Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain-tops are within reach. – John Muir
“what?”-The more rarely seen members of the peacock flock.-All buildings are accompanied by stories of their colorful inhabitants. For example, this still was actually in use until quite recently. It was built here by “the notorious Popcorn Sutton”, a lifelong moonshiner. He last made whiskey here in 2003, but despite warnings, passed out “tasting samples” to visitors during a demonstration. When authorities told Popcorn he must cease and desist, he indignantly packed up his gear and went home. -Inside the “Display Barn” are piles of crafts, instruments, toys, and tools made by Appalachian people, often accompanied by hand-written histories of the items and the people who made them.-recreation general store in the “Display Barn.”-The strange work of Cedar Creek Charlie, who covered every surface of his home in polkadots. This apparently included his own clothes, which he liked to wear while greeting Sunday visitors on his front porch.From the 1940’s until his death in 1988, Henry Harrison Mayes–an Appalachian coal miner–created these 1,400 pound concrete signs, which he placed along highways across America. Apparently, before his death he mapped out a plan to place his crosses on every corner of the globe…and throughout the solar system. Many of the signs at the museum have instructions to “place this cross on Saturn” or “place this cross in Egypt.” Apparently they have yet to make it that far. -A herd of goats, accompanied by an authentic Appalachian cantilever barn in the background.
These are our people. They are world renowned, unknown, famous, infamous, interesting,diverse, different, but above all, they are a warm, colorful and jolly lot, in love with our land, our mountains, and our culture. May their memories ever be preserved—not so much in reverence to them but as a gift to us and to generations to come.”
—John Rice Irwin, Museum Founder.
For More information on the Museum of Appalachia, visit http://museumofappalachia.org.
I still remember my first assignment as a 10th grade art student. My teacher herded us outside and set us down on the concrete patio adjacent to our classroom, and instructed us to draw. I looked around, and picked a subject: a ratty bush directly in front of me. Leaning up against the side of the building, pencils in hand, I carefully outlined the curves of the branches, and filled in the shape with bright green leaves. My teacher peered over my shoulder. “It’s good,” she said. “But do you notice anything else about the color of the leaves?”
I looked again. The leaves were still green. I shrugged my shoulders.
The easiest way to take yourself from being a poor artist to passable is to look a little closer, and to notice that green is really not so green. Trees are not green, grass is not green. In each of these, there are a million other colors in that will never be captured by a single colored pencil. The blue of the sky is reflected in shadows, the play of light gives golden highlights to each sunlit leaf. In this way all nature performs together to create one perfect, harmonious picture.
Once you start seeing the world in full color, You’ll never again return to the monotone green grass you once knew.
And if you’re lucky you’ll meet this little blue swallow, whose looks out on the world with fierce curiosity.You’ll see beyond the greenish waters near the bank–made so by the thick moss growing on the rocks below–and greet the turtle before he dives back into the blue.On the opposite bank, duck families are paddling out for their afternoon exercise. The tiny ones, in suits of mottled yellow and brown, hop and trip over the flower stalks as they make their way toward the water’s edge. And nearby, this red-faced friend gives his wings a defiant stretch after losing an embarrassing battle over pond territory to a pair of geese. All these things you would miss if you chose to only see the world in green.
A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring. In a pleasant spring morning all men’s sins are forgiven. Such a day is a truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn, the vilest sinner may return.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Spring
Birds flyin’ high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.
And I’m feelin’ good.Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River runnin’ free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me,
And I’m feelin’ goodStars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for meDragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean, don’t you know?
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean.
Sleep in peace when day is done: that’s what I mean.
Today I ate a 2-patty super burger, a corndog, french fries, and 5 donuts. Thats right. Two big, hand-shaped patties, topped with lettuce, dripping with cheese, and with a generous dollop of ketchup. It wasn’t exactly what I ordered, but the carhop brought me someone else’s meal and I didn’t realize until I’d already got home with it. What else could I do? It was all very fortuitous, though, I’ve had an unexplainable corndog craving all day, and then God miraculously gave me one. So, if you’re one of those people who thinks he doesn’t answer prayers…..well, I just got a free corndog. Even though, in hindsight, I don’t know why I didn’t just order one in the first place. But whatever, it all worked out. Oh, and before you judge, I didn’t actually finish the burger or the fries, but I had a good time trying. As for the donuts…well I don’t know what kind of self control you guys have, but to be honest I don’t have any.
I only hope whoever got my baby burger and fries instead of all that is just as happy as I am about the exchange!
As you can see by the picture above, the donuts are a little flat. They’re kind of misshapen, the holes aren’t round, and the icing is a little sloppy. The cream filling is bursting out the sides. When you peek through their back door, you don’t see a donut assembly line a-la Krispy Kreme churning out picture-perfect specimens, just a simple flour-covered baking table. And oh man, they are delicious. Light, fluffy, and the perfect quantity of filling. The lemon one had what tasted like real lemon curd, not some cheap artificially flavored gel. Before purchasing, the lady brought me some samples of the sour cream donut, claiming she’d “put on 5 pounds since they started carrying it.” After a taste, I could see why. And then I went against my better judgement and bought a half dozen for $3.
