French Influence…

imageThere is a definite French Influence in the South…after all one of the Six Flags flown over the South is French!  And let’s be clear, Julia Childs was a Yankee. She did not bring Wrought Iron Furniture, Balconies, Fountains or Railings down here to us- nor did she introduce us to Mayonnaise. It would be easy to believe that food in the Alabama is all ham hocks, cornbread and turnip greens but how would you explain generations of Southern cooks who insisted on a Meringue topping on their famous Banana Puddings if not for a French Influence?

There is a delicate side to Southern Food- one that is unmistakably French. We lighten up our Macaroni and Cheese with enough eggs that it’s almost like a soufflé, in fact souffles are very common in Southern Cookbooks. You could hardly host a Luncheon or, the Lord forbid, a Funeral -without some type of shivering gelatin, Tomato Aspic is iconic. We love our Mayonnaise, homemade if possible- not because of Julia Childs but because our grandmothers made it! I would argue that it was a good ol’ Southern boy named Thomas Jefferson who had America’s first French trained chef!image

The Coastal Southern States almost always have a French Quarter even if miniscule-we just visited a tiny French Quarter in Fairhope Alabama!  Bay Minette, Bon Secour Bay, Daphne, Fayette, Eufaula, Luverne, D’Olive and Dauphin Island (it’s not Dolphin y’all !) are all in Alabama. Look at that Shrimp Boat in Bon Secour Bay! Alabama Seafood comes in there every single day!

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Even our Children have French inspired names– Ladale, Lavonne, Bridgette, Delane, Jeanette, Eugenia, Annette, Dwayne, Charlene, Verne, Louise and Claude are all rooted in French culture. And who would argue that Southern Women embraced the French Twist, we took it to Marie Antoinette heights with a Beehive that some still maintain! Even our menfolks like Elvis, Porter Waggoner, Jerry Lee Lewis. Merle Haggard and Duane Eddy all had that high pompadour hair!

We want our children to have French hand sewn Batiste Christening Gowns and our Brides proudly boast of Wedding Gowns with Broderie or Alencon lace! Ladies used to brag about their Negligees made of floating chiffon – instead of plain flour sack nightgowns! I worked with a lady of a certain age and status who dreamily told us of the beautiful negligees her late husband bestowed on her for every occasion. She was dead set on wearing a Pale Blue Chiffon number at the viewing of her Casket lined in Pale Blue Satin! Southerners  love to dream of their Swan Song outfits– it’s biblical- we’re just going to sleep when we Pass over Jordan’s Stormy Banks, so why not wear lingerie in caskets covered with roses, gladiolas and lilies?

The first women settlers were said to be horrified that there was no refined white flour, so they set about making corn soufflé, shrimp bisque, meringues, tomato aspic and sauces we now call gravy-even our casseroles definitely have a French Influence. The Redneck Red Eye Gravy is actually an au jus! My grandmother was very proud of her French heritage and insisted on being called Mimi instead of MeeMaw- she was adamant that her great grandchildren to call her Gigi.image

The uncouth men who first brought these women into a southern corn fed land, were no doubt pressured into getting White Flour here as soon as possible! We want our-

  • Biscuits to be high and light
  •  Piecrusts to be light and flaky
  • Airy Chiffon and Angel Food cakes and puffy Meringues
  • Southern Pecan Pralines, Beignets and Dreamy Divinity.

While generations of women might have had to depend on canned crescent rolls- we were dreamin’ of Croissants! And oh my! Palmiers! Now, the truth is the name for this pastry confection is derived from the shape of a Palm Leaf- but folks have to redneck it down to Elephant Ears or fancy it up by calling them Butterfly cookies- but please call these crisp buttery puff pastry delicacies by the right name! Palmiers.image

I love Palmiers so much I actually make 18-20 dozen for Christmas! That precious Barefoot Contessa has a wonderful recipe for Palmiers, but I cannot resist gilding the lily by taking the baked Palmiers and dipping them again in melted butter-then in sugar. I bake them again to attain a very crisp Palmier that is perfect with coffee or tea. I will post a link to Ina Garten’s recipe for Palmiers at the end- just know that after they are baked, mine are dipped, sugared and baked again! image

Ok y’all, I’ve got to package these up. I’ve nipped one too many- I’m in danger of gaining too much weight to fit into my Swan Song Burial Negligee to Pass Over Jordan. Don’t depend on Julia Childs for the Art of French cooking- the South already has that down pat! Please add to my list of Southern French names, places and food- we all know there is a definite French Influence in South! Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit !

Love y’all, Camellia

Barefoot Contessa PalmiersBarefoot Contessa’s Palmiers Other Palmiers were made by me yesterday! Funeral flowers funeral flowers  Image of St. Francis at the Point was taken by me at Point Clear Alabama. Image of meringue topped banana pudding- AOL images- may be copyrighted but the one that is embellished with meringue, caramel and whipped cream was taken by me at Buck’s Diner in Fairhope! Fountain and Wrought Iron Chair were taken at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, the closeup fountain was taken in the little French Quarter in Fairhope! Elvis, Porter Waggoner, Jerry Lee Lewis are AOL images and may be subject to copyright- the photos of Merle Haggard and Duane Eddy were taken by me from vintage albums we own. Shrimp boat was taken just last week in Bon Secour Bay.

Native Neutrals…

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Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Interiors with neutral color schemes are my favorite. They are peaceful, calm and soothing. Perhaps the first lengthy discussion I remember having about interior design was at Bon Secour Bay outside of a restaurant named Meme’s. The driveway into this delicious dive was of whole and crushed oyster shells. I think I might have been 14 years old. My best friend and I got into a hilarious conversation of how we could use oyster shells as décor in the home. We  thought perhaps as salt dishes, beside a dinner plate to hold a few pats of butter, lemon wedges or even as powder room soap dishes; maybe a container by the kitchen sink to hold our rings. Of course it was all silly- but oysters hold a sweet spot in our hearts- where else do you think our love for pearls comes from? And just look at the beauty of the neutral colors found in oysters!

I am a native of Alabama, these are the neutral colors that I love.  A whole color scheme can be found in an humble oyster. Our families had met at Meme’s to watch the shrimp and oyster boats come in at sunset and to partake of some of the most memorable seafood I ever recall. And believe me, if you live in the Deep South- with all of its bayous and rivers, bays, streams and the magnificent Gulf of Mexico-you know your seafood! Alabama Seafood is some of the world’s finest!

Meme’s started out as an oyster bar. Oysters have romantic notions ascribed to them- probably because Casanova was said to have eaten dozens and dozens of the oysters daily. I knew a big ol’ logger named Bud– from South Alabama who had huge burlap bags of oysters brought up to his camp every Friday to feed his men- Bud said ‘Oysters keep their pencils sharp’…I was never sure what he meant by that. I can tell you this- Bud the logger wouldn’t take any prizes for dancing! He would hoist the women up off their feet and haul them around the dance floor like a stick of pulpwood! Oysters have a more genteel word that describes them best- Peacemakers.

Bon Secour Bay is in part a state refuge area, it is a small peaceful town of less than 1000 people, Meme’s of Bon Secour- was destroyed by Hurricane Fredrick in 1979 and was never rebuilt- Alabama Wild Shrimp is a point of pride for the bay area. Bon Secour was originally a French fishing village and it’s name means safe harbor. And isn’t that what we want for our homes? To be a refuge from the storms of life and the one safe place we can count on? Blessed are the peacemakers, the backdrop for all of the colors life brings.

Several years ago, we began renovating…I had always used color– navy, leaf green even peach with blue ribbons or periwinkle blue for girlish bedrooms-always with white trim. I had become weary of so much color, I have after all, led a pretty colorful life filled with colorful people. Colorful is a southern term for…well, a nice way of talking about folks and events that are full of personality and generous with memorable stories. Native Neutral interiors are fabulous hosts for colorful folks!  When the renovation began- for inspiration I turned to our roots-

  • Black cast iron skillets, old kitchen utensils, the Ironworks and Steel Works of Birmingham, white square columns
  • The faded barn board of my husband’s rural farm background, the Coalminers, the Wiregrass region, the rich Black Belt soil, the pale rock of the Appalachians
  • The French linen my grandmother loved, the pearl necklaces, the statuary
  • The marble quarries, the  cotton fields, the Spanish moss draped over live oaks
  • Pale heirloom silver, burlap bags of oysters, baskets and straw rugs, an old map of our county
  • Alabama’s white sugar sand beaches and more shades of white- pearl and oyster.

