Jackson’s Culinary Canon

The culinary literature of any given city (or region) reflects the character of its peoples, and taken altogether, this selection, which I submit as the “best of the best”, shows Jackson as richly cultured, with an enduring commitment to the commonweal. Among its citizens have been talented cooks who were writers of surpassing ability. These books encompass an extraordinary amount of cultural history, contain the highest order of culinary exposition, and taken altogether could work as a syllabus for any tutorial on Southern cooking.

Allison’s Wells: The Last Mississippi Spa
(Muscadine Press: 1981)

In 1981, proprietor Hosford Fontaine—doubtless at the urging of countless friends—published Allison’s Wells: The Last Mississippi Spa. The book is a treasure-trove of history, with profiles of the people who kept the resort functioning as well as other unforgettable characters, musicians and artists such as Till Caldwell, Inez Wallace, Ted Faires, Marie Hull and others. Many of these people contributed to the illustrations, which are augmented by dozens of charming vintage photos including a poignant image of Hosford standing amid the charred ruins. Best of all, The Last Mississippi Spa also includes a sprawling section on recipes for almost anything to put on the table: hors d’oeuvres, soups, salads, dressings, breads, meats, seafood, vegetables, breakfast and brunch dishes, desserts, candy and cookies, all “tried and true” from the La Font kitchens. The book includes a warm and heartfelt Forward by Charlotte Capers and a brief introduction by Eudora Welty.

The Jackson Cookbook
(Hederman Brothers: 1971)

This cookbook could well be held up as an archetype of a Southern ladies’ cookbook; it’s stiff with tradition and understated elegance. Indeed, in a note “About the Cover,” the editors explain that Artist Carl Davis translated Welty’s comments about “the era of the Madeira tea napkin,” into a work of art using an heirloom tea napkin “hand embroidered by Miss Irene Anderson,” with Jackson’s monogram “J”. This note follows a short essay by the Women’s Editor of The Clarion-Ledger, Mary Alice Bookheart, “The Aesthetics of Eating,” which states in part, “This is not necessarily a cookbook of old Jackson recipes. … What (the cookbook committee) has attempted to do in compiling this book is to achieve a happy blend of old and new …” This book also includes some restaurant favorites, such as the “Edwards House (King Edward Hotel) Chicken”. The recipes are simple and use familiar ingredients as well as commercial items, and provide recipes for any occasion, ranging across the menu. The Jackson Cookbook is a wonderful addition to any kitchen library, but what sets it apart, raising it to a level no other cookbook in Mississippi can hope to achieve, is the Forward, “The Flavor of Jackson,” a jewel of exposition by Welty.

 The Southern Hospitality Cookbook
Oxmoor House: 1976

Simply put, Winifred’s The Southern Hospitality Cookbook is not only a groaning board of splendid recipes, but as a whole nothing less than an illuminating documentation of upper-class cooking in the mid-20th century South. The recipes are rich and varied, the ingredients often expensive and times for preparation are usually considerable. Indeed, the most frequent critiques of the book involve how “fussy” the recipes are, many calling for minute amounts of several various ingredients and elaborate stage-by-stage instructions on their preparation. But this is the way Winifred and the women of her class and generation cooked; they had plenty of time on their hands, and more often than not enough money to spend on costly and hard-to-find ingredients. Many of the recipes are true heirlooms from Virginia and the Eastern Seaboard. She also includes recipes from dozens and dozens of friends and neighbors. The Southern Hospitality Cookbook is a milestone in the culinary history of Jackson, but what takes it to a higher level is a short essay by her editor at The National Observer, David W. Hacker (“Savoring Miss Welty’s Wit at a Special Seafood Lunch”) and a preface by Eudora herself (“A Note on the Cook”).

Standing Room Only
Hederman Brothers: 1983

“With Narratives by Eudora Welty and Beth Henley,” announces the marquee on New Stage’s truly superb “Cookbook for Entertaining”. Henley’s short essay on theatre parties is quite fun, and Welty’s “A Note about New Stage” is the definitive article on this beloved Jackson institution. The posters and playbills, along with the accompanying texts, that separate the divisions are also marvelous diversions, but the true stars here are the recipes. This is hands-down my favorite Jackson cookbook because the recipes are sumptuous, clearly presented, and a lot of them are just damned fun. Most of them are written for more than four servings and are captioned with “can double”. Also included are the invaluable sections, “Buying Guide for 50 Guests” and “Setting a Bar for 50 for One Hour”. SRO throws in an herb and wine guide as curtain calls.

