garlic. Add about 1/4 cup each white wine and chicken stock to pan, cook until reduced by about half, finish with about a tablespoon unsalted butter. Arrange pork on a warm plate and drizzle with pan juices. Serve immediately.

saltimbocca2-1-1

Taking the Heat

For those of us who have worked in those trenches, kitchen work must be among the least glamorous occupations in the world.

Cooks have notoriously foul tempers (“God sends meat, and the Devil sends cooks,” wrote John Taylor (1578 – 1653), “The Water Poet,” who should have known, since as a British publican he no doubt had to deal with cooks), and small wonder; unless you’re a chef/owner who does little of the hands-on work, kitchen work is dirty and demeaning, the hours can be brutal, and the pay is abominable. In addition, the working environment is, literally, infernal. I refer the reader to Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London for a literary account of the experience; though Orwell was a dishwasher—the lowest of the low—his account of the kitchen in a Parisian grand hotel is beautifully horrific.

There’s more than a grain of truth to the expression, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,” because the pressures are enormous, and if you can’t deal with them, you’ll not be there long at all. You must have everything that can be ready well before hand without knowing how much you’re going to need, because more often than not you just can’t tell how busy it’s going to be. You also have to be able to cook several different things all at the same time and fast. You’re also usually working for someone who wants to make every customer happy, and you’re obliged to respond with something approaching alacrity to the demands of the wait staff, who in turn are at the beck and call of every son-of-a-bitch who has enough money to purchase a meal. The constraints are heavy, and as a result there’s very little feeling of autonomy.

Having said that, cooking in a restaurant does hold some appeal for those with the temperament and constitution. Getting out of bed at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning to cook appeals to very few people, so brunch shifts (which are invariably what weekend morning shifts are terms at most “upscale” restaurants) are not popular among restaurant workers. But once you’re used to being up and going to work at that time of the day—and it does take some getting used to—you might find a certain sort of appeal in it.

I once worked a brunch shift in an Oxford restaurant that required me to be at the restaurant around six every Sunday morning in order to begin serving at nine. Oxford is normally a bustling little city, but very early on Sunday mornings, downtown is usually quiet and sedate (mornings after an Ole Miss homecoming game are an exception; the partying never seems to end on those weekends).

At that time, only a couple of sleepy cops near the ends of their shifts, some few street maintenance workers and maybe a jogger or two are out and about. You notice the bird songs more because there’s no traffic. I always felt as if I’d gotten the jump on everyone, that by being among the first up on that day I’d somehow established some sort of slight moral superiority over other mortals by way of observing—albeit under some degree of duress—the old “early-to-bed-early-to-rise” maxim.

After getting to the restaurant and unlocking the door to the kitchen, on come the lights. You make a pot of coffee and check the notes left by the most conscientious person on the last shift and begin “waking up the kitchen,” bringing it to life, filling it with the sounds and aromas you’re accustomed to working around.

First you turn on the vent hoods (a crucial step), then you might fill the steam table pans with hot water and light the flames beneath them. You set your oven on whatever temperature you need to hold, heat, bake or broil foods. If you have them, you fire up the deep-fat fryers, the salamanders, the grill or the griddle. Then you begin prep, chopping up vegetables, mounds of onions, bell peppers and celery, parsley, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, making batters, cracking eggs, making biscuits, muffins and shortbreads, setting water to boil for any number of things—grits, pasta, beans, peas, potatoes—putting together a soup for the day, warming up the menu standards, checking out leftovers to see what you can use and what should be trashed, deciding on a special and making sure you have enough staples on hand to get you through the day.

You’re cooking. You’re still alone and you have all these things going. You’re in control. It can be a wonderful feeling. Sooner or later you’re joined by your compatriots in the kitchen, and you then find yourself dodging and dipping around them as they work. By the time the first servers get to the restaurant, you’re all in full swing, your steam table’s about half-full, you’re mostly through the prep for your line work and the smell of sautéing onions and baking biscuits fills the restaurant. More often than not, the first servers are going to want to eat—especially those nursing a hangover, who in my experience with waitpersons tend to be in the majority—so you might as well put them a basket of biscuits with gravy out for them. You can yell at them later, but it’s usually a good idea to at least get off on the right foot with them initially. By the time the first customers come stumbling in the door, you’re ready to serve up a beautiful meal, and soon you become lost in the peculiar, compelling rhythm of a working kitchen, which some people have compared to a ballet in its precision of flow and timing.

Granted, a working kitchen certainly doesn’t exhibit the ostensible grace a performance of Swan Lake might—especially since, in a kitchen, a lot of billingsgate gets bandied around in what might seem to the uninitiated as an alarmingly casual manner (“Hey,  you stoner #$@^%&^%#! When am I going to get some %$#@&* fettuccine on the ##$%*%$# line?”)—but in its own cacophonous, high-tension way, a coordinated kitchen in operation is a beautiful thing, especially looking upon it and thinking back to when you walked into that cold, dark kitchen all alone very early that morning. You’re the one who set the whole thing in motion, after all.

Yankee Beans

Syracuse, New York is hometown to Tom Cruise, Grace Jones, and Jake, who says his ancestors were involved in Greek shipping. Every now and then he’ll offhandedly mention “Uncle Ari and Aunt Jackie.”

Jake sniffs at my Southern heritage, informing me that his parents contributed to programs for eradicating hookworm and pellagra in Mississippi. He came to Jackson over two decades ago as the result of a convoluted series of circumstances I’ve long since quit trying to unravel. He says he stayed because he likes the weather, and indeed his recollections of lake-effect snow are unbelievably horrific.  Even after twenty-plus years here, however, people still ask him where he’s from.

It drives him nuts.

With a few notable exceptions—chicken and dumplings foremost—Jake loves Southern food, so in an effort to reciprocate charity, I decided to learn how to make good Yankee baked beans using the sturdy pots he brought back from Maine last year, which of course had been made by the ancestors of exceedingly sweet people in a religious community near Bangor.  (No, I didn’t go; he was meeting his mother to visit an aunt, and I was better off here with weed and cable.)

I used a pound of dried navy beans, a cup of diced ham with rind instead of salt pork, and since I was out of black strap, a half cup of sorghum molasses had to do. The beans, pork, and syrup went into the (2 quart or thereabout) pot with a cup of chopped onions and a bay leaf. I covered them with water to about an inch of the top, seasoned with a teaspoon of black pepper and a heaping tablespoon of dry mustard. Once in the pot and covered, they went into the oven at around 250, and there they stayed for a little over three hours. I added water as needed. The beans were damn good, almost buttery; the mustard cut the syrup just enough to let the beans make a statement.  Of course Jake credited the results to the pots, so I whacked him with a wooden spoon.

Twice.