All serene, peaceful-Native Neutral colors. Camellia’s Cottage is not grand,  renovated and peaceful – she cannot compare with the beautiful Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe…yet neutrals have a found a home here just as they have in the oyster’s shell.

 

Big Walter is the most peaceful being I know- that sweet feline has even gone along with my Native Neutral interior design scheme! There are no oyster shell soap dishes or a single crusty shell for my ring when I wash dishes- but I’m thinking about it…

‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God!‘ Matthew 5:9

Love y’all, Camellia

Visit: http://www.eatalabamaseafood.com    http://www.mobilemag.com  for more information!

Images are all mine- except for the glorious sunset which was shared by Jeremy Miniard. The images of oysters- on the right- with the oyster knife is from Mobile Magazine and the other two are from http://www.eatalabamaseafood.com The images of Bon Secour Bay and Meme’s are from AOL images

 

 

 

Music City Guitars!

IMG_1191We’ve travelled a good bit in the last few months- in the Spring we flew Northeast to New York City, always a feast for the senses-to spend time with our friends, the Jacobs family was a real treat of the very best kind! Then we went way down as far as you can go- to our own beloved Orange Beach, right here in Alabama- white sugar sands and ate Alabama Seafood! Then Southwest to Santa Fe New Mexico, for a family vacation- a feast for the soul! Then to the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society in Music City- Nashville Tennessee, with so many musicians- was just icing on the cake! I shared some of the sights and sounds with you-truly thought I was done with personal travel blogging for awhile… then I found a sugary marvel on Twitter- made by Southern Girl Desserts @dessertdivas! It was like a sign… I knew I needed to share some of the ‘real’ guitars along with it! Let’s have our dessert first! Southern Girls Desserts made a cake in the shape of a Gretsch® White Falcon Guitar! guitar cake

Can you believe that is a real cake?? Look at the real Gretsch® Guitars…

Southern Girls Desserts White Falcon looks like the real guitars! And here are some folks who knew how to play Gretsch® Guitars!

Then there was Fred Gretsch, fourth generation of the family who began making Gretsch® Guitars in the late 1880’s in Brooklyn, New York! I wanted to take Fred Gretsch’s photograph, but Fred set up a photo shoot himself- I told him my husband has a Gretsch® Orange- Country Gentleman, not the White Falcon. Fred Gretsch positioned a chair for me to sit in with him standing behind me! I was nervous as a cat! I sat down, and over my shoulder I could feel Fred lifting a guitar over me and sitting it just perfectly in my lap! These are expensive guitars! I have never even taken my husband’s out of the case! I should explain- I love music…however, I cannot carry a tune in a bucket, I cannot play a note, fret a chord, much less play fingerstyle guitar! And there I am with Famous Fred, holding a Country Gentleman in a room full of people…Okay y’all, here is the deal…my talent is- I am what every performer needs…A. Good. Audience! I have putting my hands together and clapping like an idiot down pat! Take a look at Fred’s photoshoot…

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That is a look of shock, thrill and horror on my face; my heart was fluttering  inside that blue bandana print dress! And Fred Gretsch is looking adorable, pleased with himself– don’t you think?? He gave this ol’ gal the thrill of a lifetime! And that’s not the end of it…I posted this photograph on Instagram not Twitter…expecting basically my personal friends to see it- then up popped a tweet- ‘Looks good on you’ from the Gretsch®Guitar’s Twitter account! I almost went out of my mind with excitement! I’m not used to this sort of thing! Whew… I hope you will enjoy a few more photos of the CAAS in Nashville- New York handmade DiAngelico Guitars and Australian Maton Handmade Guitars in addition to Gruhn and Wallace Guitar Sellers… had a wonderful presence there, along with some of the guitarists who play them- Tommy Emmanuel, for instance plays Maton Guitars.  We thoroughly enjoyed his music and visiting with him briefly.

A big thank you to Fred Gretsch and to Southern Girl Desserts for inspiring this post!! Go visit their sites, they are amazing! I’m going to settle down and listen Chet Atkins, you’re welcome to join me! Mr. Sandman on a Gretsch Orange Guitar!

Love y’all, Camellia

Southern Girl Desserts  Gretsch Guitars   Maton Handmade Guitars   Alabama Seafood