Southern Sideboards
Wimmer/JLJ: 1978

The most distinguished cookbook in this selection, and winner of the prestigious Southern Living Hall of Fame Award, Southern Sideboards is THE right cookbook for traditional Southern recipes before the “foodie revolution” of the 1980s. These recipes aren’t designed for health or with an eye to fussy ingredients, so if you’re the type of person who wouldn’t be caught dead in a checkout with a can of Cream of Celery soup, then it’s certainly not for you. But if you’re one of those hide-bound traditionalists who want to know EXACTLY how Granny made that Southern Cornbread DRESSING, then this is your book. Sure, the recipes are often complex and some do take a little time, but you know what? Time and preparation are keys to good cooking and good eating. The game recipes are truly superb, as are the desserts, particularly the cakes. Southern Sideboards is distinguished by a splendid, heartfelt essay by Mississippi native Wyatt Cooper, an author, screenwriter, and actor who is better known as the fourth husband of Vanderbilt heiress and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt and the father of journalist Anderson Cooper.

The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big-Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner
Three Rivers Press: 2003

Despite what you may think, I am not including Jill Conner Browne’s cookbook in this list because I’m afraid that if I didn’t, I’d in the very near future have a magenta sequined bootie up my patootie. No, I honestly think the Big-Ass Cookbook is absolutely fabulous. Not only does it have lots and lots of great—albeit indulgent—recipes, it also has reams of practical advice: “Hormones are serious juju, and if you don’t get them sorted out, you might find that you need money for things like lawyers and bail.” I think it’s Jill’s best book, though I must profess a weakness for cookbooks. Here you’ll find satire without (much) malice or rancor, some of the best writing—flat-out writing—to come out of Mississippi, and humor that’s deliberately  earthy without being crass or (too) coarse. Of course, I’ll never be deemed worthy to sew a single sequin on an SPQ outfit, but I adore them from afar.

French Market Bean Soup

Somewhere among the cuneiform tablets found scattered around Ur are bound to be recipes for bean soup, likely even soups using many types of dried beans. This particular recipe is far more recent—it’s only been around about as long as I have, which dates it to around the time Sputnik was launched—and its connection to the French Market in New Orleans is speculative at best. It’s a rich, hearty soup, good hot or cold.

No small degree of this recipe’s appeal is that you can easily make custom combinations of dried beans and parcel them out as gifts. A typical commercial mix contains calls for equal parts navy beans, pinto beans, split green and yellow peas, black-eyed peas, lentils, both baby and large limas, black beans, red beans, Great Northerns, soybeans and barley pearls, but you can use whatever combination you like in a somewhat similar measure and you call it whatever you like. My buddy Dan Vimes sends me a mix he calls Pelahatchie Peas Pot every year on the anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. Dan puts his bean blend in GI issue canteens. You can put yours in whichever moves your zen, just be sure to throw in a bouquet garni with each package.

You’ll also want to include the recipe: Place in a heavy pot a pound of beans and seasoning, with 2 quarts water, a ham joint/hock or smoked turkey neck/tail–a cup each chopped onion and celery, and a couple of dried cayenne pods. A lot of recipes will tell you to add a can of chopped tomatoes at this point, but don’t; if you do the acid in the tomatoes will take forever to cook. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are soft, adding water if needed. At this point, you can remove meat from bone, chop and throw it back in the pot back to the pot. Sure, it’s a pain to do, but it’s a nice touch, it really is. Now is when you add canned tomatoes, either small dice or crushed, with a judicious amount of juice. Throw in two very finely minced toes of garlic, and stew for melding, about another half hour. Thicken or thin to your liking, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cornbread or crusty wheat.

Take a Leek

Before my ancestors were shipped off to Virginia for lampooning the local gentry and skipping out on enormous bar tabs, they lived in a beautiful old country on the west coast of Britain known as Wales. With prolonged contention, Wales has been assimilated into the United Kingdom, but like Ireland and Scotland, Wales still observes its own saint’s day, the Feast of St. David, which falls on March 1.

