White Pearls and Pimento Cheese
Take it from the town signage: in Greenville, MS, southern culture speaks for itself, and then some. Its citizens are a very creative group, and this includes cooks and culinary writers, too. It goes without saying that you’re welcome at most any table in the South, and Greenville just may be the Ground Zero of genteel southern hospitality.
Last week, one of my Ole Miss journalism students and I were lucky
enough to get the grand tour from the queen of it all: Gayden
Metcalfe, arts council founder and author of the hilarious cookbook
about funeral food, Being Dead is No Excuse
(below). Journalism student Sarah Bracy Penn collected plenty of great
material for her southern hospitality story for the Delta Project
magazine, and I had fun tagging along, snapping photos and sampling the
goodies. Here are a few highlights of our day I am wanted to share with
all of you. First, Gayden Metcalfe invited us to her beautiful Greenville home and offered us treats (below) from her recently re-released hit, Being Dead is No Excuse.
Cheese wafers and spiced pecans proved dangerously addictive. As you
may notice, Deltans don’t wait for a special occasion to pull out the
good china and silver. Fresh flowers, good china, fine silver, and the best refreshments are everyday staples in a Delta home, and “the more you use silver, the less you have to
polish it,” advises Gayden. Even the taxidermy (above) exudes refinement. I mistook this for an
extremely oversize house cat until I realized it was a well-preserved
We also met many other gracious citizens of Greenville as well,
including philanthropist Leila Wynn, who joined us for our tour of the
historical sights of Greenville. Here we are at “Lanterns on the Levee”
author William Alexander Percy author’s famous grave monument to his
father Leroy Percy. Gayden calls the Greenville Cemetary, where all
the FFGs (First Families of Greenville) are laid to rest, “the best
address in town!”
then took us to a wonderful lunch (below) at the Greenville Country
Club with Sarah Smythe, who co-runs the Lagniappe gift shop — where
Greenvillle brides register their china patterns and load up on gifts
for the new mom or birthday kid.
We enjoyed what she calls the “Delta Duo” (center) – chicken salad and
tomato aspic with homemade mayo. Fruit salad came with a homemade honey
poppyseed dressing. Sensing the quiet despair of our aspic-phobic
photographer, the waitress quickly whisked his plate away and replaced
it with grilled cheese and fries to his huge relief.
We topped off lunch with vanilla ice cream (right), with our choice of fudge or caramel sauce (as usual I opted for both) and chopped peanuts. It’s hard not to love this dessert! It reminded me of a Nutty Buddy without the cone.
Before we hit the road, Gayden offered us a snack (below) of what she
calls “bastardized” pimento cheese, embellished with pecans and
such…Mr. Fox watches from afar.
On our way out of town, we couldn’t pass up the chance to stop at
Lagniappe (below) which — in addition to selling fine gifts — also hosts
monthly luncheons for cookbook authors.
A few weeks earlier, I was recently honored to talk and sign at one of
these events (below), where I got to experience Greenville
hospitality at its finest first-hand. The ladies made Marc’s Chicken
Salad from Eat Drink Delta and served it on croissants (the recipe incidentally is featured in this month’s Atlanta Magazine newsletter).
Gayden herself made the Tomato Aspic With Homemade Mayonnaise which I
had reprinted from her book. For dessert they dolled up Yazoo Market
Chocolate Chess Pie (also from my book) with a dollop of whipped cream
dusted with cocoa. The presentation of it all could not have been
True Delta hospitality, of course, does not always come served on a silver platter. More often, it comes in the form of a helping hand, a thoughtful gesture…and of course something good to eat or drink, prepared and served with TLC.
Eat, drink, and enjoy the journey,
P.S. Next Friday I can’t wait to head back to Greenville to sign books at
“Delta Eats,” an event celebrating the region’s culinary arts that
sounds awesome. Hope you’ll come if you’re in the nabe!