This silly little donut place, Richy Creme Donuts, turned 65 last year, making it just a few years older than the drive-in down the street, where the burger mix-up took place. When I was a kid, I figured drive-in’s were a thing of myth, until finally a Sonic opened and we all excitedly drove like a half hour down the road for mini banana splits. It’s a little silly perhaps, but we’re all a little bit led by nostalgia, aren’t we? I’m not sure we left feeling satisfied by Sonic’s mass-produced fare, but whether it’s a local dive or a chain restaurant, it’s still a fun experience, isn’t it?
Then, while a student, I got a job at an art gallery in downtown Raleigh, and started venturing down the road to the old Chargrill Burger joint for lunch. Chargrill is still my favorite burger in town, not just because the burger itself is pretty darn good (there’s usually a reason places stick around for 50 years), but because I like walking up to the window, writing my order on a slip of paper and sticking it through the slot to the cooks, who then make my burger to order exactly how I like it. Sticking slips through the window is a kind of a silly system when you think about it, but it’s just part of what Chargrill is.
It’s kind of special, y’know, a ritual of sorts, something that doesn’t happen just anywhere you go.
And perhaps it’s not as efficient as a drive-thru where they’ve already got hamburgers packaged up and sitting under heat lamps, ready to toss carelessly into bags and then shove out a window at a moment’s notice, but sometimes you don’t just want fast food, you want to feel you’re enjoying something authentic, something that is lasting, something that is important to the history of your town and your personal experience. And crazy as it sounds, sometimes something as simple as a hamburger can be all that.
Hum-dinger Drive-In definitely wasn’t fast, but it was authentic…at least, it was to me, a 25-year-old who never got to experience drive-in’s the first time around and to whom the 50’s just look a lot like Poodle Skirts and Grease. But perhaps that’s why I always find myself at places like this. Why, when it’s not even suppertime and I’m not hungry and I just left the donut shop with a whole bag of donuts, I still can’t resist swinging in to the parking lot to see what it’s all about.
It’s kind of like something Chuck Klosterman wrote once, “It’s uncomfortable to admit this, but technology has made the ability to remember things borderline irrelevant. Having a deep memory used to be a real competitive advantage, but now it’s like having the ability to multiply four-digit numbers in your head — impressive, but not essential.
Yet people will still want to remember stuff.
People enjoy remembering things. Remembering creates meaning.”
It’s strange to say I can remember something I never experienced in the first place, but I did a degree in History, itself not much more than a study of collective memory…which is exactly what little places like Hum-Dinger, Chargrill, Richy Creme, and who know what other places I haven’t discovered yet, give to a community. A collective memory. They exist in a world where Mcdonald’s isn’t readily available on every corner in America; instead, they have menus that have been shaped by time and local tastes. They give us special moments and experiences, they give us an anchor to place. They have old pictures on the walls of locals enjoying themselves, jerseys on the walls worn by High School ball players. They spell “potato” like “tater”. They boast themselves to be the inventors of fried bologna sandwiches. It doesn’t even matter if, in the scheme of things, they themselves really aren’t all that unique, and didn’t really invent anything because everybody in the world already knows about fried bologna sandwiches. But they give that community something unique to call its own, to identify it, and to glue it to its past.
And yknow, I think the existence of Hum-Dinger and Richy Creme are part of what makes me really like this town. Even if they did get my order wrong.
I’m not in Paris anymore, and I won’t be again for the foreseeable future, which makes me think maybe I should change my blog name from theFrench word for a charming little thatched roof cottage to something a bit more East Tennessean—–perhaps instead of La Petite Chaumiere, it’ll be my Little Log Cabin or The Ol’ Deer Stand or This Here Pickup Truck.
And then I remind myself that even in East Tennessee not everyone lives in cabins and sits in deer stands and drives pickups (just most of them), and people can still have snotty french blog names if they want. So I will.
OK. All joking aside (and I promise, I am joking!) I really love my new home. Imean, after 6 months of city life, it’s amazing to be able to open your windows and see a little creek and hear a little frog, rather than looking straight into the room across the street (and meeting the glaring eyes of the chain-smoking French teenagers that come with it). I like that I can get a whole apartment including utilities for what I paid for one little room in Paris. And as much as I honestly wanted to appreciate the opportunity to use public transportation, I wouldn’t trade my peaceful ride to work in my little blue chevy for all the crowded, smelly metros Paris has to offer. Not even for Ligne 14. I like speaking English, I like flopping on the couch and watching American tv, I like having modern, American-size appliances, I like my quiet neighborhood with every fast-food restaurant ever within a half mile drive, and I like my work. I like wandering out to visit the baby sheep who live next door to my workplace and waving at the goats I pass every day on my way in. I like my city, which happens to be kinda like a better version of my hometown. I like this view ahead of me every morning:
And I like coming home to a quiet apartment and being able to do whatever I want without any crazy landladies to yell at me. Even if it includes making brownies in the middle of the night. I can keep my computer on if i want to. I can take showers whenever I want, keep whatever I want in the refrigerator and have no worry of potentially breaking anything by touching it wrong.