It’s a crying shame that the beloved David’s feast has been eclipsed by that humbug Patrick’s on the 17th; after all, compared to David, Patrick was second-rate. David was able to make the earth beneath him shift and rise, a truly impressive feat, whereas Patrick’s most notable claim to fame is the single-handed extinction of Ireland’s indigenous serpents. Not only that, but David was a true Welshman, a native of Cardigan, while Patrick himself was actually from Wales (some say Scotland, but he certainly wasn’t Irish).

The Irish praise the potato (a 17th century import), but the Welsh glory in the leek, which has been cultivated in Britain for millennia. Welsh soldiers wore leeks to distinguish themselves into battle as early as the days of King Arthur, himself a Welshman. As a parting shot, let me add that daffodils, the national flower of Wales, strike a much brighter and more noble note in a vase than a bunch of tufted clover ever will.

Leeks are basically big-ass green onions, which place them in the important botanical family Alliaceae; all onions, as well as garlic, chives, shallots and their ilk, belong to this group of herbs. Leeks are a cool-season crop, which goes a long way to explain why they’re not a familiar item on the Southern sideboard, but I can usually grab a bunch (about three stalks) of leeks for about that many dollars any time of the year at my local supermarket. My Scots ancestors used chicken and leeks with barley in their jauntily-named cock-a-leekie soup. Leeks make a beautiful addition to any stir-fry (working well with peppers), and thin slices of leek in a quiche look nice and taste great.

Leeks also take exceptionally well to braising and are great in a gratin. Use about a half cup prepared leek per person. Cut away the roots and all but the last inch or so of the green away and wash very well. Slice and layer the rounds in a gratin or baking dish. Cover with a cream sauce, a béchamel or better yet a Mornay. Keep the seasonings simple, just a bit of salt and pepper, nothing more. A liberal sprinkling of good hard cheese on top is a great idea, but for Pete’s sake get an honest wedge and grate it; don’t use that sawdust in a green shaker. Place in a hot oven (375) until bubbling; fifteen minutes should do it. Serve hot.

Hugh Dean Encounters the Oyster Cracker

Hugh Dean Miller is one of those people who believe that there is a reason for everything, that his life is a juggernaut of nuts, bolts, and steel plates that steams without perturbation across the stormy waters of existence with a ponderous, placid faith in an eventual haven. No wave nor berg, neither Scylla nor Charybdis will interrupt his voyage.

I often find Hugh Dean’s crow’s nest enviable, but then again, he is regularly beset by petty nuisances of meagre impediment that disturb him by their absence on his charts. Such was the case when Hugh Dean and I were shopping, and he stumbled upon oyster crackers.

“Jesse!” he shouted. “Get over here!”

Two aisles over, I abandoned a fruitless search for large curd cottage cheese and came upon Hugh Dean with sacks of Premium oyster crackers in both hands, wiggling them this way and that, watching the little hexagonals tumble in the cellophane.

“Have you ever seen these?” he asked with a look of naked and furious accusation.

“Yes, Hugh Dean, they’re oyster crackers. Some people put them in soups.”

Typically, Hugh Dean wasn’t listening to me. “You can’t put an oyster on these,” he said. “Do they have oysters in them? They don’t even look like an oyster.” Puzzlement was written all over his face.

“Hugh Dean, that’s just what they’re called,” I tried to explain. “That doesn’t mean you eat them with oysters or they’re made of oysters.  They’re really popular in clam chowder.”

Somehow that made a connection. “Well then why in the hell don’t they call them clam crackers? Or chowder crackers? Who decided to call them oyster crackers anyway? Why would anyone make something like this when you can just crumble up a saltine in your soup like normal people do in the first place?”

Hugh Dean sighed, tossed the sacks back on the rack, and struck out towards the beer cooler. “Jesse, let me tell you something,” he said over his shoulder. “There are some things in the world you ought not waste time worrying over. They’ll just keep you from focusing on the Big Things.”

“Hugh Dean,” I said. “That’s probably the smartest thing I’ve ever heard in my whole life.”

A Dip from the Delta

When I was a boy, I won an essay contest sponsored by the local library committee in my hometown in the central hills of Mississippi. The speaker at the awards presentation was a lady from a literary society in the Delta (I forget where; in retrospect, probably Greenville; the snootiest people who breathe are from Greenville, Mississippi). This woman just radiated dignity and graciousness from the top of her pill-box hat cum veil to the bottoms of her sensibly modest heels. She even wore little white cotton gloves with mother-of-pearl buttons. The ladies on our library committee were just undone by this exotic creature (the local women’s apparel store sold out of teeny-tiny white cotton gloves the very next morning).

Being a brash young thing and all of thirteen years old, I was totally unimpressed; I just wanted to grab my $25 check and dash, but I had to sing for my supper by sitting through (poorly) selected passages from Lanterns on the Levee. Somehow, I don’t think our girls—who, I’ll remind you, played a big hand in the literary life of our little town—were listening; they had only one thing on their mind: “What does she keep in that clever little purse?” But I listened, and as I did, it slowly dawned on me that this lady was proselytizing; she had set her beady, be-vailed hat towards bringing the gilded prose of Percy to us heathen hill folk with the flattest, longest vowels possible with all the fervency of Luther bearing a hammer.

My Aunt Robbie Rae made me stay for the reception (cookies and Kool-Aid with a discreet splash of Evan Williams for everyone but me). The grande dame, to my mind, seemed just a tad bit patronizing to the other ladies. (They didn’t notice, of course; they were too busy pumping the old girl for the best places in Memphis to shop.) As our august speaker left, she came up to congratulate me, and even though I was as tall as she was, she patted me on the head. To me that bit of petty patting summed up her whole attitude. By the time she left I was ready to lead the next revolt of the rednecks.

I would have been willing enough to dismiss this exhibition of arrogance as an individual aberration until I met others from the Delta, not the least impressive being the friend who gave me this recipe. You see, I was so ignorant: I didn’t know that the Delta was as close to the celestial as geography gets and that its denizens were canonized at birth. I did not know that my forehead automatically slopes when I mention that I am from Calhoun County. But now I know better; I know to speak of the Delta—not just any delta, you understand, but the DELTA—with vocal capitalization, and know to acknowledge the exclusivity (if not divinity) of its native sons and daughters, many of whom I love with all my heart. Occasionally I do slip and call them Bourbonists, but they shrug it off, thinking it’s a slur on their immoderate thirst rather than their politics.

For an antipasto dip or dressing, cream 10 ounces of a good blue cheese with four crushed and sieved anchovies, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, and a scant teaspoon very, very finely minced garlic. Refrigerate overnight; bring to room temperature before serving.

Faulkner’s Walk on the Wild Side

In 1931, William Faulkner published his first collection of short stories, These 13, which in addition to some of his most acclaimed and frequently anthologized stories—“A Rose for Emily”, “That Evening Sun,” and “Dry September”—included “Divorce in Naples”, Faulkner’s most direct if not overt exploration of  homosexuality.

Faulkner had already broached the theme in the intimacy between Quentin Compson and his Harvard roommate Shreve McCannon in The Sound and the Fury (1929), and Jenny and Patricia as well as the openly gay lesbian Eva Wiseman in Mosquitoes (1927). He’d renew and expand his depiction of Quentin and Shreve and introduce a parallel relationship with Henry Sutpen and Charles Bon in Absalom, Absalom! (1936). Faulkner employed the theme in diverse manners in later works, but “Divorce in Naples” stands as his most explicit work on homosexuality.

Simply put, the story depicts the relationship between two sailors, George (“Greek, big and black, a full head taller than Carl”) and the younger Carl (“with his round yellow head and his round eyes, looking like a sophisticated baby”).

‘THEY CAME INTO THE SHIP together at Galveston, George carrying a portable victrola and a small parcel wrapped in paper bearing the imprint of a well-known ten-cent store, and Carl carrying two bulging imitation leather bags that looked like they might weigh forty pounds apiece. George appropriated two berths, one above the other like a Pullman section, cursing Carl in a harsh, concatenant voice a little overburred with v’s and r’s and ordering him about like a nigger, while Carl stowed their effects away with the meticulousness of an old maid, producing from one of the bags a stack of freshly laundered drill serving jackets that must have numbered a dozen. For the next thirty-four days (he was the messboy) he wore a fresh one for each meal in the saloon, and there were always two or three recently washed ones drying under the poop awning. And for thirty-four evenings, after the galley was closed, we watched the two of them in pants and undershirts, dancing to the victrola on the after well deck above a hold full of Texas cotton and Georgia resin. They had only one record for the machine and it had a crack in it, and each time the needle clucked George would stamp on the deck. I don’t think that either one of them was aware that he did it.’