I do miss my French patisseries though. I’ve tried to cope by spending most of last week baking. I’ve now got enough dinner rolls, biscuits, and cookies stocked in my freezer to last me months. I’m dying to make croissants, but as of yet I haven’t really had the patience for that kind of endeavor.
Anyway. since people keep asking me what I’m doing now, I guess I’ll tell you 🙂 However, in a feeble attempt to hide from google, I’m simply going to refer to my workplace simply as “The Farm”–which, despite not being it’s full, proper name, isn’t at all inaccurate. The best thing about work is driving up to this idyllic setting every day, and being surrounded by people who sincerely care about the land and its fruit, and who find in themselves a personal responsibility to protect it, respect it, and make the most of it. This extends from the kitchen and butcher shop using every single part of the animal in some way, to creating land trusts that will preserve the sides of the mountains from ever being defaced by future development.The garden is still a little bare, but the master gardeners are working hard to get it ready for the swiftly-approaching planting season. They fly all around the world collecting rare seeds to nurture and preserve for future generations…and if we’re lucky, we in the kitchen get to collect from their bounty and enjoy a taste of something special. Even now, as we all anxiously wait for the first signs of spring to emerge from the cool dirt, we still ride out there every day or two to gather fresh greens from the hoop house.my new favorite thing is miner’s lettuce, which sprouts delicate little flowers right in the center of its leaves. It’s native to the western mountains of America, where, supposedly, miners ate it to ward off scurvy. Today, it’s a beautiful finishing touch to any salad, and I love using it.
In reality, these gardens and farmlands are really just a small part of a much larger property, operating as an exclusive resort hotel. There are animals too, and creeks for fishing, trails for hiking, a spa for relaxing…along with just about anything else you might want to do. I work in the main on-site restaurants, where we serve a multi-course dinner menu (or 7 course tasting menu, for an extra charge) to all the guests on the property.
I mostly work in the Garde Manger, which basically means I deal with cold plates, charcuterie, salads, and the like. It’s an entry level position that everyone in the kitchen starts out in before being entrusted with bigger (and more expensive) responsibilities. Basically, no one is going to let the new kid cook a filet mignon over an open flame until they’ve definitely put in the time to prove that they are capable of cooking it well and not burning down the restaurant. Despite being the bottom of the kitchen totem pole, I’m pretty ok with staying in the Garde for a while, mostly because it means i get to go to the garden regularly and I don’t have to gut fish. None of the food I make is particularly difficult, but they all have many different components that need to be individually prepped and ready to go before service starts.
And no matter what station you’re on, you’re guaranteed to be learning a lot and creating beautiful, elegant, and delicious dishes. Everyone arrives at two, and service starts at six. That gives us four hours to prepare everything we’ll need–usually enough time. We all take a break around four to enjoy a quick meal together before picking up the pace and heading into service time.
During service, there are usually two cooks on each station (meat side, fish side, Garde, and Pastry), along with the chef and sous chef who keep an eye on the line and help finish the plates before they are sent out to the tables. The way it works is that once the servers collect the order, they send us each a ticket. Once the guest is ready for the food, we get another ticket to fire. This cuts out all the yelling and confusion that I experienced during restaurant service at Ferrandi….everyone knows exactly what is going on and exactly when they need to send. If you get lost, it’s easy to look back and see exactly where you’re at. Once I get a ticket in, I immediately start building all the dishes, getting as much done on the plate as I can. Then, when we get the order to fire, I pass it to my colleague who cleans it up, adds the finishing touches, and sends it. This keeps us moving in an efficient assembly line type manner. However, a couple weeks in, I’m getting much closer to mastering the dishes and can occasionally hold down the fort by myself if my partner needs to step out or concentrate on something else. the kitchen is actually housed in a “real” red barn…apparently it was originally in Pennsylvania or somewhere, but moved down here to save it from destruction. I don’t have a picture of the dining room, but it still retains its barn-like qualities. If you pay attention, you can still catch a whiff of the old wood smell.
Anyway, I’m really just writing to show you that I’m alright here 🙂 It’s not Paris, but that doesn’t mean there will be any less to write about—especially as spring draws near on the farm. Obviously some blog content will change, but actually, I still have quite a lot of things to post about Paris too! I’ll probably write less frequently, but it should be a good mix of subject matter and photos. I hope everyone who started reading my blog when I was in Paris will continue to follow me into this next phase of life 🙂