One night Carl disappears and George, frantic, fails to find him. When Carl returns after three days, he reveals that he has been with a woman, and George kicks him out of their berth only to discover later, after their reconciliation, that Carl was too naive to have sexual congress with the woman, and

“ …two weeks later we were watching him and George dancing again in their undershirts after supper on the after well deck while the victrola lifted its fatuous and reiterant ego against the waxing moon and the ship snored and hissed through the long seas off Hatteras.’

Most of Faulkner’s examinations of same-sex desire focus on men; Faulkner had close relations with many homosexual writers and artists, including his townsman and fellow writer Stark Young and his childhood friend Ben Wasson as well as William Alexander Percy and Lyle Saxon. It goes without saying that while living in New Orleans he doubtless knew many others.

The story draws most directly on Faulkner’s experiences with William Spratling, a down-on-his-knees New Orleans fairy, in sailing to Europe on the West Ivis beginning July 7, 1925 and to Genoa on August 2, where after landing they celebrated their arrival by going drinking with the ship’s officers. The drinking bout turned into a brawl with “pimps and prostitutes”, after which Spratling was arrested and thrown into an Italian prison where during the night he had a “homosexual encounter”. Rape is of course implied, but then again we don’t have any evidence that the encounter wasn’t consensual. The event in Genoa provided the kernel for the story, and Faulkner himself was heard to joke at one point that he was jealous of Spratling.

Faulkner’s representations of human sexuality are ambivalent and veiled. “Divorce in Naples” displays sexual activity blended with romantic idealism and sexual innocence if not confusion, but typically for Faulkner leaves the tension between them suspended.

The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big-Ass Compendium of Fat and Happy: A Review

In “A Note from Jill,” which serves as an introduction to her latest book, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big-Ass Compendium of Fat and Happy: Recipes to Improve Your Disposition (Shelton House Press, $14.95), HRH the BOSS QUEEN HERSELF declares (Jill Conner Browne never really merely says anything), “There Are NO Funny Stories in This Book.” Well, perhaps not AS SUCH, but ANYTHING Ms. Browne puts her lacquered and bejeweled hand to is going to be smart, sassy, brassy, and, yes, funny.

The fun begins far before Jill’s “Note” (p. 11), with a lengthy disclaimer: WARNING AND HOLD HARMLESS: ALL OF THE RECIPES HEREIN ARE POISON! IF YOU EAT THIS STUFF ALL THE TIME, YOU WILL DIE- AND YOU WILL DIE WITH A HUGE BEE-HIND; HOWEVER, THEY ARE VERY GOOD FOR YOUR DISPOSITION. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK. This elaborate salute to our litigious society goes on for another ninety words, followed by a declaration of LIMITS OF LIABILITY AND DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY, which includes such pettifoggery as THE AUTHOR AND PUBLISHER MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES WITH RESPECT TO THE ACCURACY, APPLICABILITY, FITNESS OR COMPLETENESS OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS MATERIAL. What follows this delightfully dense froth of legalese is nothing less than a NOTE REGARDING FOOD ALLERGIES: in which Her Majesty avows that SHE HERSELF has no food allergies and furthermore hasn’t made ANY INGREDIENT ADJUSTMENTS, ALTERNATIVE RECOMMENDATIONS, OR CONSIDERATION WHATSOEVER FOR SUCH IN THIS MATERIAL, and if you have food allergies it’s your responsibility to deal with them. “Be particular,” she adds.

Back to the introduction, where Ms. Browne presents her two-fold purpose for this work. “First-fold” (secondary) is “to give YOU death-defying recipes from ALL of the Sweet Potato Queens® books (so far) in one convenient pile . . . with absolutely no entertaining embellishments whatsoever.” “Second-fold,” (primary) is to PREVENT you from e-mailing and Facebooking and Tweeting me that you “lost/loaned/gave away your book(s)” and you “MUST HAVE CHOCOLATE STUFF (or Whatever It Is You’re Currently Craving) RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND OR YOU WILL SURELY DIE” and would I please take the time out of MY day to go personally find which book of the NINE that your desired recipe is in (oddly enough, I do not know them all by heart) and would I furthermore then take the time out of MY day to sit down and RE-TYPE said recipe FOR YOU when AS WE ALL KNOW, I have ALREADY DONE THAT when I put them ALL into convenient BOOKS for you, but which YOU have somehow-through no fault or responsibility of MINE- not managed to hold onto.” So much for “no entertaining embellishments,” right? “I never intended to take y’all to raise,” she adds.

In two successive “folds,” Browne informs readers that the titles of books where the recipes were originally printed appear at the end of each recipe (the e-book contains links to purchase these works) as well as you will find links “to some ingredients and pots, pans, bowls, utensils, etc. that you might be lacking.” And, finally, “One More-Fold: I have also included 33 NEW recipes that will appear in the next SPQ” book as well – just to demonstrate what a Good Sport I am.” How sweet is that?

My hope-no, my prayer – is that y’all will also buy the printed copies and their electronic twins of all nine of my other books, and the audio versions of them as well BECAUSE I have, once again, massive plastic surgery needs and your purchases are simple ways that YOU can help!”

Browne also has a Kindle App for download (“so you can easily shop for the ingredients of your favorite SPQ recipes AND you’re not likely to be loaning out your PHONE, tablet, or Kindle then e-mailing me in tears for some recipe”.) Never let it be said that Jill Conner Browne is not au courant. Likewise, never let it be said that Ms. Browne doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. In her “Basic Stuff to Know Before You Begin Using These Recipes,” she makes several smart recommendations, among them using a “running over” teaspoon whenever one of vanilla needed, using salted butter, and to “be particular” when it comes to buying (DARK) brown sugar. Jill also provides this wonderful piece of don’t-be-a-dumb-ass/no-nonsense advice:

“If the recipe does not specifically state the size/type pan to be used, it doesn’t really matter. Look at how much is in the bowl and figure out which pan you have that will hold it. I am going out on a limb and assuming that you have sense enough to NOT try to cram a gallon of something into a quart pan-or try to make a quart of something cover the bottom of a gallon pan. Please tell me that my trust is not misplaced.

The Sweet Potato Queens’ Bog-Ass Compendium of Fat and Happy contains 216 recipes; breads (18), breakfast (11), casseroles (17), chicken (7), dips and appetizers (23), drinks (9), meat (11), salads (10), “sammiches” (8), seafood (4), veggies (28), and sweets (69)(!). Nine other recipes fall into the category of “weird shit,” among them “Love Lard,” “Racoon Loaf,” and “Damon Lee Fowler’s Bacon Popcorn.” Stellar additions include: “Queen of the Night Salsa,” “Spinach Madeline.” “Bacon and Beagle Dicks (cocktail sausages),” “Olive Yum Yums,” and “Armadillo Hunter’s Shrimp.”

Sure, you’re not going to find many of these recipes on a keto sideboard, and you might want to double down up your Lipitor for any extended indulgence. Browne is a great cook, and she’s taken a lot of care with the recipes, which are well-written and quite easy to follow. This isn’t what I’d call a “family” cookbook, but if you do a lot of entertaining or have a lot of company over the holidays, it’s a wonderful thing to have on hand, and a TON of FUN!

Yam Not

Okay, let’s straighten this out once and for all. Those big orange roots you find in the grocery store are not yams. Got that? As a matter of fact, it’s a good bet that most of the people who just read that have never even seen a yam.

Sweet potatoes came to be called yams because they’re kind of/sort of similar, both starchy/sweet root vegetables, but they’re quite distinct; a sweet potato is far sweeter and much smoother than a yam. The most important distinction is that yams don’t grow in the South, but sweet potatoes do, in glorious profusion. Sweet potatoes have always been a staple of Southern tables as well as a reliable source of income. The sweet potato is the state vegetable of North Carolina, and the Sweet Potato Capitol of the World is Vardaman, Mississippi. (If tells you any different, they’re a double-dog liar who needs a thorough ass-kicking.

Still and all, you’re bound to find cans of yams in many local grocers, but due to USDA requirements, most inevitably you’ll find “sweet potatoes” somewhere on the label.

So there.

Crystal Wings

Disjoint wings, and unless you’re a compulsive chicken stock person (I used to be one; trust me: get therapy) discard tips. Pat dry and deep-fry until lightly browned, toss with sloshes of Crystal Hot Sauce and dashes of granulated garlic. Bake on a rack in a moderate (300) oven until lightly crisp. These refrigerate well, but do not freeze.